A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 9: “Rock in the Road”

So our main characters have had more than enough of living under the Saviors’ rule.  With the second half of the season underway, it’s time to rise up, gather resources, and prepare for war.  Let’s jump back in with “Rock in the Road.”

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The episode begins in Alexandria.  After flipping through his Bible, Gabriel abandons his post and visits the pantry.  We hear a crash and then see Gabriel loading up as many supplies and cans of food as possible.  He packs up, leaving his Bible behind in the process, gases up a car, and drives off…with someone in the passenger seat.

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Over at the Hilltop, Gregory declares his deal with Rick’s group null and void since they failed to eliminate the Saviors.  As such, they aren’t trade partners and never met. Hell, Gregory feels Rick owes him for taking in Sasha and Maggie…the same people who helped save the Hilltop while Gregory hid.

Rick insists that they can defeat the Saviors.  It’s a better alternative than living under the Saviors’ thumbs while people die.  Gregory would rather continue his arrangement with the Saviors, so Maggie steps in and asks how many people the Hilltop can spare.  Tara insists that people will step up and fight if given the chance, but Gregory doesn’t believe the Hilltop residents are untrained fighters.  They just grow things.

Even though Gregory agrees that life would be better without the Saviors, he’s unwilling to lend his assistance.  Hell, as far as he’s concerned, Rick and his group didn’t even visit the Hilltop today.

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Though Gregory’s bullshit is difficult to bear, it turns out that the survivors may not need him after all.  Enid has told a group of Hilltop residents all about Rick’s plan and if there’s a chance that they beat the Saviors, then they’re willing to fight.  It’s a start, but even if Rick’s group found more weapons, they still lack the numbers.  The distance and geography work against them since Negan has so many outposts.

More than that, the Saviors will no doubt come to Alexandria in order to find Daryl, so it’s imperative that the survivors return.  However, Jesus reveals that he has one of the Saviors’ long range two-way radios, so they can listen in on anything happening at the Sanctuary.  There’s no rush to get back to Alexandria.  Instead, Jesus says that it’s time he introduced the group to Ezekiel…King Ezekiel.

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So Jesus leads them to the outer edge of the Kingdom, where they meet Richard and Alvaro, played by Carlos Navarro.  Jesus tells Richard that he’d like an audience with Ezekiel. Richard is skeptical of these newcomers, despite Jesus’ insistence that they’re good people who want to make the world less dangerous.  Richard will allow the group entrance, but only if they surrender their guns.  All two of them.  No big deal.

Though Richard is glad that Jesus, and not Gregory, has a backbone and a brain to boot, he doesn’t believe these trades or protection pacts will matter until they start dealing with the Saviors.  In response, Jesus believes this is the day that Richard will finally smile.

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So the survivors are brought into the Kingdom, which does have adequate numbers. They reunite with Morgan, who updates Rick and Daryl on Carol’s situation after she left Alexandria.  She’s fine, but just wanted to get away from everything, so after getting patched up at the Kingdom, she left.

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So Jesus brings Rick’s group to Ezekiel and his tiger.  It’s not often you see a tiger, more so in the apocalypse.  Rick states his case- Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom all have one thing in common: they all serve the Saviors.  Alexandria fought them once and won, but taking out one outpost didn’t eliminate the entire threat.  So…can you really call that a win, Rick?

Okay, whatever.  Ezekiel is upset that Jesus told others about his deal with the Saviors.  And that only became known after Jesus told Ezekiel about the Hilltop’s travails with the Saviors.  This arrangement isn’t known to the public for a good reason.  In Jesus’ defense, he broke the Kingdom’s confidence so Ezekiel could hear Rick’s plan.

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Ezekiel is hesitant in joining Rick’s fight against the Saviors, but the group points out that they’ve lost good people to the Saviors.  It’s here that Morgan finds out the fates of Abraham, Glenn, Spencer, and Olivia, not to mention Eugene being taken hostage.  And though Daryl escaped, he’s still a target.  Jesus thought this arrangement with the Saviors was manageable, but that’s changed.

For all the strength of Rick’s group, they lack the numbers and weapons.  If they strike first, together, they can win.  Richard likes this idea, as he doesn’t want to wait for things to get worse.  The time to strike back is now.  Ezekiel asks Morgan for his input.  Morgan admits that a lot of people on both sides will die, so he wonders if there’s another way to do this, like capturing Negan.

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Rick then tells a tale that I think he’s been itching to share for weeks: there was this road to a kingdom, and there was a rock in the road.  People would avoid it, but horses would break their legs on it and die and wagon wheels would fall off.  As such, people would lose the goods they wanted to sell.  For example, this one little girl’s family had a cask of beer that fell off.  As her family had no money, this was their last chance to get food.

The girl cried and wondered why the rock was there to hurt others.  So she dig and dug so deep and hard that her hands bled, but she after hours, she managed to remove the rock. However, just as she was prepared to fill the hole, she saw a bag of gold in that hole. The king put that rock in the road because he knew the person who dug it out deserved a reward that would change their life forever.

A bit of a shitty king, but I suppose he had a point.  Anyway, after Rick’s monologue, Ezekiel invites everyone to stay until tomorrow, when he will deliver his decree.

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Out in the woods, Benjamin runs into Carol, who heard him from a mile away because Carol has super hearing.  He explains that he didn’t run because he’s training to be a better fighter.  Carol tells Benjamin not to wander around alone at dark, but he tells her that Ezekiel will keep checking on her to make sure she’s okay since he looks out for the people he cares for, after all.

Benjamin offers her some food and water- he carries extra in case he runs into someone who needs it.  After all, there’s not a lot of people left and you have to help each other.

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That night, Benjamin tells Ezekiel that he’s getting better with the stick, as he managed to take out two walkers.  During his unaccompanied trip, he ran into Carol and said that his reason for carrying food and water is the same reason the Kingdom should work with Rick.  These visitors are willing to risk everything.  If the Kingdom doesn’t help, then Rick’s group may not win.

But on the off-chance that they do, they will have saved everyone and the Kingdom would have done nothing to assist.  And Ezekiel did say that he wants Benjamin to be ready for anything.  With this in mind, Ezekiel thanks Benjamin for his sage counsel.  The king is pleased.

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The next day, Ezekiel tells Rick and company that life at the Kingdom came at a cost, as he sent people to battle the dead when he didn’t have to.  He wanted to expand and create more places like the Kingdom.  Rick counters that the dead don’t rule them.  The world beyond the Kingdom isn’t as good and some people don’t have it good at all. Understatement of the century, Rick.

Ezekiel has to worry about his people.  He’s trying to hold onto this uneasy peace with the Saviors.  He won’t offer aid now, but he does offer Daryl asylum for as long as necessary since the Saviors don’t enter the Kingdom.  Daryl, though, wonders how long that would even last.  The group leaves unsatisfied and empty handed.

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Sasha tells Rosita that saw this coming, but she’s still upset.  Rosita doesn’t see why Sasha is telling her this, though.  Just because they both had sex with Abraham doesn’t make them friends.  Okay, does Rosita have a bug in her ass or something?

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Morgan wants Rick so he can hopefully change Ezekiel’s mind.  Richard, though, is more on board with Rick’s plan.  It doesn’t help the communities are just making the Saviors stronger by giving them food and arms.  Also, Daryl won’t be leaving.  Rick wants him to stay at the Kingdom.  That way, he can hopefully convince Ezekiel or, even better, stare him into submission.  That’s actually not a bad idea, Rick.

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On the road, the group overhears Negan’s eulogy of Fat Joey- apparently without Fat Joey, Skinny Joey is just Joey- and soon arrives at a blockade of cars in the road.  With a base not too far, they figure that the Saviors want to make it hard for people to reach this outpost.  The plan is to move the cars around and move them back so the Saviors don’t know others entered this area.

As the group gets to work moving the cars, they notice some explosives and steel cables needed for dealing with a walker herd.  The group welcomes themselves to these explosives, but they need to disarm them first.  Backing up won’t make a difference if the explosives go off.  At the same time, the group hears on the radio that Negan has ordered a search party to go find Daryl.

So now the survivors need to get the explosives and get to Alexandria before the Saviors. Good thing Rosita is an expert at disarming bombs.  Do you remember when Rosita was a pro at this?  I don’t.  Anyway, they need to unwrap the secondary explosives and make sure the casings aren’t messed up.  The explosives still need to be triggered to be set off, though there’s one in particular that Rosita doesn’t like.  She’s particular like that.

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Then, in the distance, Carl spots some approaching walkers.  There’s still time to disarm them and get the cars back on the road.  Sure, the Saviors will know that their bombs are missing, but this herd needs to stay on the highway.  The group may need it later.

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Jesus and Sasha head back to the Hilltop on foot.  As the others move the cars, Rick and Michonne cut through the wires and try to get as many weapons and explosives as possible.  They soon head to and hotwire two cars connected by the wiring and, in a set piece I’m sure most of us loved, they mow down the herd as the wire cuts through as many walkers as possible.

I guess it’s a good thing there was no rock in the road.  Rick and Michonne soon rejoin the others and head out just as the walkers are engulfed by an explosion.  Nice going, Rosita. But hey, they made it.  As Michonne tells Rick, they’re the ones who live.

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They return to Alexandria in no time.  Rick tells Tobin that everyone needs to get ready, but there’s no time for that, as Simon and a group of Saviors have arrived not for a tribute, but to find Daryl.  And Simon isn’t dumb enough to believe that Rick doesn’t know about Daryl’s disappearance.  So Simon wants everyone to partner up and search for Daryl.  That way, they can all watch him die if he’s found.

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The Saviors go through every nook and cranny of Alexandria, leaving a mess in the process, but don’t find Daryl.  In the now empty pantry, Aaron tells Simon that  but no sign of Daryl.  In the now empty pantry, Aaron tells Simon that it’s getting harder to find things for their community when they spend so much time gathering for Negan.

Again, Simon isn’t here to collect, but that day is coming.  Simon thanks Rick for his cooperation and tells him that if Daryl shows up, there’s no statute of limitations.  Well, at least Simon acknowledges that there’s still a statute of limitations in the post-apocalyptic world.  Tobin and Aaron tell Rick that Gabriel has disappeared, the pantry has been cleared out, and he stole a car.

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Aside from Rosita, no one wants to believe that Gabriel would steal from them.  Not to mention that Gabriel left his Bible, and Rick finds that curious.  He then sees the word ‘Boat’ written in a notebook.  So how would Gabriel know that Aaron and Rick were out there?

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As Aaron packs up, Eric confesses his concern, as Aaron did get the shit kicked out of him.  Eric doesn’t want Aaron to go after Gabriel, but after everything the community has endured, Gabriel is one of them and has proven his worth.  Despite the fear of what could happen if the Saviors returned while Rick and the others were out, Aaron is still set on leaving.

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After Rick and Aaron lead the group to the lake, Rick spots some footprints.  The group follows them and ends up in a clearing where, all of a sudden, they find themselves surrounded by a group of armed men and women.  And through it all, Rick eventually smiles.

So we’re back for the second half of the season and off to a good start as the main survivors get to work building an army to take down the Saviors.  Sure, they don’t make much progress since both Gregory and Ezekiel aren’t on board with this plan, but it’s only a matter of time before Rick has his united coalition to combat Negan.

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Before, when he decided to go for one of the outposts, Rick thought his plan was foolproof.  Attack the Saviors before they made the first move.  And despite doing that and more, the Saviors struck back and hard, so Rick needs to dial back his overconfidence. Rather than do it alone, he’s hoping that the Hilltop and Kingdom are just as fed up with Negan’s reign as they are.

Rick and company have proven time and time again that, when committed, they can overtake any challenge.  Hell, upon first learning about Negan, Rick said that confrontation has never been something the group has had trouble with, and then he met Negan.

So brute strength and heart alone won’t do it.  There’s strength in numbers and like the girl who dug out that rock in the road, Rick has to overcome obstacles in order to get back to some semblance of peace.

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Not just with Negan as that obstacle, but also in convincing the other communities that this is a fight they can win.  At this point, Gregory’s opinion is irrelevant since people at the Hilltop trust Maggie’s leadership and are already willing to put their lives on the line if there’s even a one percent chance that the Saviors can be defeated.

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And Ezekiel has every reason to be concerned.  He’s already kept his arrangement with the Saviors a secret and he doesn’t want to send more people to their deaths.  Why take the risk when there’s no guarantee of victory?  He’s sympathetic to Rick’s plight, yes, but not at the cost of his people.

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While Richard and Benjamin are already on board with fighting, I wager it’s going to take a major incident to push Ezekiel into joining Rick.  As Daryl asked, how long will the Saviors agree to not enter the Kingdom?  Someone is going to get hurt, killed, or the Saviors will break the peace because they can.  And that will what be what convinces Ezekiel that the Saviors must be removed from the equation if there is to be true peace.

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Also, I’m glad we got to spend a bit of time with Morgan, not just to get his reaction to who has been killed, but to see that he’s still keeping Carol’s location a secret.  And he’s still grappling with his stance on killing.  He did it to protect Carol, but despite hearing what the Saviors have done, he’s still looking for alternatives rather than going to war.  But like when he saved Carol, he may have to kill again to protect those going into battle.

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And even though Carol wants to stay out of the conflict- for now- she’s still a skilled warrior, as seen when she tells Benjamin about how to stay stealthy.  I’m unsure if she’s going to remain on the sidelines, but I imagine all that’s happened to her friends will at least get a reaction out of her.  Enough to draw her back into combat?  No idea.

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I like that we don’t spend an entire episode’s worth of Rick and company trying to recruit. It would’ve been easy to spend half the episode at the Hilltop, the other half at the Kingdom, and just end it there.  But these people have to keep moving because despite needing the numbers, they still have to contend with the Saviors, more so now that Daryl is a fugitive.

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Not to mention the fact that they’re desperate for weapons, which made the sequence on the road more hectic…even though these characters have such thick plot armor that we know they were never in any real danger, despite Rick and Michonne being surrounded.

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Plus, The Walking Dead has good set pieces when it comes to eliminating batches of walkers, but cutting through them with wire and two cars?  That’s some inspired ingenuity right there.  A bit ridiculous, but fun as hell all the same.

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Onto some character bits.  I can do without Rosita being such a prat to Sasha.  Where’s this coming from, by the way?  They seemed to be on good terms, last I checked.  If anything, I would think they’d be drawn closer since they both loved Abraham.  But no, she brings up that shared connection as a way to be cold to Sasha, who only expressed her disappointment about the situation.

More than that, she’s quick to throw Gabriel under the bus when he was the one to tell her that she didn’t need to sacrifice herself if it meant killing Negan.

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If I had to guess, maybe Rosita’s just salty that she couldn’t kill Negan from a few feet away.

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But what is Gabriel doing, anyway?  I wonder if it has to do with this new community we see at the end of the episode.  And though Rosita has turned her back on Gabriel, I’m happy that the others, especially Rick, trust that Gabriel wouldn’t just betray them.

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As for this new community, just who the hell are they?  At a first, quick glance, it’s easy to think these were Oceanside residents, but we saw men among them, so that rules them out.  But judging from Rick’s smile, he sees some advantage in this group.  Potential cannon fodder-I mean, soldiers for the war against the Saviors?  Who knows?  Here’s hoping we find out next time.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 8: “Hearts Still Beating”

From bottle episodes to multiple plots, it’s time for The Walking Dead to end the first half of its seventh season, and if anything, it solidifies in Rick’s mind by episode’s end that things need to change and fast.  This is “Hearts Still Beating.”

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The episode begins at the Hilltop with Maggie sitting at Abraham and Glenn’s graves.  She later climbs the walls when Gregory tells her that people are saying nice things about her, Sasha, and how they saved the community.

Gregory doesn’t want it going to her head, but Maggie wonders if this bothers Gregory, who is about to eat an apple.  Then another Hilltop member, Eduardo, mentions that Maggie is pregnant, so goodbye Gregory’s apple and hello Maggie’s apple.

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We then cut to Alexandria, where Negan puts the finishing touches on a clean shave while Carl and Judith watch.  He then gets to work cooking up a storm.

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Outside, Tara gives Olivia some lemonade that’s intended for Negan.  Tara offers to take over, but Olivia refuses since she promised Rick that she would watch Judith.  She tells Tara to leave.

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Over at the Sanctuary, Daryl makes his escape from his cell.

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Meanwhile, Aaron and Rick find a boat riddled with bullet holes.  Rick wants Aaron to stay back, but Aaron refuses, saying that he’s seeing this through. Instead, he gets some wood to use as paddles and the two then set out on the water.

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As Carl sets the dinner table, Negan tells him to get another setting, but he soon gets tired of waiting for Rick.  Lucille, though, is hungry, so Negan orders Carl to pass the rolls.  At least he said please.  Lucille doesn’t have a pussy, but she apparently has a mouth.

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As Eugene enters the Safe Zone, the Saviors make good of Spencer’s supplies and are glad that he got messy for them.  One of the Saviors, Laura, played by Lindsley Register, tells Spencer that if he plays his cards right, they may show him where she lives.  Laura then tells an eavesdropping Eugene to fuck off and mind his own business.

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Back by the Kingdom, Carol reads from a book when she spots a package from Morgan on her doorstep.  Carol calls out to Morgan and tells him that the package of fresh food is unnecessary because Ezekiel is keeping her well-stocked.  Morgan promises to leave Carol alone, but she did call him over in the first place to ask how he’s doing.

Morgan is good, so now he can go.  He tells Carol that she may be going soft.  Morgan won’t be going anywhere, as he and Carol receive an unexpected visit from Richard, who wants to talk to the two about something important.

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On the water, Rick and Aaron continue their trek and take out as many walkers that are drawing close to their boat, which is taking on water.  They manage to reach another boat, but a walker has already made it her territory.  And then another walker grabs Aaron and drags him into the water.  After a bit of time passes, he resurfaces unharmed.  Sorry, Bob.

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However, Aaron and Rick come up short, as they find food and tons of guns, but no ammunition. Just a less-than-pleasant note from the owner.

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Back at the Sanctuary, Daryl sneaks into another room where he feasts on peanut butter and changes into a new set of clothes.

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As the two pack, Rick tells Aaron that he didn’t mean to imply that Aaron couldn’t help out.  It’s just that people don’t agree with Rick scavenging for the Saviors, so Rick wouldn’t blame Aaron if he backed out.  Aaron reminds Rick that he was with him on the road.  What they’re doing is going to keep people alive.  It doesn’t matter what happens to them, even if Michonne doesn’t see this as living.

After Alexandria lived free, it’s hard to give up what you have, but either your heart’s beating or it isn’t.  Same for your loved ones.  You take what’s given to you so you can live.

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Michonne is still on the road with Isabelle, who is continuing her drive presumably towards the Sanctuary.  Michonne asks how long she’s been with Negan and why she was out there alone, but gets no response.  Whether Isabelle believes that talking won’t change how this ends for her remains to be seen, but for now, Michonne won’t kill Negan today. She just wants to find a way to win and change how this ends for her.

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Back at the Hilltop, Sasha and Maggie get an apple pie as a gift for their work in saving the Hilltop.  Enid asks if Maggie is President yet, but she isn’t.  Also, Jesus hasn’t returned yet.  Enid knows that Sasha is lying to Maggie about Jesus, given that he left yesterday, not today, as Sasha said.  Sasha says this is for Maggie’s own good.  Enid knows that Sasha wants to kill Negan.

If Sasha had help, she wouldn’t have to keep this from Maggie.  But Sasha doesn’t want Enid helping or talking, even though this effort to take down Negan goes well beyond Sasha.

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Richard speaks with Carol and Morgan about communities that once banded together, but are now gone.  He lost hope in people until he found the Kingdom and met Ezekiel.  But now the Kingdom is under threat by the Saviors.  A few months back, some Saviors met Ezekiel and, recognizing his capabilities, cut a deal.  In exchange for food and supplies, , the Saviors wouldn’t hurt anyone or enter the Kingdom.

And since Ezekiel both trusts Morgan and likes Carol, Richard needs them to help convince Ezekiel to fight the Saviors.  There’s peace with the Saviors now, but Richard fears that something will go wrong or the Saviors will just stop honoring the deal.  Once that happens, the Kingdom will fall.  Richard lost his family to this world and he’s afraid that if nothing happens now, more will die.

He knows what the Saviors can do and does not trust them.  In essence, Richard wants Morgan and Carol to convince Ezekiel to launch a preemptive strike against the Saviors.

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Over at Alexandria’s church, Rosita admires her handcrafted bullet when Gabriel asks if it’s for her or Negan.  She’s not worried about dying so long as Negan is killed in the process.  Gabriel agrees, but he doesn’t see why does Rosita has to die.  And there’s no need to lie if this is their last conversation.

Rosita believes that Abraham was still alive, they could fight.  If Glenn lived, Maggie’s child would have a father.  Michonne and Carl have Rick, Aaron has Eric, Eugene knows things, and Daryl is strong.  Gabriel mentions Sasha as well and tells Rosita that it shouldn’t have been her or anyone else.

He is convinced that they will win, but they need to wait for or create the right moment together.  Rosita is a part of that, so she shouldn’t do this because everyone needs her.

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Richard knows that the Saviors outnumber the Kingdom, so they need to attack first while they have the advantage and, hopefully, the element of surprise.  Though a capable fighter, Carol wants no part of this and would still prefer to be left alone.

Morgan knows people will die, and he only killed to save Carol.  In Richard’s mind, there’s no difference between that and killing other Saviors to protect everyone else.  Richard tells While Morgan would rather build on the peace that exists now, Richard tells him that he’ll have to choose to kill one day because things aren’t going to get easier. He should choose now before losing someone close to him.

But Richard knows that there’s no reasoning with the Saviors.  He believes that the Saviors will turn on the Kingdom, and when blood is shed, it will be on Morgan and Carol’s hands.  With that, he leaves.  Carol tells Morgan that she doesn’t want anyone else knowing where she is, but he never meant for anyone to see her.

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Spencer enters his home and finds it turned upside down, but it’s soon cleaned up as he gets himself nice and ready for a confrontation.

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Back in the woods, Richard enters a hidden home and collapses to the floor as he eyes his supplies.

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Rosita then asks Spencer if he’s on for a date, but he just wants to get close to Negan, as he figures that he’s got good momentum with the Saviors.  Spencer asks why Rosita ended or even started what the two of them had, given that he felt they had something good.

Truth is that Rosita was trying not to think about shit. finds Spencer sweet, sure, but she admits that she just used him.  At the very least, she does agree to dinner with Spencer, no strings attached.

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Daryl again manages to find a motorcycle when he’s confronted by Fat Joseph, who surrenders and offers to let Daryl leave right now.  He tells Daryl that he’s just trying to get by, but Daryl just beats him to death just as Jesus finds him.  Daryl retorts that it’s not about getting by, but getting it all.  Before the two leave, Jesus pockets one of the walkie-talkies.

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After being refused entry by Arat, Spencer is eventually allowed to pass and officially introduces himself to Negan.

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Michonne and Isabelle companion are still on the road when they come to a stop. Isabelle tells Michonne that Negan is up ahead.   You know, because they’re all Negan. She says that whatever Michonne is planning won’t work, but she still has some choices. As her final move, Isabelle informs Michonne that there’s a silencer in the glove compartment…

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Meanwhile, Rick and Aaron return to Alexandria, when they learn that Negan is waiting for Rick.  The Saviors then check the truck for supplies, among them the note that Rick and Aaron found on the boat.  Why the hell do they still have that?  Anyway, the Saviors think that the disparaging note is meant for them, so they start beating the shit out of Aaron and stop Rick from interfering.

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Negan is overjoyed about Spencer’s housewarming gift, but the only thing missing is a pool table.  Luckily, the house across the street has one, but Negan has a better idea.

With the pool table set, Spencer tells Negan that he understands what Negan is trying to build with this network.  It makes sense, but Rick has a history of not working well with others.  More than that, Rick wasn’t the original leader and wasn’t as good as Deanna.  Negan finds that a sad story, but lucky for him, Rick isn’t in charge.  Even still, Spencer knows that Rick’s out-of-control ego will lead to him trying to screw things up.

With the Alexandria residents now gathered at the pool table, Negan asks what Spencer is proposing, and Spencer offers to be the leader that Negan needs.

But Negan has been thinking about how Rick, despite hating him, is out gathering things to make sure no one else is hurt.  He’s swallowing his hate to get shit done, and that takes guts.  Then there’s Spencer, who waited for Rick to leave so he could get Negan to do his dirty work.  After all, if Spencer really wants to be in charge, why doesn’t he just kill Rick himself?

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Negan says it’s because Spencer has no guts.  And with that, he plunges a knife straight into Spencer’s stomach and guts spill out everywhere.  Negan is beyond embarrassed, as Spencer did have guts after all- they were inside him all along.  The residents are left shocked, but Negan orders someone to get this mess cleaned.  He asks if anyone wants to finish the pool game, but no takers.  Rosita pulls out her gun and fires.

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The other Saviors finally let up on beating Aaron and Rick is allowed to help him.  They hear a gunshot ring out and it turns out that Lucille ended up taking a hit from Rosita’s bullet.  Negan demands to know about the bullet that he correctly guesses is homemade.

Since Lucille’s beautiful surface won’t look the same, Negan figures that Rosita’s shouldn’t either…unless she tells him who made the bullet.  Arat then places a blade to Rosita’s face.

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Rosita says that she made it, but Negan figures that she’s lying.  Negan orders Arat to kill someone, so with fucking perfect aim, she turns around and kills Olivia.  And this is where Rick and Aaron arrive just in time for Negan to ask for a thank you.  Even though this relationship started off tense, he just showed how reasonable how he was.  After all, Carl gunned down two Saviors, but Negan brought him home and fed him.

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Not to mention Spencer plotting behind Rick’s back, but now he’s dead.  Again, thanks to Negan.  And Rosita shot Lucille, so now there’s one less mouth to feed in Olivia’s death.  Negan wouldn’t have killed her- that’s all Arat’s doing.  Rick tells Negan that his shit is waiting for him at the gate, so he can leave.  However, Negan still wants to know who made the bullet.

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Eugene admits that he was the one who made the bullet, and Negan believes him.  Negan orders Lucille to give him strength and Negan will now relieve Rick of Eugene.  Whatever Rick scavenged is no good because after today, he’s in deep shit. Also, Negan loves Rick’s kitchen.  With that, the Saviors depart.  Spencer soon reanimates just as Rick puts him down.

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He later sits in the cell that Morgan built as he looks over a note when Michonne joins him.  The two embrace because, let’s face it, they’ve had one hell of a day.  Michonne confirms that she found what she was looking for, as she had to go her way instead of joining Rick and Aaron.  But when she found it, she realized that she didn’t want it to be her way, but theirs.

There are more Saviors than anticipated, but that doesn’t change how Michonne how feels or how things are.  There’s so much that they’ve lived through when they should have died and they will keep standing, so now they’re left wondering how they make that mean something.  After all, Rick once said that they’re the ones who live.  That’s why they have to fight: not for themselves, but for everyone.  They can find a way to beat the Saviors.

And Rick now knows that.

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Back at the Hilltop, Maggie again climbs the walls when she calls out to Sasha and Enid.  Turns out that Rick, Michonne, Tara, Carl, and Rosita have arrived at the Hilltop.  Rick tells Maggie that she was right from the beginning, as they need to get ready to fight.  Rick couldn’t have listened back then, but now he can.

Oh, also, Daryl and Jesus are at the Hilltop and he returns Rick’s colt.  Now reunited, the group heads towards the mansion as the first half of The Walking Dead’s seventh season comes to a close.

But wait, there’s more!  In a stinger at the end, Gabriel takes his post atop the Alexandria walls while the same individual who spied on Rick and Aaron watches him from a distance.

Well, that’s it for the first half of Season Seven and the wheels are in motion with the communities heading towards taking on Negan and the Saviors.  “Hearts Still Beating” is a very good episode and finisher for the first half that balances different storylines and communities very well.  It was all well-paced.  We’re at Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Sanctuary, or the Kingdom long enough to get the gist of what’s going happening.

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While I haven’t had a big issue with the episodes dealing with one community, it makes sense, given the situation, that things are ramping up, so of course we’d head back to multiple plots and catch up not just on how the communities are doing, but how they’re planning on dealing with Negan.

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And a big part of that has to do with being unified, as Michonne concludes when on the road and as she tells Rick in a very good speech about working together.  Making the most of this situation with the Saviors doesn’t work if everyone isn’t banded together.  Hell, even Gabriel tells Rosita that creating the right moment comes from working as one as opposed to going at it alone.  Hopefully Sasha and Jesus have let Maggie in on their plan.

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But a team won’t function as well without its leader, and it looks as if Rick has finally come around to fighting back as opposed to biding his time.  And that’s through a combination of the people who have either suffered or been killed up through this point, watching Aaron be beaten, Michonne’s speech to him, and how his own son went right to Negan’s stronghold, killed a few Saviors, and could’ve gotten himself killed.  Again.

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Rick had been brought down, but he’s not out.  And while Maggie instantly wanted to fight, it took him more time to come around.  Now that he’s ready for war and has reunited with the others at the Hilltop, now it’s just a matter of formulating a successful attack that won’t lead to more deaths, impossible as that sounds.  Instead of just taking the fight to Negan ahead of time, he needs a better strategy.

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He also needs to be more trusting of his new allies, as it was unnecessary for him to suggest that Aaron sit out the boat mission, even though he didn’t mean it.  Despite the tense, first encounter, Aaron has proven himself loyal and willing to help when necessary.  He was there when Glenn and Abraham died, so he knows the cost, but damn the consequences, he’s proving to Rick why he’s a vital member of this coalition.

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Over at the Kingdom, Richard is falling into the same trap that Rick did with his plan of a preemptive strike against the Saviors.  He knows that the Saviors can’t be trusted and he wants to take the fight to them ahead of time, but if he was aware of what happened with Rick, chances are he would be more cautious about wanting to get a potential early advantage against the Saviors.

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By the way, what’s going on with Carol?  Seems like she’s still in her funk about not wanting to kill or be involved with this conflict at all.  That’s fine, but for her to say that she doesn’t want anyone to know where she is and that she’d rather be left alone isn’t helpful at this point.  I doubt this is long term.  Maybe once she learns what happened to the others, she’ll go back to killer Mama Bear Carol.

At the very least, the seed has been planted in Morgan and Carol’s minds about the Kingdom playing a part in an offensive against Negan.  And as Richard said, Morgan will have to kill again eventually to protect the people in his life.  Once Rick arrives at the Kingdom, I wager he’ll do a better job of persuading the community to fight than either Carol or Morgan.

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Now let’s get to Spencer’s death, another comic moment come to life in a beautiful, bloody way.  The moment played out, note-for-note, like you remember it from the comics and it really showed what Negan sees in Rick.  For all his hatred for Negan, Rick, as far as Negan knows, isn’t a schemer.  He’s swallowing his pride and working for Negan in order to protect Alexandria.

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By contrast, Spencer would take the coward’s way out and, like Gregory, suck up to the opposition in order to get in their good graces.  Problem is that Negan gets off on and likes when people fight against him.  What Spencer’s doing requires very little thought because there’s no guarantee that Negan would accept him with open arms.  As broken as Rick has been this season, Negan at least knows that he has a spine.

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Oh, but Spencer’s not the only one making stupid decisions.  Rosita took a prime opportunity to kill Negan and had a perfect shot, and not only did she almost get herself killed- and she seemed ready to die- but she got Olivia killed in the process.  Why now?

Daryl punched Negan in the face, which led to Glenn getting killed. Rosita took a shot and missed, but despite that, her actions got someone killed.  Clearly Rosita never watched The Wire or she would have remembered Omar’s words: you come at the king, you best not miss.

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Perhaps it was impulsive thinking, but what made her believe she could pull off what amounts to a suicide mission?  She didn’t even land her target, and now not only is Olivia dead, but Eugene has been taken captive.

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That’s another thing: why does Negan decide to take Eugene?  Aside from the knowledge of how to make bullets, what could Negan get from him?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to take Rosita?  He took Daryl hostage and said that he had guts.  Take the woman who almost killed you instead of the guy whose skill is making bullets.  Or, hell, just take them both.  Rick wasn’t about to stop Negan.

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Credit where it’s due, that was a fantastic shot on Arat’s part.  The woman didn’t even give it much of a thought- she just spun around and killed Olivia on the first try.  It’s more impressive given how far away Olivia was when Arat could have just killed anyone in the crowd around her.  By the way, I love Arat.  Or rather, the intensity of Elizabeth Ludlow’s performance.  Like Daryl, she’s not a comic character, but is enjoyable all the same.

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The reunion at the end felt very earned, especially seeing Rick and Daryl reunite after Negan refused to let the two so much as talk or look at each other.  I would assume that Daryl and Maggie are on good terms as well.  Our group is down, but they’re not out.

And with most of our survivors back together, the time has come for the communities to combine their resources and slowly build a strong coalition capable of taking on their common enemy in Negan and the Saviors.  Will everyone answer the call? Will there be any holdouts?  And who the hell is spying on Alexandria?

“Hearts Still Beating” was a very strong outing for the first half of the season.  It balanced multiple communities very well and was both fun- mostly through Negan’s actions- and suspenseful to watch at the same time.  As we head towards war, I am very excited to see how things go in the second half of Season Seven.  See you then.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 4: “Service”

So you’ve lost two of your friends to a madman with a bat, you’re given a week to prepare him an offering, and even though everything may not be in preparation for his arrival, he decides to give you a surprise by strolling right up to your doorstep early because he loves you so much.

If the weak residents of the Alexandria Safe Zone have already had rude awakenings about life outside the walls before, they’re in for a real nightmare when Negan arrives.  Welcome to “Service.”

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The episode begins in Alexandria as Michonne awakens before Rick does.  As she’s ready for the day, with her sword on her back, she retrieves a sniper rifle from the fireplace.  No one ever thinks to check the fireplace.  She stuffs the gun inside a bag and exits without saying a word to Rick, who watches her leave.

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Michonne then stakes a post at an abandoned truck in the middle of an empty field and waits.

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While Rick cares to Judith, Rosita and Spencer return to Alexandria and ask Eugene to open the gate so they can find things for their offering.  Eugene, though, is busy working on a radio and isn’t into joining them.  He’s repairing the radio for the Saviors- that’s his part.  However, no one will be leaving anytime soon.

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The sound of many approaching vehicles gets their attention.  From the other side, Negan marches up and bangs on the gates of the Alexandria Safe Zone, demanding entrance.  Spencer isn’t familiar with Negan, but then Rick arrives.  He’s hesitant to open the gate at first since Negan has arrived earlier than expected, but Negan just missed Rick.  Negan then makes quick work of an approaching walker for the sport of it.

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As the Saviors unload, with Daryl in tow, Negan says that what he did was service.  Despite Spencer not knowing him, Negan killed a walker that could have killed him.  As Negan enters, he hands Lucille over to Rick and walks right into the Alexandria Safe Zone.  He calls it an embarrassment of riches and tells Rick that there will be plenty to offer.  Also, Negan doesn’t allow Rick to speak with Daryl.  Same for the others as well.

In addition, Rick doesn’t decide what the Saviors take- that’s up to Negan.  One of the female Saviors, Arat, played by Elizabeth Ludlow, calls the others into action and they make their way into the area to search the houses and keep the process moving.  The residents seem stunned, but are unable to act.  Rick then begins showing Negan around the zone.

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Dwight relieves Rosita and Spencer of their firearms, both on them and in the vehicle they planned to use for travel.  With that settled, he has a job for Rosita- find Daryl’s bike.  It’s not there, but if that’s the case, Rosita must know where it is.  Dwight then, for some reason, also relieves Rosita of her hat.  Now she’s good to go.  To pour salt in the wound, Dwight even empties out Rosita’s water.  Best not to take long.

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Back in the field that time forgot, Michonne spots an approaching walker, but misses with every shot that she takes.  So she takes out her sword and does this the old fashioned way.  Could’ve saved yourself a lot of bullets, Michonne.  She later heads into the woods and finds a dead deer on the ground.

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As the Saviors get to work taking what they want, Negan tells Rick that he and his people are indeed reasonable people.  One Savior gives Negan the video camera containing Deanna’s video interviews.  Negan finds it hard to believe that Rick had such a beard and never would have messed with that man.  As he turns the camera on Rick, Negan says that the Rick on that interview isn’t the Rick that stands before him.

Negan then asks about Maggie.  That gets under Rick’s skin, but he has to be careful how he looks at Negan.  Widows like Maggie are special.  Right after the husbands go, they are empty inside, but not for long.

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Then Gabriel out of nowhere, who asks Negan if he wants to pay his respects.  Negan asks if Maggie didn’t make it, and Gabriel confirms that the worst happened.  To prove it, he even takes Negan to the cemetery, where he sees three new graves.  A shame, as Negan would have asked Maggie to come back with him, despite what he did to Glenn.  Then a gunshot rings out.

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Carl holds a gun to some Saviors who are taking all of the medicine instead of half.  When Negan arrives, Carl tells him that he needs to leave before he finds out how dangerous everyone is.  Negan isn’t about to let Rick help his son.  In fact, he likes Carl and tells him that half is what he says it is.  He asks Carl if he wants him to prove how serious he is. Again.  With that, Carl lowers the firearm.

This reminds Negan that Rick has a lot of guns, and given how Rick took a lot of guns from Negan’s outpost, this must mean that Rick has even more guns.  And as Carl’s outburst has shown, Negan can’t allow that.  Those guns all belong to Negan.

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So Rick brings Negan and a group of Saviors to Olivia, who takes them to the armory.  While the Saviors head with Olivia, Negan tells Rick that he’s not taking any food.  It’s slim pickings and if Rick starves to death, Negan won’t get anything, so for now, Alexandria gets to keep its food.  Rick is unsure how to respond, but all Negan wants is a thank you.  The two got off to a rough start, yes, but Rick forced Negan’s hand.

Negan knows the two started off on the wrong foot, but he’s reasonable as long as Rick cooperates.  He asks if Rick is cooperating, and Negan knows what it looks like, but he’s wondering if Rick may have some hidden firearms.  Rick says that they’re all indeed in the armory.

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On the road, Rosita and Spencer find Daryl’s motorcycle by the train tracks.  Spencer realizes that the Saviors outnumber the Alexandrian community and accepts that this is their way of life due to Rick’s actions.  Spencer believes that things might have been different and some people wouldn’t be dead if Rick rethought his actions.  Now, though, they have to learn to live with this.  Rosita, though, heads into the woods.

As the Saviors load the guns, Negan picks up one to find out if Rick has taken care of his guns…and finds out by firing into one of the windows.  Then another Savior brings out the rocket launcher- the same one that Daryl used to take out some Saviors on the road.

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Arat informs Negan that the group is short two firearms.  Rick acknowledges that some people left for a run and took the guns with them.  Olivia maintains that the inventory is correct, but  she’s still two handguns short.  To Negan, this means someone isn’t on board and he can’t have that.  He tells Olivia that he doesn’t like killing women.  Men, that’s no problem, but at the end of the day, this is Olivia’s problem.

Negan is going to work this out right now.  Olivia screwed up at keeping track of guns, and that shit is life and death.

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Later, in the church, Rick tells the community that he thought of hiding some guns since he did it before.  What if the Saviors found those guns, though?  Someone could die.  It doesn’t matter how many bullets the Alexandrians have because the Saviors will still win.  Hiding a few guns isn’t the answer.  No one has to like it, but the guns have to be given to the Saviors.  He then asks the group about the two missing guns.

If those guns aren’t found, Olivia will die.  One of the residents asks Rick why the Saviors care since two guns shouldn’t mean much to them.  Rick responds that most of the community didn’t see what Negan did to Glenn and Abraham.  They can look away or help solve this now.

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Eric asks what the way out is if they find the guns, but Rick says there is no way out.  And with that, he tells the group that he isn’t in charge- Negan is.  Eugene then notes that everyone isn’t present at the meeting.

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Back in the woods, Rosita tries to approach the walkers and stealthily take them out, but Spencer calls out to her, attracting the roamers.  Nonetheless, Rosita is able to take out the walkers because that’s how Rosita rolls.  She then finds a gun, but the clip is empty.  She knows that Negan will take all of the guns and isn’t afraid of Spencer ratting her out.  Unlike Spencer, Rosita doesn’t believe that this has to be her life.

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So Negan is enjoying some lemonade with Olivia at his side since she doesn’t really have a choice.  Rick searches Spencer’s home to find the missing guns, but just ends up making a damn mess.  Gabriel tells Rick that he feels that this will work out and that they will find the guns.  Rick doesn’t believe that there’s a way to beat this, but Gabriel has faith in Rick.  Things change.  After all, Rick and Gabriel weren’t always friends.

Rick doesn’t believe that Michonne has the guns, and he thanks Gabriel for the makeshift grave he made for Maggie.  Aaron tells Rick that he found nothing at Rosita’s spot.  Even still, they will keep looking for the guns.  As Aaron and Gabriel leave, Rick pulls up an air vent and, after finding a few items, pulls out two firearms.

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In a bit of an uncomfortable scene, another Savior relieves Enid of her balloons and tells her to say please if she really wants them.  When Enid complies, the Savior returns them.  Well, he drops them.  Carl doesn’t like this shit one bit, but Rick assures his son that the Saviors will be gone soon.

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Negan is pleased to have the two guns back.  He asks which resident held the guns and this matters very much since everyone needs to be on board.  If not, the two sides end up back at square one.

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The Saviors are soon ready to depart just as Spencer and Rosita return.  Rick asks Negan for a second, and Negan eventually grants it.  Rick heads over and meets with Michonne and tells her how Rick made him hold Lucille.  He then tells her that he needs the rifle and knows that she’s out there practicing.  Michonne refuses to give up her gun, but Rick isn’t about to lose anyone else.

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Michonne does concede as Rick hands over the rifle to Negan, who is glad that Rick gets the message.  Now that Negan knows he can follow the rules, Rick asks if Daryl can stay.  Negan isn’t sure.  He wants to see if Daryl can sway him.  Daryl, though, doesn’t speak.

Now Negan tells Rick to start trying harder because the Saviors will be back.  If Rick doesn’t have something interesting for the Saviors, someone is going to die.  And no more magic guns.  Negan is also glad that Michonne brought a deer.  Good to have a woman hand over food without expecting him to put out.

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Now that Dwight has Daryl’s motorcycle, he gives Rosita back her hat.  He hopes that Rosita can find a place to lay her head tonight.  When asked if she found anything else, Rosita responds that she only found Dwight’s dead friends.  Nothing else.

Dwight tells Daryl that he can have his motorcycle back if he just says the word.  Daryl, though, still doesn’t respond.  Well, nobody died.  Negan thinks that he and Rick will find his understanding.  He then asks Rick if he wants him to leave.  Rick thinks that would be good, so he thanks Negan.  Another walker approaches, so Negan takes it out with a candlestick.  Rick’s grip on Lucille tightens, but nothing comes of it.

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Before Negan leaves, he remembers Lucille.  Negan thanks Rick for being so accommodating.  Also, Negan tells Rick that he just slid his dick down Rick’s throat and Rick thanked him for it.  Very important to know.  With that, the Saviors depart.

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With the Saviors gone, Rick tells Spencer about the guns he took from his house since there were two missing.  Rick calls Spencer weak for hoarding guns and food, but he just got lucky.  Spencer counters that the group should have made a deal with the Saviors when they had a chance.

This doesn’t get to Rick until Spencer says Glenn and Abraham were lucky. This prompts Rick to warn Spencer that if he says any shit like that to him again, he’ll break Spencer’s jaw and knock out his teeth.

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Rosita is also pissed that Spencer had guns, but Spencer’s justification is that he doesn’t trust Rick.  He worried about him being in charge and admits that Rosita was right- this doesn’t have to be their way of life. As Spencer leaves, Rosita pulls out another gun hidden under one of the car’s wheels.

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With the mattresses gone, Rick fixes himself a makeshift bed.  Michonne tells Rick that the rifle was from the outpost and more guns could have been hidden, but she apparently didn’t hide anymore.  Hmm.  Michonne tells Rick that everything they’ve earned came from them fighting for it.  Rick doesn’t believe that they have the numbers, even with the Hilltop.

Rick’s plan is to play by the rules and have some sort of life.  He then brings up how Shane got Lori and Carl to safety after the outbreak started.  Since Lori and Shane believed Rick was dead, they got together.  Rick knows and accepts that Judith isn’t his, but he loves her as a daughter and will do what it takes to keep her alive.  He’ll die before she does and Rick hopes that’s a long time from now so Judith can learn how to survive.

This is how Rick lives now.  Michonne tells Rick that it’s not his fault when people die, but Rick says that sometimes it is.  He needs everyone to accept these terms or this won’t work.  As Michonne gets to work helping Rick with the mattress, she tells Rick that she’ll try.

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Sometime later, Michonne returns to the field and climbs atop the truck once again. However, something in the distance gets her attention.  Soon enough, she finds the smoldering remains of the now burned mattresses.

Okay, that’s just a dick move, Saviors.

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That evening, Rosita, after coming across a shell casing, comes to Eugene and asks him to make her a bullet.

“Strategy” is a good episode with a few minor issues I have that don’t hinder my enjoyment, but do stand out enough to be noticeable.  However, it was a change of pace to see the residents of Alexandria get a taste of what Rick’s group had to contend with on the road and comply with the Negan’s demands.

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As Negan said in the premiere, it’s a brand new beginning for everyone.  He and the Saviors swarm the Alexandria Safe Zone and hover over it like hawks for as long as they please and I was on edge at times to see how the residents would react, who might break, and how they would deal with this gang coming in and ransacking their homes.

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It didn’t help that Negan changes the terms by saying that he dictates what half is.  Again, I can watch Jeffrey Dean Morgan all day and never tire of his performance.  Negan strolls into Alexandria like he owns the place and gets off on degrading Rick to where he is now. Negan tests Rick, handing him the very instrument that was used to kill Glenn and Abraham, and gives Rick many opportunities to retaliate, knowing that Rick won’t.

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Despite how Negan strips Rick and Alexandria of what they have, the man is willing to barter.  He says often that he’s reasonable as long as everyone else cooperates, and that’s the case when he allows Rick to keep the food.  What good are servants if they’re starving, after all?  As we saw at the Kingdom, though the Saviors are bullies, they will work with people who bend to their power.

But there are times when I can’t help but wonder if the Saviors take it too far.  Sure, that’s part of the point, but things like that one Savior taking Enid’s balloons, Negan taking all of the guns instead of some, and burning the mattresses feels like the Saviors are doing this just to fuck with Alexandria.  And not only are they doing that, but they can do that and get away with it.

These are the kinds of actions that give people like Michonne and Rosita a reason to retaliate, not keep the community docile, because we’ve seen Negan let Alexandria keep their food.  I would imagine he’d be willing to let them keep at least a few guns, but he did say that he determines what half is, as if he’s more than happy to change his own rules.

It’s not that the Saviors need the guns, chairs, mattresses, or other supplies they take from Alexandria- it’s that they can take them and know that Rick Grimes isn’t in a position to lead another attack on the Saviors.  Negan refusing to hand over Daryl or talking about how he slid his dick down Rick’s throat- it’s all to taunt Rick, as if tempting him to fight back.

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But like “Last Day on Earth,” I find it refreshing to find Rick stopped right in his tracks. This was a man who thought he could get the jump on the Saviors and crush Negan, but he learned the hard way that wasn’t the case.

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Now he’s made to watch the community members look on helplessly as they’re stripped of what they own and he can’t do anything about it.  But he managed to fool Negan in regards to Maggie ‘supposed’ death, so if anything, Rick has that card up his sleeve since we know that Maggie intends to fight.

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One of the better examples of this was when Negan goes through Deanna’s interviews- a callback I liked.  The Rick on video openly admitted to killing and wasn’t ashamed about it. This Rick is left red-eyed, neutered, and can’t raise his voice in opposition because he won’t let anyone else die.  It’s maddening to see Rick in a vulnerable state and Andrew Lincoln’s performance sells how complacent Rick has become.

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Another callback I liked was how Rick’s attitude towards Negan circled back to his relationship with Lori and Shane.  He knows that Judith isn’t his child, but he’s willing to accept that because he wants her to have a chance at survival.  Her parentage doesn’t matter because right now, Rick is all she has.  And right now, this arrangement is all that Rick has.  He may not like it, but he’s not about to let someone else die due to his actions.

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While we’ve seen Rick as a man who is more than willing to let his rage fly, it’s interesting to see how him biting his tongue and holding back his rage ends up coming out towards others.  Granted, Spencer should have known better than to bring up Glenn and Abraham, but also, Rick telling Spencer to say ‘yes’ felt the same as Negan demanding that Rick say ‘thank you.’

Segueing off of Spencer to Alexandria as a whole, I’m curious just how much the community knows about their new way of life.  Rick’s speech to the residents felt like something he said for the first time and some seemed surprised and confused when the Saviors walk into the Safe Zone without confrontation.  But I imagine someone has to know what happened to Rick’s group when they were on the road.

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Spencer obviously knows something since he brings up Abraham and Glenn, and Gabriel knew enough to make the fake graves.  And while Negan arrived ahead of schedule, I thought, given how he only gave Rick a week, he would give Alexandria as much notice as possible.  But hey, two of their comrades were just beaten to death.  They may not want to discuss this matter.

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While Rick may be willing to keep his head down for now, that’s not the same for everyone else.  Carl shows no weakness in front of Negan, Michonne kept a rifle despite the risk, and Rosita are still willing to fight.  Rosita is hiding guns and will no doubt follow-up on Eugene’s plan to make bullets, which we first learned of when he and Abraham found the factory in “Twice As Far.” Also, hope we get follow-up on Michonne learning to shoot.

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By the way, after “The Cell” softened Dwight, he looked to be back as a regular hard-ass with him taunting and, for some reason, hitting on Rosita, but given how there’s clear animosity between him and Negan, it could all be a front.

So while the survivors may have lost a bit of their bite, they aren’t defeated altogether. “Service” showed the residents of Alexandria at a low point as Negan waltzed in, pulled down their pants, leave them in vulnerable state, and serviced them with his dick while they thanked him for it.  At the very least, he didn’t feed them Lucille.  While this episode didn’t need to be as long as it was, it was enjoyable and tense all the same.

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Oh, and someone let Enid out of the closet.  That’s good at least.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 6, Episode 9: “No Way Out”

“No Way Out” comes to life as one of, if not the largest herd of walkers the group has ever faced roams the streets of the Alexandria Safe Zone.  We pick up with Rick’s plan to make a path through the walker horde, but things go south fast.  Let’s pick up with the second half of Season Six of The Walking Dead.

No Way Out- Saviors rob Sasha, Daryl, and Abraham of their weapons

The episode begins with Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha on the road.  They run into a group of men that order them out and demand they hand over their weapons and all of their supplies.  Why?  Because their property now belongs to Negan.  The leader of the group takes their weapons, though Abraham is more resistant.  He eventually concedes and also hands over his sidearm.

Sasha asks who the men are, but they have questions themselves and they’ll be the ones asking while they drive the three back to wherever home is to them.  First, they want more than the weapons.  Daryl says they already took it, but the man maintains that there’s always more.  When the three don’t make a move, one member of the group starts working his way along the tanker.

Abraham asks who this Negan fellow is.  The man says that the group introduces themselves by killing someone.  Once again, they’re told not to ask questions.  Before he can fire, Sasha tells the man to wait, telling him that he doesn’t have to do this.  This prompts him to pull out another gun.  But he doesn’t fire.  He was never gonna kill anyone.  Or…yes he is.

No Way Out- Boom

Then the goddamn motorcycles explode in a glorious fire.  Good thing Daryl had that launcher handy.  Daryl managed to get the better of the one gang member.  I guess that was a quiet fight.  Well, looks like our heroes are in a good place right now.

Back in Alexandria, the walkers continue to roam the streets.  After all, the community is open.  Rick and the group continue to make their way through the pack, keeping quiet to avoid raising suspicion.  One false move could ruin this, and the herd looks endless.

No Way Out- Rick's new plan

Rick whispers that there’s a new plan.  With too many walkers spread out, they need the vehicles back at the quarry.  They’ll round up everyone and leave the community until it’s safe to return.  Jessie suggests taking Judith to the medical bay, but Gabriel offers to take her instead, as he’s supposed to and will.  Jessie tells him to take Sam, but he insists that he can keep going.  Rick thanks Gabriel for promising to keep Judith safe.  As he leaves, the others continue their way through the herd.

No Way Out- Eugene, Rosita, and Tara see that Carol has awaken

Rosita, Tara, and Eugene argue on how, if at all, they can save Denise.  Rosita wants to make sure that Carol and Morgan are okay, and then they can make a plan.  Carol, despite being body slammed, is up first.  Morgan wakes up soon after and realizes that the Wolf and Denise are gone.  Carol realizes that the Wolf took her.  She takes Rosita’s gun and goes around to sweep the place for any other surprises.

No Way Out- Enid and Glenn in the church

Outside the walls, Glenn and Enid arrive in the church and search for weapons or anything they can use to climb to the other side or at least start a fire.  Churches typically tend to have things like that.  Enid says that when she wanted to run, Glenn said that’s how you lose people.  Even after they’re gone.  What the hell does that mean?  Glenn says that people you love make you who you are.  They’re still a part of you.  If you stop being you, that last bit of them inside of you is gone.

To Glenn, those people are his parents, Maggie’s father, a woman named Andrea, Tyreese, a man named Dale…but who are they to Enid?  Her parents.  And they’re still here, Glenn says.  He tells Enid to stay put, but she’s here now and will still help him save Maggie.  She says she can climb up the gate while he distracts the walkers.  After all, she’ll just follow him anyway.  Enid plans to make something Maggie can use to climb down.

No Way Out- Looks like Enid found a gun

After some searching, Enid finds a gun in a box and tells Glenn that she’s still going to help.  I sort of wish that the Zelda ‘Got Item’ music played when Enid found that gun, but you can’t have everything.

No Way Out- The Wolf with Denise

Outside, Denise and the Wolf continue along the gates.  He insists that he needs her help.  He says that she was right about who he was before- he’s changed and how she’ll help him change because of her gift.  She’ll realize it one day.

No Way Out- Sam devoured by walkers

Night falls as Rick and the others continue making their way through the herd.  Sam picks the wrong moment to remember Carol’s chilling words to him as he breaks the chain.  Denise and Ron try to encourage him to be strong and that’s when the walkers take him.  However, he’s still holding tight to Jessie’s hands as she also screams out in horror.

No Way Out- Ron points a gun at Rick

The walkers then claim her as well, but she’s still holding Carl’s hands.  Rick pulls out his machete and severs Jessie’s hands from Carl’s- a gun drops in the process.  And Ron picks up the gun and points it at Rick.  Michonne puts her sword through him, but he’ s still able to fire off one shot.

No Way Out- Carl gets shot through the eye

But then we see where Ron’s bullet went: right through one of Carl’s eyes.  Rick picks up his injured son as he and Michonne start rushing through the herd, Michonne cutting down any walkers in her way.

No Way Out- Rosita doesn't think that Eugene will fight

Back indoors, Rosita, Eugene, and Tara continue to wait.  Sooner or later, Eugene says that they’ll fight their way out and he knows Rosita wants to do just that.  But she knows that he won’t.

No Way Out- The Wolf gets bitten

The Wolf and Denise also wait.  He says that his group should have waited, but they were selfish.  But then, if the Wolf wasn’t selfish, he wouldn’t have gotten an IV.  His plan is to get a gun and head for the wall.  The two rush for the wall.  The Wolf takes out some walkers attacking Denise, but he gets bitten in the process.  Denise urges him to follow her to the infirmary so she can save his life.

No Way Out- Carol and Morgan talk

Carol continues her search and eventually sees the rush of roamers outside.  Taking a seat, she composes herself when she hears a noise.  It just happens to be Morgan.  Carol, for whatever reason, lowers her gun.  Guess she’s over that body slam.  Morgan brings up that Carol once had a child and husband.  He says that he didn’t want to hurt her, but he did have to stop her.  Carol counters that he still saved the Wolf for himself and that she should have killed Morgan.  In response, Morgan tells Carol that she can’t.

Denise and the Wolf arrive in a building.  The Wolf is in a daze, but Denise is grateful for him turning back to save her.  They open the garage door and speed walk their way through the crowd, but Carol, from above, shoots and kills the Wolf.

No Way Out- Denise arrives at the infirmary

Denise finally arrives at the infirmary just as Aaron looks outside and spots Rick and Michonne rushing through the crowd.  They hurry inside and Rick pleads for Denise to save his son’s life.  Denise and the others get to work.

No Way Out- Rick goes out to face the walkers

As the operation commences, Rick looks outside at the herd and takes out his axe.  In a moment I can’t help but love, Rick opens the door and calmly walks outside.

No Way Out- Rick and company work through the walker herd

With no tarp covering him, no protection, and no backup, Rick goes out as a one man army and hacks down any and every single walker that he can see.  Michonne, Heath, Spencer, and Aaron soon help him while Denise continues working on Carl.  As they five go hard to work and pick off as many walkers as possible, they’re joined by Olivia and Eric.

No Way Out- Gabriel prepares to go out to join the fight

In the church, Gabriel hands the baby over to one of the community members and grabs a machete.  When Tobin asks what he’s doing, Gabriel says that they’ve been praying that God save their town.  Now their prayers have been answered: God will save it because He has given them the courage to save it themselves.

No Way Out- Carol tells the others that it's time to join the battle

The battle rages on as Carol, Rosita, Tara, Morgan, and even Eugene soon head out to help.  No one gets to clock out today.  And wouldn’t you know it?  The first walker Morgan encounters is that of the Wolf.

No Way Out- Maggie spots Glenn drawing walkers away from her

Enid and Glenn- remember them?- find Maggie still atop the watchtower that’s on the verge of collapsing.  Glenn begins to draw walkers away while Enid scales the tower to help Maggie, who is surprised to see Glenn alive.  Glenn insists that Maggie escape, and not like Maggie can help- she’s out of bullets.  He once again finds himself surrounded by walkers, and while he’s survived worse, he receives some help from the cavalry.

No Way Out- Sasha and Abraham arrive back at Alexandria

With machine guns toting, Sasha, Daryl, and Abraham have arrived.  They help Maggie while Glenn goes over a plan.  He wants to draw the walkers away, but Daryl insists that they can taken out all at once.  He backs up the tanker and lets gasoline spill into the lake, while back inside, the group continues leading the herd to the wall.

No Way Out- Walkers walk to the fire

Daryl stands atop the van and fires a rocket.  The missile hits the gasoline and a brilliant fire spreads, attracting the attention of every walker.  Even still, Rick and his team battle on against the herd.  As the walkers walk to a fiery death, our heroes battle on and on, cutting down every single walker that comes their way.

No Way Out- Group after the battle

Day breaks.  Smoke is still coming from the lake as walkers litter the street like ballerina patterns.  The community stands, exhausted and triumphant, but alive.

No Way Out- Rick talks with Carl about a new world

Rick, meanwhile, speaks to a sleeping Carl about the others and he was wrong: these people can learn to survive if they work together.  He plans to rebuild and expand the walls.  Everything Deanna spoke about is possible, he believes.

When Rick was out there, when it was over and he knew that they had this place again, he explains that he had a feeling that took him awhile to remember what it was because he hadn’t felt it before he first woke up.  He wants to show Carl the new world and make it a reality for him.  He begs his son to wake up so he can show him.  Then Rick feels Carl’s fingers grasp around his as the episode comes to a close.

Damn.  Just…damn.  This was pretty good.  Great, even, with a few quibbles, but “No Way Out” was a pretty strong continuation of the season.  Writing-wise, there are a few conveniences here and there.  My issues aren’t enough to dilute my enjoyment of this episode.

No Way Out- Walking through the herd at night

While The Walking Dead isn’t always consistent with its tone or pacing, I think the tension in this episode was well-executed with Rick’s group making its way through the walkers.  It speaks volumes going back as far as the show’s second episode that Glenn’s idea to cover up in walker guts, while sounding ludicrous, still proves effective to this day.  It makes you wonder why more people don’t pick up on this, as it’s a good way to move around undetected in a sea of roamers.

No Way Out- Jessie loses Sam

Now, I’ll talk about the Andersons now since I don’t have a proper way to transition onto them.  It’s unfortunate that Rick lost the connection he had to Jessie and that Sam ended up succumbing to his fears with Carol’s words still in his mind.  And it’s worse because Jessie had proven that she had what it took to survive.  It was a bit easy for them to all go down at once when this show has proven that waiting around for a liability can prove costly.

No Way Out- Sam can't do it anymore

Yes, that’s Jessie’s son, but when you’re in between as many walkers as they were, waiting around for him to calm down won’t end with pretty results.  We don’t get much time to deal with their deaths, but this episode didn’t have time for that.  Understandable.  The Andersons were just three more casualties and we at least got the brief flashes in Rick’s mind to see what he was experiencing as walkers devoured Jessie.

No Way Out- Rick sees that his son has been shot

But Rick had a more pressing urgency in tending to Carl.  First off, kudos to the show for actually doing this.  Not that I expected the show to skip out on moments like this, given how Rick still has both of his hands, but the show managed to have Carl shot in the face, as was the case in the comics.  It was a grim sight, but for Rick, this injury alone forced him to stay and care for his son.

No Way Out- Rick prepares to go out and face the walkers

I’ll get to Rick’s monologue to Carl towards the end later, but for now, I want to talk about what may be one of my favorite Rick moments yet: his decision to go out into the herd, alone, and cut through as many walkers as he could.

I’ll admit, it is plot convenience that he wasn’t overrun or because Rick Grimes is an unstoppable force who needed to vent.  That said, I loved that moment where, after looking out the window and giving it some thought, he simply takes out his axe without a word and leaves the infirmary.

No Way Out- Rick leads the charge in taking down the walkers

This is one of the reasons why Rick being so headstrong makes him a good leader.  He knows that he doesn’t have a solid plan, he knows that he’s uncovered and had no backup, he knew that the walkers outnumbered him a million to one and he could be bitten at any time, but he didn’t care.  That is a sign of bravery.  A foolish idea, mind you, but bravery as well and Rick has survived enough that I could see him holding off a walker herd on his own.  Through some editing, anyway.

No Way Out- Olivia and Eric watch Rick tear down the walkers

However, like in the comic, I love how this also served as the rallying cry for the rest of Rick’s friends and the Alexandria residents.  The group has seen Alexandria’s community as weak, and so far they’ve been right, but now they realized that if Rick continued at it alone, they would die.  That was the push needed to bring out scared people like Tobin and Gabriel out of their shells and join the fight to protect their home.

No Way Out- Rick sees that Olivia and Eric are joining the battle

In the face of so much carnage and having the community overrun, seeing Rick out on his own gave the community a bit of hope that they could outlast this herd and maybe even bring it down.  And you can see from the looks on Rick’s face when help arrives that he’s had a change of heart when it comes to the Alexandria community.

No Way Out- Rick speaks with Carl

That comes through during Rick’s speech to Carl- an impressive performance by Andrew Lincoln- about making the future that Deanna spoke of earlier.  A new world that Rick hopes his son will live to see.  Rick has already lost his wife and now his replacement wife in Jessie- the only blood family he has left are his son and daughter.  And sure, Judith may be too young to grasp the situation, but Carl has lived and survived through this carnage alongside his father.

This was the strongest part of the episode, in my opinion- the community coming together to save their home, not just validating Rick’s words to them about becoming stronger, but also giving him some hope that there’s a bright future ahead of them.

No Way Out- Abraham, Sasha, and Daryl face off with a Savior

Not to say that other elements of this episode didn’t work.  The confrontation with The Saviors at the beginning was tense, if not over a bit fast, given how we didn’t hear Daryl’s struggle with the one Savior before he broke out the RPG.  It does make me wonder if that one man he fought survived.  Word has to get back to this Negan fellow somehow.

No Way Out- Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham arrive at the Safe Zone

It was a tad convenient for Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl to show up back at the Safe Zone just when Glenn needed help, but really, no one at this point should have expected Glenn to be in danger.  With that said, The Walking Dead could stand to lay off on the fake-out death moments for Glenn.  They sap out whatever little tension is left surrounding him because the show has already tried to give us a big fake-out death.  No more of those with Glenn, thanks.

No Way Out- Wolf thinks that he could have made it

The Wolf’s slow change of heart didn’t go far, given how Carol popped him off with no trouble, proving that some people don’t change.  Could the Wolf have possibly reformed and become an asset to the community?  Possibly, but given his initial actions, it would be foolish to give him a chance, just as Carol saw it foolish for Morgan to keep him alive.

And their fight in “Start to Finish” looks to be a thing of the past now, given how they aren’t at each other’s throats and Carol didn’t kill Morgan, just as he figured.

No Way Out- Sam is confident

I don’t have many issues, but let’s start with going back to the previous episode’s ending.  We left off with Sam calling out to his mother, louder and louder, but when we get to this episode, he’s not just quieted down and kept up with the group.  He insists that he’s able to handle himself.  At least, before Carol’s words kicked in and his fear surfaced at the worst time.

No Way Out- Rick battles the camera

The battle against the walker herd was an impressive sight, but one thing I could have done without was that point of view shot where we saw everyone hacking away towards the screen.  Unnecessary.  The fact that the community members came out of hiding and joined Rick in battle was enough to show that they had grown stronger.  No need to make it look more epic or Hollywood.

Minor issues aside, “No Way Out” was an effective way to continue the season’s storyline.  It brought the walker battle from the comics to life, put Carl’s life in jeopardy, and Rick Grimes saw that he no longer had to just rely on his group for immediate help.

The citizens of the Alexandria Safe Zone rose up, shed their inhibitions, and joined him in a seemingly endless battle that ended with them as victors.  Now comes the time to heal, rebuild, and grow in order to create that new world that Deanna wanted to see.  But with this Negan man still out there, things will not stay calm for long.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 6, Episode 5: “Now”

After big battles, you usually learn a lesson.  The severity may depend on whether you won or lost.  Regardless, you want to at least walk away from a fight with something to show for it. Or, in the case of “Now” and our Alexandria residents, learn things that you should have already been aware of in the first place.

Now- Deanna surveys the damage

The episode begins in the aftermath of the battle in the Alexandria Safe Zone.  Deanna scales a ladder, looks at an inscription on the walls, and watches some of the citizens tend to the bodies.  All of a sudden, here comes Rick Grimes running fast with a swarm of walkers behind him.  Michonne and Maggie throw open the gates and Rick enters just as the swarm bangs at the gates behind him.

I’d say that didn’t last very long, but no one really expected that these people would catch a break.

Now- Rick tells the townspeople that the walls will hold together to keep out the walkers

So the walkers are at the walls and the community is worried.  Rick tells the people that they can indeed hear the walkers, and there are still enough to surround them.  Though the people may be scared and haven’t been through anything like this, Rick assures them that they’re safe for now.  The walls will hold together, but now it’s time for the community to do the same.  As for the others?  They’ll be back soon.  Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl are still leading the other walkers away from the zone.

Right now, it’s time to make the place as quiet as a graveyard.  Not the best metaphor, Rick.  And Francine insists that this is a graveyard.  Aaron backs up Rick.  He tells the people that the quarry broke open and those walkers were headed this way.  Rick’s plan to keep them away worked.  Aaron admits that he was out recruiting and wanted to scavenge, but Daryl wanted to keep looking.  They did what Aaron wanted and wound up in a track.  He admits that his pack was lost and used by the Wolves, so this was all his fault.

For now, Rick says that there will be more to talk about.  Deanna, though, walks off.

Now- Rick tells Jessie that killers are not to be buried within the community

Jessie returns home and drags the dead Wolf to the graveyard, where it soon rests with the other bodies.  She gets to digging, though Rick advises against that.  They don’t bury killers inside the walls.  So where, then?  Rick tells her to wait.

Now- Spencer tells the townspeople to stop taking supplies

Olivia is rationing supplies, and the townspeople aren’t fans of this plan.  But then, she’s only one person and the crowd pushes through to start taking supplies.  Spencer soon enters and tells them to stop, but they inform him to make sure the gate is closed.  He reminds them that the truck would be inside if it wasn’t for him.  Where was Bruce?  I mean, who is Bruce?  No really, who is this?  Spencer tells the people that starting with taking food will take them down a dark path.  It’s enough to make them see the error of their ways.  Speeches tend to have that effect.

Now- Aaron wants to help Maggie find Glenn

Aaron spots Maggie from afar, but the two exchange no words.  He goes to the walls and finds the townspeople inscribing the names of the dead on the walls.  Hell, Nicholas and Glenn’s names are even there, never mind that there are no bodies.  Haven’t these people ever watched television?  Anyway, Aaron follows Maggie to the armory.  She’s packing to go out and find Glenn.  He knows that she plans to open up a path and is waiting for dark.

But what happens if she drops a gun or twists an ankle?  Or if a walker slows her down and she has to deal with a herd?  Aaron won’t allow her to do this, but Maggie finally opens her mouth and says that he can’t stop her.  Okay, fine, but then Aaron will go and help her.  After all, he knows a safer way out.  I feel like if he’d led with that, Maggie would have talked a lot sooner.

Now- Deanna finds Spencer drinking

In her study, Deanna starts taking notes on a map of areas in the community.  She hears glass breaking and finds that Spencer has dropped a glass.  He’s close to intoxicated due to booze from the pantry, along with a few other items he stole.  He doesn’t call it stealing, though.  So yeah, the guy’s a giant hypocrite.  If everyone raided the pantry, then that would be the end of the food.  But one person, Spencer argues, no one would notice.  So why not him?  He did stop the truck, after all.

He admits that they were right.  They’ll all be dead soon.  He rages at Deanna, saying that she made them all this way.  They were never safe, but Deanna wanted them to dream.  What’s happened is all on her.  I’d say go home, Spencer, you’re drunk, but he’s already home.

Now- Ron and Carl talk about Enid

Carl meets up with Ron to see if he’s okay.  Ron, safe to say, is in a pissy mood.  He hasn’t seen Enid since he last saw her with Carl.  Now that she’s over the walls, Ron thinks that she’s dead.  He refuses to help Carl, who insists that finding Enid isn’t for him, but Enid…who is apparently now Ron’s girlfriend.  He told her to stop going over the walls because it’s dangerous, but not if you know what you’re doing.

Ron attempts to stop Carl, even going as far as threatening to tell Rick, who he knows will go after him, and others will go and eventually, someone will die.  This is one of the lamest fights ever, if I can even call it that.

Now- Denise and Tara talk

In the infirmary, Denise reads up on medical know-how because that’s her job.  You’d think all the time spent working with Edie Falco would teach her a thing or two.  She pushes a book aside just as Tara enters in a bit of a convenient moment.  Tara promises not to tell Denise that she’s being brave.  Scott hasn’t woken up yet.  Tara is here because her head hurts.  It’s a load of shit, but she’s just here to check up on Denise.  Denise thinks that Scott is going to die and she’s afraid of what’s going on inside that she can’t think about what’s happening out there.

Now, she just wants Scott to live, the roamers to go away, and for a doctor to show up at the gates so she can go back to reading War and Peace.  It’s not like she doesn’t feel the end of the world.

Now- Jessie stabs a walker

Jessie gets a surprise from a walker at one of the windows.  Judging from the walker’s attire, I’m guessing this was one of the citizens that recently turned.  Jessie pulls out her handy dandy knife, opens the door, and guts the walker right in its eye.  She could use a bit more thrust, I know that much.  She admits to others nearby that she didn’t want to see the way things are before. Not that she couldn’t, but she just didn’t want to.  But this is what life looks like now.  The people have to see and fight it.  If not, they’ll die.

You know, it shouldn’t take you until now to realize this, Jessie.

Now- Aaron shows Maggie a hidden sewer

Back to Maggie and Aaron.  Aaron has a secret passageway that leads to a sewer under the wall and, hopefully, past the walkers.  I’m going to assume that the sewer smells of poo gas.  Maggie is still going on her own, despite Aaron’s insistence to go with her.  He can’t watch more names go up on that wall, so another adventure we have.  If Glenn truly is dead, Maggie doesn’t want to be kept waiting.  She tells Aaron that it isn’t his fault, but he maintains that he’s part of the reason people are dead.  He has to live with that.

Now- Aaron saves Maggie

Now Aaron hasn’t been down here since the beginning.  The ladder has fallen since then.  They manage to pull it off, but then walkers crawl out of the water.  After a bit of false tension, Aaron manages to kill the walkers.  Maggie tells Aaron to go back to deal with his head wound, but again, he presses on with her.

Now- Ron tells Rick about Enid

Outside, Rick radios to Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl, but gets no response.  Ron joins him to say that Enid used to spend time over the walls.  He thinks that she went out there over the attacks and no one knows where she is…even if she knows how to take care of herself.  He then says that Carl wanted to try, but he stopped him.  Ron offers to stay up there as guard.  Also, he thought about what Rick said about everyone protecting themselves.  Rick, for whatever reason, gives Ron his gun and tells him to find his target.

Now- Denise asks Tara if it's the end of the world

Denise gets a bit of inspiration and goes to work on Scott’s wound.  She extracts some blood and his heart rate lowers.  A bit later, she joins Tara and, for whatever reason, kisses her.  It’s the end of the world, supposedly.  But as Tara said, being afraid sucks.  Well, I suppose the show has to give Tara something to do.

Now- Maggie tells Aaron to stop going forward because it's over

Back underground, Aaron and Maggie arrive at the gate.  Maggie insists that this is all over and they can’t keep going forward.  It doesn’t help that she raises her voice and draws some walkers to the gates.  She admits that if she was out there, she could have helped him.  If Glenn was alive, he would have shown her by now.  She doesn’t get to know why or how Glenn supposedly died.  Not now.  She and Aaron have to live with that.  Oh, and Maggie’s pregnant.  Surprise.

Now- Jessie won't bring Sam any cookies

Jessie won’t bring cookies upstairs and Sam won’t come down because nothing changed up there.  Well, Jessie is halfway up the stairs, so technically, she’s upstairs.  Even still, Sam won’t take the cookies.  Maybe she should just throw them at him.  She does concede and leave them at his door.

Now- Rick helps Deanna finish off a walker

That evening, Deanna replays Spencer’s words in her mind.  A reanimated Wolf comes her way, but she grabs the broken glass bottle and stabs the roamer over and over again.  Rick soon joins her and mentions that apparently Carol got one of the Wolves, but couldn’t find the body.  But then Deanna admits that she wants to live and the community to stay strong.  However, the zone doesn’t need her.  What they need, she says, is Rick.

She asks Rick if what she really wanted for the zone was pie in the sky and Rick responds that no, it wasn’t.

Now- Aaron and Maggie scrub Nicholas and Glenn's names from the wall

Aaron and Maggie have returned to the Safe Zone.  She heads to the wall and, as expected, takes Glenn’s name off of the list of deceased.  Aaron joins in and starts removing Nicholas’ name.  He tells her that when Glenn returns, that Aaron is a good enough name for a baby, depending on the spelling.

Now- Spencer relieves Rosita

Spencer heads to the top of the wall to relieve Rosita, as he elected to take Carol’s place.  Rosita never got a chance to say it, but admits that he did well with taking out the truck driver.  Spencer admits that he got lucky, but even still, he should keep doing what he’s doing.  She leaves as Spencer begins his watch.

Now- Rick and Jessie about to kiss

Jessie, meanwhile, is joined by Rick, who tells her that the wanted the bodies away from the graveyard because they don’t know if Glenn, Daryl, Sasha, Abraham are still alive.  He wanted those bodies gone, but he also needed to wait.  The walkers could still be out there for some time, but Jessie says that it already has been awhile.  There’s no moving past that.  Right here in this moment, though, this is what life looks like.  There has to be a future, Jessie pleads.  Is there more?

Well, a Rick Grimes kiss seems to confirm that yes, there is indeed more.

Now- Deanna bangs on the gate

Deanna heads to the gate and bangs on it.  Dunno whether she gets off on that or just wants to piss off the walkers, but there you go.  Also, there’s a crack in the wall.  Or it looks like it, anyway.  That or blood.  I dunno.

So after a bunch of fast-paced episodes and a Morgan-centric flashback-filled episode, “Now” focuses on the aftermath of the Wolves’ attack on the Safe Zone and bridging the gap between the folks within the zone and everyone on the outside.  It’s mixed, to say the least.  The Alexandria Safe Zone just suffered through losses due to a surprise attack, and things aren’t getting any better with the walkers knocking at their walls.

Ideally, this would be the time to assess what the people are going through in light of the assault on their homes.  It’s a chance to see if anyone has warmed to Rick’s methods of getting things done and people, after feeling secure and coddled for so long, need to start asserting themselves in this ugly world.

Now- Spencer shames the townspeople hoarding supplies

People can feel too complacent if they’re used to things being a certain way for so long, whether it’s living in one place for years, working the same job, and just going through the motions of life, over and over again.  As this show has demonstrated before, the comfortable can be shaken out of apathy and forced out of their comfort zone if something dramatic happens.  Something slips through the cracks- or through the walls- and turn everything upside down, forcing you to reassess your situation.

The second things go awry, everyone loses their minds.  They’ll start taking up arms, stockpiling food, becoming paranoid, pointing fingers- anything that they can use as an outlet to vent, they’ll take it.

Now- Denise and Olivia listen to Jessie talk about the world

So really, it wouldn’t be unexpected for the show to examine what the people of Alexandria think and feel after this attack, but I think the problem with “Now” is in execution.  It juggles dealing with multiple characters’ reactions in short bursts.  And while some character changes, like Deanna, feel a bit more significant, others come off as a little too synchronized, just so we can add some supposed depth to the Alexandria residents.

As we’ve known for some time, the Alexandria Safe Zone provides some security and stability, but it’s not 100 percent walker-proof.  Of course, the people inside know about walkers and the world beyond the walls, but some try to go back to the way things were and act like life is relatively fine.  Some are a bit smarter and aware than that, but not as experienced to the level of Rick and the others.

Now- Spencer blames Deanna for what has happened

Here, Spencer blames Deanna for all the bad things that have happened and the zone’s complacency, Jessie realizes what this life is and the need to fight against it, Denise gets inspiration to try and act like an actual doctor, the townspeople start stockpiling goods in case their days are numbered, and Deanna questions whether her visions for Alexandria were just pie-in-the-sky.  All within the span of one episode.

These conclusions and moments would have felt much more natural if they occurred as the season progressed instead of just in one episode because it’s too convenient for everyone to have this realization that life within the Safe Zone doesn’t guarantee safety.  They’ve had to banish people outside the walls and people like Heath have been on scouting missions for extended periods, so they know it’s dangerous to go alone- take this.  I mean, it’s dangerous outside the walls.

Why would the Wolves’ attack suddenly cause the people to change their minds about their safety?  This feels like the perfect time to have a town meeting or allow people to air out their grievances, not just people like Spencer.  Extreme as Rick is, as Aaron points out, his methods at least ensure some form of safety and protection.  Even Tobin, last season, said that Abraham was a better fit to lead the construction crew than him.

So these people know the good that these newcomers can bring, not just with their raw strength.  While I’m fine with the people of Alexandria being woken out of their slumber, I wish it didn’t all happen at once because I don’t buy that these people would all have these sudden revelations about their circumstances.  Obviously this isn’t their first encounter with roamers or even bad people.

Now- Francine says that the safe zone is a graveyard

Alexandria isn’t some bastion of hope. Like the prison or Woodbury, it’s a haven where people can feel secure, even though they know the walkers are always lurking out there.  The Safe Zone is no different, so I would think that these people would already be more alert and aware.

Forget- Jessie tells Rick about what others in Alexandria have lost

I think back to something Jessie said to Rick last season: life is better within the walls, but that doesn’t mean that everyone outside of Rick’s group hasn’t lost something or someone.  They’ve had their fair share of tragedy, but a lot those feelings disappeared.  So they know about the world beyond the walls and have just repressed all that negativity.  I don’t like that the show has the characters we spend time with all experience some form of change when they’ve experienced loss before.

Now- Deanna and Rick

Deanna, though, gets the most positive change, and thank goodness for that.  She already realized that Rick had a point about the people being too comfortable, but this was pretty much a full blown endorsement when she said that the people need him, not her.  In effect, Rick got what he wanted when he suggested that his crew just take Alexandria.  But Deanna sees what that has led to when Spencer calls her out for her rampant optimism.

Now- Deanna asks Rick if she was being too optimistic

So when Deanna stabs the random walker, it feels like a giant weight has been lifted off of her shoulders.  She refuses to be a victim any longer and instead of trying to pretend the roamers aren’t an issue, she bangs the fence in order to antagonize them.  She’s becoming bolder and given how long the residents have been complacent because of her pie-in-the-sky optimism, I can see her making this gradual change, given how she gave Rick the go-ahead to execute Pete.

Now- Spencer hates stealing

Spencer reminds me a bit of Nicholas.  He’s quickly warming to the methods of Rick’s group and understands that the stability within Alexandria won’t keep anyone alive when you’re on the other side of the wall.  He’s not a complete coward, as he does still steal supplies from the pantry, but his eyes have been opened.  I do think he came off a bit harsh towards Deanna since every resident is responsible for how they live in this new world, but it did help spur her into action.

Now- Denise kisses Tara

There’s not a lot to say about Denise since she doesn’t progress much further than the last time we saw her.  The new world is scary and she’s ill-equipped at saving people’s lives.  We know that.  And I guess because Tara is the only other character thus far that likes girls and the show needs to give her something to do, Denise kisses her.  Whatever.  It adds nothing to the plot, so I’m struggling to figure out why we even needed either of them in this episode since, as of yet, I don’t see what Tara brings to the group since her addition.

Now- Jessie talks about the way things are

Curiously, Jessie doesn’t seem all that concerned with Ron not being back home yet since he’s off having tidbits with Carl.  Like Spencer and Deanna, I’m glad she’s more assertive, but even she acknowledged before that everyone has had their fair share of tragedy, so even if she wants to give a little speech about this being the world everyone has to live in, we already know that she’s not blind to the outside world.  At the very least, she wasn’t timid about killing roamers.  And it looks as if she’s getting a shot at happiness through the kiss with Rick.

Now- Rick returns

Sticking with Rick for a moment, there’s the big question of his return.  When we last saw him, walkers approached the RV and he just realized that the intruders had made it to Alexandria.  Now, he’s not only escaped, but attracted enough of a swarm to lead back to the Safe Zone.  And even then, his talk to the residents seems only based on the walkers he attracted.

We don’t know if he’s aware of everything that happened and I don’t recall him having checking in on Carl or anyone else, so did someone bring him up to speed?  If so, his warning would feel more warranted if he knew what had happened in his absence.  But we don’t see that happen.  Given Rick’s overprotective nature, I’d think the first thing he would do is check on his son and daughter, or at least get an update from someone like Carol, who I don’t remember seeing, or Morgan, who somehow still managed to return to Alexandria faster than Rick.

Now- Maggie is pregnant

If there was any lingering feeling that Glenn was lost, the show wiped it away with Maggie’s pregnancy announcement.  Like Judith surviving the prison attack, we’re probably going to have a happy reunion down the line.  Not to mention Maggie wiping Glenn’s name from the deceased list, so now he has to return.

Now- Aaron hugs Maggie

I appreciate her scenes with Aaron because they helped get him out of his guilt that would have gotten him killed.  That and the scenes with the grotesque walkers, though lacking any real tension, was at lease ramped up to balance out the quieter moments of the episode.

“Now” feels like a transitional episode that helped change the hearts and minds of the Alexandria residents.  They’ve suffered losses and are now coming to grips with the reality of their situation within their walls.  While some character development was handled better than others, the episode suffered a bit because these residents ought to know better by now and it feels like there are missing moments, like Rick not asking what happened while he was gone.  Alexandria has  endured suffering and pain before, so a few Wolves shouldn’t be what ultimately shakes the community out of apathy.  And I’m just not invested in characters like Ron or Denise.

Again, the decision to have multiple characters see things in a new light, I feel, was a mistake because it feels like this is the event that will redefine their lives instead of anything prior, like the quarry incident Aaron spoke of early in the episode.  We didn’t see life in Alexandria prior to the arrival of Rick’s group, so maybe some of the people buried their grief deeper than I’m to believe.  Even still, you wish the people of Alexandria got with the program sooner than they do here.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 6, Episode 2: “JSS”

JSS. Stands for ‘Just So Surprised’ at what happened in this episode. I mean, it doesn’t stand for that, but it might as well.  Let’s jump right in.

JSS- Enid keeps watch as walkers approach

The episode begins in the past.  Enid sits in a truck…somewhere with her parents.  She’s looking out and spots some approaching walkers in the distance.  Just as walkers approach from behind, we cut to Enid watching walkers feast upon remains.

JSS- Enid takes cover

Enid then walks the lonely streets in the rain, covered in blood and on her own.  She should have had a poncho.  She protects herself as best she can to avoid being protected when she hears walkers, but she still has no weapon.  Instead, the writes JSS in the dirt.

JSS- Enid eats turtle

The next day, Enid continues and finds a car with not a body, but a walker outside of the door.  She kills the walker and takes shelter inside…this time writing JSS on the window.  You get it?  As Enid continues along, she spots a turtle.  And she fucking kills and eats it!  I mean, we’ve seen characters eat dogs, so this isn’t too out of left field, but come on!

JSS- Bones JSS

Oh, and JSS out of bones.  I sense a theme here.

JSS- Enid arrives at the Alexandria Safe Zone

Enid’s journey takes her to some abandoned and quite wrecked homes right by a giant wall.  She hears voices within the gates and waits.  At first, she turns away, weighing her options, but after giving it more thought, and scrawling JSS on her hand, she approaches and is welcomed within the gates of the Alexandria Safe Zone.

JSS- Carol stocks up

In the present, Carol stocks up from the armory to prepare a soup.  Since supplies are running low, she’s thinking about mixing up ingredients.  Hell, she once made a miracle with water chestnuts.  Of course, Carol keeps up her mask.  She even offers to teach Shelly make pasta.  In exchange, though, she wants Shelly, who enjoys cigarette, to take her smoking outdoors.  There are already enough things that can kill you.

JSS- Carol tells Sam to get over Pete's death

Carol tells Sam, who is on her porch, that Pete is dead and it’s done. Live with it or it’ll eat you up.  That and go home.

JSS- Jessie wants to give Ron a haircut

Jessie, meanwhile, calls for Ron to come downstairs for a haircut, which he doesn’t want.  It’s all set up, but Ron sees through this: Jessie just wants to talk to him.  She asks if he blames her for what happened.  That and to raise his left hand.  He can’t.  Pete was dangerous, but Ron says that Rick is dangerous as well.  Jessie stands by Rick, as the two are friends.

JSS- Deanna and Maggie about to start working

Outside, Maggie and Deanna are set to put up some panels for a hard day’s work.  Maggie gives Deanna a card about a nursery with supplies like tomatoes to plant.  The expansion needs to be finished and the wall needs to go up.  Rick wants the community to grow, as does Deanna, as everyone is here because of her.  Now it’s time to show that they’re all still there.

JSS- Denise and Tara

Elsewhere, Eugene and Tara discuss potential expansion.  Denise, the new doctor, played by Merritt Wever from Nurse Jackie, overhears this conversation.  Eugene doubts her ability, but then, Denise doubts him as well.  She’s at least a psychiatrist and wanted to go to medical school.  But then the outbreak happened.  Eugene is still skeptical, but Tara is willing to give her a shot.  Pete didn’t want Denise there, but she is.  So why the aspirin?  Tara and Eugene are working on a platform at the guard tower and Tara got a bit dizzy.

JSS- Gabriel tells Carl that he wants to help out

Carl takes Judith for a walk.  I assume someone in Alexandria was nice enough to lend him a stroller.  Anyway, he spots Enid and Ron, but Gabriel approaches him.  He admits that what he told Deanna was about himself, not the group.  He still wants to help and Carl did teach him at the church, so he’s ready to learn.  Carl responds that he needs to tell everyone, and to come around three o’clock.  They’ll start with the machete.  Rather than just continue on, Carl continues to watch Enid and Ron.

JSS- Wolves attack out of nowhere

Following this, Carol gets to cooking, but she spots Shelly smoking before they’re hacked down to size by a random attacker.  That escalated fast.

JSS- Molotov cocktails hit the walls of Alexandria

Maggie and Deanna hear a scream.  They call out to Richard, who is attacked by Molotov cocktails and subsequently burned.  No, seriously, this shit is escalating very fast!

JSS- Jessie and Sam hide in the closet

As chaos reigns outside, Jessie prepares to head out and tells Sam to lock himself in their home, but they hear a noise and soon head upstairs and lock themselves in the closet.

JSS- Carl and Enid hide and wait

Enid grabs a set of keys and meets up with Carl so she can say goodbye.  She’s not staying, but Carl insists that she stay. No one is getting inside or, preferably, outside this house.  So the two sit back to back.  When asked if she saw them, Enid says that they’re just people.  There are too many blind spots and this place is too big to protect.  Right now, Carl does not want Enid to tell her goodbye.

JSS- Carol ends suffering

Carol watches men massacre some Alexandria members and use their blood to mark Ws on their faces.  She finds one man just as he hacks one of the women in her stomach.  Carol, in no time at all and quick thinking, puts her out of her misery.

JSS- Spencer fires at oncoming truck

Up in the guard tower, Spencer takes aim and shoots who he can see, but then the bad day gets much worse when he spots a truck approaching.  At full speed, the truck rams into the gates of Alexandria.  Ah, so that’s where we got that sound.

JSS- Aaron and Rosita bring Holly into the infirmary

The attackers retreat as the horn continues to blare.  Spencer makes his way out of the tower. Aaron and Rosita bring Holly into the infirmary while Denise and Tara prepare to operate on her.  Aaron rushes out to help.  Eugene, though, is kept inside since, let’s be honest, he wouldn’t be of much good.

JSS- Morgan kills a walker as Spencer hesitates

Before Spencer can kill the walker inside the truck, Morgan enters the scene and takes care of it and the horn himself.  He learns of the situation and tells Spencer to hide when he doesn’t answer about helping.

JSS- Carol kills a Wolf

Inside, Morgan comes face to face with one of the Wolves, who stares him down with an axe.  Carol kills the man and tells Morgan that they need to get to the armory.  Morgan insists that they don’t need to kill, but Carol’s insistent on getting to the armory.

JSS- Maggie and Deanna meet up with Spencer

Deanna and Maggie run into Spencer.  Deanna chooses to stay outside with Spencer.  After all, she doesn’t have a weapon and she can’t fight, so this is the best thing she can do.  So she gets inside the truck next to the walker.

JSS- Eugene tells Denise that she doesn't want to be a coward

Back in the operating room, Holly is bleeding internally.  She could be fixed by a surgeon, but Denise doesn’t have that kind of experience.  Though Denise is afraid, Tara insists that she try to help her.  Eugene bucks up and tells her that she doesn’t want to be a coward.  Truer words were never spoken.

JSS- Carl kills one of the Wolves

For whatever reason, Ron is out on his own and is almost killed by one of the Wolves, who is shot in the leg by Carl.  The man pleads to not be killed, but just as he prepares to attack again, Carl shoots and kills him.  He tells Ron to head inside where he can be protected.  Rather than do the smart thing that makes sense, Ron runs off.

JSS- Jessie kills one of the Wolves

Jessie and Sam continue to wait.  Despite noises, Jessie heads out and tells Sam to lock the door behind him.  She’s tackled from behind and appears to be knocked out, but grabs a pair of scissors and stabs the intruder.  Over and over again.

JSS- Ron sees his mother kill one of the Wolves

And then Ron enters at this very moment because we need him to be horrified.  Whatever.

JSS- Carol and Morgan spot Gabriel being attacked

Carol takes Morgan as an assumed prisoner and manages to fool some of the Wolves.  He stops when he spots Gabriel being attacked, but Carol continues on and makes quick work until she runs out of bullets.

JSS- Carol finds Lydia in hiding

Carol reaches the armory and takes down one of the Wolves, but another escapes.  She opens the nearby cupboard and finds…Olivia, who doesn’t know how to shoot a gun, but will soon learn when Carol tells her to take aim and fire if another member enters.

JSS- Captured Wolf tells Gabriel and Morgan that people don't belong in Alexandria

Gabriel and Morgan tie up their captive, who prepares to tell them something about not belonging to the area before he’s quickly killed by Carol.  In no time at all.  She hands the two guns, but Morgan hands his to Gabriel, who is no better with guns than Morgan.

JSS- Morgan surrounded by Wolves

While Aaron and Rosita take down some more of the Wolves, Morgan later finds himself surrounded by five of the Wolves.  He tells them to leave, warning them that the people have guns.  Despite not having a gun, Morgan holds them off with his staff.  The Wolves could be under aim right now through a sniper’s scope.  If they keep choosing this life, they will die.  But, one of the Wolves protests, they didn’t choose.

As the Wolves retreat, Morgan closes the gates.

JSS- Carol considers smoking

The massacre over, Carol stands over a body and swipes her pack of cigarettes.  Why not?  I mean, not like she’s gonna be using them anymore.  Plus, Daryl smokes, so at least they’ll have something in common?  As Carol attempts to remove the W off of her forehead, she notices an A on the staircase.  Ass?  Anarchy?  I dunno.

JSS- Aaron sees that the Wolves had photos of the Alexandria Safe Zone

Aaron, meanwhile, checks and knifes all bodies he can find just to make sure the Wolves are indeed dead, but then he starts going through a very familiar backpack.  Inside, he finds an envelope with photos of Alexandria- the same photos that he showed to Rick’s group.  Whoops.

JSS- Denise fails to save Holly

Denise, giving it her damn best, tries to revive Holly, fails as Holly flat lines.  Tara tries to console her, but right now, Denise wants to be left alone.  Well, all Tara was going to tell her was to get her brain.  That is important.

JSS- Spencer and Rosita talk

Spencer talks with Rosita about the massacre.  This happens all the time outside the gates, so how do you live with that?  She responds that the group gives you something worth dying for.  Maggie tells Deanna that they’re still here, but no, Deanna disagrees…not all of them.

JSS- Carl finds Enid's note

Carl goes looking for Enid and instead finds a note that reads ‘just survive somehow.’  And there’s where we get our episode titled acronym.

JSS- Morgan runs into one of the Wolves he met last season

Morgan walks the streets of Alexandria and takes out a random walker.  Spotting an open door, he heads in and encounters a Wolf…the same Wolf that he first encountered out on his own.  Morgan manages to get the upper hand and overpowers him.  Apologizing for what he’s about to do, Morgan brings down his staff.

JSS- Morgan and Carol cross paths

The episode comes to a close as Morgan and Carol walk down the ruined Alexandria streets.  As the two cross paths, they exchange no words before continuing on their way.

Rick said something very profound at the end of the previous season.  He asked the people of Alexandria how many of them he had to kill in order to save their lives.  Time and time again, we’ve seen some of the people in the community live sheltered lives.  They’re too comfortable in their ways and trying to get back to some kind of normalcy.  But the world is no longer and never will be the way it was before, so you have to know how to protect yourself.

This is a point that has taken much more time than necessary to sink in for residents of the Alexandria Safe Zone because they haven’t roughed it the way Rick and his group has.  Same with Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita.  They’ve done their time in the outside world and done whatever it takes to survive.

JSS- Stocking supplies

But these people haven’t and while you don’t want your friends and loved ones to die in order to shake you out of complacency, sometimes that’s necessary when you’re afraid to fight back.  And we’re not even talking about walkers in this episode.

JSS- One of the Wolves begs for his life

These are actual human beings that managed to weaken Alexandria’s defenses, kill many members of the community, and pose an actual threat.  When Rick and others in his group tell the people of Alexandria that they need to be ready for any and every kind of assault, this is what they were talking about.

JSS- The Wolves attack

This was already a good episode that was, for the most part, well-paced in both action and slower moments, but what made it work is just how sudden the attack started.  I mean, it literally came out of nowhere, beginning with Shelly being attacked, and continued to escalate with the Wolves attacking from all sides.

And these attackers were ruthless.  The people of Alexandria as a whole weren’t prepared for this type of onslaught, but our main characters have and would be able to neutralize this threat.  It wouldn’t be a complete cakewalk, but they would fare better than the massacre we saw play out this week.

Deanna and the residents have already had one wake-up call when walkers made their way inside the gates, but now we have people entering the community with no other purpose than to cause chaos.  If anything, this just validates Rick’s philosophy of kill or be killed because eventually, whether walkers or other humans, or even cigarettes, I suppose, something out there is aiming to kill you.

JSS- Morgan refuses to carry a gun

So we have two warring ideologies: Rick’s philosophy, or Morgan’s more pacifist approach.  He won’t kill if he doesn’t have to, but like Rick, he knows that this new world is harsh.  Killing is an absolute last resort for him.

Even if it means letting potential attackers return instead of stopping a threat when he has a chance, Morgan won’t allow himself to easily cross that line that people like Rick and Carol have no problem crossing because to them, safety comes through killing first, maybe ask questions later.

JSS- Carol kills one of the hostages

Hell, Morgan and Gabriel even managed to tie up one of the Wolves’ members who was quickly killed by Carol without a thought.  In hindsight, I do think it would have been helpful to keep at least one of the Wolves alive for information.

JSS- Aaron finds photos of the Safe Zone

But, at the same time, Aaron learning that one of the Wolves had photos of the Safe Zone raises the question of whether these people were considered for Alexandria, but rejected.  I’ve thought for some time that the Wolves were the show’s replacement for the Scavengers since they also attacked Alexandria, but that’s still speculation at the moment.  But, as a friend pointed out, it makes more sense that this is Aaron’s bag and one of the Wolves found it…meaning that this attack is pretty much his fault.

This episode had a lot of action, yes, but the problem with seeing so many people killed is that we know nothing about them.  We know that the main characters aren’t going to be killed at this point, so the show tries to justify the carnage by killing off a bunch of no-name characters and we have no attachment to them.  The attacks and murders are brutal, but I can’t bring myself to care because I don’t know who these people are.

When we do get into the thick of battle, we’re mostly with the same characters.  We see Morgan in battle, Carol sheds her Suzie Homemaker skin and shows the people of Alexandria just how much of a badass she is, and Maggie sticks with Deanna and Spencer, but we don’t see them in battle often.  Hell, Aaron and Rosita get involved as well, but we don’t see them for very long in the firefight.

JSS- Deanna admits that if she enters the gates, she'll be a liability

Side-note, I’m fine with Deanna not trying to be a hero and forcing herself into a situation where she could be killed.  She knew that she would be a liability, so rather than use this as a chance to prove herself, since this was a level of carnage no one in Alexandria expected, she decided to keep her distance.  Hopefully she becomes more proactive later.

JSS- Carol teaches Lydia how to fire a gun

This isn’t a big issue, but if this episode showcased the newcomers revealing to the citizens of Alexandria how prepared they are for warfare, let us see that on screen.  The closest we got was Carl saving Ross or Carol showing Olivia how to shoot, but show us more of that.

JSS- Carol on the move

A word on Carol: thank goodness she finally let loose.  Carol ranks up there alongside folks like Rick, Daryl, and Michonne as far as being able to handle herself no trouble and this episode again showed us how capable of a fighter she is.  She’s quick, strategic, smart enough to disguise herself as a Wolf in order to slip past them unnoticed, and keeps moving to stay one step ahead of people trying to kill her.

JSS- Carol with a W on her forehead

But, as we saw in “The Grove,” Carol may be an expert marksman and show no hesitation to kill, she still does have emotions and isn’t as cold as Rick.  I mean, her threat and continued coldness to Sam say otherwise, but she still lowers her defenses when she weeps over Shelly.  That’s good and it’s important that we see that because it allowed for a very human moment in the midst of so much chaos.

JSS- Operation Save Holly failure

What didn’t feel as necessary was watching Denise, Tara, and Eugene deal with Holly…another character who we’ve heard of, but never met.  It seemed to break the pacing when we already had slower moments with people like Morgan.  I think we could have easily just been told that Holly died in battle, but at the same time, I appreciate that Denise was forced into a situation where she had to try and save someone’s life, even when she was reluctant.

Plus, turning a happy ending on its side, Denise failed to save Holly.  Though Denise gave it her all, the lack of experienced proved costly.  But, again, I think this could have just been relegated to a mention, especially since we know next to nothing about Holly as a character.

JSS- Jessie rages

While I’m over the Anderson family reeling about Pete’s death, I did enjoy the sequences with Jessie and Sam in hiding.  They had just the right amount of tension balanced out by action when, at last, Jessie managed to kill one of the Wolves.  And she got to let loose all of that rage she’s been holding onto, so there’s that.

JSS- Enid's past

As for Enid’s backstory, it was a nice, well-paced way to start the episode and explain how at least one of the other members of the community first arrived in Alexandria.  And given how she managed to rough it, we can see that she’s more than capable of handling herself.  And if she’s actually gone, that puts a pin in the potential love triangle with her, Carl, and Ron.  This show has been smart about not going in that direction, so far.

Her message of JSS tied into the episode’s overall message of finding some way to survive in the constant face of danger.  It’s a harsh world out there, but with quick thinking, you can make it to the next day.  Yes, even if that involves eating a turtle.

I do like the timing of this episode.  From what I can glimpse, the events of “JSS” take place alongside the present events of “First Time Again,” which is a nice way to tie them together and make this feel like one big episode.  The question remains how Morgan managed to reach Alexandria first when he wasn’t too far from Rick and the others.

“JSS” was a very good episode.  It showed what life on the outside is really like for the people of Alexandria, who have remained sheltered for so long.  It had a slow build to an unexpected and action packed attack on the Safe Zone.  Carol got to show how much of a fighter she is, which is always welcome, Morgan fought to maintain his sense of self while still protecting the area, and the episode left things up in the air since I’m guessing this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Wolves.  As for Enid’s disappearance…I’m not ate up about it, and at least she left a note.

Now what’s left is for Rick to return so he can say ‘I told you so.’

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 6 Premiere: “First Time Again”

Let’s start over, for the sixth time and the first time again.  We ended with Deanna giving Rick the go-ahead to kill Pete, which was a necessary evil, but necessary nonetheless.  But then Morgan showed up.  Where do we go from here?  Well, for starters, someone in production must have been messing with the colors since half this episode is in black and white.  This is “First Time Again.”

First Time Again- Rick explains instructions at abandoned quarry

The season begins in an insane world.  Or rather, Rick explaining to a group that what they’re doing sounds insane, but they live in an insane world.  Either go for walkers, or the walkers come for them.  Anyway, we’re in a massive pit housing a gigantic herd of walkers that are being held back some semis.  Rick gives doles out instructions to the team on how to combat the oncoming herd, but some of the members aren’t ready.  After all, this was supposed to be a dry run.  But there’s no time to deliberate now.

First Time Again- Deanna tells Gabriel that he was wrong

We then get the first of many black and white flashbacks as we pick up not long after the events of “Conquer.”  Deanna, still at the spot where Reg died, tells Gabriel that he was wrong about Rick and the others.

First Time Again- Tara awakens

Oh, and as Glenn and Nicholas return to the infirmary, Tara, who I’d honestly forgotten about, awakens.  She’s a bit freaked out by Eugene’s elated expression and wants Noah to protect her.  Yeah, that won’t be happening.

First Time Again- Rick tells Morgan that he doesn't take chances

Morgan has a brief moment with Rick and also says that he was right- this isn’t over.  Rick prefers to talk this over tomorrow, but he tells Morgan that he doesn’t take chances anymore.  But Morgan has no problem with that, telling Rick that he shouldn’t.

First Time Again- Rick, Michonne, and Morgan on the move

In the present, we get snippets of the teams executing their plan.

First Time Again- Rick and Daryl discuss Morgan's return

Then the episode flashes back to Daryl fixing up his motorcycle.  He’s joined by Rick, who has just assigned Morgan his temporary and boxed-in living space.  It’s a small spot, but it was Morgan’s idea and Rick is sure that Morgan gets it.  There’s still the lingering matter of the men and walkers with Ws carved into their foreheads, though.

Rick’s solution is to add more watch points.  In addition, he plans to tell Deanna that there’s no longer any need for Daryl and Aaron to look for new people.  But Daryl has a problem with that.  Rick, though, says that the people outside those walls have to take care of themselves.

First Time Again- Abraham and Sasha talk about living

Back in the present, we’re on the road with Sasha and Abraham.  Sasha is still hanging in there.  She thinks that Abraham is worried about her, but what she’s doing right now, being out here, is living.  I guess that’s an upgrade from resting in an open grave.  The two arrive at a spot marked by red balloons and stop.

First Time Again- Morgan and Rick talk

In a flashback, Rick finds Morgan training and inquires when he learned- turns out it was after the outbreak.  Rick apologizes for having to hole Morgan up like this, but Morgan believes that it’s safer when there’s no way out.  Now the two have to get to know each other again.

First Time Again- Eugene meets Scott, Annie, and Heath

Still in the past, Eugene, who was drafted into watching Holly’s spot at the gate, receives a surprise when visitors arrive.  Turns out these are residents who have been out for a few weeks on runs.  And this is where we’re introduced to Scott, Annie, Carter, played by Ethan Embry, and Heath, played by Dr. Dre himself, Corey Hawkins.  Now because these two didn’t meet prior to Rick’s group arriving, Eugene is hesitant to open the gate, but he soon relents.

First Time Again- Rick tells Morgan to talk to Deanna

Meanwhile, Rick shows Morgan around and surveys the walls around Alexandria.  Morgan will have to talk to Deanna, but Rick still has his concerns about the people.  They’ve just lived instead of survived.  But it still may be too late for some of them to come around.

First Time Again- Rick finds Gabriel helping Tobin bury bodies

Rick then spots Gabriel helping Tobin bury Pete’s body.  Rick doesn’t want a killer’s body inside the walls.  Deanna soon stops by and agrees with Rick.  She advises them to take it down Branton Road a few miles, just past the bridge.  No one goes out that way.

Following this, Rick explains to Morgan why he killed Pete.  Morgan mentions that Rick has a cell, and that’s true, but not one for killers, never mind the fact that both Rick and Morgan are killers.  As all this happens, Ron watches from a distance…

First Time Again- Rick, Michonne, and Morgan arrive at the orange zone

In the present, Rick, Morgan, and Michonne arrive at the spot marked by orange balloons.  As Rick radios in to Glenn, Morgan has a very serious question for Michonne…did she eat one of his peanut butter protein bars?  Michonne denies this accusation.

First Time Again- Morgan knows who Rick really is

In the past, Rick and Morgan head out to the spot Deanna indicated.  Rick wants to just leave Pete’s body there, but Morgan says that isn’t who Rick is.  He starts digging, but Rick stops him when he hears a noise.

First Time Again- Rick and Morgan find a quarry filled with walkers

The two follow it and find a pit habited by an enormous number of walkers.  As the two survey the area, they’re interrupted when Ron runs in with walkers chasing him.  Rick and Morgan force the walkers over the edge of the cliff.  Rick demands to know why Ron followed them.  Turns out he just wanted to know where his dad was buried.

Going back to the herd, Rick believes that this is how Alexandria remained safe for so long: most of the walkers end up there.  Ron begins to head back, but Rick stops him, telling him that he can’t protect himself in the middle of nowhere like this.  If he comes out like this, he’ll die.  And it won’t be quick, either.  Well, at least Rick is more to the point than Carol was.

First Time Again- Burying bodies

Even still, Rick gets to work digging a grave for Pete’s body.

First Time Again- Glenn explains to Nicholas how he'll draw out the walkers

In the present, Glenn, Nicholas, and Heath arrive at a building with walkers trapped behind the glass.  The plan is for Nicholas to let them out a few at a time so Heath and Glenn can take them out.  Heath is hesitant, but Nicholas assures him that Glenn knows what he’s doing.  But when Nicholas opens the door…there’s another barrier blocking the walkers.  Whoops.

First Time Again- Town meeting

In the past, the town holds a meeting.  Heath fills everyone in on the pit that Rick and Morgan discovered: he and the others found it on one of their earlier scouts.  There was even a camp at the bottom.  Heath figures that the people must have barricaded the exits with one of the trucks when things got crazy, but the people didn’t make it in the end and were turned into roamers.

All nearby walkers are being drawn to this one spot due to the sound.  As is, the Alexandria Safe Zone is just sitting there.  Rick sees how this could all end: some of the walkers are already slipping through the exits and one of the trucks keeping them in could go over the edge at any time.  When that happens, the pathway will send the walkers east towards the Safe Zone.  It’s about when the barricades give, not if.

Carter, not liking where this plan is going, suggests just strengthening the walls around the Safe Zone, but Deanna sticks with Rick’s plan.  Tasks are assigned: Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham will lead away the walkers.  Rosita, Spencer, and Holly will be on watch.  Glenn volunteers and, to his disappointment, so does Nicholas.  When Gabriel tries to help, Rick shuts him down.  Carter still objects, especially after Rick just shot a man in the face, but he gets no backing here.

First Time Again- Carter has problems with the plan

Still in flashback mode, Rick, Deanna, and a few others go over the plan.  They’ll draw the walkers to the intersection of Marshall and Redding.  They can block it off using RVs and large trucks so the walkers are forced to go west, away from the community.  Even if walkers slip through, Eugene reminds everyone that they have big-ass metal plates from the construction site that can fortify the whip wall.  That will help disperse the force of impact and direct the walkers clean, just like a pool table: eight ball, corner pocket.

Again, Carter is hesitant, but since he helped build the walls, it shouldn’t be too much to help make them hold.

First Time Again- Arriving at the orange zone

In the present, Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham arrive at the orange balloon spot and draw to the plates.

First Time Again- Town working on preparing the barricade

We then cut to the past with the townspeople digging to prepare for building the walls.  Daryl responds to Rick’s previous words by saying that finding people is taking care of themselves, but it’s ultimately Rick’s call.  Rick wants Carol to stick around to keep feeling out the people.

First Time Again- Tara knows that Nicholas got Noah killed

Meanwhile, Tara glares at Nicholas from a distance.  She knows that he’s responsible for getting Noah killed, but Maggie tells her how he also almost got Glenn killed.  Now Glenn gave Maggie the go-ahead to inform everyone about this, which could get Nicholas exiled from the community.  But Glenn is a better person than that and saves people like Nicholas.  Besides, Maggie thought about how Tara was in a similar situation, but now she’s one of the most important people in the world to her.  Huh.  How about that?

First Time Again- Carol gives Morgan a drink

Carol then offers Morgan a drink.  He asks her how long she’s been with Rick and whether she was a cop, noting her keep observation and how she always appears ready to handle things.

First Time Again- Glenn and Heath kill walkers

In the present, Glenn and Heath draw out and kill the walkers that make their way out of the building, with Nicholas getting in the last kill.

First Time Again- Abraham after drawing away walkers

Elsewhere, Abraham gets out of the car for a bit to draw away some walkers and then gets back in the car, covered in blood.  That, he says to Sasha, is living, just like her.

First Time Again- Rick tells Deanna that Reg was a good man

Back in the past, Rick finally apologizes to Deanna about Reg’s death.  But he’s glad that she made the right call.  Deanna figures that Rick had more to say to her than that, though.  And he does: people within the community need to be armed and trained.

First Time Again- Carter and his group can't deal with walkers

A noise gets everyone’s attention: Carter and his group have returned, but they’ve attracted a few walkers.  They want help, but Rick advises them to handle this themselves.  It’s not a big number of walkers, so I think they could handle them, but they don’t.  So Morgan and a few others step in.

First Time Again- Rick enters as Carter prepares to kill Eugene

Still in the past, Eugene picks up supplies at the armory when he overhears Carter having a conversation with a few others about Rick and how to stop him before more people die.  Carter doesn’t want to run this by Deanna- he just wants to kill Rick.  Eugene, not knowing the meaning of subtlety, drops a can and falls backwards into a case.

But before Carter can kill him, Rick, Daryl, and Morgan, for whatever reason, decide to enter at this point.  Rick is disappointed.  He would have at least set up some lookouts.  He overpowers Carter, takes his gun, and puts it to his head, ready to kill him.  Did Carter really think he’d take this place?  Rick ultimately doesn’t kill Carter, but he does tell him to try working and surviving.

First Time Again- Carter admits that Rick was right about the plan

In the present, Glenn, Nicholas, and Heath join Rick and the others as they watch the walkers get diverted.  Carter admits that Rick was indeed right, but the groups need to keep moving.

First Time Again- Carter gets bitten

However, when Carter goes off on his own as the group splits, he gets bitten by a walker.

First Time Again- Rick introduces Morgan to Judith

Back in the past, Rick tells Morgan he’ll be staying with him and the others.  After all, Rick knows Morgan, even if this is for the second time.  When Morgan brings up the previous incident with Carter in the armory, he says that was the real Rick Grimes who came back and said it wasn’t over.  Rick did want to kill him just so it would be easier and he wouldn’t have to worry about how he’d screw up, since that’s who he is: someone who shouldn’t be alive now.

But Rick realized that people like Carter don’t get it and will die no matter what.

First Time Again- Rick after killing Carter

In the present, Rick finds Carter and puts him out of his misery.  Tobin radios into Rick, telling him that the gunfire is bringing the walkers back on the road.

First Time Again- Rick visits Jessie

Flashback again, Rick speaks with Jessie.  He wants to let things be, but Ron told her about what Rick said.  While Jessie agrees that Ron shouldn’t have been out, her issue is that Rick shouldn’t talk to or put his hands on Ron the way he did.  Rick doesn’t buckle.  Ron needed to hear that.  Everyone needs to know how to fight.  Rick offers to teach Jessie how to defend herself, but she’s already asked Rosita to teach her.

First Time Again- Rick goes over the plan

Still in the past, Rick explains to his group that the finish line will for their task will be at the green spot.  The ditches and ridges will keep the walkers on the road.  On the way home, Sasha, Daryl, and Abraham will instead take the walkers the rest of the way, 20 more miles.  Abraham asks Sasha if she’s doing this because she wants to die.  She responds that she isn’t.

First Time Again- Glenn confronts Nicholas

And Glenn confronts Nicholas on what happened with Noah, saying he’ll have to live with that for a while.  In addition, Glenn doesn’t want him out there because he isn’t ready.  He will be, though, and then he’ll start to make it right.

First Time Again- Horn major distraction

In the present, as the walkers continue on their path, a blaring sound gets their attention and causes Rick and the others to fall back to trace the sound, which could be coming from home.  They retreat, but the massive herd is en route to Alexandria…

“First Time Again” feels a bit like a recap and way to inform us of how things have changed not just since Morgan’s arrival, but also Rick killing Pete.  The rules have still changed for the people of Alexandria and they still need to learn to fight in order to survive or they’ll be killed.

First Time Again- Carter objects

This by itself isn’t new territory and it’s one of the issues I have with Carter’s gripes over Rick.  We’ve already seen people in Alexandria object to Rick’s more authoritative methods, but his actions do yield positive results.  Rick is a reckless strategist, for sure, though some have softened to his methods.  Nicholas even tells Heath that despite Rick’s group only being there for a bit of time, they know how to survive.

So having Carter be an outlier is giving us what we’ve already seen before.  Sure, everyone still isn’t on board with Rick’s leadership, but they’re willing to give him a chance since he’s a more proactive leader than Deanna.

First Time Again- Morgan and Rick put the body in the car

And this is what’s led to a bit of strain in his friendship with Morgan.  Rick knows this man.  He was one of the first people he met after waking up from his coma.  They’ve both seen each other at low moments, but managed to reunite, but things can never go back to the way they were before.  As Rick mentioned, he’s not willing to take chances anymore because there’s no telling who you can trust.

First Time Again- Morgan holds Judith

While Rick may be a hard-ass, having Morgan around seems to have humanized him a bit.  Rick decides to bury Pete’s body instead of leaving it out and he even lets Morgan hold Judith, which he wouldn’t do for many people.  Morgan is here to remind Rick of who he is.  He’s a killer, but beneath all that rage is a good man just trying to protect the people close to him.

First Time Again- Rick contemplates killing Carter

At the same time, it’s clear that Morgan isn’t fully on board with Rick’s methods.  Or, at least, Rick’s kill and ask no questions later approach.  Whether that puts the two at odds remains to be seen.

First Time Again- Morgan watches Rick hold a gun to Carter's head

Right now, though, Morgan isn’t 100 percent behind Rick’s leadership.  Same goes for Daryl, who, after traveling with Aaron, sees no issue with finding others to strengthen the community.

First Time Again- Rick surveys the herd

And the community still needs building after the looming threat of incoming walkers.  We’ve seen herds a few times before, but this was downright out of a zombie movie.  It’s a bit easy for this to be the reason why walkers haven’t approached Alexandria in droves, but given the amount in the pit, it makes sense that they’d be drawn to the sound when Alexandria remains quiet.

First Time Again- Flashback

I did like the use of black and white for flashbacks.  It felt like an homage to zombie movies of old, but at the same time, a nod to The Walking Dead comic, which is presented in black and white.  In addition, I’m a fan of non-linear storytelling if done well.  Here, scenes both in the present and past were presented out of order and then the episode filled in the blanks as it progressed.  I do think they got a bit too frequent towards episode’s end, though.

First Time Again- Glenn is supposed to be delivering pizzas

There are a lot of smaller moments in this episode that I liked just to lighten the tension, like Morgan asking Michonne if she ate the last of his bars or Glenn telling Heath that he’s supposed to be delivering pizzas.  These moments don’t feel like forced humorous situations, but more organic.  In the face of incoming danger, light humor can help alleviate the stress that comes with the reality of the situation.

First Time Again- Heath, played by Corey Hawkins, returns to the Safe Zone

By the way, I’m glad to see more comic characters come to life with the introduction of Heath and his group, but Eugene did have a point about having never met him.  It seems weird that someone like Deanna, Aaron, or anyone in Alexandria wouldn’t mention that there are other scouters out there.

First Time Again- Glenn speaks with Nicholas about Noah

I’m mixed on how Glenn and Tara handle Noah’s death.  First, what Glenn said to Nicholas about him not being ready feels like something that would have come sooner than this.  Glenn clearly doesn’t trust him yet, but I feel that’s a bit out of pity because he knows that people like Nicholas can get killed.  We’ve already watched the overconfident Aiden be killed, so Nicholas is trying to learn from those mistakes and be a better person.

First Time Again- Maggie and Tara

I can get over Tara talking about Noah’s death now since she’s just getting back on the scene, but it took Maggie to remind her to not be so hasty on how to deal with Nicholas.  After all, Tara worked with the Governor, but now she’s with the group, so people can change.  I don’t buy that Tara is one of the most important people to Maggie, though, not just because of what she did, but because I don’t think these two have spent enough time together to justify this bond.  It’s like Maggie forgot that she had a sister and Tara is just filling that slot.

First Time Again- Abraham claims a wedding ring

This being a season premiere, I do applaud the show for not trying to give every character something to do.  We get snippets of conversation with Carol and see Carl hanging out with Enid, and Abraham has a few moments with Sasha, who is trying to find a reason to live after spending much of last season unhinged.  These are all moments that, I feel, will have a payoff as the season progresses, but for now, I’m glad the premiere didn’t have characters fight for screen time.  This episode was about moving forward in the face of oncoming danger and continuing where things left off in “Conquer.”

I don’t think it’s as strong a premiere as “No Sanctuary”, but we’re dealing with two different scenarios.  There, it was about escaping Terminus.  Here, it’s about keeping people alive while delaying the inevitable walker herd.  Morgan’s introduction puts Rick at ease at times, but it also shows a slow growing division with Morgan questioning Rick’s techniques for survival and overall leadership skills.  It retreads familiar territory with Carter’s objections, but it doesn’t bog down the episode.  I liked the non-linear storytelling and cliffhanger with the walkers heading towards the Alexandria Safe Zone.  How will our characters combat this?  We’ll find out.