The Walking Dead S06E07 “Heads Up” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: FOX, Mondays, 9pm
Writer: Channing Powell
Director: David Boyd
Essential Plot Points:
- (Best Jim Ross voice) GLENN LIVES! GLENN LIVES! GLENN LIVES!
- We flash back to the end of “Thank You” to see Glenn, as many people predicted, crawling under the dumpster while the Walkers eat Nicholas.
- The following morning, a badly dehydrated Glenn is thrown water by Enid, who then runs off. The bottle breaks but it’s the principle of the thing.
- Glenn finds out that Alexandria was attacked. Enid, for everyone who isn’t Glenn, and has seen the last few episodes, acts an awful lot like she had a role in it. She also acts a lot like she’s increasingly not happy about that and runs off, trying to lose Glenn. He follows, finding the zombified David from “Thank You” along the way. He retrieves his bloodied final message to his wife.
- Back at Alexandria, life just about goes on. Rick and Maggie chat about ways to deal with the herd before Rick gives Ron a shooting lesson. On the way, he sees Gabriel putting up prayer circle leaflets and tears them down. Gabriel replaces them.
- During the lesson, Rick not only gives Ron some pretty solid advice but also an empty gun to carry around to get used to it. There is no way this will end badly at all, especially not for Carl who’s being a remarkably supercilious little arsehole considering the rubbish slapfight he had with Ron not so long ago.
- Rick confronts Morgan, along with Carol and Michonne. Morgan freely admits that he let the Wolves that attacked Rick live. He also freely admits he has no idea if that was the right thing to do or not and he’s having a crisis of conscience about what Eastman taught him and if he can stick to it. The others, showing they’ve learned a lot since Rick banished Carol a few years ago, accept this and the matter is unresolved.
- Elsewhere, Rosita trains a group of Alexandrians in how to use a machete. Eugene is also in the class and clearly very uncomfortable. Rosita tears him apart verbally and the world’s most mulleted sort-of scientist strops off.
- Rick bonds with Tobin, an Alexandrian who comes to help him shore up the wall. Tobin admits that Rick did, and still does, scare them but works with him anyway, tacitly admitting that the Alexandrians are embracing the need to pull together.
- Rick later chats with Michonne about ways to get rid of the herd and suggests using a team that only consists of his close friends. When he tries to justify why, Michonne calls him on his nonsense and Rick seems to accept this.
- At the armoury, Ron uses a distraction to get a handful of bullets for his gun.
- Outside the walls, Glenn and Enid find some of the balloons used to mark the route for Rick’s failed plan. They take them and inflate more, hoping to use them as a signal. Along the way, Glenn quietly, but firmly, admonishes Enid for how short-sighted her JUST SURVIVE SOMEHOW mindset is. They arrive at Alexandria and realise just how bad things are.
- Inside the walls, everyone is distracted by the sight of Spencer trying to cross a rope outside the walls. He, of course, massively screws up and falls into the middle of the herd. Tara, demonstrating truly astonishing levels of badassery, climbs over the wall and hangs one handed WHILST PREGNANT, headshotting Walker after Walker until Spencer is pulled up. Rick yells at her, Tara gives him the finger. Tara is the best.
- Spencer on the other hand is the worst. His plan, to steal a car to distract the herd, is great. The execution is staggeringly poor and Spencer complaining about losing a shoe does not endear him to Rick. Neither does his surprisingly sensible point that had he come to Rick, there was a good chance that Captain JustMyChumsAreCompetent would have turned him down.
- Morgan visits Denise for a second time that day and this time admits what he wants; for her to see if a wound is infected. He makes it clear she may not want to get involved, but Denise heads out with him anyway, to tend to the wounded Wolf. Good work, Doc.
- Carol sees them and, with all her suburban ninja skills, hands off Judith to Jessie to follow them. Along the way she provides typically Carol-esque comfort for Sam, still horribly traumatised by seeing his mom commit murder. Carol confronts Morgan, demanding to know who he’s keeping in the cell.
- Nearby, Ron zeroes in on Carl, getting ready to kill him.
- Also nearby, Rick apologises to Tara who accepts it and gently reminds him that they really are all in this together. Deanna thanks both of them for helping save her son’s life.
- Michonne examines the plans for Alexandria’s expansion, clearly starting to feel like this is a place worth fighting for.
- Multiple people in town spot the green balloonsand Maggie sprints down to the gate, realising its Glenn.
- And then, after slowly crumbling all episode, the tower falls and rips the wall open…
Yay Glenn! Go Team Dumpster!
After four weeks of full on PT Barnum-esque showmanship, we finally get an answer as to how alive Glenn is this week. And the answer is a lot. Hurray!
OR IS IT?
At the very end of this review is a very spoilery section about Glenn in the comics. DO NOT READ IT IF YOU DON’T ALREADY KNOW AND WISH TO REMAIN IGNORANT
We also spend the entire episode catching everything up in a suspiciously neat fashion, which this show loves to do just before breaking the HORROR OH GOD THE HORROR dial off at 11. This season of The Walking Dead has sprawled to an epic degree with the herd and the Wolves attack on Alexandria splitting the leads up into multiple groups. This episode the housecleaning begins in earnest as we catch up with pretty much everybody aside from Team Zombie Wrangler. There’s some neat continuation of last episodes’ humanising of the Alexandrians, some pick-up from the Wolf attack and one of the best scenes of the show so far.
Let’s start with the Alexandrians. The focus on Ron and, briefly, Spencer this week serves to show us how the two groups are still miles apart. Ron abuses Rick’s basic practicality and is rewarded with an actual murder weapon he plans to use on Carl. Spencer attempts to pull off a scheme to solve the herd problem that’s as gutsy as it is stupid. Both are acting on their own initiative and the reason for that is perfectly summed up by the moment Spencer is rescued. Rick asks why he didn’t tell him what he was planning. Spencer responds by asking if he had, would Rick have listened?
And here’s the crucial bit: you can see that Rick realises he’s right.
This idea; that Rick’s starting to understand that his way isn’t the only way, has been at the heart of the show before. But it’s rarely been better handled than it is here. Multiple people, with varying degrees of good humour, tell Rick he’s full of it this episode and he actually seems to listen. You can see it in the talk with Morgan, which three seasons ago would have been much more tense. Here Rick is actively interested in Morgan’s point of view, and prepared to entertain putting his to one side. That’s a Hell of a chance from the days of the Ricktatorship.
The scene with Tara is, if anything, even better. While he’s listening to people tell him that the two tribes need to work together, his people are already demonstrating the fact with action. It’s a nice moment, and one that makes me feel optimistic that Alexandria might be sticking around. Michonne looking over the plans for the expansion certainly seems significant and I’d love to see what they do with the later Alexandria comic plots on screen.
That new-found cooperation is neatly echoed through the rest of the episode. Rick’s scenes with Tobin are especially great but it’s Glenn and Enid, who, oddly, carry the weight of this storyline. Glenn’s refusal to let Enid go off alone is the exact sort of pragmatic compassion we’re used to from the character but it clearly has an effect. Glenn, knowingly or not, seems to get through to the world’s most overlooked survivor that it’s possible to do more than survive.
Ultimately, that scene, and the episode, are about hope. The Alexandrians believe they can survive; Tara, Maggie and Michonne in particular certainly seem to agree. Morgan’s refusal to let the Wolf die, not to mention Denise’s readiness to help him embody the same thing and Deanna is nothing but hope now. Then there’s the balloons, a moment of whimsical humanity floating over a sea of horror. A realisation that something impossibly good has happened, just as something impossibly bad does.
The time for talking is over, the wall has fallen and now Rick will have to trust whoever’s next to him, regardless of where they’re from. They all, Ron aside, seem to be up for the challenge. Here’s hoping Rick is too.
- A lot of other reviewers have complained about the ethical discussions this episode. I’m not going to join them. This is a show whose North is Walker DeathKill for sure but its south is always the moral and psychological cost of that.
- With that in mind, the entire Morgan, Rick, Carol and Michonne scene is a huge relief. Especially given the “THIS SEASON! RICK V MORGAN!”-style trailers. There’s no antagonism here, just two people with very different world views trying to work out whether either of them have a point. That’s not filler, that’s drama and the show is all the better for having more of this character focus now than it’s had in the past.
- “If they died, maybe those wouldn’t have been able to come back here. I don’t know what’s right anymore. Cause I did want to kill those men. I seen what they did what woulda kept doing. I knew I could end it. But I also know that people can change. Cause everyone sitting here HAS. All life is precious. And that idea… that idea changed me. It brought me back and it keeps me living.” I love that Morgan and Rick both have doubts about how they operate. This is such an honest admission from Morgan and you get the feeling the new mindset that will (hopefully) lead Alexandria is born in this scene.
- “Making it now, you really think you can do that without getting blood on your hands?” In any other show this would have been a confrontational line. Here, and delivered with such subtlety by Andrew Lincoln, it’s a genuine question. And the scene is all the stronger for that.
- “REALLY? We’re in here together. We’re catching our breath right now. Anything else is just excuses.” Rick really is a tone deaf plank this episode and it’s a delight to see people call him on it. Especially Michonne who’s often been the closest to Rick’s mindset.
- “I’m a weapons novice holding a significant blade here and there are people in my proximity with open-toed shoes.” Never change, Eugene.
- “Dying is simple. It all just stops. You’re dead. The people around you dying, that’s the hard part. Okay? Cause you keep living, knowing that they’re gone and you’re still here.” Rosita has been given so little to do you forget just how great Christian Serratos is. Here’s hoping she gets more to do this season. That hopefully involves not dying.
- “You’ve got to be strong enough to wait for your moment.” Carl is such a smug git this scene you almost, ALMOST, understand why Ron wants to kill him.
- “Things moved slow here. Then things started moving fast. Too fast. But don’t give up on us.” I love this scene, firstly because it’s nice to see Tobin being given more to do and secondly because of what he does. He’s essentially telling Rick they get it, they’ve got a lot to learn and they’re up to the challenge. The fact that Rick doesn’t notice says a lot more about his weakness than the Alexandrians’.
- “You honour the dead by going on. Even if you’re scared. You live because they don’t get to. You think your parents wanted you waving around a gun because you’re afraid?” Glenn, officially the Nicest Human on Earth.
- “I helped save him because he’s your son.” “Wrong answer.” Deanna’s new-found glow of faith plays a lot like complacency. But that may well be because she’s the last optimist standing. Plus she’s bang-on here with the last of the episode’s string of, “Get over yourself, Rick,” moments.
- This is a weird one but it’s valid. By spotlighting some lesser-used characters the show is exposing the fact that it’s underselling some key players. Poor bloody Rosita has, I think, got more screen time this episode than the rest of the season to date combined. Likewise Eugene, who’s always good value. Even Spencer and Ron, who were admittedly front and centre a lot in recent weeks, seem a bit under used. It’s a shame, especially as the way the show will solve this almost certainly involves a whole lot of character death.
- Rick has really solid trigger discipline. His advice to Ron about when you do and don’t have your finger on the trigger is a piece of training that anyone who works with firearms and has any measure of ethics has drilled into them. Myke Cole, veteran and author of Gemini Cell and other excellent books would be very happy.
- Jason Douglas, who plays Tobin, the jovial carpenter chap who chats with Rick, has quite the genre resume. He’s been in From Dusk Till Dawn as Warren Pritchard, Breaking Bad as Detective Munn and provided voices for Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Gods, Borderlands 2, One Piece, Psycho Pass, Soul Eater, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 and Fairy Tail.
- Shot of the week. Tara, the pregnant gun-toting badass giving her asshole boss the finger.
Ludicrously Spoiler-y But Maybe Inaccurate Theory
Glenn may have survived just in time for something even worse to happen to him. The comics version of Glenn was infamously beaten to death by Negan, a baseball bat-wielding sociopath who ran the Saviors. The Saviors were a gang who “saved” survivor communities from Walker herds in return for protection. In reality they were thugs and the war against Negan united Alexandria and other local survivor groups. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has just been cast as Negan. Glenn, you might want to put that copy of War And Peace down…
Review by Alasdair Stuart