TWICE AS FAR – 6.5/10
The Walking Dead has been playing an interesting game with its viewers in the tail end of season 6. The cat is pretty much out of the bag in regards to the fact that Negan is coming and his arrival means doom for a major character. But who that character might be is by no means set in stone, as the show has never been shy in diverging from the comic. In fact this week’s episode saw the death of a beloved character from the comics get dished out to a considerably less popular character on the show. What’s more, many of the major characters appear to be going through huge self-exploratory arcs right now, making any one of them a viable prospect for a bloody end. After all nothing spells doom in the zombie apocalypse quite like a sudden sense of self awareness.
TWD very rarely misses the mark, however every so often fans of the comic can find themselves frustrated by just how badly a character is translated onto the screen. The single worst case of this is in the total decimation of Andrea, who happens to be one of the best characters in the comics. No, seriously, read the comics and it will blow your mind how badly they screwed that up. Well a similar thing happened in the case of Denise. While Denise may not have played a huge part in the comics her TV counterpart has been marred by bad writing and an even worse performance, so the prospect of having to spend major time with her was none to pleasing. Luckily we also got to spend some time with the amazing double act of Abraham and Eugene, which is always a lot of fun.
Eugene has undergone a lot of change recently; while he may still be a figure of fun he is becoming a survivor, although maybe not to the level that he tries to boast to Abraham. Having discovered a fully functional factory Eugene intends to start producing ammunition. Abraham is impressed by his ingenuity but this isn’t enough for the verbose Southerner and he calls dibs on a stray walker. Unfortunately its head is covered in solidified metal, Eugene struggles with the zombie for a moment before Abraham kills it. Frustrated that he lost the opportunity to prove himself to his former protector, Eugene informs Abraham that his services are no longer required. Abraham storms out of the factory, wishing Eugene the best of luck in getting back to Alexandria as he leaves.
Abraham and Eugene were one of two groups that ventured out of Alexandria this week; the other group consisted of Daryl, Rosita and Denise. Denise convinces the other two to help her to get to an apothecary she spotted as she was being evacuated out of Washington. She refuses to tell them where it is, insisting that they all go together. When they finally arrive they discover a fully stocked pharmacy. While Daryl and Rosita load up their backpacks Denise nervously explores the building. She discovers a badly decayed zombie with a broken leg, the zombie was once a mother but all that remains of her child now is a sink filled with rotten human remains. This proves too much for Denise, who has never actually left the safe confines of Alexandria.
Denise opens up to Daryl on the walk back, telling him about her twin brother who appears to have had a lot in common with Merle. Denise spots a zombie in a car with a cooler by its lap. Despite a warning from Daryl she opens the car door, narrowly avoiding death and coming away with a singular can of soda for her efforts. When Daryl asks her to explain herself she goes on about the importance of taking risks, of not living in fear and embracing love. It is actually a huge relief when she gets shot in the head with a crossbow bolt. I hated Denise; she may well have been my least favourite character in the history of the show. As such her death didn’t have a great deal of impact other than the shock value of someone getting shot in the face midsentence.
Dwight, the saviour that stole Daryl’s bike and crossbow, emerges from the woods with a small army and Eugene as his hostage. Dwight’s face is badly scarred from a burn wound of some kind. They take Daryl and Rosita’s weapons and demand access into Alexandria. However, Abraham has been tracking them and is able to attack after Eugene creates a distraction by taking a huge bite out of Dwight’s crotch. Daryl and Rosita retrieve their weapons and manage to take out several of the Saviours, causing Dwight to call for a retreat. With his crossbow back in his possession Daryl goes to give chase, but is called back by Rosita to help them carry Eugene who has been hit in the crossfire. Fortunately they later discover that it was just a graze, but Abraham finally gives Eugene his props.
Back at Alexandria, Abraham pays a visit to Sasha while Carol helps Daryl to bury Denise. The Saviours now know the location of Alexandria, they know who lives there and what they are capable of; there can be no doubt that war is coming. But Carol has seen enough war for a lifetime, she has proven time and time again that she will do almost anything to protect the group and like Morgan she can no longer walk that line. Rather than stay and become the monster that they need her to be she chooses to leave, leaving behind a letter that asks them not to come looking for her. This may prove jarring to anyone who only wants to see Carol in warrior mode but the truth is that was never who she was. She did terrible things not because she wanted to but because she had to, but her sudden sense of self awareness puts a huge target on her head.
This was not one of the better episodes of season 6, the pacing felt off and the decision to devote a lot of time to Denise was not a particularly wise one. But there was plenty that did work as well; the dialogue between Eugene and Abraham was nothing short of fantastic and the confrontation between Dwight and Daryl was also very effective. We still don’t fully understand Dwight’s motives; he was trying to escape The Saviours when Daryl first met him but now he appears to be leading them, it seems likely that his change is somehow linked to the scarring on his face. This was undoubtedly a filler episode on the way to Negan, but it was also vital in as much as Alexandra suffered its first loss. What will be the impact of that be as we move ever closer to all out war?