‘The Walking Dead’ Midseason Premiere Review: Well, What Did You Think Was Going To Happen?
Recap and review of The Walking Dead – Season 6 Episode 9 – Midseason Premiere – No Way Out:
Considering how the midseason finale ended, I’m not really sure what else we could have expected to happen when The Walking Dead came back. A bloodbath was in order, and a bloodbath is exactly what we got. And even while some of the relationships torn apart in “No Way Out” weren’t as well-developed as they could have been, this episode was still tremendously effective in perpetuating the thick fog of despair that helps prevent the narrative from ever stagnating. I guess what I’m saying is this was a terrific episode, for more than just it’s wild, blood-soaked moments.
Of course, the wild, blood-soaked moments are kind of where we need to start. Ron (Austin Abrams), Sam (Major Dodson) and Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) all bite the dust this week in a sequence that played out like a nightmarish domino rally. In the midseason finale, we could see the cracks begin to form in Sam, as he nearly gets everyone killed trying to get his mother’s attention during the plan to sneak past the walkers. It’s a plan that we’ve seen work before in the series, as covering yourself in walker guts is a proven way to mask your scent from walkers. And it apparently works here too — or it would have, had Sam not started to crack again. As a relatively sheltered kid, Sam hasn’t really been exposed to walkers up close before, so it shouldn’t be that surprising that seeing all the blood and gnawed guts causes him to have a panic attack. Granted, you’d think Jessie or someone in the line would have forced Sam along or scooped him up and just carried him. But nope. Everyone in the line comes to a stop as Jessie and Ron try to coax Sam along, telling him to be brave and to keep moving. And, sure enough, the walkers are privy to this entire conversation, and decide to interrupt it by ripping Sam to shreds. This creates a chain reaction, as Jessie lets out a terrified scream, drawing walkers directly to her. She’s quickly eaten alive, all while Ron can only look on in terror. And then, a pivotal moment: Rick (Andrew Lincoln) drops his gun to free Carl (Chandler Riggs) by hacking Jessie’s arm off, and Ron seizes his opportunity, picks up the gun, and points it at Rick. In a climactic stand-off, Ron seems just moments away from shooting Rick right then and there — and the sound alone would have essentially brought every walker down on their location, ensuring no one made it out alive. So while you could make the argument that Michonne (Danai Gurira) was impulsive in stabbing Ron with the sword rather than using it to threaten him into dropping the gun, this was the very definition of a “strike first, sort it all out later” situation. With Ron’s death, the entire Anderson family joins the dearly-departed of The Walking Dead, but not before nearly taking someone else with them: when Ron is stabbed, he lets off a shot from the gun, and the bullet ends up going clear through Carl’s right eye. Carl tumbles to the ground in front of Rick, precariously balanced between life and death.
Okay, with all that bloodshed recapped, let me just say that the thing I loved most about this was how abrupt it all was. From Sam losing his nerve to Carl dropping to the ground, it was maybe three minutes. But it was three minutes of unfiltered chaos. And the shot of Sam’s death kicked this off in a particularly disturbing way: at first, he’s crying while his mother and brother plead with him to be brave; suddenly, walkers just appear out of nowhere and start feasting on his head. It’s all so sudden and unflinchingly graphic. Outside of the death of Sophia, who had already turned, I can’t think of a time where The Walking Dead exhibited this amount of violence against a child. It left a very real shock to the system, which is exactly the sort of sensation this sequence ought to have created. If nothing else, the stunning nature of what happened is reflected in the wide range of reactions it inspires in the characters. Carl looks like he’s on the verge of a panic attack himself, whereas Ron is almost catatonic, mouth agape and eyes filled with tears. And then there’s Jessie, whose response is the saddest of all: after letting out that horrified scream while walkers eat her youngest boy, she basically closes her eyes, puts down her arms, and lets the walkers eat her. In that moment, it’s easy to see why Ron would draw the gun on Rick. Even if he hadn’t been plotting out a revenge plan, Rick was essentially the person who got them all into this mess. This was his plan, and now Ron’s family is dead. And while you could argue this is all Sam’s fault for losing his nerve, Ron isn’t thinking straight, much less critically. Despite never been all that sympathetic a character, I sympathized with Ron here, to the point where I almost felt that getting impaled by Michonne was too harsh a punishment. Then again, was he really at a point where Michonne sneaking up behind him, placing the sword to his throat, and telling him to drop the gun would have worked? At that point, Ron had nothing left to lose. And time was certainly of the essence, so maybe Michonne made the only choice she could. Either way, it’s an ethical question, and the show does well when introducing those into the status quo (I say “status quo” because, once again, it’s Alexandrians who die, while Rick’s originals get off scot-free). I thought this was a genius sequence, culminating with Carl’s horrific injury that’s basically a straight-up recreation of the comic book panel on which it’s based, right down to Carl matter-of-factly saying “Dad?” before falling. I think The Walking Dead has been holding itself to a higher standard of chaos this season, and I feel like we’re still a bit of a ways off from seeing the apex of that chaos.
There were some other bits I liked about the episode, and other elements that left me less enthused. On the one hand, Denise (Merritt Wever) skyrocketed in value to this community by springing into action over the whole Carl shooting. Say what you will about the Alexandrians being poorly developed in comparison to Rick’s group, but Denise is quickly becoming one of my favorite newer additions to the show, not just because of the bonds she forms, but because she’s almost like an original member of Rick’s group when it comes to actually getting things done without dying. Granted, she’s far from the only person in the group to get s*** done, as Daryl (Norman Reedus), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) take out a group of bikers, presumably working for Negan, by using Chekhov’s rocket launcher from several episodes back. It’s obviously not the last we’ll see of the gang, particularly since it appears one of the bikers survives to report back what happened, but it’s nice to see our heroes get the drop on the human baddies rather than the other way around. It almost reminded me of the Terminus arc in how quickly the group dispatched with the threat. And having them finally make it back to Rick’s group left me with optimism for the rest of this half season, since part of me expected the show would draw out Daryl, Sasha and Abraham’s journey back to Alexandria for another week. At the very least, it seems The Walking Dead is being a bit more expedient with some story threads. That said, I didn’t love all of it. For one, I didn’t particularly buy the change of heart that the injured member of the Wolves had, nor do I find the conflict between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) particularly compelling, at the moment. It’s a well-acted storyline, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. Then again, it’s early in the half-season, so hopefully, we get a big payoff down the line.
Ultimately, I felt this was a strong midseason premiere for The Walking Dead. Sure, part of that is the bloodshed and the shock value of the chaos that closed the show. But “No Way Out” had plenty of cool moments, both big and small, whether it was the rocket launcher, the delightfully strange cinematography of Sam’s panic attack, Rick’s emotional breakdown over the loss of Jessie (although you could argue that relationship wasn’t nearly as well-developed as it could have been) or whether it was Carl’s near-death scene. There was a lot to like here, and I think it bodes well for the rest of the season. At least, that’s my hope.
But what did you think of The Walking Dead midseason premiere, “No Way Out”? Sound off in the comments!
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