Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Sunday night's The Walking Dead Season 6 episode, "No Way Out."
After the customary two and a half month break, The Walking Dead returns exactly where "Start to Finish" left off, with Daryl, Abraham and Sasha facing off against a motorcycle gang that wants their stuff...now. Meanwhile, back in the Alexandria Safe-Zone, gore-covered Rick and Carl are leading Jessie and her sons through the walkers to the armory, but is it possible to achieve such an audacious plan? We find out, along with a lot of other things, in tonight's jam-packed episode.
Editor at Large Aaron Sagers and Contributing Editor Tara Bennett give their reactions to this episode, written by Seth Hoffman, and directed by series EP& makeup guru, Greg Nicotero.
Tara: The opening of tonight's episode blew me, and literally a bunch of unsuspecting Saviors, away. A continuation of the standoff that was left as a cliffhanger in Episode 8, the cold open expanded our general knowledge of the baddies via the chatty "leader" (played with some nicely delivered dark humor by actor Christopher Berry that telegraphs perfectly towards future Negan-ness). The tension was palpable during the entire scene as Daryl, then Abraham and Sasha all looked to be in mortal danger as they tried to oppose their oppressors. It all built to the surprise kaboom that solved that problem nicely, but also plausibly holds back the Savior threat until the Alexandria mess gets settled.
Aaron: That was such a tense opening scene, and it played out perfectly. I did wonder if Abraham and Sasha were goners, and that threat is what this show is supposed to deliver. Talkative baddies, like the upcoming Negan, can be overplayed for laughs, but Berry was cooly affable, which of course made him all the more dangerous. I just hope we won't get replacement Saviors right away. I want to see them teased out more before coming home to Alexandria. I lodged more than a few criticisms about the first half of this season, but I overall thought this was The Walking Dead done right.
Tara: Other highlight moments for me where actually smaller beats. I loved Carol and Morgan's confrontation regarding the escaped Wolf. It set up that there's a lot more to explore with these two as they both wrestle with maybe the other being more right than they'd like. Rosita has a great leadership moment that even inspired Eugene to semi-greatness. And then, Denise's captivity with Evil Dave Grohl (the Alpha Wolf) turned out to be really interesting as we finally got to understand a little of the crazy going on in his head. Having her force any kind of humanity out of him was really earned by the fine work done by Merritt Wever and Benedict Samuel. I was so impressed by their potential that the final outcome for Alpha felt like a real missed opportunity in terms of an original storyline the show's writers could have explored. And as much as Gabriel has been a waste of space character for so long, I might be interested in seeing him have his own Carol-like arc as the story progresses. Maybe...don't hold me to that.
Aaron: I am still not on the Gabriel train, but I hated him a little less this week. Denise, however, is such a great character, and her evolution continues to be compelling. She retains her humanity, but it's not a weakness, and she is able to switch into work mode and focus on getting Carl put back together.
Aaron: I did not see that coming with the rapid-munching of Jessie, Sam, and Ron. But that is not a compliment. Even though I knew of their demise in the comics, this came across as rushed and did not carry much emotional heft. It played like a scene specifically shot just to take players off the board. It would be more compelling for a scenario such as Sam to get it, then Jessie and Ron survive, only to have Ron really rise up as a monster over a few episodes. Then, he'd have to be taken out by Rick or someone, thus leaving Jessie alone -- then dying! I know, I know, I am the monster here, but that would at least be slightly more interesting. Also, can I just say I'm not into the Glenn/Maggie reunion? As I ranted about in the fall -- both during our write-ups and the Who Won The Week podcast by Blastr -- the Glenn death tease irritated me immensely. I just don't care about the character anymore.
Tara: As I said before, I was disappointed in the building of the Wolf story only to cut it down so quickly. And speaking of death, if you read the comics, the Anderson family annihilation was expected, but its execution (no pun intended) in this episode was weirdly rushed and given no emotional resonance for us to process the loss. It was wham-bam-there-goes-Rick's-new-lady-man. Why all of the build-up to them playing kissy face when her loss is a blur. I know a bunch of other beats take precedence, like Carl's shooting, but there certainly was a better way to stage, or even linger on Jessie and Sam's death? Ron is, and always was, the worst so no loss there. But the show was trying to get us to like Jessie and Sam enough to mourn them and then it really didn't matter, did it?
I'm also not so in love with the staging of the final fight. It was nice to see the surviving Alexandrians pop out of their holes like groundhogs, but I don't buy that sheer adrenaline alone suddenly made them precision walker killers. And the montage of hacking actually looked too much like it was trying to match frames of the comics and for me was just oddly distracting and maybe a little overwrought.
Aaron: Solid point about the final fight trying to match frames from the comics. I like Nicotero's directing, and respect when he tries to experiment with new approaches, but it felt to "artsy" and forced. I can buy Eugene cowboying up and taking to the fight, but I completely think these Alexandrians would still hide in their homes and let Rick and Co. deal with the Walker threat.
"Oh S--t!" Moment
Tara: This is weird for me to process, especially since I was so down on the Glenn storyline in the opening section of Season 6, but they actually made me worried for the damn guy when he was getting overrun by the walkers in the last act. I was completely positive the show had killed me ever buying Glenn being in jeopardy again, but Nicotero blocked that sequence with so much effective tension and momentum that I forgot that I shouldn't be worried for Maggie's hubby. Dovetailing it into the triumphant return of Daryl, Abraham and Sasha also brought the entire family back into the broken fold after so much character separation all season long.
Aaron: OK, OK, it was nice to have the band back together again after a half-season apart. But I'll stick with Daryl's rocket-launcher attack against the Saviors as my go-to WTF moment. It genuinely surprised me when I thought Abraham and Sasha were about to die. And you know, I thought the Carl moment -- which I knew was coming from publicity photos and from the comics -- would do more for me, but that also felt a little too rushed.
Tara: It was certainly a symbolic episode as the Alexandria Safe-Zone's baptism of blood allows the community to rise anew. Those left standing after the battle now represent the merged family that will forge a new future. It's a strong place to move the story forward, but as an overall episode, there was too much going on for me to have any emotional connection to much of it. I kept thinking, "I should be feeling something" at key moments like Carl's shooting, or Rick's bedside speech. Except everything was so rushed, it felt like there was no space for me to engage. At some point, my brain kind of checked out. I didn't hate it, but it didn't get me the way "JSS" did.
Aaron: Nicotero served up a solid, action-packed episode, and I think it overall worked as a midseason premiere. But while we got a big serving, as it were, there wasn't a lot of meaty substance. However, there were many smaller moments that satisfied me. The Denise and Wolf scenes made me care about a loathsome character, and grew a character I already enjoyed. Again, the opening was tense and surprising. And hell, I just love Eugene. But I agree, there wasn't much for me to connect with, and they rushed moments that should have be played out a little slower.
What did you think of “No Way Out” and where the story goes now?