Review of Season 6, Episode 14, of AMC's The Walking Dead
Before we get started please know that there will be spoilers. Big spoilers, serious spoilers. This is one of those episodes where things get real, people you may actually care about die, and possibly game-changing events occur. …Consider this your warning…Okay?
Here we go…
The episode opens on a cycling of the new day-to-day of Alexandria, showing both the mundane and surprising. The stockroom lady (Olivia?) does inventory, Father Gabriel patrols with his gun, Morgan works on his bo-staff skills and builds a proper jail, Sasha greets Eugene as he arrives for his guard shift, Carol sits on a porch-swing clutching her rosary and chain smoking before Tobin comes out to give her a kiss, and Rosita wakes up from a night with her rebound-guy, Spencer. The images give a feeling of uncomfortable placidity where you know there’s something horrifying just under the surface waiting to boil over at any moment. A pretty accurate feel for a post-apocalyptic community really.
Things pick up when two separate supply runs are planned. The first is planned by Eugene, who goes off with Abraham on a mission to find a factory where he believes they can make bullets. As Eugene notes supplies are likely running low for everyone, not just them, and that makes ammunition the new currency. Whoever has the bullets, has the power. With the small metal factory they’ve found and a lot of scrounging for lead he’s confident he can begin production on bullets for the community. Abraham is rightly impressed. Eugene, feeling better than ever about himself, carries on about how he’s reached “Stage 2” of Walker apocalypse survival and can take care of himself. To prove his point he calls dibs on a Walker that slouches out from the back of the factory, but doesn’t really think his dispatching through. Whoever the Walker once was apparently had an accident before death that encased his head in metal that bounces Eugene’s machete away like it was nothing, leaving Eugene with no real recourse. There’s a tussle and while Eugene knows enough to go for a nearby metal rod to shove up into Walker brains he can’t quite reach it. Abraham steps in to finish the Walker, saving him, but that only serves to make Eugene flustered and fussy. He dismisses Abraham, stating he no longer needs his friend’s help and protection. Abraham leaves in equal huff. …As bad as I felt for Abraham I couldn’t help but feel a bit of vindication for his rough break-up with Rosita episodes prior.
The second supply run is planned by Dr Denise, who ropes Rosita and Daryl into joining her on a search of an apothecary she first saw on her way to Alexandria. She explains that the store may also have a pharmacy. Unlike Abraham, who happily joined Eugene, Rosita and Daryl are less enthused. They see it as a babysitting gig, but Denise insists she can handle life beyond the walls and is going whether they join her or not. Initially things go fine…well, Walker apocalypse fine, at least. There’s lots of walking, lots of Walkers, and some dry-heaving on Denise’s part as she experiences the sights and smells of the dead and rotting. Still, her plans prove fruitful when they discover the apothecary not only has a pharmacy, but an untouched pharmacy. They decide to grab everything they possibly can before heading back.
It’s upon taking a shortcut back home that things begin to fall apart for the trio. Denise shares bits of information about her life prior to Alexandria — her parents were alcoholics, she had an angry and fearless twin brother, Dennis — before finding a car with a Walker and cooler in it. Daryl and Rosita tell her it’s not worth the trouble, but she goes for the cooler anyway. There’s quite the struggle, but even as the other two run over Denise insists she can handle it…and she does. Denise is able to subdue and kill the Walker herself before losing breakfast all over her glasses. Her prize? A six-pack of something, of which she only grabs one as her trophy. Daryl and Rosita rightly chastise her, telling her what she did was foolish (it was), but Denise argues she did it for more than the can. She did it because she doesn’t want to be afraid anymore, that she hadn’t told Tara she loves her because she was afraid, and that she realizes this new world requires people to be brave and take risks. She goes on to explain that she asked Daryl to come because he reminds her of her brother and makes her feel safe — safe enough to take the risks she needs to — and that she invited Rosita because Rosita’s alone. It’s an inspiring speech filled with passionate determination on Denise’s part…until it’s abruptly ended by an arrow through the eye. Denise’s words jumble and she slumps into Daryl’s arms, dead.
Who’s the bastard that fired the shot? The guy Daryl saved in the Burnt Forest, of course. His name is Dwight, he can’t work a crossbow properly (he’d been aiming for Daryl), and we hate him. Along with half his face, which is now burnt, gone is Dwight’s previous nerves as he cockily holds a terrified Eugene prisoner and runs a group of what I’ll presume are Saviors. Like every other Savior they want all the things and to be shown where the group lives. And, like every other Savior, they find themselves in over their heads in dealing with the group. This time it’s Eugene to the rescue as he mentions a hidden Abraham causing the Saviors to spread out in search and Dwight to turn his attention elsewhere exposing his genitals to the impressively strong jaws of Eugene. Yes, Eugene bites the guy’s dick. Kudos to Eugene on cleverness, creativity, and timing though as it allows Daryl, Rosita, and Abraham to turn the tables on the Saviors. There’s a hail of bullets from both sides and eventually the Saviors are sent scrambling back where they came from. Daryl tries to set up a shot for Dwight’s head, but upon discovering Eugene’s been hit he abandons his revenge to help get Eugene back to safety. …Ultimately Eugene is fine, the bullet only grazing him, and he and Abraham patch up their friendship yet again with Abraham admitting that, yes, Eugene’s survival abilities have improved and he “sure can bite a dick”.
Afterwards Abraham goes to Sasha’s to pour his little ginger heart out in a way that’s actually pretty adorable and gets Sasha to give him a chance. Meanwhile Daryl is able to make it back to Denise’s body and bury her properly in the growing Alexandria gravesite. By his side, helping him, is Carol.
The episode returns to the day-to-day opener with Sasha greeting Rosita instead of Eugene for guard shift (awkward!) and then something truly unexpected happens…Carol begins to speak in voice-over, reading her own goodbye letter as her favored porch-swing is shown empty save an ashtray overfilled with cigarette butts. Carol states that she is leaving Alexandria, that she never should have returned when Rick first banished her from the group. She explains that she realizes now being in the group, caring for them like she does, will always mean killing for them and she can’t do it anymore. Carol asks that no one follow after her. Carol, it would seem, has officially tapped out.
I think the saddest thing about Denise’s death is how unsurprising it was. Pretty much any time someone says “I’ll tell you ‘I love you’ when you get back”, you know (at least) one of the pair is going to die. It’s sort of Tragic Death Writing 101. Add to that the episode focused heavily on Denise, finally revealed sizable portions of her backstory, and showed her truly stepping up in this new world…well…the biggest surprise was that she was briefly able to keep talking after taking an arrow through the head. Honestly, it’s a little irritating — literally anyone else dying would’ve been a bigger shock — but such is TV life. It was still sad to see Denise go, I liked her.
There was a majorly shocking moment in the episode though: Carol leaving. I have no idea what she’s thinking. There isn’t really a way to opt-out of killing in this world and being alone only increases the chances of you having to end other people’s lives. Also the Saviors are out there so maybe going off on your own right now isn’t the best move. (I don’t want you to die, Carol, come back!!) If she truly doesn’t want to kill anymore it’d have been a smarter, better, option to just ask Morgan to teach her Aikido, at least then she’d have another option in the future…And if anyone would be understanding and supportive of Carol’s situation and new decision, it’d be him. This running away from Alexandria thing is so strange and unwise I can’t help but wonder/hope it’s a ploy by Carol to become an “inside woman” with the Saviors or something.
I was pleased to discover my guess that Morgan was making a prison was correct. I’m also pleased to see that it looks well-made and very secure. Now the question becomes, will they ever use it?
Poor Spencer, does he realize he’s totally just being used and Rosita’s not into him at all? It doesn’t look like he does. It looks like he’d trying for a real relationship with her even as she pushes him away. I hope he wises up and makes a better informed decision on whether or not to be with her soon. The last thing this guy needs after losing his entire family is some romantic heartbreak. …I know you’re hurting, Rosita, but not cool on the using of a vulnerable Spencer. Be your own woman, you’re stronger than this, remember Denise’s words, don’t let her death have been in vain.
With two more episodes left my worry for all the characters is growing fast. I’m 99.99% sure someone major’s going to die very soon, but who is still up for heavy debate. Negan’s men seem to be getting ever closer to Alexandria and the man himself is showing up in this season’s 90 minute finale…not a good sign for Alexandria and its people. My worry is at its height now that Carol’s left and next episode’s promo shows Daryl following right after to find her.