‘The Walking Dead’ Review: Glenn’s Fate Is Revealed In Riveting ‘Heads Up’
Recap and review of The Walking Dead – Season 6 Episode 7 – Heads Up:
The biggest challenge in keeping a community together in a zombie apocalypse is how individual morality interferes with common sense. It’s one of the plot points that keeps The Walking Dead fresh, and it’s what helps “Heads Up” to be a genuinely riveting hour of television, even while its pacing is moderate, and its story beats are more philosophical than bombastic.
But enough about all that: let’s hear it for Glenn (Steven Yeun), who’s totally still alive and everything! Honestly, it wasn’t a huge surprise to find that the organs we saw being ripped out of Glenn actually belong to Nicholas, who’d fallen on top of him after committing suicide. But it was still exhilarating to see how Glenn survived the immediate aftermath, even if it strained credulity at times. Glenn basically pulled himself underneath the nearby dumpster, and then stabbed at the walkers that tried to get him, until a day passed and the coast inevitably became clear. Yes, close to a month of wondering, and that was the resolution. And yet, I kind of like the brute simplicity of it all, since it allows the story to immediately kick into gear, as Glenn runs into Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and learns about the Wolves’ attack on Alexandria. The Walking Dead likes to split up its groups, and that often means pairs of mismatched partners striving to survive together in the wilderness, and developing a friendship along the way. In the grand tradition of Daryl and Carol, and Daryl and Beth, Glenn and Enid develop a begrudging affection for one another.
On the one hand, Enid simply wants to be left alone, convinced that the world is nearing its end. Glenn, however, wants to take Enid back to Alexandria because it’s what Maggie (Lauren Cohan) would do, and it’s what she’d want him to do. Naturally, their divergent world views become one of the philosophical conflicts of the episode: is it really worth fighting to stay alive in a world like this when, really, all that awaits in life is more of the same bleakness and death that has characterized the past x-number of years? It’s a question worth asking, and the argument for fighting to stay alive is one worth making. It helps that Yeun is a remarkably sincere actor, who makes Glenn someone who comes across as intrinsically genuine. It’s part of why he’s so likable. To her credit, Katelyn Nacon imbues Enid with a damaged sensibility. She’s a girl who found herself orphaned by walkers, and who doesn’t think there’s much left worth fighting for in this world. That’s a strong through-line for her character, and while I’m not sure we’ll see the fruits of that development in this half of the season, I think it’s a nice foundation to set down for Season 6 part 2. We don’t see how Enid specifically responds to Glenn’s argument for staying alive, but we can certainly infer that it was a positive response, as Maggie looks into the sky and sees balloons, which Enid had found earlier in the episode. She takes it as a sign that Glenn is still alive, and…well, this would have been a triumphant way to end the episode if this moment hadn’t been immediately undercut by disaster.
As Maggie races out to go see Glenn, the tower overlooking the support wall in Alexandria comes crashing down, leaving a gaping path through which all the walkers can enter. And not just walkers either, as now Alexandria is presumably open to anyone and everyone who can make it through that open section. This sets up the midseason finale next week beautifully, since we’re now primed to potentially lose a whole lot of people, while also getting a glimpse into the direction in which the rest of Season 6 will be heading. For now, the story is still very much one of ideological conflict here, as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is split with the Alexandrians on how best to survive. Spencer (Austin Nichols) nearly gets himself killed when he tries to help out the group by shimmying across a rope to reach the outside of Alexandria, with the hopes of finding a car on the outside and using it to draw the walkers away from the wall. The rope gives out, leaving Spencer dangling over the walkers, with Rick doing his damndest to help pull the guy back up while Tara (Alanna Masterson) pops off some head shots to keep the walkers busy. It’s a tense, dramatic sequence, and it shows that at least some of the members of Rick’s group are inclined towards peace, with Tara reminding Rick that this group is “stuck with each other.” Even Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) seems to recognize that there’s more to Rick than just the will to survive. He’s someone who genuinely cares about helping other people, even if there is a division between Rick’s group and the Alexandrians.
I mean, why else would Rick bother teaching Ron (Austin Abrams) how to shoot? In fact, this could end up backfiring horrifically, as Ron ends up sneaking into the army to steal bullets for the gun Rick gave him. The end result is that Ron now stalks menacingly behind Carl (Chandler Riggs), perhaps plotting to take a loved one away from Rick in the same way Rick took Ron’s father away from him? It’s hard to know for sure, but it’s doubtful the outcome is going to be good for Rick or Carl. And, from a thematic standpoint, it has the potential to illustrate how Rick’s capacity for caring could end up being a detriment to his attempts at crafting a community of survivors. At the end of the day, people are going to want to do what they want to to do, and you can’t really predict how emotions and other human interactions will affect the mission to remain alive. The amount of in-fighting and mistrust this week really illustrated that, I thought, particularly with Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride).
Basically, Rick gives Morgan a stern speech about how letting the Wolves live nearly has repercussions that resulted in his own death. Morgan believes all life is precious, but this isn’t really a world that allows for that mindset anymore. Sure, Morgan can continue to believe that all people have the capacity to change, as each member of the community has. But it’s another thing entirely to grant mercy to those who gleefully burn, disembowel, maim, murder and/or torture living people. Michonne (Danai Gurira) isn’t any happier about Morgan’s approach than Rick or Carol, and it marks the ideological divide between the members of this community, between those who feel as though killing is a necessity, those who feel that all life is precious, and those — like Eugene (Josh McDermitt), who struggled to face the reality of his circumstances during the machete lesson with Sarita (Christian Serratos) — who are uncertain of just where they stand in the argument. It’s interesting stuff, and all the more so for how it manifests throughout the episode. Carol leaves Judith with Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) in order to investigate just what Morgan is hiding in one of the old townhouses. In the process, she ends up advising young Sam (Major Dodson) that the only way to make it in this world is through killing. By contrast, Morgan gets Denise (Merritt Wever) to help out with antibiotics for one of the Wolves he’s hiding in the townhouse. Carol is on to Morgan, but their actions illustrate the stark contrast to their respective philosophies. Carol doesn’t have any patience for mercy, whereas Morgan doesn’t exactly seem wild about the prevailing assumption that bad people can’t be redeemed. It’s a story that has value in what it tells us about the characters, rather than through the pure drama of what happens. Which isn’t to say that Morgan’s secret getting out isn’t equally tantalizing. It’s just that I like the subdivisions within these core alliances, since Rick’s group has people who aren’t exactly on-board with letting others die (Tara, Morgan, Eugene) whereas there are just as many who feel that this is simply what the world is now, for better or worse (Rick, Carol, Michonne, Jessie, Sarita). It’s a solid way to inject conflict into a story that risks going stale through general plot inertia.
“Heads Up” isn’t my favorite episode of the season, but I think it makes for a strong penultimate episode for this half-season, as The Walking Dead is a lot like an HBO show in how it ratchets up the tension as we head into the more climactic moments. I’m expecting a bloodbath next week, although I’m hoping we also get payoffs to many of the character-driven conflicts that have been set up so far, whether it’s Carol vs. Morgan, Ron vs. Rick, or even characters like Enid, Abraham and Sasha vs. their own willingness to keep on living. There’s a lot of material to mine for The Walking Dead this season, which is why this has generally been among my favorite first halves of a season in a long time. Then again, you can only hand out gold stars for potential for so long. Here’s hoping next week’s episode really sticks the landing.
What did you think of The Walking Dead – Season 6 Episode 7, “Heads Up”? Sound off in the comments!