‘The Walking Dead’ Season 6 Episode 15 Review: Everything Goes South In ‘East’
Recap and review of The Walking Dead – Season 6 Episode 15 – East:
The Walking Dead exists in a world where things rarely go well, which is why it’s surprising Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group have been able to kick their Alexandrian world from falling apart for as long as they have this season. But “East” is the beginning of the end for the relative peace they’ve known, as this internecine war against the Saviors is finally starting to catch up with them. The tide is turning, and Rick and his crew might not be as unbeatable as their leader assumes.
Naturally, this episode leaves us with several cliffhangers to drive interest in next week’s 90-minute season finale. First and foremost, is Daryl (Norman Reedus) going to survive the gunshot he sustained at the end of the episode upon being captured by Dwight? Well, if the show hadn’t already done a similar cliffhanger earlier this season with Glenn (Steven Yeun), I’d be more inclined to believe Daryl is in trouble. I’d also buy it was a head shot if I hadn’t seen this handy screengrab on Reddit after the episode aired. This isn’t to say the shot couldn’t still be mortal, but simply that it’s seriously unlikely the show would kill off someone as popular as Daryl in such a cheap fashion. Still, the fact of the matter remains that Daryl has been captured by the Saviors. And he’s not alone, unfortunately. In leaving Alexandria to go seek revenge on Dwight for Denise’s murder, Daryl prompts Glenn, Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) to go searching for him. When they finally catch up to him, not only does Glenn and Michonne’s rousing speech fall on deaf ears, Rosita decides she needs to join Daryl on his mission to finish this. The end result? Glenn and Michonne are captured, and Daryl and Rosita get caught while attempting a rescue, leading to Daryl getting shot for our big cliffhanger. It’s a very jarring development, because it’s predicated on pragmatic characters acting rashly. Yes, Denise’s death was tragic, but there was really no reason for Daryl to leave now, of all times, to go seeking revenge. Rick makes a point throughout the episode that the Alexandrians are preparing for war, and that they’ll be ready to finally end this once Negan and his crew come knocking at their door. All Daryl had to do was wait with the others, and Negan would eventually bring the fight to them. Hell, I could understand if he went out searching for Carol (Melissa McBride), but his sense of guilt over not having killed Dwight when he had the chance doesn’t resonate like it should, because his friendship with Denise didn’t either. I just felt as though Daryl ought to have been smarter than this, to say nothing of the others who went out looking for him. I’m not sure why three of Alexandria’s most capable fighters had to leave the community to fetch Daryl when Rosita (who knows where he’s headed) could have probably managed the task herself just fine.
And yet, from a narrative standpoint, this makes sense. It’s hubris, plain and simple. Things have gone right for Rick and his group so many times that they’ve become overly confident in their abilities. In particular, Rick seems downright smug when telling Michonne that they’re essentially unstoppable, and that they’ll put an end to this business with the Saviors as soon as they get the chance. Granted, it’s not as if Rick doesn’t have a reason to be overconfident, considering all the miserable situations they’ve not only survived, but thrived against. But that confidence prompted the group to let their guard down, at least in Daryl’s situation. You’d think that after losing Denise out of the blue last week, the gang would stop to stand around and monologue with each other in the open. But that’s exactly what happens. But, at the very least, there’s a considerable amount of tension to the scene, since Denise’s death created the impression that anyone could be shot at any time (more than anything, that’s the biggest narrative benefit to Denise’s death: that it reinforced that “anyone can be killed at any moment, even in the middle of a speech” tension). That tension carries over into the search with Rick and Morgan (Lennie James), a storyline that has the two men questioning what it means to trust in other people. While searching for Carol, they come across a barn where a man is being surrounded by walkers. The man claims he’s simply searching for his lost horse, but Rick is quick to pull the trigger when the man decides to run for his life. The only reason the man survives is because Morgan pushes Rick to prevent him from committing a murder. It might seem a bit rash in a “take no chances” world like the one Rick lives in, but Morgan has a point when he recalls how saving the Wolf allowed the Wolf to later save Denise which, in turn, allowed Denise to save Carl (Chandler Riggs) after he was shot through the eye. This circular, cause-and-effect world is Morgan’s evidence for why Rick shouldn’t fly off the handle, even against people who seem suspicious. After all, everyone has the capacity to change. Well, in theory, at least. But Morgan might find that difficult to believe if/when he finally meets the Saviors, who are just about as awful as any group the show has come across, as evidenced by how they treat Carol at the start of the hour.
Carol hardly makes it ten miles outside Alexandria before she’s shot at by Saviors looking for a way into the compound. She makes up a fake background in the hopes they’ll let her free, but they refuse. She then warns them against pushing this whole “take us to Alexandria” threat, but they still refuse. So Carol does the one thing she fled from Alexandria to avoid having to do — she guns down these men in self-defense, and killing damn near all the survivors, except for one, who finds her cross and goes hunting after her in the woods. We never find out what happened to Carol, and neither do Rick or Morgan (although Morgan continues the search on his own after advising Rick to return to Alexandria). It’s a mystery that adds to the cliffhangin’ nature of this episode, which doubles down on the WTF-factor by having Maggie (Lauren Cohan) suffer severe contractions. Is she losing the baby? Is it some sort of metaphor for her connection with Glenn, since it happens just moments after he’s been captured? And where the hell did Carol get off to? Well, considering next week’s finale is 90 minutes, we’ll have a whole lot more time to find out. But for now, I think the show did a pretty good job with illustrating Carol’s dilemma. She’s slowly going over to Morgan’s side of the fence, believing that murder isn’t the answer. However, unlike Morgan, she continually finds herself in situations where she doesn’t really have any other choice. That standoff between she and the Saviors is seriously intense, all the more so because we know how scarily capable Carol can be when she absolutely has to kill in order to survive. While it may have been satisfying in the short term to see those Saviors taken down a notch after all their pompous behavior, it’s clearly going to mean trouble in the long-term when the chickens finally come home to roost, and Carol (and Rick and the others) must answer for their crimes against Negan.
There’s a real sense of dread permeating the narrative, and it makes “East” a tremendously effective episode, even while it isn’t necessarily the most exciting hour the show has produced this season. Still, if The Walking Dead can stick the landing next week, I think this could be remembered as one of the best seasons the show has had, if not the best. It’s a big if, but I’m definitely willing to stick with the show to find out, one way or the other. Even if it weren’t my job to do so.
But what did you think of The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 15, “East”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Walking Dead, check out our review of last week’s shocking, tragic episode!