Review by Gene
The Walking Dead has become notorious for its mid-season and season ending finales. From killing off major characters to full-scale militaristic invasions, the show knows how to conclude with a bang and leave their audience hanging. Knowing that, it’s probably safe to say that the season six mid-season finale fell short of such expectations. (Spoilers ahead)
When I say it fell short of the typical cliffhanger that we are used to, what I mean is that there wasn’t much that happened in this episode that wasn’t to be expected from where the prior episode concluded. Really, the most surprising part might be that we had no major character deaths. Sure, Deanna was bit and went out guns a’ blazing, but I would really consider her more of a second tier character at this point in the show and I don’t imagine a majority of viewers are too broken up that she’s dead. Three or four scenes were spent on her including a moment of foreshadowing with Michonne. I think you could’ve cut that number in half and still been just as effective with her death and replace that with something more along the lines of what we got in the two-minute prologue with the reveal of Negan’s group. If you missed that on Talking Dead, here you go…
This episode dealt primarily with three things; Deanna’s death, Carol’s discovery of the Wolf that Morgan is keeping captive, and Rick’s small group finding a way to safety. The most intriguing of those I think is Morgan and Carol’s showdown.
As with the Walker swarm into the town, Carol’s discovery of the Wolf was set up last week in Heads Up when she directly confronted Morgan about what he’s hiding. When she finally makes it into the basement we have a prolonged dialogue with Carol holding a knife up to Morgan and him holding his staff up at her in defense of the Wolf. This isn’t the most extreme of worldview collisions we could have, but its pretty close. Carol will not hesitate to kill a person if she believes they are a threat to the group, and Morgan refuses to kill anyone for any reason. What’s interesting in this interaction is something that Carol’s voice and her facial expression’s reveal about her desires. It’s something that Jason Alexander pointed out in Talking Dead, and it’s a testament to Melissa McBride’s acting because Carol never comes out and says it but you can see it on her face. That is that her willingness to kill Morgan scares her a little bit. She even pleads with Morgan to convince her that he can keep everyone safe while keeping the Wolf alive. She’s looking for ways in her own mind to justify letting it go. Think back to her decision in season four to kill Tyrese’s girlfriend when she thought she was a threat to the whole group. She was decisive then and had little remorse. She paid dearly for it. This is the same scenario except the one she would have to kill in order to protect the group is fighting back.
It’s hard to nail down exactly where Carol is on that spectrum at this point. She does make a final threat to Morgan that she won’t warn him again to get out of the way, but it’s Morgan who makes the first move against her. I think as Christians we can identify in Carol this process of giving yourself over to the desires of the flesh, specifically murder in this case. She has convinced herself that the way to prevent death is with death. Step back for a moment and consider the circular reasoning and totalitarian tendencies of that belief. When Morgan actually confronts her with her philosophy laid bare, she hesitates. I think she does see where that thinking leads, then pleads with Morgan to convince her of the safety in what he’s doing. But alas she remains resilient and still wants to murder this Wolf even if it means also murdering Morgan. We shall see what this does to Morgan’s standing with the group.
Also included in this episode before Carol and Morgan threw down was a very interesting discussion between the Wolf and Dr. Denise in which she pleads with his humanity and insists that he wasn’t born this way (evil) and that he can change. This has some deep theological implications that I won’t get into here, but I would encourage the reader to dig deeper into theological views on the nature of human beings, how sin is manifested in us, whether we are born guilty, etc.
A subplot playing out over the last few episodes involves Carl and Ron and their struggle to get along. Ron is entirely uninterested in getting along and even tries to kill Carl. We can dive into this but it’s basically a re-imagining of what Glenn and Nicholas have already gone through. We will see in Ron a potential for redemption just as we did with Nicholas. Carl will be and has been merciful to Ron despite his intentions against him, just as Glenn was with Nicholas. It’s not entirely the same because we do have some different motivations from each character, but it’s basically the same general look into forgiveness and redemption.
We are left with something of a cliffhanger as Rick’s group covers themselves in walker blood and guts as they sneak across town to the armory, presumably to shoot their way out of this. Sam, Jessie’s youngest son, begins calling “mom” at the worst time as the episode ends. There are a few different scenarios I can imagine happening from this, all of which I think would’ve been better to go forward with in this episode rather than playing it as a T is for the second half of the season. Regardless, a viewer’s satisfaction or disappointment with this final scene might will reflect their opinion on the episode as a whole.
My Rating: B
I’m not over the moon about this episode, but there is enough substance there to like and keep a viewer intrigued for the second half of the season. I think a handful of changes would’ve made it much better. Reduce the number of scenes with Deanna in favor of more revealing of Negan’s group and their encounter with Daryl, Abraham and Sasha. Show us at least the beginnings of what the Wolf does with Denise as he takes her captive out into the walkers. Did she touch a nerve with him at all? Will he have mercy on her since she cared for his wound? Doubtful, but that could’ve helped add to the intrigue for the rest of the season. Finally, just play out whatever results in Sam calling for his mom in the middle of the herd while they’re trying to blend in. It’s an okay spot to leave us hanging on, but in my list of things I can’t wait to see in the second half of the season, that specific scenario might not even crack my top five.
So there are my thoughts. What did you think? Does this leave you itching for February, or pretty bland-feeling about it all?