The Walking Dead Review: No Way Out

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    While the rest of the world watched the midseason premier of The Walking Dead — “No Way Out” — I was in a cabin with my wife and kids, enjoying a long weekend. I recorded it, though, and watched it on Tuesday, but felt it was too late to post a review.

    Given all the bad UT news this week, however, I figured a little TWD diversion might be a good thing, even if it was a bit late. Plus, there are Vol fans in the Seattle area counting on me. Not to mention the fact that this was one of the very best episodes of TWD I’ve ever seen. So here goes:

    The Various Camps

    My favorite thing about this episode was how each of the various camps served as different story threads that were woven together as one by the end of the episode. Those different camps were:

    1. Daryl, Sasha and EFG Abe (everyone’s favorite ginger) who were making their way back to Alexandria in a fuel truck.
    2. Rick, Carl, Judith, Michonne, Jewel Jessie, Ron, Sam and Gabriel who were slipping through the walkers to the armory while rocking zombie-gut ponchos.
    3. Carol, Morgan, Rosita, Eugene and Tara who were in the house that had served as the Wolf’s prison.
    4. The Wolf and Denise, whom he’d kidnapped, who were waiting for the opportune time to cross the road and scale the wall.
    5. Glenn and Enid who had run back into Alexandria and were holed up in a church.
    6. A random assortment of Alexandrians who were in Gabriel’s section of the church (some of whom we know).
    7. And a random assortment of Alexandrians who were in the infirmary (more of whom we know).

    The Quarry Trip That Wasn’t

    We learn two things shortly into the zombie-poncho walk. First, Rick’s stubble game is on point. An impossibly lush carpet in a hue known simply as Five-O-Clock Delight.

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    Dude’s a fox, apocalypse or no.

    But second, there’s a new plan. Go to the quarry to retrieve cars. Jessie’s down, but concerned about Judith, and all you parents out there undoubtedly appreciated this, as there was an obvious car-seat situation going on there. Good on Jessie for catching it.

    And good on Rick for allowing Gabriel to take Judith back to his church with him. He gambled on a man he (justifiably) mistrusts because he knew if he didn’t, his group stood little chance. What if Judith were to cry or something?

    Sam was good enough to answer that question by quickly becoming an appetizer; Jessie, paralyzed with shock, the entree. But not before going all death grip on Carl, which left Rick no choice but to hack off his lady’s arm.

    Oh, fine thanks. How was your Valentine’s Day?

    In the process of freeing Carl, Rick’s gun falls to the ground. Ron, ever the dick, picks it up and trains it on Rick, hellbent on avenging his father’s death till Michonne fillets him. The ensuing (errant) bullet hits Carl who is left to channel his inner Governor before fainting. (Too soon?)

    Parallel Stories

    Glenn tries to bring Enid back to a better spot through the following exchange:

    Enid: When I wanted to run, you said that’s how you lose people, even after they’re gone. What the hell does that mean?
    Glenn: People you love, the ones who made you who you are, if you stop being you, that last bit of them that’s inside — who you are — it’s gone.

    We see Enid and Glenn as the conversation begins:

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    But we transition here in the middle of it:

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    Both duos are trying to make it to the scaffold; Enid and Glenn to save Maggie — the Wolf and Denise to scale the wall. Team Denise Wolf makes a break for it first, but Denise gets attacked in short order. The Wolf goes back to save her despite the fact he’d already made it to the ladder.

    Was his motive her medical assistance, or was he learning the very thing Glenn hoped to teach Enid? That it was time to stop running. Either way, he gets bit in the process, but Denise, suddenly the most confident doctor ever, promises to save his life if he leads them back to the infirmary.

    Before heading that way, the two take cover in a garage, where a genuine and bilateral brand of compassion fills in the air. (Is “bilateral brand of compassion” a euphemism for bumping uglies? Because they didn’t do that.)

    Still, Denise is feeling it: “You turned back for me. Maybe because you need a doctor or maybe because you changed.” If you were listening closely, you could almost hear You Are The Music In Me piping gently in the background.

    But right when we think it’s time to hold hands and discuss our feelings, Carol pops a cap in the Wolf’s ass as he and Denise begin the dash from the garage to the infirmary. Carol’s really turned into quite the cold-hearted bitch, no?

    And the Wolf reinforces this fact when he saves Denise a second time by tackling a walker who’s lunging for her, despite the mortal wound inflicted by Carol. He no longer has the motive of self preservation, yet he still does something noble, proving that Denise was right. The Wolf was, indeed, changing.

    Arguably into sheep’s clothing.

    My bad on that last one.

    Fight or Flight / Damsel in Distress

    Denise makes it back to the infirmary, but hadn’t even been there a minute before Michonne, Rick and Carl arrive. So she tends to Carl while Rick goes apeshit as evidenced by his failure to adhere to a long-established psychological axiom. This when he simultaneously chooses fight and flight via his casual stroll out the infirmary door on his quest to challenge like 720 zombies armed with only a hatchet, still wet with Jessie’s blood.

    Meanwhile, Glenn and Enid make their move. Enid climbs the ladder to help Maggie while Glenn lures the walkers away from the scaffold. On the one hand, he does an effective job. On the other, he finds himself in a situation that made his dumpster dilemma come off like a school recycling project.

    It’s truly remarkable. The first instance Maggie learns Glenn is alive, she witnesses him laying down his life for her. Call me a softie, but that’s man stuff right there. Way better Valentine’s sentiment than an axe to the wrist.

    For a nanosecond, I thought Glenn would die. Until Sasha and Abe got their Bonnie and Clyde on and machine-gunned down every single walking thing within 30 yards of Glenn, except, naturally, Glenn.

    We’re All In This Together

    By now, I’ve not only referenced High School Musical twice, I’ve also referenced every camp I listed at the beginning aside from the random Alexandrians in both the infirmary and the church. Long story short, every Alexandrian gets Rick’s back — even the wuss ones — in one of the coolest, most ass-kicking-est sequences ever. Speaking of wusses, Gabriel and Eugene also show their mettle by joining the fray and getting medieval on the zombies.

    Amazing how they pulled this off with literally no plan. No colored balloons filled with helium. No communication. Just instinct and a togetherness that till that point had evaded them.

    By now, a few compromises have become evident. First, Rick and the Alexandrians have met in the middle. Maybe he’s not a murderous and barbaric psycho after all. And maybe they’re not the worthless sack of collective shit he presumed.

    Glenn is obviously making sense to Enid. If she’d had it her way, she would have never even returned to Alexandria.

    Then there’s Carol and Morgan. They’re featured in the Psych 101 moment of the episode when Carol tells Morgan that she should have killed him. He tells her “You can’t.” And in a way he’s right. Morgan is their conscience. Who they were before this whole mess. That can’t be killed. At least if they want to hang on to their humanity.

    But, still, Morgan’s too soft. Yet Carol’s gotten too hard and we sense she realizes that from her reaction at witnessing the Wolf’s dying act. I see it as evidence she’s prepared to meet in the middle. And Morgan seems ready to join her, or so I gathered when he finishes off the Wolf. Something he could have done twice before but chose not to.

    Ironic that the Wolf may be the agent of change for them both, no?

    More Irony

    But my favorite irony of the episode might be one I’m sorta making up. I mean, I don’t think I am, but I could see others saying I’m reading too much into it. It comes in what I deemed to be the best sequence of the episode. When Sam, Jessie and Ron die within the same minute.

    If you remember, it was Carol who indirectly triggered the whole deal. Sam was reliving all Carol’s tirades. You know, when she’d get pyscho on the poor, wimpy, little kid. Details escape me, but it involved cookies, stolen weapons and threats that zombies would eat him up.

    Carol indirectly caused his death, and in turn Jessie’s and even Ron’s, as none would have happened had junior not been spooked by the boogie men Carol intentionally tried to scare him with.

    Carl is the agent of payback in the most literal of terms. An eye for an eye. Which seems to fit Carol’s vigilante mode of justice at the present. And now Carl’s life hangs in the balance.

    Again, though, I believe Carol might be on the verge of dialing it down a bit. Time will tell.

    Bazooka Bookends

    Bazooka-induced fires served as incredible bookends to this action packed episode. The one at the beginning (after the quietest ass kicking ever) literally destroyed Negan’s associates. The one at the end set the Alexandria pond on fire and lured many of the walkers which allowed Rick et al to kill the rest. I think we can all agree that Daryl is a badass of the highest order.

    And so is Carl who looks like he’ll pull through, thus answering one HUGE question the episode brought about. Another huge question, however, was left unanswered. And that is how’s this whole Sasha / Abe / Rosita love triangle gonna work out?

    I hope TWD begins to address that this Sunday. Till then, my friends.