Editor’s note: this review of AMC’s The Walking Dead will contain some spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum, but they’re be there nonetheless. You’ve been warned.
While it feels like the most recent episode of The Walking Dead is little more than table setting with a gratuitous death thrown in to raise the stakes, the episode worked really well for me. What I really enjoyed was the way the show played with routine. It showed us what amounted to the monotony of day to day life in Alexandria, except that monotony wasn’t supposed to be boring, it was supposed to be an incredible relief from the months and years of hardscrabble survival.
If building up Alexandria, trading with other settlements, and picking the bones of civilization is their new life, well, that’s not too bad considering where they were before.
The episode is split into three different story lines, two of which converge near the end. Let’s begin with one of the converging stories: Eugene and Abraham’s.
The pair are out of Alexandria, and work their way to a machine shop, where Eugene lays out his newest plan: use the shop to manufacture ammunition. Considering that ammo is a finite resource, the ability to produce new bullets would be a significant strategic asset. According to Eugene, all they need is old casing and a lot of lead. I assume he has the chemistry he needs to make his own powder, but what about primers? The show doesn’t address this.
Abe is impressed with Eugene’s plan, and even gives him the opportunity to dispatch a zombie that was trapped inside the shop. Unfortunately for Eugene, it looks like the zombie managed to dump some molten lead on it’s head, effectively giving it a permanent helmet. While Eugene struggles with the zed, Abe steps in and dispatches it. This doesn’t go over well, and ends with Eugene telling Abraham that he no longer needs the man’s protection.
Meanwhile, Daryl and Rosita are escorting Doctor Denise to a small town pharmacy to raid the drugs. Their adventures start off quite comically, with Daryl struggling to drive a manual transmission (I have a hard time believing Daryl wouldn’t know how to drive stick, but I digress). However, it quickly becomes serious. Denise comes across a brutal scene involving a dead baby, and has to run outside to compose herself.
On the way home, she decides that she needs to do something. To take some risks. So she opens a car to retrieve a cooler, and fights off a zombie, almost dying in the process. The three get into an argument about the stupidity of her actions, when Denise lays everything out. She’s doing this on purpose, to conquer the fear that has bee running her life thus far.
And then, this happens:
It’s a big blow for me. I really like Denise as a character, even more so when she’s paired up with Tara. The two of them work really well together because they seem more like real people struggling with fear, rather than the almost superhuman bad asses that make up the rest of the cast. Denise was fun and charming, and I’m going to miss her.
This leads to a pretty gnarly standoff with that guy Daryl let go at the beginning of the season. Our people are outnumbered and quickly disarmed, with Eugene already there, on his knees on the ground. Luckily, Abraham is nearby. Eugene uses him as a distraction, and the shit quickly hits the fan. Some Negan red shirts get taken out, and Eugene bites a man in the penis before getting gut shot for his troubles.
In the end, both groups get away, with a few of Negan’s people dead. I’m honestly not sure what to make of the scene, or what the writers were trying to do. I want Negan’s group to be terrifying and compotent, but they’re nothing of the sort at the moment. They seem to be completely outclassed by Rick’s group, and several of their group leaders seem like complete idiots.
That leave’s us with Carol, whose story only roughly fits in with the others and is, by far, the most muted of the three. Her experience hews most closely to what I really liked about the episode. We saw the dull routine of day to day life, with Carol at a crossroads. She realizes that the safety and comfort of Alexandria aren’t permanent, and can’t stand the thought of having to kill again to protect the people she loves. In the end, she decides to leave. She’s back in the exile Rick placed her in a while back, but this time it’s voluntary.
All told, this was an extremely strong episode of The Walking Dead. I’m really sad to see Denise go, but I figured she wasn’t going to be a long term character to begin with. My only real complaint about the episode was the interaction with Negan’s people.