After last week’s dumpster fire/snooze fest of an episode, The Walking Dead returns with a much more action-packed installment.
Is it good?
Starting things off with a series of bangs
Daryl (on his bike) and Sasha/Abraham (in the car) are ambushed by gunmen. This is notable for a couple reasons.
- Thirty seconds in, this episode is already better than the last one.
- The Wolves who attacked Alexandria utilized melee weapons. This group was well-armed and knew how to handle automatic weapons. The Saviors, perhaps?
Anyway, Daryl gets separated from Sasha and Abraham, crashing his bike and finding himself in in the midst of a burned out forest—and a very safety-conscious walker still wearing its motorcycle helmet.
After a badass gunfight sequence, Sasha and Abraham decide to hole up in an office space and let Daryl find them. This gives the pair a chance to talk about who is more out of control/has a greater death wish — a subject that we so desperately needed to rehash for the millionth time.
Later, Abraham finds a stash of military weapons and cigars nearby. He also finds a walker hanging off a broken bridge support. He proceeds to get right up in the zombie’s face and taunt it in a scene that…um…shows us how out of control he is? I’m not really sure. Either way, the sequence was stupid, but even worse, it was completely ineffective.
If you’re working off the assumption that Glenn is still alive (like most people seem to be), then there really wasn’t anything to fear from Abraham’s little game of chance beyond some bad writing. If Glenn can really live through a horde of zombies crawling all over him, then we as the audience have no reason to fear for Abraham’s safety while he works out some PTSD issues on an immobilized undead soldier.
When Abraham gets back to the office park, he seems to be in a much better mood. He also tells Sasha that he would like to ‘get to know her a whole lot better.’ Sasha deflects the flirting, but doesn’t seem completely disagreeable to it either. I, on the other hand, just want to see the resulting cat fight between her and Rosita if this really becomes a thing.
Back in the woods, Daryl is ambushed and knocked out. He wakes up to find himself taken hostage by three random survivors, one of whom looks like a redneck version of Ryan Gosling. Apparently, they were part of the group that was responsible for burning up the forest (to clear out the walkers). Now they’re on the run, escaping their former crew and looking for a friend near an oil supply depot.
As expected, Daryl gets the upper hand and escapes, taking a duffel bag they’d been carrying with them. Later, he discovers it has insulin inside. Feeling bad (because Daryl is the rough-but-still-sensitive type), he willingly rejoins his captors and gives them the bag back. He also helps them avoid capture by their former group, who appear to be the same people who shot at Daryl/Abraham/Sasha at the beginning of the episode. His former captors are amazed at Daryl’s kindness, which he chalks up to him being ‘stupid.’
This self-assessment turns out to be somewhat prophetic. After losing one of their members to some zombies who didn’t want a funeral, Redneck Gosling and the other girl steal Daryl’s bike and crossbow. Daryl smolders with backwoods rage, warning them that ‘they’ll be sorry’ as they drive off. Whether he was referring to how the world would treat them or what he would do after finding them is unclear, but I really hope it’s the second one.
But despite these two major setbacks, Daryl ends up finding an operational truck near the oil depot they’d been scouting. He picks up Sasha and Abraham (who has donned an ill-fitting military uniform he found) and they head back toward Alexandria. As Daryl continues to hail Rick on the walkie, a voice—who is NOT Glenn—answers by calling for help.
Is it Good?
The ‘Moment-of-Epiphany-via-Life-Threatening-Situation’ trope is going to be well-worn on a show like this. It’s also necessary. Character growth can and should happen in other ways, but it’s generally going to come from various encounters with the dangers the characters face in a zombie-filled, post-apocalyptic landscape.
This episode was a study in how to do it both the right and wrong way.
In Daryl’s story, he is reminded that while being kind/merciful may be good for the soul, it is also much more likely to get you killed. It’s a good lesson to remind the viewers of, especially with Sensei Morgan pushing his philosophy of only beating the hell out of your opponent with a bo staff and not killing them.
We also got purely plot focused tidbits that moved the story along. This new group (who I still say are The Saviors from the comics) look to be another code-based society like the one Daryl was in briefly and the people at Terminus. All the talk Daryl’s captors made about trading him—and the way the people hunting them talked about taking things that weren’t theirs—definitely makes you wonder what other type of rigidly enforced rules they may have. Add in Daryl losing his bike/crossbow…which we KNOW he’ll go looking for at some point—and the plot moves forward on a solid wave of characterization.
Abraham and Sasha’s story, on the other hand…ugh. It’s a good thing these characters are played by such good actors. Otherwise, those scenes would have been insufferable. If we’re going to go down the old ‘Man/Woman on the Edge of Sanity’ route, can we at least reach the precipice with something a bit more convincing than Abraham screaming at an impaled zombie?
Add in the fact we knew Abraham wasn’t in any danger, and aside from the dialogue/sexual tension between him and Sasha, their scenes inside the office area felt redundant and pointless.
Fortunately, we did get some good action and a lot of Daryl, which makes this episode exponentially better than last week’s. That’s still not saying much, though.