by Thom Yee
6×09: “No Way Out”
I don’t know why, but for some reason I felt compelled to watch some old episodes of The Walking Dead during this year’s midseason break, and somehow, in the midst of all of the Holiday festivities, family togetherness, celebratory warmth, and zombie gore, I realized that I’ve really grown fond of the show. That might seem obvious from my having written recap reviews of the show since season four, but it’s a show that I’ve had a lot of problems with over its lifespan, and at its critically bleakest points, it was often a show I hate watched more than actually enjoyed. Since I took that chance to look back at where the show’s been and where it is now and have really been able to consider what a big part of my TV-watching life it’s become, I feel like I’ve reached a point of contentment and comfort with the show, and it’s become something I actively want to watch and actually kind of miss when it’s gone. Even though I pretty much already know where everything’s going.
With “No Way Out”, the back half of season six opened with a literal bang when Daryl blows up Negan’s welcoming committee with the rocket launcher Abraham found. If you read my notes from last episode, I actually sort of called that very thing happening, so you can imagine the sheer elation I felt at seeing such a blunt solution being brought to that situation. In some ways, it was like a scene from an alternate universe where shows just do what you want them to do rather than drag things out beyond their expiration date, and it’s precisely these types of creative choices that made the earlier, crazier parts of season six so great and so refreshing. I do, however, have to question it as a little bit of a reductive move considering the high-level threat Negan is likely to become by the end of this season and probably for most of next.
Similarly, the major cliffhanger from last episode was resolved pretty definitively when Jesse, Ron, and Sam all fall victim to the walker horde they, for a time, were successfully making there way through when Sam freezes up and, basically, gets his entire family killed. The scene of Sam’s demise in particular reminded me of why I’ve always felt uneasy playing first person shooters where their lack of peripheral vision left me feeling completely vulnerable, just as when a walker suddenly steps in from the side to take a bite out of Sam. It’s also a moment that left me wondering about the point of characters like Sam who prove to be almost entirely annoying throughout their appearances and whether or not the writers are trying to handle their deaths as sobering reflections of the dangers of this world or if they really are giving us this stuff just so we can laugh and celebrate the deaths of the characters we hate. Either way, I’m glad that Sam is dead, he was annoying.
On the other hand, Jesse was a character who was allowed to grow a lot more in the show than in the comic, and I thought the writers were going to find a way to keep her around for longer, but seeing her die and the affect it had on Rick was arguably worth it even if it shut down the romantic entanglements possible with the two. As he watched her die, Rick looked like he was finally shutting down in a way that I’d never seen in the show before, and it took Carl being shot in the eye to shake him back into the survival mode that’s kept him and the others alive for so long. That moments of reflective sorrow for Rick is what made that scene really work for me, but it was also lacking the pure brutality that made it an overall stronger scene in the comic when Rick had to struggle and look Jesse directly straight in the eye as he hacked her arm off to free Carl. Oh yeah, and Ron died like a punk, but I don’t think anyone cared too much about that either way.
My favourite turn in this week’s episode was that of Father Gabriel who’s finally been given a chance to turn things around and prove his worth, not just in saving Judith and keeping her from the fate that ultimately befell Jesse, Sam, and Ron, but in finding his way back to humanity when he joins what was potentially Rick’s last stand against the invading walkers. As he says to his flock praying at the church, God has saved them by giving them the courage to save themselves, or in others words, blessed are those who are shown the path to salvation. Conversely, seeing how Morgan, my overall favourite character, makes out in this episode, I’m reminded of how much care and attention such faith-based characters need in order to stay viable in a show like this, as he almost seems forgotten, his “all life is precious” mantra left entirely to the side. What’s unfortunate about that is that it’s a point left up in the air to be told by the Wolf who had kidnapped Dr. Denise, and by the end of the episode, though the Wolf may have made a turn to the better as he sacrificed himself to save the good Doctor, it’s hard to say how much of an effect his turn and sacrifice will have on the group, with Carol being its only witness. Also, is that it for the Wolves? Are they dead? They certainly can’t be much of a threat anymore, and it almost feels like the offhanded, “what a bunch of assholes” remark/rocket launcher attack would have been better suited for putting an end to that group instead.
The resolution of this episode, as everyone rallied around Rick, wound up leaving “No Way Out” with a redemptive arc for the Alexandrians and a reinstatement of the town as the beacon of hope it first represented for our heroes. For once it feels like a genuine change to this show is coming, one that means real, lasting transformation for the series, literally in terms of setting but also with regards to what this show is really about. It’s one of the only honestly upbeat episodes The Walking Dead has ever had despite all the major character deaths, and that’s a weird feeling, to feel good and hopeful and uplifted about what’s happening.
The Walking Dead — “No Way Out” final score
Items of Note
- Shouldn’t that Wolf have been eaten entirely? Or, now that I think of it, that guy from Glenn’s group that Glenn found zombified on that fence. They were being devoured by walkers, there shouldn’t have been enough of their corpses left to reanimate.
- So they should still have two RPGs left for that rocket launcher. That’s not too bad.
- I’m glad that Negan spokesperson died so quickly. He got annoying real fast.