“Dying is simple. It all just stops, you’re dead. The people around you dying – that’s the hard part.”
Ok, I’ll admit it – last week I missed that we’ve already got on to Day Two of this year’s Walking Dead. In my defence, I think the night happened while Daryl was unconscious, so we only saw snapshots of it in those brief moments he woke up. So, six and a half episodes in, and we’re now on the season’s second day. That’s not quite 24-level real time, but it’s close.
Not that I have any reason to object. Splitting such a small time frame into so many different, separate narratives has made for gripping viewing. This week had something of a ‘calm before the storm’ feel, as the people of Alexandria retrenched before next week’s mid-season finale, with mistrust again rearing its ugly head to kibosh our heroes’ plans.
It’s understandable ( and makes for good drama), but how many disasters might be averted if Rick just told the Alexandrians he didn’t think they were up to the mission, Ron told Carl how pissed off he is, or Morgan told anybody at all that he’s keeping a dangerous prisoner right under their noses?
Still, the biggest secret is the one showrunner Scott Gimple’s been keeping for the last month – did Glenn survive? Well… yes. He did. In any other show that would probably be a foregone conclusion no matter how improbable, but The Walking Dead makes a virtue of offing its main characters just when you’re not expecting it.
However, despite some neat trickery in removing Steven Yeun’s name from the credits for the past few weeks, I don’t think anyone was really convinced. Not least because plenty of fans have seen publicity photos from later in the season featuring Glenn with characters who’ve yet to be introduced. I was concerned that letting Glenn live would be so implausible as to constitute shark-jumping, but then I recalled him surviving similarly dangerous situations in the past. Remember last season, when Nicholas shot him in the forest and he was pinned under three slavering Walkers and barely able to move? He got out of that, and we never even saw how. At least this time we know how he did it.
Granted, I was surprised that the horde of Walkers would so easily lose interest in a potential snack (they seemed to gang up after one distracted by a can rolling by), but Glenn’s makeshift barricade of corpses was clever. It also set up one of this week’s two plots, as he conveniently hooked up with the errant Enid, who’s now more convinced than ever that mere survival is the best they can do. As she put it, “the world is trying to die, and we’re supposed to just let it”. I bet she’s a fan of Emily Dickinson.
Their little thread, wending their way back to Alexandria, was a nice little two-hander. Glenn already refers to Alexandria as “home”; Enid, who’s been there longer, still can’t make that leap. But despite this being the first time they’ve spent any time together, they had a chemistry, which was illustrated by Glenn’s seemingly contagious optimism. Mind you, writer Channing Powell could have made it clearer what those balloons were doing there – I was baffled at first, but surmised they were part of ‘Operation Get Them Somewhere Else’.
Back at the ranch, action was thin on the ground but character conflict was everywhere. That makes sense; we had three eps of unrelenting action followed by the breather of Morgan’s flashback ep, then another three eps of unrelenting action. Now it’s time to take a breather again, as Michonne herself pointed out to the ever more driven Rick.
The pause allowed for some of the show’s frequent conflicts of philosophies, this time between Morgan (who still refuses to kill), and Rick’s group, whose leader nearly died because he let some bad guys live. Morgan acknowledged that holding to his belief that “all life is precious” was pretty damn hard, while Rick countered with, “making it now… you really think you can do that without getting blood on your hands?” Carol, at least, is consistent, asked by young Sam if killing made you a monster, her calmly expressed opinion was, “the only thing that keeps you from becoming a monster is killing”. As I’ve said before, while every character in this show has evolved convincingly, she’s changed far more than most. And the question still remains whether that’s a good thing.
Carol it was who smelled a rat in Morgan’s clandestine visits to Dr Cloyd, and confronted him over the captive Wolf. Rick, meanwhile, may be mistrustful but appeared downright gullible acceding to the suspiciously forgiving Ron’s request to be taught how to shoot. I mean, come on Rick –you shot the kid’s father, he obviously hated you, and you’re prepared to just take it on trust that he’s a changed man?
Well, maybe not entirely, since he didn’t seem to be trusting Ron with any actual ammunition. Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten that teenage boys’ capacity for mischief is boundless, and Ron was straight off to the armoury to purloin some bullets. I’ve a feeling that next week will see this come to a head, with Ron at least trying to shoot his deadliest rival. I actually felt a bit of sympathy this week; Carl may have thought he was being all Yoda by chiming in with his father’s gun training, but he came across as a smug know-it-all.
I doubt he’s the only one in danger next week. Mid-season finales of The Walking Dead tend to be more full of action, drama, gore and death than the actual season finales. After all that woolgathering (and portentous shots of the creaking, ever more unstable church tower), the very closing second of the ep played a blinder. Just when everyone got their spirits up at the sign that Glenn was alive, the tower knocked down a huge section of wall, with hundreds, maybe thousands of hungry Walkers ready to come in for dinner.
Gore of the week
Actually, pretty much none. Sure, there were a lot of disgustingly decomposed Walkers, but let’s face it, we’re a bit blasé about them now. And even the ep’s one brief action sequence, with foolhardy Spencer making a break for the outside with a grappling hook, didn’t result in any actual gore. Well, I suppose there were these things:
But that’s practically kiddie-friendly by this show’s standards. So, here’s a new thing I’m going to do in penultimate episodes before Big Finales:
Who’s going to die next week?
Yes, the show does seem to be about to restage a well-remembered set piece from the original comic. And yes, a lot of major characters got killed there. I won’t name them here, so as not so spoiler anyone who hasn’t read it; but also because the show has a habit of misdirecting comics readers by taking a familiar sequence in an unexpected direction. But, based entirely on my experience of how this show has worked for six seasons, here are my death predictions.
Deanna. We already know that making plans for the future is a surefire indicator that you’re not going to see it – remember Noah last year? Plus, while Tovah Feldshuh has plenty of gravitas, she’s sort of redundant as a character now that Rick’s the de facto leader.
Ron. And I doubt anyone will be sorry to see him go. But I’d bet he’s going to cause some bad shit before he does.
Tobin. The formerly cowardly construction boss was bonding with Rick this week as they reinforced the wall, with the reassuring comment, “don’t give up on us”. He’s a goner.
Jessie. Evens on her. She’s shaping up to be a badass, but things are going too nicely between her and Rick. We wouldn’t want him to actually be happy, would we?
Glenn. OK, an outside possibility. But then, all my other predictions are comparative newcomers. How tricksy would it be if, after playing with our expectations for weeks then revealing him to be alive, he got killed the very next week? Plus, his wife is pregnant. That’s never a good omen for heroes.
Tara. A more likely possibility from the regulars, especially since she’s been in the spotlight a lot these last few weeks. Plus, she just got together with Denise.
Morgan. Maybe. Lennie James is a pretty in demand actor. Either way, I think his ‘thou shalt not kill’ philosophy will be severely tested.
Carol and/or Daryl. Not a chance. The showrunners know who people tune in for.
And next week, we’ll find out. At least these seven episodes have worked well in getting us emotionally invested in a large amount of new characters, so we’ll actually care what happens to them. This particular ep, while lacking in the usual action and even gore, allowed these characters and their relationships to breathe, and very obviously gave some of them a chance to boldly restate their philosophies. I’m betting all of their convictions will be tested next week.