The third episode of Walking Dead, “Thank You,” ended with two big cliffhangers: Is Glenn dead or alive? How will Rick escape from an RV surrounded by zombies? I wasn’t surprised when the fourth episode, “Here’s Not Here,” didn’t answer those questions. It was almost entirely a flashback episode, and I enjoyed it. I was surprised when the fifth episode didn’t answer those questions. And of course, the sixth didn’t either. So here we have a double review of two episodes, one fun and one a perfect example of a show just spinning its wheels.
Rick arrives back in Alexandria as episode 5, “Now,” opens. Last we saw him, he was exhausted, breaking down, surrounded by the dead. It was the most human we’ve seen Rick in ages, and I applauded that. I wanted to see how he’d test his will and his strength on what would inevitably be a hard road home. Instead, we skip all that. He appears to have just walked out of the RV and run home, with no drama along the way. Any dramatic tension deflates, and he immediately gets back to boring-badass-leader mode. I’ve always said this show sets up great situations and then resolves them with a shrug, and this is one of the most flagrant yet.
In spite of how important they were to the previous Alexandria episode, we see next to nothing of Carol or Morgan. Carl gets into some weak teenage drama and has an embarrassing shoving match. Eugene and Gabriel don’t show up at all. Michonne gets a brief moment of dialogue that was nearly inaudible.
Rick’s plan to lure all the zombies away has instead lured them directly back to Alexandria, where they surround the town’s fragile walls. No one calls him an idiot for his bumbling plan getting lots of people killed and bringing the zombies right to our doors, because we’ve learned recently that any time someone sasses Rick, God drops a surprising invisible zombie out of nowhere to kill them. Whether it’s bad luck or perhaps Rick’s secret necromancy skills, it’s just not a safe thing to question him anymore, even when he’s really super dumb.
For example: Rick tells the town that they must remain quiet and keep the lights out; hopefully, the zombies will get bored, forget about them, and wander off. We learn this when he loudly yells the plan out in the middle of town, before going over to make out with widowed-by-Rick’s-hand Jessie in an open, brightly lit garage that lights up the night.
The images we’re shown say that Rick is an incompetent leader and a hypocrite. He’s a blowhard who can’t keep his people OR the Alexandrians safe under stress, and the most successful defense of the town came when he wasn’t even there. He’s bordering on dangerously crazy, but the show’s writing tries to say the opposite. He’s defended at every turn, and gives advice to Mayor Deanna to help pull her out of her daze after her husband dies. People keep saying “We need to listen to Rick!” even after his plans get their buddies killed. There could be some interesting cult of personality elements at play with the way our survivors venerate Rick, but I’m not really buying it.
Throughout the episode, almost everyone speaks in monologues. It feels experimental, but not all experiments are good; the result is a stilted episode that tries to feel more important than it actually is. Also, Maggie’s pregnant (unsurprisingly, given conversations with Glenn earlier in the season) and goes into the sewers and fights a couple of gross but hilarious poop-zombies. Tara and Dr. Denise hook up and their conversations are the only comfortable sounding ones in the episode. At least someone gets to be happy here.
Episode six takes us twenty miles away, where the second half of the walker herd is following Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha off into the vague distance where they hopefully don’t ever get bored and come back to Alexandria. Having driven far enough, probably, our heroes feel like it’s a fine time to turn around and go home. Unfortunately, they get caught up in an ambush meant for someone else, and Daryl’s separated from Sasha and Abraham.
After easily dispatching their attackers, Sasha and Abraham hole up in an empty building and wait for Daryl to find them. Sasha’s the calm, collected one; Abraham’s the irrational hot-head who just wants to bust some zombie skulls. While Sasha patiently waits, Abraham goes out and finds a testosterone treasure-trove: A macho army truck full of cigars and missiles. He screams so hard it breaks an undead army man in half, leaving him as the sole owner of this newfound phallic cache. Freud smiles in Heaven.
Abraham finds a fancy new officer jacket (and respectfully removes its medals before putting it on) and expresses his newfound love for Sasha in a bizarre rant that would make Eugene proud. He’s a big, muscle-bound army man with the heart of a sixteen year old boy. He may or may not have forgotten that he’s got a girlfriend back in Alexandria, but that fits the new Giant Child direction we’re seeing the character take. Sasha seems flattered but slightly embarrassed.
Daryl, meanwhile, gets knocked out by a trio of survivors who that earlier ambush was meant to capture. They’re on the road running from a settlement run by leaders with strict but vague laws, and they think Daryl’s one of their enemies. He’s not so good with his words, so he fails to just explain his situation to them. Daryl eventually escapes with all of their supplies, but finds a cooler of insulin in their bag and being the kind-hearted man he is, returns to his captors to hand over the drug. This earns him their trust, just in time for one of them to dramatically fall over next to a sleeping zombie and die.
The Ambush Men soon catch up and there’s a brief exchange of words. We meet a new villain, Wade, whose face is carefully hidden from the camera. This could be done to imply that he’s someone we know, though his name tells us he’s not. It could also imply that he has some sort of great disfigurement that will shock us when we see it; a true Skull Face. But most likely, it means the producers are looking to cast someone bigger in the role for next season and haven’t settled yet.
Daryl and his new friends escape while one of Wade’s men gets inexplicably bitten by a zombie trapped safely in some rocks. Wade cuts the man’s infected arm off and tells him to “walk it off,” and the newly disarmed man gets up and looks more or less fine. Perhaps the true secret is that Wade and company are actually cyborgs. Soon after helping them out, Daryl’s new buddies steal his bike and his crossbow and peace out of there, even though he offered to take them to safety.
I’m thankful that by the end of this episode, Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha are reunited. We didn’t need another agonizingly long, drawn out cliffhanger to add on to Glenn’s Pile of Zombies. There are some bizarre cinematic choices regarding the zombie deaths in this episode, but #6 is a pretty fun ride that’s thankfully better than the slog that was episode 5. It’s also a nicer lit and shot episode than the previous one, even if it doesn’t do anything special. I appreciate any episode that gives Abraham major opportunities to act like a huge doofus.