The second season six episode of Walking Dead was one of the best the show has seen in a while: We got some good subtle character moments for Carol, some grotesque flashbacks for Enid, some blunt but fun adventures with Morgan, and action and violence that actually felt raw, horrifying, and meaningful. The third episode falls on its face and gets stuck under a dumpster.
Picking up directly where the season premiere left off, we’ve got Rick Grimes and his band of survivors, warriors, and idiots trying to figure out how to guide a herd of zombies off to a still unknown destination after they get distracted by a horn going off back in Alexandria. No one thinks to honk another horn in any of the numerous cars they’ve got stationed along the way, including the one currently being driven by Sasha and Abraham. Rick’s Bad Plans Continue.
Rick runs off to get an RV, Sasha keeps driving, and Daryl takes his bike and leaves for a while and then comes back at the end of the episode having done nothing in between. Michonne, Heath, Glenn, and Glenn’s incompetent almost-murderer, now almost-buddy Nicholas rush ahead of the herd in order to make it back to Alexandria to see what’s going on. They’re accompanied by a few no-name characters; the first no name to say anything bad about Rick’s plan is struck down by God via an out of nowhere zombie that should have easily been in full view of our cast. Another no-name gets bitten shortly after by another zombie that was walking right at our group, facing them head on, but was noticed by no one. This guy survives for a while and dies later in the episode, a gross and excruciating death while his friends safely watch and no one thinks to put him out of his misery.
There’s some arguments back and forth about whether it’s right to help everyone or leave someone behind sometimes, but it’s ham handed rehash. A pet store closet, conveniently covered by a giant dog poster, barfs out a zombie, and all of the zombies outside hear it and think that sounds more interesting than all the honking horns and gunfire coming from Alexandria. We don’t need this convoluted panic plan if all it takes to get their attention is someone knocking over a bucket on the inside of a building. A bunch of standard action happens and we’re off on the run again.
The Big Moment in this episode is a maybe, maybe not character death that I won’t spoil. One of our main people is trapped in an alleyway and gets pinned under another dead character while hundreds of zombies dig into either one or both of them. The scene’s bloody and unpleasant, and is shot so closely that you can’t actually see clearly what’s going on one way or another. The whole thing’s orchestrated to rile up fans an inspire “are they dead or not?” arguments, and it did its job well. But the bigger issue is that if this character is dead, it’s a really cheap, unceremonious way for an important character to go out. If they’re alive, it’s going to take an absurd, out-of-nowhere miracle to keep them alive longer than a few more seconds. It’s either filmed vaguely to hide the fact that they’re alive, which would be really cheap, or filmed terribly and almost incoherently if they’re actually dead.
The one good thing I will say about this episode is that I appreciated Rick watching a plan fall apart and looking genuinely distraught. He hasn’t had much to work with in the last few seasons outside of Crazy Nuts and Action Hero moments, so it was good to see something really bring him back to reality, and it was funny watching him run extremely hard for so long in one episode. But like the death/not death above, there’s some obnoxious vagueness in Rick’s subplot. We see him injure his hand, but it happens in an extremely quick, shaky moment where nothing is clear. Was he bitten? Did he cut himself with his knife during a zombie fight? It’s left up in the air so we have another thing to discuss instead of giving us the powerful clarity of the previous episode.
I don’t expect either of these cliffhangers to be cleared up in the next episode, but I’m not too bothered by that. I’m more interested in what’s going on back in Alexandria anyway. And it’s OK if we never find out why Daryl took a thirty minute bathroom break without telling anyone.