The Walking Dead S06E09 “No Way Out” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: FOX, Mondays, 9pm
Writer: Seth Hoffman
Director: Greg Nicotero
Essential Plot Points:
- PREVIOUSLY ON APOCALYPSE HAPPY FUN TIME!
- The Alexandrians discovered the only reason they were still alive was the heroic final act of the truckers who had blocked off the massive quarry near town. A quarry that was now essentially a Walker mosh pit.
- Realising they had to lead everyone away, Rick and the others developed a pretty solid plan.
- It didn’t go super well.
- Abe, Daryl and Sasha were forced to hide out after the attempt to lead the horde away from Alexandria failed. Separated from each other, the three confronted their own feelings of inadequacy and mortality (Abe), their desperate need to trust people (Daryl) and having to deal with an immensely whiny but basically decent big white dude who really should secure his nonsense (Sasha). Daryl had his crossbow and bike stolen, Abe got his groove back. Sasha remained the most competent person in the room.
- Alexandria was stormed by the Wolves and Carol and Morgan were instrumental in turning the assault back. Morgan also captured a Wolf to try and convince the man that what he was doing was wrong.
- It didn’t go super well.
- Separated from the others, Glenn was presumed dead. In fact he was alive but having a really amazingly bad time. Then he met up with Enid and made it back to Alexandria just in time…
- …To see that the hurried repairs to the Wall after the Wolf assault weren’t enough. The town was overrun by Walkers. Maggie was trapped in a collapsing watchtower. Deanna was bitten. Carol discovered Morgan’s “pet” wolf and they proceeded to have the meaningful exchange of blows that had been brewing for a while.
- Morgan won the fight. When the Wolf escaped and took Denise hostage, it became pretty clear Carol had won the war.
- Despite her wound, Deanna refused to give up. She told Michonne and Rick about the plans for Alexandria’s expansion and died defending their escape. An escape that involved wearing Walker innards-covered improvised ponchos and moving slowly through the centre of the Horde with a terrified, panicking child. An escape that may not be going super well.
- NOW WE CONTINUE!
- Daryl, Sasha and Abe are confronted by Negan’s men. They inform the three that everything they have now belongs to Negan and send one of the men with Daryl to search the truck. Abe asks questions after being told not to and he and Sasha realise Negan’s spokesman really is about to kill them.
- Then he explodes.
- Daryl (who has, of course, silently killed the guy who was following him) rocket launches Negan’s guys pretty much right in the face. He was slightly wounded in the fight but it’s Daryl so he’s chill about bleeding. The three of them get back in the truck and head back to Alexandria.
- Where, amazingly Sam did not get everyone instantly killed. Team In So Much Trouble regroup and Rick tells them that the Walkers are too dispersed to work around and they need to get the vehicles at the quarry. It’s pointed out Judith couldn’t possibly be quiet all the way there and Gabriel volunteers to take her with him to the church and protect her. He swears he’ll do right and Rick agrees. Jessie tries to get Sam to go too but he refuses to leave, telling her he can do this. Father Lots To Prove exits stage left, with baby.
- Nearby, Morgan comes round and realises the Wolf escaped and took Denise. Carol, disgusted, goes room to room making sure there aren’t any nasty surprises.
- Glenn and Enid make it inside Alexandria and hide out. They begin looking for weapons and equipment to help Maggie as Glenn talks Enid round to accepting the need for other people in her life and how she honours the dead simply by continuing to live.
- Denise and the Wolf are crouched by a wall waiting for the horde to clear. Denise keeps trying to back out but the Wolf points out he needs her and refuses to let her go. This goes on for an extraordinarily long time before anything happens.
- Back at Team In So Much Trouble, Sam starts to lose it. Surrounded by walkers and with Carol’s speech about “the monsters” ringing in his mind, he freezes. The others desperately try and get him to keep moving but he’s paralysed with fear and…
- Sam is killed. A lot.As three Walkers tear pieces from him.
- The others have to say nothing as the boy is killed in front of them. Jessie just can’t. She loses it, screams for her son and…
- Jessie is killed too.
- Rick, unable to say anything, watches her die. But she’s still holding Carl as she dies and Rick is forced to chop her hand off and…
- Ron picks up a gun and points it at Carl. His family gone, he choose revenge and…
- Michonne stabs him in the heart and…
- …Ron fires and…
- Hits Carl in the eye.
- There’s a moment of stillness then a panicking, near hysterical Rick grabs his son and sprints for the infirmary. Michonne works point, taking out every Walker that gets too close. They are seconds from death and minutes from help.
- Denise and the Wolf make a run for the tower. Denise is caught, the Wolf comes back for her and is bitten.
- Denise offers to save his life and drags him to the infirmary.
- Back at the basement, Carol has no time whatsoever for Morgan’s beliefs as she watches the streets fill.
- Nearby, Denise tourniquets the Wolf’s arm, leads him out into the alley and…
- …Carol shoots him and yells for Denise to run to the infirmary. She’s barely there before she and the others see Rick, Michonne and Carl heading in. Denise, because she’s awesome, knows what’s coming and preps for surgery.
- Rick drops off his son and walks out into the horde. Denise refuses to let Michonne help him before the sutures are complete in Carl’s skull. Once that’s done, Michonne leads the others out to stop Rick killing himself.
- To everyone’s astonishment, they hold their ground. They’re hopelessly outnumbered but slowly, their numbers grow. The Alexandrians come out to help, the other members of Team Rick join them and they fight a gruelling last stand with one objective; kill the horde.
- In the fight, Morgan is confronted with the newly dead Wolf he tried to save. He kills him and apologises.
- At the tower, Glenn distracts the Walkers as Enid climbs up to help Maggie get down. Glenn is surrounded and goes down under a horde of Walkers again as his wife screams in anguish mere feet away. All is lost and then…
- Sasha and Abe appear on the wall, gun down the horde swarming Glenn and save him! Air punch!
- The rest of the group links up as Sasha, Abe and Daryl back the tanker up to the sewer tunnels and empty it. Daryl fires a rocket at the gasoline infused water and sets it alight. The Horde, distracted, lets up on the pressure on Rick and the others. Slowly but inexorably they kill their way across Alexandria and take the town back.
- As the episode finishes, Rick holds his son’s hand and tells him that he wants to show him the new world that Deanna dreamed of. Slowly, but definitely, Carl squeezes his dad’s hand. He’s going to live.
So, everyone okay? Need a minute? Cup of tea and a sitdown? Don’t blame you, that was INTENSE.
This episode continues The Walking Dead’s all-new Eric B and Rakim-esque “Kick a hole in the speaker, pull the plug and then jet” school of narrative design, and if anything, accelerates it. It’s a relentless hour of TV that pulls no punches. There’s been some criticism of it being a step too far. We respectfully disagree. There are disquieting aspects to the episode certainly but everything that happens does so for a reason. Actually, two reasons.
The first is Sam. Here’s what we wrote about him last episode: “Sam embodies the collision between Rick’s group and Alexandria more perfectly than any other character, arguably even Rick himself. All he’s known is Alexandria and the normal world before it so he’s three steps behind where most other Alexandrians are two. He’s a decent kid, but he’s had to grow up way too fast and with none of the pragmatism Carl has been exposed to. He’s a walking victim and the only way that will change is if he survives. And he’ll only survive if Rick and his group pull a miracle out of the bag. Again.”
Now we can see there’s an extra twist built into his whole family; they were the embodiment of old Alexandria, the version of Alexandria that died when the wall fell. Sam was a good kid, completely unequipped to survive the world he inherited. There’s no blame here, no character being wilfully stupid to further plot. Sam broke under the stress and seeing him die had the same effect on his mother. That got her killed and, seeing his entire family die finally broke Ron all the way. He pulls a gun, he gets killed and old Alexandria finally, irrevocably dies.
There’s a phrase that gets used a lot in comics –“NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME! ” – and it’s not often true. Here it is, though; Deanna and Jessie’s entire family, the heart and soul of Alexandria as it was, are dead. They’ve been replaced not by Rick or Team Rick but everyone who, when faced with an impossible situation, refused to accept it.
Or to put it another way, Alexandria died. Then rose again.
That’s one of the two troubling elements of the episode; this Alexandria is essentially a hard reboot. There’s no ruling council, the closest they have to a leader was a touch unstable even before his son got his eye shot out and there’s the small but very important matter of Negan and Associates.
Rick and co have saved the town but in doing so they’ve also been handed two immense challenges; get the town back on its feet quickly and get ready for war.
The other thing that’s troubling about this episode is far simpler: Rick walks out of that door to die. There is no plan, no sense of anything other than the blind animalistic rage of a man who’s been broken in two by seeing the people he loves killed and maimed. He’s taking the Long Walk, the same way other characters have in the past.
He’s only alive because everyone else risked everything to stand with him and, even then, they were all a few seconds away from dead when Daryl pulled the river of fire trick. That means Alexandria doesn’t have a single hero or heroine, but is a town full of them. The concern is that Rick’s actions are going to be canonised which, in turn, feeds back into the growing Messiah complex he’s been suffering from for a while now. Hopefully that final speech to Carl shows that there’ll be return of the Ricktatorship. But that also means he, and everyone around him, has been incredibly lucky. Something they’ll have to keep being once Negan works out who exploded his scouting party.
Those concerns aside, this is an immensely successful episode. There are some great character moments, a couple of excellent jokes and it ties off every dangling plot from the first half of the season. The episode also puts Negan front and centre as the next big problem. He’s going to dwarf anything Alexandria’s faced so far and if you thought the show was dark before? Get ready. The Alexandrians, because that’s what they all are now, will have to be.
- Judith’s, “I am NOT cool with this” face when she realises she’s in the middle of a horde of Walkers is adorable.
- Glenn referencing Dale, Hershel and Andrea in the people he honours by living was very touching.
- “We did put up a fight. That’s why your friends are dead.” OUCH, Doc. Also true.
- “You saved him for you. Not us.” Eight syllables. Bullseye. Carol’s even a dead shot with words.
- “God will save Alexandria, because God has given us the courage to save it ourselves.” I’m a mite leery of Gabriel kicking ass for the Lord as it’s a route a lot of religious characters end up going down. But it works here and I like that they’ve explicitly tied his redemption to the rescue of the town.
- “No one gets to clock out today. And Hell, this is a story people are gonna tell.” You go, Eugene!
- “I was wrong. I thought after living behind these walls for so long that maybe they couldn’t learn. But today I saw what they could do… what we could do if we work together. We’ll rebuild the walls… We’ll expand the walls… There’ll be more; there’s gotta be more. Everything Deanna was talking about is possible it’s all possible. I see that now. When I was out there with them… when it was over… when I knew we had this place again… I had this feeling. It took me a while to remember what it was because I haven’t felt it since before I woke up in that hospital bed. I wanna show you the new world, Carl. I wanna make it a reality for YOU. PLEASE Carl… Let me show you.” It’s easy to forget just how damn good Andrew Lincoln is in this show. That’s going to change after this episode. Seeing Rick accept that he feels hope for the first time in years is hugely powerful and that’s all on Lincoln’s performance and the speech, lifted pretty much verbatim from the comics.
- Nicotero’s direction is great here, especially in the care taken to lay out where everyone is and the sheer scale of the horde. Plus that final rage montage of every living Alexandrian slashing and stabbing at the camera is a great visual metaphor. No one goes gentle into that good night on this show.
- Likewise, Hoffman does great work on the script. There’s not much memorable dialogue here simply because the episode almost doesn’t need it. The situation is stark, up close and horrific and Hoffman trusts the cast to show us instead of telling us how bad things are. For the most part, which we’ll get to.
- Father Gabriel doesn’t screw up! Yay! Gabriel’s redemption arc has been minimalist but constant and it’s really nice to see him suit up and not immediately fall over.
- Daryl. With rocket launchers. Much more of this please.
- Abe’s joy when he and Sasha roll up just in time to save Glenn is tangible. Abe has needed to be a hero somehow all season and this moment of pure action movie badassery is him at his finest.
- Maggie’s face when she sees Glenn get swarmed is just heartbreaking. Lauren Cohen is so damn good.
- The entire sequence in which Sam, then Jessie, then Ron, die is horrific and completely impossible to look away from. Again it’s all in the performances, and Lincoln’s combination of numb, rage and anguish in particular.
- Carol’s speech from a few episodes ago is instrumental in getting Sam, and by extension Jessie and Ron, killed. There’s no way she’ll ever know that but it’s an interesting indictment of her world view. Especially given how much she slams Morgan’s this episode.
- “Is he bit?” “…NOPE.” The Walking Dead is getting very good at moments of quiet heroism and this is the best so far. The Doc knows Carl’s been shot, knows it’s bad, knows it’s on her and knows she’s terrified. She does it anyway. And that moment where she sees the fear, sees what’s coming and refuses to back down is one of the many reasons Denise is one of my favourite characters.
- Michonne kissing Carl on the forehead before heading out to try and stop his father committing suicide by Walker may be my favourite grace note this episode. It’s everything about Michonne in one action; efficient, pragmatic and sweet.
- There’s a really weird editing choice here. The episode cuts between Glenn and Enid and Denise and the Wolf so often you honestly expect the two plotlines to dovetail. When they don’t it feels like waiting for another shoe – odds are with a rotting foot in it – to drop.
- Negan’s emissary goes from frightening to annoying to mundane back to frightening to annoying to cheesy to weirdly camp to being a large cloud of rapidly descending meat. I’m honestly relieved he was killed because the character was all over the place and we don’t need that kind of thematic whiplash.
- I love Denise but Good LORD she and that Wolf were having deep philosophical discussions behind a wall for a really, really, really long time.
- Remember last season with the whole “Glenn’s totally dead. No really he is… PSYCHE!” thing? And how we talked about how that was a well the series could only go to once? It goes there twice more. This episode.
The first is the egregious one, completely ignoring the cliffhanger from the end of the last episode and then killing Sam and his family anyway. That’s just dishonest and if the show is going to keep us on tenterhooks like this all the time then it, and we are going to get very tired.
- The second should be worse, but is actually lovely. Glenn distracts the Walkers from Maggie’s tower, Enid gets to Maggie, Glenn is cornered, runs out of bullets, his wife screams his name AAAAAAAND…
- THE A-TEAM MUSIC PLAYS AS SASHA AND ABRAHAM SAVE THE DAY!
- It’s a lovely moment, one of those, “OH THANK GOD!” exhalations of breath. Abe gets his hero moment, Sasha gets to do something good other than put Abe back together and Glenn and Maggie get to live happily… for a while.
And The Random:
- So…does the town have no sewage system now? Not to mention clean water?
- Jessie’s death, right up to Rick having to chop her hand off, is pretty much beat for beat how she dies in the comic. The only difference is Abe finds her zombified corpse and kills her later so Rick doesn’t have to.
- The thought of Walker versions of Sam, Jessie and Ron being out there is almost too horrible to contemplate which may well be why we didn’t see them put down on the show. Either that or they’re being saved for next week…
- Shot of the week is this. No Team Rick anymore. Just the residents of Alexandria, waiting to find out if one of their own is going to make it.
Review by Alasdair Stuart