The mid-season premiere picks up the story right where the finale left off with Daryl, Abraham and Sasha confronting the followers of Negan. The introduction of the character Negan is a big deal for the show and comic readers have anticipated his arrival for some time. Back at Alexandria, the walls have been breached and Rick and the survivors are outnumbered, overrun by walkers and terrified. Does anyone survive?
This post has spoilers regarding The Walking Dead; if you have not caught up on the latest episodes of the show, turn back now….Don’t Open. Dead Inside.
First, the confrontation between Negan’s followers and Sasha, Abraham and Daryl did not end the way that I anticipated. I thought they would get captured and the remainder of season 6 would be Rick and the group attempting to rescue their friends, while simultaneously getting introduced to the depravity of Negan. Instead, Daryl busts out the RPG and annihilates the group of bikers in short order. We did get a couple gems out of the scene, such as when Abraham reprises his role as Inquisitor (“Who’s Negan?!”) or the impeccable instructions we were given for eating shit: “Best not to nibble. Bite. Chew. Swallow. Repeat.” While Daryl’s quick thinking with the RPG takes care of the immediate threat, the show has introduced a villain that is going to make The Governor look like Ghandi.
Second, in the final moments of the mid-season finale Sam decided to murmur “Mom,” while in the midst of a mass of walkers. Now, Sam has needed to die for a while. It’s tough to say about a kid, however, given the rules of the world and the surreal opening to the mid-season finale it was almost guaranteed. When revisiting that moment of stupidity during last night’s premiere, he (disappointingly) didn’t immediately get his face chewed off. They saved that moment for a BIG kill off and another important moment from the comics.
As Sam gets munched on by the walkers, his mother—Jessie—is paralyzed with fear and sadness causing her to be eaten as well! Sam was guaranteed to die because he was just not mentally fit for the world. Jessie on the other hand was making great progress in becoming the kind of character she would need to be to survive in a world filled with flesh eating zombies. It was an interesting and brave decision to kill off Jessie as she was starting to become the love interest of Rick as well. Rick having flashbacks to her furtive glances was particularly poignant and the audience wonders if the world will ever be right for these characters.
Then, we get our answer. Ron, Jessie’s other son, has consistently been skeptical of Rick and his methods since he showed up. When Ron watches his mother get devoured he blames Rick and aims a gun at him, ready to kill. Instead Michonne stabs Ron just as he attempts to shoot Rick and the bullet strikes Carl in the eye! Carl has been down to one eye in the comics for some time and this is another moment that fans of the comic have been waiting for.
There is a lot of pay off in this episode. Many things were teased at in the last half season and some of them are starting to come to fruition in unexpected ways. The most triumphant parts of the episode are when Gabriel and Eugene both find the courage it takes to fight back. Gabriel’s awakening is religious in nature as he exclaims, “Alexandria will be saved because God has given us the courage to save it ourselves.” Eugene basically realizes that, at some point, he will be forced to fight the zombies. Both men, who had very hard times coming to grips with the new world they lived in made great strides in this episode toward becoming survivalists and not cowards. In fact, the whole of Alexandria finally bands together and responds to Rick’s rallying call.
The episode was messy in a lot of ways but was entertaining until the end. It was certainly the most exciting episode of season 6 thus far and provided some wrap up to the fallout of the quarry plan that went awry in the first half of the season. The writing was off in some places (JUST DRAG SAM ALONG!) and it relied on cheap tension in some areas as the zombies closed in on the survivors. That being said, it moved us into a new and exciting era of The Walking Dead: One-Eyed Carl, fighting Alexandrians and a new villain, Negan, even if he remains a threat off-screen currently.