Oli Davis reviews The Walking Dead Season One, Episode 2…
Directed by Jennifer Lynch.
Written by Seth Hoffman.
It’s you, isn’t it? God dammit, Enid (Katelyn Nacon). Standing there, hanging out of the car, zombies coming your way. You’re gonna hit the horn. You’re the one that ruined the Rick’s zombie horde plan in last week’s cliffhanger. DAMN YOU. Damn you and you’re stupid emo ways.
Oh…it’s a flashback. Misplaced anger. It’s just, it wasn’t black and white. Black and white means flashback. Simple, effective, but also so last week.
That’s the prologue to JSS, the story of how Enid got to Alexandria. Of how she had to watch (presumably) her parents get eaten by zombies through a car window. How she wrote her mantra JSS (Just Survive Somehow) on trees, with guts, using anything she could. And how she sometimes eats tortoises.
As an aside, someone needs to Photoshop Tortuga’s head from Breaking Bad on that tortoise’s shell.
The metaphor may be heavy handed (the slow get eaten), but Walking Dead has been guilty of much more obvious in the past. And later in this episode, too (see: Morgan passing Carol on the final shot’s crossroads). Roll opening credits.
The episode then plants itself firmly back in Alexandria. Initially, it’s frustrating. Especially after the intense conclusion to last week’s instalment. Who honked the horn? What’s happening with the zombie herd? But then you remember how great Walking Dead can be with its characters. And not just the stalwarts like Carl (Chandler Riggs), Carol (Melissa McBride) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt), but also the noobs like Enid and the debuting Denise (Merritt Wever), a character from the comics.
The pace is slow for those first 20 minutes. Carl glumly tolerates his love triangle with Enid and Ron (Austin Abrams). Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) deals with her abusive husband’s death. And Carol bakes a cake. But that’s fine. I see what they’re doing. One action packed episode is followed by a slower, more considered instalment. It’s effective pacing. Up and down, up and down. And besides, you find yourself so invested in all the characters, it’s just a joy to ha-OH HOLY CRAP A MAN JUST HACKED THAT WOMAN’S ARM OFF!
What follows is 25 minutes of absolute carnage, as Alexandria gets overrun by a savage group called The Wolves. They’re the people who paint ‘W’s on their foreheads with other people’s blood, and chain up disco zombies as traps outside supermarkets. They’ve been foreshadowed ever since we got to Alexandria, and they’re not ‘good people’.
The action is marvellously constructed, intercutting between each mini-narrative (Carol masquerading as a Wolf, Carl protecting Judith, Maggie sheltering Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh)) just enough to maintain tension throughout. There’s gore. There’s Morgan (Lennie James, such a good actor) being an absolute badass (“I get it. Hide.”). There’s Carol at her pragmatic best (the moment she draws the ‘W’ on her forehead without explanation is an excellent example of visual storytelling – though somehow not even the best unspoken story device).
After the carnage is over (our gang win, but suffer substantial losses for the Alexandria residents), Aaron (Ross Marquand) finds his boyfriend Eric’s (Jordan Woods-Robinson) rucksack on one of the Wolves. Not a single word is uttered, but as he looks through the rucksack’s photos – the ones he and Eric used to persuade ‘good people’ to live in Alexandria – you realise two things at the same time he does: 1) his boyfriend is most likely dead, and 2) it was Eric that gave away their location to the Wolves in the first place.
The only sour note is Morgan’s continued pacifism. Six seasons in, it’s difficult to empathise with anyone still flogging the ‘what about our humanity?!’ moral message. Christ, even Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) dual wields guns now. Not only does Morgan abstain from killing while the Wolves dismember helpless Alexandrians around him, he also lets a bunch of them go with a gun. The Wolves didn’t have guns before. Now they have one. Morgan, meet Chekhov.
That parting encounter between Morgan and the Wolf, however, did provide a significant note of intrigue:
“You keep choosing this life, you will die,” Morgan warns.
“We didn’t choose.”
The reply could be in reference to the zombie apocalypse, how this new world has turned the Wolves into savages. Or, more interestingly, it could be because they’ve been enslaved. They were once well-meaning people, but were then captured by someone bad. The number of Wolves and the flamboyance of their traps implies a more organised command than those who stormed Alexandria. People who talk gibberish, paint ‘W’s on their foreheads and play with guts on the floor don’t tend to have the mental capacity or patience to create the sort of zombie trap outside the supermarket seen in the last episode of Season 5.
The Wolves that stormed Alexandria seem to be foot soldiers, pawns of a greater game. What the greater game could be, and who would be moving the pieces, remains to be seen. Those who have read the comics will be hoping for one particular ******* **** of a ****.
Zombie Kill of the Week
In lieu of not that many proper zombies getting killed (there were only a few mandatory mercy killings), the ‘Kill of the Week’ award goes to Carol. Morgan and Gabriel are questioning a Wolf member they’ve brought down to the floor. Neither are in favour of killing. Enter Carol, disguised as a Wolf, to shoot him clean through the head. Because, as one Reddit user pointed out, you can’t have three black characters talking to each other in The Walking Dead.
Oli Davis is the Co-Editor of Flickering Myth, curator of its Super Newsletter, host of the Flickering Myth Daily podcast and Lead Producer of Flickering Myth TV. You can follow him on Twitter @OliDavis. Keep checking back here for Flickering Myth’s coverage of The Walking Dead Season 6…