‘The Walking Dead’ Season 6 Episode 14 Review: One Dies and One Leaves In Tragic ‘Twice As Far’
Recap and review of The Walking Dead – Season 6 Episode 14 – Twice As Far:
The Walking Dead has been giving us character deaths all season, and the reason this approach works is because each death has felt impactful in that moment. Whether it was Jessie and her boys biting the dust, or Deanna using her final bullets to stave off a herd of walkers, nothing has felt forgettable or rudimentary about the deaths this season. Yet the death in “Twice As Far” is the first of the season that feels genuinely tragic, largely because it’s couched in a storyline about two characters trying to prove themselves: the one who appears to be less capable actually manages to prove otherwise, whereas the person who was just starting to show signs of being able to handle herself ends up with an arrow through her eye. This was a savage episode, and reiterates how exhilarating The Walking Dead can be in moments of vicious peril.
“Twice As Far” largely centers on the struggles of Denise (Merritt Wever) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt), neither of whom are taken all that seriously as members of the supply run teams. As Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) explains, some people have different skill sets that, while not of the walker-killing variety, are still valuable. Denise insists on going to fetch medication from a local pharmacy with Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Rosita (Christian Serranos), even though she’s infinitely more valuable as Alexandria’s only medical professional. It’s downright boneheaded for her to go on this mission at all, much less for Daryl and Rosita to allow it. Sure, they warn her that she’s not ready for this, but even if she wants to stamp her feet and insist to the contrary, Denise had absolutely no business going on the run in the first place. I mean, it’s not as if they needed her to tell them which medications to take, since Daryl and Rosita basically just cleaned out the pharmacy anyway. But then, that’s what made this all so tragically compelling. Denise’s presence achieved virtually nothing for her allies, but it achieved plenty for the audience. Without the emotional through-line Denise provides for the episode, I doubt “Twice As Far” would have been nearly as compelling.
Long story short, Denise dies. And it comes towards the end of an episode that had been largely introspective, as Denise discovered her own inner strength, only to have her triumphant moment snatched away from her. What I found compelling about Denise’s journey was how she struggled with her first real exposure to the horrors of the exterior world, such as seeing the rotting corpse of a walker who’d drowned her child in the pharmacy sink, or finding the strength to somehow kill a walker who’d overpowered her. It was gripping to watch, even in the quieter moments, such as Denise telling Daryl all about her late, twin brother Dennis, or the awesome speech she gives in which she tells Daryl and Rosita that they’re strong people who need to believe in themselves. Of course, while this speech is an outstanding moment for the character, it’s also the last moment for the character. In a brilliant stylistic choice, Denise is killed in the middle of the speech, taking an arrow throw the eye. After the initial shock, the scene becomes downright chilling as Denise tries to continue her speech as she slowly loses control of her faculties, finally falling over, dead. As we all knew, but no one in the group really expected, the Saviors are still alive. This particular group is led by Dwight, a man Daryl had allowed to escape earlier this season. He’d stolen Daryl’s crossbow, and it was that very crossbow that fired the arrow that killed Denise. But then there’s the real kicker: Dwight had been aiming for Daryl, but hit Denise completely by mistake. Suddenly, the question of culpability enters into the equation, since Denise really shouldn’t have been allowed to go on the expedition. And yet, how much authority can Daryl and Rosita have over a fellow adult who’s made up her mind? Perhaps that’s the real stinger of this tragedy, that it was largely self-made. Had Denise not been overconfident in her capabilities, she’d still be safely at Alexandria with her patients.
By the same token, Eugene is among the smartest men in Alexandria, so he really shouldn’t be risking his own neck on supply runs when there are any number of people who could easily make those runs. But Eugene insists. More than that, actually, as he blows up at Abraham for killing a walker that nearly had his number. In an emotionally charged moment that ranks among McDermitt’s best in the series, Eugene essentially “fires” Abraham, letting him know that his protective services will no longer be needed. In his hubris, Eugene overlooks that his brains are what makes him valuable, not his abilities (or lack thereof) with a machete. His idea to use a nearby facility to manufacture bullets is a genuinely great idea. Hell, Abraham tells him as much, in what amounts to the first moment of genuine camaraderie between the two ever since Eugene revealed he made up the whole Washington D.C. story. But he blows it by getting angry that Abraham had the temerity to save his life, believing that the former soldier doesn’t respect his skill set. On the one hand, I can see where Eugene is coming from with his anger. He’s done his best to rehabilitate his image and prove he can be strong in life or death situations. But he’s still not being taken seriously, which is why he’s risking his own neck to prove he can hang. It’s an understandable, and somewhat relatable, character arc. On the other hand, Abraham isn’t exactly wrong to question Eugene’s combat aptitude, since he ends up getting captured by Dwight and the Saviors almost as soon as Abraham deserts him. Yet Eugene still gets a redemptive moment that proves he might be more capable than we’re giving him credit for after all. When Dwight makes his demands to Daryl to either be allowed into Alexandria to pillage and plunder, or to be killed right then and there, Eugene springs into action. He draws attention away by pointing out Abraham lurking in the forest nearby, and then uses the opportunity to cause a different diversion: he straight-up bites Dwight on the dick! Seriously, if you’d given me a thousand guesses as to what Eugene would do to create an opening for Daryl, Rosita and Abraham, chomping down on Dwight’s man bits never would have even crossed my minds. But it ends up being exactly what was needed, as it gives Abraham the opportunity to get off a few shots, killing some of Dwight’s men and allowing Rosita and Daryl to cut down some Saviors themselves. Dwight and the remainder of his squad get away, but Eugene is somewhat vindicated, so much so that Abraham actually apologizes for ever doubting him. While the theme of the episode still suggests that certain people are better left to certain jobs, the ending seems to indicate that being good at one thing doesn’t preclude a person from having the skill set to be useful in other ways.
However, we don’t exactly get a happy ending. Even though we get Abraham and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) finally getting together, Daryl and Carol (Melissa McBride) have to bury poor Denise, as a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the community, particularly now that news of the Saviors’ continued existence has spread around Alexandria. To make matters worse, the group also loses one of their most capable members: in a surprising move, Carol decides to leave Alexandria for good, declaring that she can’t bring herself to kill any more people. Where is she going? Hell if I know. We didn’t get any better sense of where Carol was headed the last time she left the group, although that time was a bit different, since she was essentially exiled. This was more of a self-imposed exile, and although last week’s episode made a point of depicting Carol’s anxiety about the things she’s had to do (to say nothing of her notebook, a background detail that hasn’t gotten much play in the narrative, but which shows Carol keeping a running tally of the human lives she’s taken), this still feels like it’s coming completely out of left field. I mean, Morgan (Lennie James) is a pacifist, and he’s still in Alexandria. There would have been plenty of uses for someone like Carol, even if it didn’t involve killing people. It just feels like a random decision that will ultimately be used to create some sort of terrible ironic moment, such as Carol getting captured and Daryl (or some other beloved character) getting killed trying to save her, all because she exiled herself to avoid killing. I suppose there could be some dramatic urgency in a story like that. After all, Melissa McBride is an outstanding actress, and she’s capable of making just about anything work. While I admit this sudden turn took me off-guard, I’m not necessarily against it, per se, because I know McBride will do wonderful things with whatever the show has in store for her. I guess I’m expressing the sort of faith in McBride that Carol is expressing in a higher power, with the constant shots of Carol thumbing her cross. Hopefully, she’s not heading in a direction that will damn everyone she cares about.
Although parts of “Twice As Far” were dull as dishwater, a strong conclusion kept this from feeling like filler. The Walking Dead has done a great job this season of fleshing out various characters who haven’t gotten as much screentime as the core group. It makes their highs and lows more resonant, and their deaths more poignant. For what it’s worth, I think this has been a tremendous season, and I’m anxious to see what the final few episodes have in store.
But what did you think of The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 14, “Twice As Far”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Walking Dead, read our recap and review of last week’s positively vicious, emotional episode!