by Thom Yee
6×06: “Always Accountable”
It may have taken a full five seasons, but it was last season’s final episode that finally sold me on The Walking Dead as a television series. It was the sudden appearance of Morgan, saving Daryl and Aaron with a serenity and a respect for life and humanity, that finally convinced me that the show was, at least this one time, capable of selling some of the higher-minded thematic ideals it’s been trying (and too often failing) to play with throughout its run. And yes, I’m starting this recap talking about a character that doesn’t even appear in the episode.
So with “Always Accountable, the sixth episode of season six and only two episodes from the mid-season finale, we’re still dealing with the fallout of Rick’s plan from all the way back in the first scene from the first episode of the season. What’s been six weeks of pretty high highs and somewhat low lows in seasonal terms has been no more than one or two days in their world, and obviously a lot of things have happened in that time for both us and them. What may be most interesting about this decompressed storytelling approach is that it’s mostly been seamless, and there’s a confidence in this storytelling approach that we’ve rarely seen from this show before.
“Always Accountable” shows us why Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham have yet to return to Alexandria, having been attacked by a mysterious group that’s by all accounts a new threat given that they gave chase to our heroes in their own cars and with their own guns, unlike the Wolves who barely seem to have a handle on things beyond their own feral nature. With Sasha and Abraham’s story, we have another reminder of how mature our heroes have become in this world, crashing their car, but coming out shooting, and pretty easily overcoming their attackers. These are battle-hardened veterans (possibly a little more literally in Abraham’s militaristic case) that have lived through the deaths of their closest family members, and it’s good to be reminded that even the secondary characters from Rick’s group will always come out swinging no matter what kind of trouble they find themselves in. Making short work of their attackers, the two retire to safer quarters to wait out any trouble, and, again it’s their confidence that Daryl, as the group’s tracker, will find them that reminds you that these are the best people for the job. Then there’s some crap about Abraham hitting on Sasha and also Abraham overcoming some of his post-Eugene-doesn’t-have-the-cure nuttiness by screaming in a walker’s face, and as important as it may be to understand the progression of our heroes’ psyches, at this point I still don’t need to know much more about secondary characters like Sasha and Abraham beyond good with guns, so it’s a good thing that their story ended on a found-rocket-launcher note. I’m sure that’s not the last time we see that rocket launcher.
The motorcycle-riding Daryl, having been split up from the group during the attack, is taken captive by a group of three newcomers — Dwight, Sherry, and Tina — trying to make their own way after what seems to have been a bad experience with another, probably much more brutal group than the Alexandrians. It’s interesting to find newcomers and learn just enough about them to know that they’ve clearly had adventures of their own. Intellectually, we all know the people we have and haven’t met along the way each have their own backstories (well, really intellectually, we know that a lot of these people don’t have backstories because they’re just cannon fodder, but that’s a little more meta than I’m going for right now), but hearing so many errant details of an entirely separate group helps to make this world feel a little more lived in and real than what we usually get. I mean, remember Sam and Ana? Of course you don’t, all we ever learned about them is that they were weak, and weak people die, either by walker or by trough-side throat slicing.
What Daryl’s story this episode reminds us of is that even harder character like him have experienced real arcs in the post-apocalypse, in his case a positive and possibly redemptive one when he returns to his captors after escaping them when he realizes that among the supplies he’s stolen from them is the insulin that one of them needs to live. Sure, that insulin may have gone to waste when Tina later dies by walker, and Daryl’s growing faith in mankind may have been betrayed when the remaining Dwight and Sherry steal his stuff even after Daryl saves them and offers them sanctuary, but I don’t think Daryl regrets his actions (at least not at an ideological level), nor did we learn any more than we already have that people can’t be trusted in this world because what Daryl did was the right thing to do. As with Morgan’s “All life is precious” mantra, having strong characters like Daryl learning and believing in the right thing helps us to swallow those beliefs even when they go wrong. That said, I’m sure all of us are counting the days until Daryl gets payback on Dwight and Sherry.
Daryl’s adventures in the badlands also gives us our first glimpse at a potentially new menace for Rick and the Alexandrians, and it’s a little jarring to see how well organized this group is with its brush-clearing tanker truck, guns, clean/tucked clothes, and cut-off-limbs-after-walker-bite knowledge after seeing the comparatively feral/disorganized/unhygienic Wolves. It makes sense that eventually our heroes won’t have the luxury of one enemy at a time, but are we really about to enter into an Alexandria vs. the Wolves and Saviours scenario? Oh wait, I guess a lot of you guys don’t know who the Saviours are yet. Of the Saviours, I’ll just say that a guy with a name like Wade is probably exactly the type of person who would be in that group.
It’s easy to call an episode like “Always Accountable” filler, and it was, but as is I think it was also just as valid as a Morgan-origin episode in showing us what characters we don’t get a lot of time with will do when their backs are against the wall. Some of the storytelling felt a little unclear this episode (e.g., “Patty”, “we did this”, the burned forest and carcasses, how did they get away from Wade?), but I’m not sure if that was simple sloppiness or deliberate provocation for connecting later story dots in future episodes. I’m beginning to believe the latter as The Walking Dead’s showrunners continue to show us that they might actually have a handle on this show with season six. We end the episode with Daryl picking Sasha and Abraham up, as we all knew he would, and a call for help from whoever’s on the other end of Daryl’s walkie-talkie communiqués, and it remains to be seen what future perils the call represents for our trio that they still haven’t made it back to camp. The only speculation I have for who the caller is is that, by now, I’m still okay with not knowing what happened to Glenn, and I don’t feel like that’s a storyline that’ll be wrapped up next episode either.
The Walking Dead — “Always Accountable” final score
Items of Note
- That guy pretty much just walked into getting bit. What a maroon.
- And then that girl pretty much just lays down in a bed of “live” zombies.
- Daryl’s signature weapon may be his crossbow, but you’d think he’d know by now to also carry a gun.
- Seeing Daryl struggle to get his crossbow out of that duffel bag with an oncoming zombie approaching makes me wonder if it’s still worth our time for the show to flirt with such dangers when they’re obviously fake. He obviously wasn’t going out that way.
- You ripped your shirt, Mr. Ford.
- So Abraham chose Sasha over Rosita? No offense to Sasha, but that’s crazy!
- “My brownies” “A change of underwear!” “My insulin!”