Review by Gene
Since episode 3 when Glenn seemingly met his end falling into a herd of walkers, we’ve had an even mix of episodes that focus specifically on a couple people or on the group as a whole. Sometimes, as with Morgan’s episode Here’s Not Here, it has worked. Other times, as with the previous two episodes in my opinion, it has left a lot to be desired. In Heads Up we get another episode showing circumstances in the entire group, but it succeeds because of the strength of the themes pushing the stories along. (spoilers ahead)
I was recently a guest on the Memento Mori podcast with Owen Paun. We discussed the spinoff show Fear the Walking Dead, as well as some spiritual and theological themes running through both that and The Walking Dead. I talked a bit about the inherent paradox with any zombie show or movie; the need to do monstrous things in order to keep from becoming a monster. In this weeks episode one moment in particular highlighted that paradox as well as anything has on the show. Carol is talking to Jessie’s younger son Sam when she tells him, “the only thing that keeps you from becoming a monster is killing.” You can clearly see on her face that she realizes what she’s said the moment it comes out of her mouth. And she’s saying this to a young boy very disturbed by what has happened. Leave it to Carol to corrupt the minds of the youth. It doesn’t seem like it should make sense, but that’s the world they live in.
This paradox also showed up in the conversation with Morgan. Rick pulled him aside with Carol and Michonne early in the episode. The conversation quickly went from Morgan’s decision to let the five Wolves go to his philosophy inspiring that decision. All life is precious. Morgan is visibly troubled that his philosophy nearly lead to Rick’s death. He even says, “I don’t know what’s right anymore.” But he doesn’t want to give up on this idea. It brought him out of a deep and dark part of his life and he believes strongly that it can do the same for others. The trouble is that nobody else seems to be on board with the real life implications of this philosophy. Michonne says she doesn’t believe it’s as simple as four words. It may never have been. Rick questions whether Morgan truly believes that he can survive this way now. That is this paradox manifested in Morgan’s worldview. He thinks he can survive without killing, but that may not be the case. He appeals to their merciful side, recalling a time when Rick chose not to kill him after he attacked him. But even Morgan isn’t so sure whether he belongs in Alexandria. We leave the conversation in some uncertain territory. I don’t think Rick would ever allow Morgan to be exiled, but I can certainly see a scenario where Morgan chooses to leave if he’s feeling the conflict between his worldview and the realities of applying that to civilization becoming too great. Afterall, the man he learned this philosophy from was applying it successfully while living in solitude.
Yet another place where this paradox shows up in this episode is with Glenn. Yes, Glenn is alive, and if you are reading this without having already watch the episode, what’s wrong with you?!? The episode wastes no time in putting our minds to rest on this issue. It opens immediately with Nicholas falling on top Glenn and a graphic display of Nicholas’ guts being ripped out rather than Glenn’s. He manages to pull himself under the dumpster and approximately 24 hours later when the walkers have dispersed he crawls out. His dilemma is what to do about Enid. She conveniently shows up right when he crawls out from under the dumpster and gives him water. She runs off soon afterward and Glenn decides to make his way back to town. When he comes across a letter written to a loved one by David from Thank You, he’s convicted in his heart to track her down and bring her back home. There is terrific conversation between the two about the broad scope of the world they live in now. Being orphaned and alone, letting the world just die, etc. Glenn tries to rescue her because that’s who Glenn is. He doesn’t do the monstrous things to avoid becoming a monster. He still reaches out to others in hope for redemption and the future.
Now of course this is all sounding far to tidy and clean to be the show that we all love. What would a host of internal conflicts be without an uncontrollable external force coming down on them? In this case it was literally coming down. The lookout tower which the Wolves rammed into only days ago in our timeline comes crashing down, bringing a section of the wall with it. This is where we are left. Walkers making their way in and everyone running in panic. We are set up for a pretty intense and fast pace midseason finale.
My Rating: B+
First let me comment about Glenn. I had thought he was dead but I am not at all surprised that he isn’t. There was enough suspicion and beating around the bush from comments from the show runners that they were preparing us for it. Personally, I think this is a bit of a cop out. I know the show isn’t afraid of killing off main characters, but they’ve steered clear of the top 3 or 4 fan favorites. Glenn would’ve been the first. My complaint is that I simply don’t think the way they showed him surviving is feasible. He fell away from the dumpster but was somehow able to turn completely around and pull himself underneath it. And none of those dozens of walkers noticed him moving? Mmmkay. I actually think this spells doom for Maggie from a show perspective. With as much as they’ve done with taking loved ones away in the past season (Beth, Bob, Tyrese), don’t be shocked if Glenn witnesses Maggie dying just as he gets back into Alexandria. Abraham and Sasha are also getting a little too cozy so one of them is surely not long for this world.
Now, regarding the show overall. As I mentioned before the depth of content within the characters really solidified the quality of this episode. In terms of layout it was pretty similar to Now in that checked in on what was going on with a number of people within Alexandria. The problem with Now was there was no depth save for Maggie and Aaron attempting to go find Glenn. With Heads Up, not only did we get the depth with the characters, but we had significant plot lines moving forward; Ron’s subversive tactics to get revenge on Carl, Morgan trying to discreetly care for the Wolf he has locked up only for Carol to figure out he’s up to something, Gabriel finally taking lead in some spiritual matters only to be a bit undercut by Rick. We had a lot of plot development working within our characters existing issues and it worked very well.
I would love to get your thoughts. Will Darrell, Abraham and Sasha make it back to lead these walkers away? What cliffhanger will the midseason finale you leave us with?