Okay, time for the mid-season finale of Season Six of The Walking Dead. Strap right in for this…oh, wait, it’s already over? Ah. Well, let’s jump right into it.
The episode begins with Sam leaving his completed dinner plate at the stairs before shutting himself back into his room and listening to, get this, a record player. I’m more impressed with the fact that Sam actually has a record player than his drawing skills. He’s also not paying attention to the steady stream of insects making their way into his room. My guess is they’re drawn to the music, but it turns out they’re attracted to his food.
Outside, the tower falls and brings down the walls of the Alexandria Safe Zone. With that comes the slow, but steady stream of walkers making their way into the community. Rick orders everyone back into their houses. He and Deanna begin taking out as many walkers as they can before they also fall back.
Carol, while running, trips over some shells before continuing along with Morgan into one of the homes. Everyone gives it their all and fires as many bullets as they can, but there are just too many walkers. Maggie ends up scaling the ladder and climbing atop the wall to escape the swarm. She eventually makes it up, anyway, all while keeping an eye on the balloons.
A timid Eugene hears someone call out on the radio. Though the voice attracts walkers, Eugene manages to call out ‘Help’ just as Tara and Rosita drag him into one of the garages. Oh, that’s where that came from. Carl, Ron, Gabriel, and Michonne join Rick and Deanna. They’re soon surrounded by walkers, but Jessie manages to take out a few. They all head into her home to escape the swarm.
Back outside the walls, Enid and Glenn watch the invasion take place. He formulates a plan to get in and tries to boost Enid’s spirits, as she figures this is how it happens. It always happens, she says. Glenn reminds her that people who care about them are both in there, including his pregnant wife. Not sure why Glenn waited until now to mention that Maggie is pregnant, but he’s going in. He won’t be a coward like Enid apparently is right now.
We return to Sam, as Jessie, Rick, and the others soon rush in. She insists that he stay in his room and tell him to pretend. He looks too damn shell-shocked to do much of anything, honestly.
Morgan tries to examine Carol’s wound, but she insists that she’s fine. She ranks him last on her trustworthy scale, but she never thought he was lying. Well, that’s gotta count for something. He insists that she wait in case the wound turns into something worse, so they’re forced to wait.
Denise, meanwhile, sits with the Wolf, who doesn’t think that Morgan is coming back. He wants to talk, but she remains silent. She doesn’t want to be here, and thinks that he doesn’t either because of the things he’s done. He disagrees. He freed people, not killed them. Morgan apparently wouldn’t let the leader go until he was certain he wouldn’t kill again. His wound is from an infection from breaking into a car.
It’s not unfair or just. Hell, nothing’s unfair anymore. He’s done his part and the world will take care of the rest. It won’t change. Denise finally asks him to show her the wound, and he does. An open gash on his stomach. Denise tells him that he wasn’t born like this- he changed and can change again. She takes out some supplies and prepares to go to work.
Back at Jessie’s, Michonne is working on Deanna wound when it turns out that there’s a bite mark on her stomach. I’d say ‘Well, shit,’ but Deanna beat me to it. Rick tells Jessie that Deanna doesn’t have a lot of time left and knows how this happens. She must, otherwise she wouldn’t be cracking jokes. There’s enough food to last them for some time. Rick hopes to eventually reach the armory and draw away the swarm with flares- just to get them somewhere from the community.
Michonne has been looking over Deanna’s plans and believes that they can work. Deanna considers herself for working with her community to build a better future and that’s what she got. She did just what she wanted right up to the end. She asks what Michonne wants, and she wants this place to work. Fine, but what does that mean for Michonne? Michonne isn’t sure of that, but she better.
Downstairs, Carl follows Ron to the garage and finds him upset that Enid may be dead. Ron says it’s bullshit that Rick has a plan. He’ll just get people killed because that’s who he is- a killer. But then, so was Ron’s father. To that, Ron has no immediate response. He locks the door, but just as he reaches for his gun, Carl goes on the attack. Ron breaks a window and draws walkers to the house.
As the two fight, walkers break through the gate and approach the home. Rick takes an axe to the door. Ron and Carl escape the garage just as the walkers crash through and enter the garage. While blocking the door with the couch, Carl tells Rick and Jessie a version of what happened while leaving out that Ron was an idiot. The two go off while Rick and Jessie continue blocking the door.
Upstairs, Carl draws his gun and demands that Ron hand over his gun. Gotta say, Carl is a lot more patient towards Ron than that kid at the prison that he killed despite him surrendering. Carl gets it: Rick killed Pete, but Pete was an asshole. Again, Ron has no immediate response.
All the noise is drawing more walkers. Rick finds Deanna in Judith’s crib. Thinking she’s a walker, he prepares to take the axe to her, but she’s still her. She just wanted to see her one more time, but her legs had other ideas. She tells Rick that her plans are now his. Rick tells her that from now on, someone needs to be with Deanna and it can’t be Judith for obvious reasons. Deanna has something written for Spencer from Maggie. Rick promises to deliver it and to look after Spencer, just as he looks out for his people.
After all, guess what? They’re all his people now. That’s how it is. Deanna didn’t run over to help because she thinks he’s a good man and father, or that he can grow one hell of a beard. It’s because he’s one of them.
Eugene reads up on World History via lighter while Rosita and Tara wait it out. Rosita wonders if this place is over, but Tara says that they all have to earn it, whether by waiting or fighting. Rosita feels that Abraham may be dead, though Tara disagrees. She didn’t see it. You see?! You gotta see it happen! So what happens now? They’re trapped. Rosita plans to see what it’s like on the other side by shooting the lock, but Tara doesn’t want to waste a bullet. Luckily, Eugene knows a thing or two about picking locks.
Carol takes a moment to rest her eyes while Morgan continues to keep watch. Suddenly, the lights go off. As Morgan checks around, Carol shoves him and heads off.
The walker herd bursts into Jessie’s house. Michonne cuts down as many as she can until the group heads upstairs. They manage to block the stairs with the ever faithful couch. Rick, though, has a plan.
Denise’s alone time with the Wolf is interrupted by Carol, who orders Denise to get away and prepares to kill the Wolf. However, Morgan enters soon after and stands in her away.
Rick drags in a walker and demands bedsheets. They’re going to cover themselves with the scent of the walkers and move to the armory. More are coming, so they don’t have much of a choice. Anyone who stays is going to die, but Gabriel then asks about Deanna. Rick and Michonne go back to hacking up guts.
Carol is in no mood to talk. Morgan says that they’re no better if they kill. Carol insists that the Wolves made her kill. With life, Morgan says, there are possibilities. He doesn’t think that Carol will kill him, as he won’t let her.
Michonne goes to a weary Deanna and learns what’s happening. Everyone is going to have to leave. Michonne offers to help, but Deanna turns her down. She’s not ready yet, but she will be soon. When she is, she’ll do it herself with her gun. She then says something in Latin- I think- that translates to ‘Someday this pain will be useful to you.’ Deanna tells Michonne to leave, as she’s needed elsewhere. Before leaving, Michonne thanks Deanna for believing.
Deanna tells Michonne that it’s up to her to figure out what she wants. Oh, and give ‘em hell.
The others cover themselves in walker guts just as Sam enters. Jessie tells her son that they aren’t safe. They need to look like the monsters in order to be safe. If Sam is afraid, he should pretend that he’s brave. Getting real tired of your shit, Sam.
Back to the standoff, Carol insists that she’ll kill Morgan to kill the Wolf. The Wolf taunts Carol to do the deed since they’re all eventually going to die. The two fight and Morgan actually manages to body slam Carol into submission, but then the Wolf knocks out Morgan before confronting Denise.
Rick and company are ready to head out. Gabriel insists that he’ll not turn back, no matter what happens.
Denise pleads for the Wolf to not kill anyone. Instead, he could just let them die. The Wolf takes Denise hostage just as Tara, Eugene, and Rosita conveniently enter. They lower their guns and slide them over to the Wolf. Eugene slides over his blade, too, even though the Wolf didn’t ask for it. They insists that he doesn’t need Denise and that he won’t make it out there anyway. Even still, the Wolf leaves with Denise in tow.
Right outside the gate, Glenn and Enid spot Maggie surrounded by walkers.
Just before Deanna can pull the trigger, she hears a noise. She opens the door and kills as many walkers as she can before the rest approach.
Outside, the group joins hands and slowly begin to make their way down the stairs. As they make their way, Sam calls out for his mother as the episode comes to a close.
Well, that ended. “Start to Finish” has a great start. Not the stuff with Sam, though. He’s just a messed up kid. But that image of the tower falling through the walls and the sight of an endless stream of walkers entering the community that’s been able to stand for so long was a great sight. “Start to Finish” throws you straight into the action with Rick, Deanna, and the others falling back to Jessie’s home, coupled with Maggie struggling to get atop the wall and end up in a position all too similar to Glenn in “Thank You.”
If the episode had the continuous energy of its introduction, I thought, then we’re in for an entertaining mid-season finale. But as we spent more time waiting and waiting, it dawned on me that we weren’t going to get any sort of solid conclusion to the situations presented here. Instead, they would be drawn out to a point as a way to tease us for what’s to come in the latter half of Season Six. If that’s done right, then no problem, but this episode felt uneven in its execution.
The ongoing number of walkers entering Alexandria did make for great tension, I’ll admit. This isn’t a scenario where there are only a few walkers you can dispatch of or make your way through. We have scores of the roamers literally taking up space in the doorways of people’s homes, providing little to no exit and leaving you trapped in your home. And should these walkers catch wind of you, you’re screwed.
All the peace and optimism that the Alexandria Safe Zone presented when Rick’s group first arrived is crumbling like the very walls themselves and it was a great image to see these people literally fight for their lives in a situation they couldn’t stop. It was fine when Rick found just one walker inside the walls, but this is a different beast altogether.
In the face of so much danger, there’s little room to be optimistic at all and think about the future. This is why we have a character like Deanna who, despite being a liability, refused to waiver in her belief that this community could become something great. And up through her final moment, she still carried that belief. Deanna opened her doors to these newcomers who may have come off as abrasive, but they have the survival instinct that the residents lack and Rick’s group will do what it takes to survive.
And Deanna realized that when she practically handed the reigns of the leadership over to Rick and, to a lesser extent, Michonne. Not that Deanna couldn’t have kept leading the community, but she saw Rick’s potential, given everything he’s endured and his desire to keep order, no matter the consequences. As we saw with allowing Pete to remain, Deanna strives to see the good and usefulness in people rather than exiling or killing a potential resource. Only when pushed will she make the call to have someone killed, but she won’t cross that line until forced.
While I’ve enjoyed the dynamic between Rick and Deanna, I enjoyed Deanna’s scenes with Michonne a bit more because we saw a more optimistic side to her. Michonne was the one who pushed for the group to trust Aaron and head towards Alexandria. She believes that people beyond Rick’s group have potential and wants that same future that Deanna envisioned. What she doesn’t know yet is what she wants for herself, but she now has proper motivation to seek out what she desires.
And like Annie, Deanna refuses to just succumb and manages to at least take a few walkers down with her. Oh, and Tovah Feldshuh was on Talking Dead, so there’s a death you can definitely confirm.
Sticking with the situation at Jessie’s home, we got a taste of the confrontation between Ron and Carl, with Ron still holding resentment due to Enid and for Rick killing Pete. The kid is living in his own world if he doesn’t realize how much of a threat Pete already posed to Jessie and the community through his abuse. And it’s his own reckless actions that drew the walkers to Jessie’s house in the first place.
But this being Carl, he refused to take any chances and disarmed Ron the first chance I got, which I appreciate. That and he rightly called out Ron’s father for being an asshole.
With this group having to work against the clock, I appreciated the callback to Rick and Glenn’s plan of using the guts of walkers in order to mask your scent. It makes sense. Pending an unexpected rainstorm, this plan should work, but damn it if I didn’t feel the tension of the group standing on the porch and holding hands as they slowly made their way. The slightest hint of something being off would not only alert the walkers, but cause some deaths as well, so there’s no question: there can be no fuck-ups here as they get one shot at this. But then traumatized Sam may go and screw it up.
Now onto Carol and Morgan, as this situation didn’t have the amount of tension I had hoped it would. Their philosophies clash. I get that. Carol believes in killing to survive, while Morgan believes everyone deserves a chance at redemption. But like many situations where a villain has the hero cornered, but refuses to kill them, there’s a chance of escape and that’s just what happens here. While Morgan’s case is understandable, he’s still putting the community at risk not just by having the Wolf captive, but by bringing in Denise to patch up his wounds.
The fight between Morgan and Carol was short and I do wish it had gone on for longer. But I’ll be damned, I did not expect Morgan to just up and body slam Carol the way that he did. They’re tense allies, but this is definitely going to cause major friction between the two. Especially now that the Wolf has gotten away with Denise, even though they probably won’t get far with that herd.
Plus, the walkers were a bigger threat. If Carol had a problem with Morgan’s decision, that’s fine, but set that aside to deal with the more important priority.
Plus, Tara and Rosita had the advantage, so I don’t see why they didn’t just pop the Wolf in the leg or something. He was already injured, so he’s not at full strength. Maybe they weren’t sure what would happen to Denise, but had this been Rick or Carol, they would have pulled the trigger. Here, there’s no excuse for just drawing this out for the sake of a standoff. In this instance, I’d side with Carol. Shoot first, ask questions later, especially when you know what this Wolf can and has done. He certainly wasn’t going to change his tune because Morgan kept him alive.
Side-note, another time issue here. So it was Eugene on the radio calling out to Daryl. “Always Accountable,” from my approximation, picks up not long after the events of “First Time Again,” given how Rick headed back to the Safe Zone at the end of that one, while Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham continued along with the herd. Based on how this reveal works, their episode goes through “JSS” and still plays alongside this one, given how we hear Eugene’s voice. Just how long were these three on the road, anyway?
So while it sounds like I don’t have many issues, my gripe is that there was just a ton of waiting. Given how “Heads Up” ended, it seemed like this would be a pretty action packed full of dread and tension about the residents’ fates. Not that The Walking Dead needs action to be entertaining.
And we got that dread at the start, but only with Rick’s group did I get any sense of fear because the walkers kept on coming. Even Maggie outrunning the walkers didn’t seem as it tense as it could have been because I never thought she was in any danger. Also, I didn’t see the need for the scenes with Enid and Glenn because it just reinforced that they’re back, which we all knew.
But just when we were getting somewhere, the episode cut to black. Something bad is bound to happen with Rick’s group going through that herd, but rather than give us that, we get a hard end. While Beth’s death in “Coda” was telegraphed, it was still a big enough moment to keep you on board with the show to see how the group would deal with this now that they were reunited. Plus, the reveal of Beth’s death to Maggie and the rest of the group was the final moment of the episode, so you’re left thinking ‘Where do we go from here?’
Here, we know the group is heading into the walker masses, but that’s all. When we could have ended on a potentially great moment, the episode just stops. So the ending isn’t as powerful as it could have been. “Start to Finish” isn’t bad, but there are better mid-season finales. The tension wasn’t maintained throughout and what little tension we got was sapped away with drawn out situations like dealing with the Wolf or Rosita and Tara talking about the future. Again, the episode has a great opening and I just wish that excitement, for a situation as big as this, had been maintained.
I suppose I should say a word about the little preview we got that, on Sunday night, anyway, you could only see by making it through the first commercial break of Into the Badlands. So Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha have a direct confrontation with a group that we’ll come to know as The Saviors. And our first official mention of a man named Negan. Now, we’ll get more into them later, but I feel this would have been a much stronger way to end the episode. Just have it as a post-credits scene instead of a separate scene you have to watch elsewhere. That’d be a great way to get people’s attention and keep them invested.
A bit of a disappointment, but not a complete letdown. We’ll pick up with The Walking Dead for the rest of Season Six in February. See you then.