*This review contains spoilers.
Having watched every episode from the very beginning, I would have to agree with Chris Hardwick (host of Talking Dead) when he said that “No Way Out,” the mid-season premiere of season 6 of AMC’s The Walking Dead, is one of the best installments of the series ever. It is also easily one of the most gruesome, bloody, and unsettling episodes as well.
Having last left Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the gang covered in zombie guts in hopes to escape through a horde of zombies that had invaded the formerly safe enclave of Alexandria, we pick up right where we left off – the four minute preview featuring Daryl (Norman Reedus), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) facing off against a biker gang.
The tension during this scene is excruciating as the leader of Negan’s gang (we have yet to meet Negan but some of you may know of him from the comics) takes their guns and explains that everything they have now belongs to Negan. The standoff appears to be heading toward a bad to worse scenario until Daryl, who inexplicably was asked to show one of the gang whatever they had on the back of the truck, blows the entire group into the next world with the rocket launcher found in the season finale.
It’s a jarring scene, but as Daryl surveys the detritus of the now blown to smithereens tough guys he mutters, “What a bunch of assholes.” Perhaps this moment proves once and for all that you just don’t mess with Mr. Daryl Dixon.
Back at the ranch Rick is still trying to get the crew through the zombie herd. As in the previous scene, this is played out slowly and the imminent threat of death is so palpable that Rick allows baby Judith to leave with (up to now rather spineless) Reverend Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam). Jessie Anderson (Alexandra Breckinridge) tries to get her son Sam (Major Dodon) to go with Stokes, but Sam insists on staying with mom (major foreshadowing here).
What follows is one of the best-worst scenes in the series – Jessie watches Sam become the appetizer for the famished zombies, and then Rick stands by helplessly while Jessie turns into the main course. Despite Jessie being his love interest and this being Valentine’s Day, the chances for romance end here. Rick is forced to chop off the dying woman’s hand because she was holding on to his son Carl (Chandler Riggs). Jessie’s other son Ron (Austin Abrams) now uses the gun Rick gave him and taught him to shoot (irony noted and then some) and tries to kill Carl. Michonne (Danai Gurira) then filets Ron with her katanna, but not before the disgruntled teen gets off a shot and hits Carl in the eye.
So much is happening here in a matter of a few minutes, and credit must be given to this episode’s director Greg Nicotero for capturing the essence of a the Anderson family’s destruction and the salvation of the Grimes family – albeit very bloody and missing one eye.
This is a landmark episode for many reasons, but chief among them is the bringing closer together of The Walking Dead comic world with the TV one. The specter of Negan hangs over this episode (those who read the comics know what I mean), for we know when he discovers his barbecued biker bunch that he is going to want revenge. There is also the matter of Carl’s eye, which finally came to pass (although I never thought that it would to be honest).
After getting his wounded son to the infirmary to the capable hands of Denise (Merritt Weaver) who has morphed into this super surgeon by the demands of the times, Rick takes an axe and goes out to give the zombies 40 whacks (and then some).
Rick going ape is indicative of the level to which they all have sunk due to the zombie apocalypse. Morgan (Lennie James) has tried to remain civil amidst all the incivility, but Rick has always recognized that there is no longer time to be that way. As Rick takes on overwhelming odds, the rest of the survivors from the town join him, turning what could have been Rick’s last stand into a battle royale.
The next morning the streets are littered with the dead – zombies and former townsfolk. The distinction at this moment means nothing because in this world the dead are the enemy no matter who they were in life.
Rick leans over the recovering Carl who lies in bed with his wounded eye bandaged. This gives Lincoln a great acting opportunity, and he doesn’t squander it. He grabs Carl’s hand and spits out what is like a confession, but in the end he tells Carl that he has hope for the future. He says, “Let me show you the new world, Carl; let me show you.” Finally Carl’s still hand moves and he grasps his father’s.
So the episode ends with hope and yet so much portent looms now. We know Negan is out there, that internally that Rick and Morgan need to come together but it won’t be easy; everyone will have to cope with substantial losses, and Carl will need to recover and literally face a new world living with one eye.
Next week’s episode is “A New World,” and Rick has promised to show it to his son. Judging by the bloodshed and losses suffered this week, I predict more of the same out in that new world in the weeks to come, including at least the loss of one member of the core group of survivors. Buckle yourselves in, folks; this TWD coaster has only begun to roll.
Photo Credits: AMC