NO WAY OUT – 9/10.
Things were looking decidedly murky for Rick Grimes and co before The Walking Dead abandoned us for its mid-season break; Alexandria’s walls had fallen and the town was overrun with walkers, Denise had been taken hostage by the Wolf that Morgan was keeping alive, Maggie was trapped on a rickety watchtower, Daryl, Sasha and Abraham had been held up by a group of bikers, and Rick was leading a gore-coated group through the herd when Jesse’s son began to freak out. So that’s five cliffhangers that we have been waiting to see resolved. Well the wait is finally over and boy did we ever get some resolution in this episode, Walking Dead always delivers the goods on its premieres and No Way Out was no exception.
We first caught up with Daryl, Abraham, Sasha and their new ‘friends’, this was a tense encounter that ended rather satisfyingly with a large explosion courtesy of the gang’s new missile launcher. Abraham wanted to know who Negan was, after killing several of his men it seems like he will get his answer sooner rather than later (SPOILER – Negan isn’t the forgive and forget type). Back at Alexandria, Morgan and Carol regained consciousness and were understandably frosty with each other. Truthfully, they both played a part in Denise’s capture but the blame predominantly belongs to Morgan. It will be interesting to see where they go with the character from here as sudo-pacifism isn’t a particularly useful ideology to have in the zombie apocalypse.
Denise’s situation was one of the things that didn’t particularly pay off in this episode. We haven’t had enough time to bond with the character yet and Merritt Weaver isn’t very convincing in the role, so the storyline just felt a bit flat. The Wolf/Dave Grohl impersonator’s plan to keep her alive backfired spectacularly as he was bitten while trying to rescue her and later shot and killed by Carol, sorry Morgan. While Carol was rescuing Denise (sort of), Glenn and Enid were busy coming up with an improvised rescue plan for Maggie. Glenn has often functioned as the heart of the group and he once again found time to deliver a motivational speech to the disillusioned teenager. It seemed to work and they headed off to save Maggie armed with a gun and some hopeful optimism.
But it was Rick’s story that proved to be the most engaging. The last episode ended with Rick, Jesse, Ron, Carl, Michone, Gabriel and Jesse’s young son, Sam, covered in zombie guts trying to stealthily pass through the herd of walkers. Things seemed to be going well until the shell-shocked child began to call out for his mother, which sort of put a dampener on the whole stealth thing. It was a highly effective cliffhanger that left viewers shouting angrily at their televisions, but we never pick up that thread. It’s as if it never happened, so when Sam does have a PTSD moment later in the episode it’s actually less effective than it should be. However, that is very much a moot point as the sequence that follows is one of the most effective the programme has ever delivered.
Sam panics, attracting the attention of several walkers who proceed to attack him. Jesse is obviously disturbed by seeing her son become an all you can eat buffet and she too suffers the same fate. Unfortunately she is still holding on to Carl when this happens, forcing Rick to chop off her hand in order to save his son’s life. Jesse’s other son, Ron, is none too pleased with the Grimes boys after watching his whole family get turned in to take out food. He uses his mother’s gun to shoot at them but is quickly dispatched by Michone; but this isn’t enough to save Carl, who ends up taking a bullet to his eye. While Denise fights to save Carl’s life Rick takes out his grief on some zombies, Michone soon joins him, followed by pretty much everyone else in a united fight to reclaim their town.
This was a really strong return for the show, serving to close a chapter on outlaw Rick Grimes and open a new one with him as the leader of a community rather than just a group. The Walking Dead is never shy when it comes to recreating iconic moments from the comic and there were several page-to-screen translations in this episode that helped to make it feel so special, particularly the events leading up to Carl getting shot. While the circumstances of his shooting were somewhat different it actually allowed for closure on the Ron vs Carl storyline. The final battle between the Alexandrians and the walkers was also spectacularly realised, again borrowing visuals from the comics to show everyone uniting behind Rick, even Eugene and Father Gabriel managed to get involved.
So where does the show go from here? Traditionally The Walking Dead tends to slow down the pace after big event episodes and it’s likely that we will spend the next few episodes focussing on the rebuilding of Alexandria. While everyone is excited to finally meet Negan that won’t be happening just yet, but with Rick determined to make Deana’s plans for the town a reality he is going to need to find more people and resources. As he sits by Carl’s bed he promises to show his son “a new world”, but it isn’t just Carl he is talking to, he’s talking to us as well. Some people think that the show got smaller when the group moved to Alexandria; this couldn’t be any further from the truth. The world of The Walking Dead is about to open up and there is no going back from here.
POINTS OF INTEREST
- It was somewhat ominous that the biker claimed that his group normally introduces themselves by killing one member of any group they encounter.
- It was really good to see Father Gabriel step to the forefront in this episode, his character definitely deserves some redemption and it seems as if Rick has finally accepted him.
- Line of the night goes to Abraham for casually asking Glen to be a pal and open the gate after rescuing him from yet another near death situation.
- Once the dust settles Rick is going to have to make a hard choice when it comes to Morgan, either that or Carol will make it for him.