The Walking Dead returned on Valentine’s Day with a bang, a whimper, and whole lotta “the hell is this?” The midseason premiere “No Way Out” highlights the best and worst of America’s favorite undead cannibal show, one that left me bored and entertained all at the same time.
That opener though, that was some badass fun. In fact, the two scenes with Abraham, Sasha, and Daryl were hands-down the best parts of the whole damn episode, something I never ever thought I’d write about Abraham and Sasha. The opening scene was taut and tense, blessedly short on melodrama and long on worldbuilding and powerful character moments. The three of them put in some top notch acting—Daryl’s beleaguered resignation, Abraham’s machismo-tinted standoff, Sasha’s quavering voice as she cried “Wait!”—had me fooled as much as Negan’s cronies.
Of course, it’s also patently ridiculous. Daryl somehow manages to kill a trained villain with a rifle while being stabbed in the shoulder, then leave the corpse in a place where everyone could see it, open the back of a tanker truck, load a rocket launcher, then get all the way around the side to shoot it… and he does it all in about 60 seconds and in complete silence. But you know what? It had just enough bizarro fun to make it all worthwhile. (Still not better than Buffy’s rocket launcher scene, though.)
The phrase “patently ridiculous” could apply to just about every scene in “No Way Out.” Take Glenn’s “rescue,” if you could call it that. The B-plot started off intriguing, if undercooked, then went full-on stupid as Glenn panicked and got himself cornered. Rescuing your beloved is a fine idea, but if the plan was simply to walk along the platform and hop down to the other side of the fence, why was it necessary for Enid to join Maggie on the tower? And why was Glenn’s plan to run straight into a horde of walkers?
Poor Maggie’s spent all this time thinking her husband and the father of her child is dead, only to have him return and get himself nearly eaten while she watches helplessly. I’d call it the dumbest plan ever, but the season started out with Rick trying to herd thousands of zombies dozens of miles with nothing but a few guns and some gumption. As it was, having survived increasingly incredible odds, Glenn is the luckiest person in the South. I’d also appreciate it if someone could explain to me how Abraham and Sasha could machine gun down all those zombies and not hit Glenn. While you do that, I’m going to remember how awesome it was when Abraham cackled like a damn drug lord when he was shooting them.
The most egregious crap was, obviously, the Anderson family. They were just the absolute worst. I haven’t been this pleased with the brutal death of a character on TWD since Lizzie. Sam was the pinnacle of the heap of awfulness that were the Alexandrians, with Ron not far behind. It’s not that they were terrible characters, per se. Jessie got saddled with a bargain-basement-Lori role that left no room for development outside of Rick’s creepy romance. Sam and Ron were weaklings who had no place in the world of survivors. They had to die, it was only a matter of time. Yet their death scene left me with a puzzler: Why not just incapacitate the kid? They all just stood there while his brain short circuited. Why not cover his eyes and carry the little bastard? Why were Rick, Michonne, and Carl just hanging out watching him freak out? Maybe it was the janky editing that kept tripping up the episode, but the whole thing was staged so oddly that it sucked out what little air there was.
Speaking of things not making sense, I feel like I’ve lost the thread of the rules of zombieland. The zombie disguises Rick and company donned were pretty half-assed compared to what Michonne and Carol wore in previous outings—the Alexandrians didn’t even have goo on their faces—but somehow it was convincing enough for the other walkers to let them pass. Too easy. Also way too easy: killing the walkers. For Hera’s sake, a bunch of losers with little training brained hundreds of zombies and suffered no losses.
Moreover, if it was always so easy to kill the undead by fire, then what the hell have the living been doing all this time? If the rules now state that a zombie will simply walk toward fire and let it burn them to a crisp, they should’ve had everything south of the Mason-Dixon line cleaned up by now. Maybe they just had some exceptionally stupid zombies. This is the same herd that didn’t apparently care about Jessie and Sam having a whole conversation and let several groups of people run wild through their horde with little interest in giving chase. It’s fine if the rules change, but there should be a valid reason for it, not just because the writers sacrificed internal logic so they could do a campy ’80s-style horror homage.
The real concern is how little of the premiere’s key moments matter in the long run. The scenes between the Wolf and Denise were powerful independent of the larger episode, but in context gave no answers and amounted to nothing. It doesn’t really matter whether or not the Wolf was becoming a better person or if he would have betrayed her once they were over the wall, because Carol gunned him down before he could do anything besides sacrifice himself for Denise. It was a massive gesture, but since we get no resolution with his arc, the philosophical rivalry between Carol and Morgan is still open to debate. Jessie, Ron, and Sam’s deaths don’t matter either. Jessie was fridged like the cipher she was, and her kids added nothing to the proceedings we didn’t already know.
The upcoming conflict with Negan should be dramatic, but how it’ll be any different from the Rick-Governor showdown is anyone’s guess. How it will intersect with the Wolves remains to be seen, but I’m guessing it won’t end well for anyone involved. Cyclops Carl is a nice change of pace, even if it was deflated by being low stakes, caused by no one in the audience believing for a second that he would actually be killed off. “No Way Out” closed with a scene full of hope for the future, which means shit’s about to go down. Rest up, Rick, you have a hard road ahead.
- “If you have to eat, best not to nibble.”
- Didn’t get a chance to talk about Rosita in the review, but she has drastically improved as a character. Her level-headed decision-making is a welcome contrast to Rick’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad plans.
- Here’s hoping Merritt Wever stays on with Rick’s group. She and Rosita make an effective balance to Morgan and Carol.
- Seriously though, that rapid-fire shot of all the Alexandrians stabbing at the camera was one of those things that sounds great on paper but is terrible in execution.
- Just how many rockets does Daryl have in the back of that truck? Whatever the number, it’s not nearly enough.
- Wonder what will happen to the frail, elderly, and cowardly Father Gabriel left praying in the church. If they can’t hold up their end of the defense, will Rick abandon them or opt to expend precious resources?
- I’ll be back after episode 13 on March 13 for some coverage midway through. See you then…
Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.