There came a point during tonight’s midseason premiere of The Walking Dead when just one, singular thought ran through my brain:
Punch the damn kid.
I don’t usually think about punching children while watching TV shows, but during this moment in the episode “No Way Out” I had a very simple solution to a very big problem. The younger kid—the creepy one, Sam—starts freaking out because Carol has poisoned his flubby little mind with talk of monsters. Everyone is standing around urging him to be quiet because obviously rational, logical entreaties will totally work on a little kid who’s freaking out surrounded by a horde of zombies.
Which is why I’m thinking Punch the kid! Not because I’m mad at him or anything, but because it’s an elegant solution to a crisis. Rick could just lean over, knock him out, and carry him out of the town on his shoulder. If he’d done this, yeah the kid would have a shiner and maybe Jessie and Ron would be upset, but they’d all still be alive and Carl wouldn’t have an extra hole in his head.
The other thing I was thinking? Man this is a really weird scene. A part of me felt like it was a dream.
The whole thing was shot very bizarrely. The little flashbacks of Jessie all alive and happy as she’s being eaten. The sort-of-not-quite slow motion. The fact that nobody makes any move to do anything to help anyone until Rick lops off Jessie’s arm to free Carl. Just a very strange scene that, for me at least, really sapped the moment of its potential drama and tragedy.
It didn’t help that Sam and Ron were both entirely unlikable and we secretly wanted them both dead. It didn’t help that Rick just sort of stood there while Jessie screamed her head off instead of bopping her over the head either. He’s a seasoned survivor who has spent the entire past two seasons trying to get close to Jessie, and he doesn’t even lift a finger to help.Yes, I know, this is all comic book canon (or close enough.) But it’s executed here very poorly. Which is a bit of a shame because much of the rest of the episode is pretty exciting.
Things go boom.
For instance, the beginning is quite exciting and well done. When Negan’s lieutenant is about to shoot Abraham and Sasha, and Daryl blows up the entire biker gang with an RPG, it’s terrific. Yay Daryl! Hooray for Abraham and Sasha not dying. I laughed out loud, to be honest. It was a hilarious bit of bloody mayhem.
Likewise, when the three of them show up at the town and save Rick and Glenn and everyone else from almost certain doom, it’s great. Abraham laughing as he sprays Walkers with automatic rifle fire? Brilliant!
Other moments worked in tonight’s episode as well. Seeing the creepy Wolf with the bad teeth have just a flicker, just the tiniest glimmer of goodness when he saves Denise, almost validates Morgan’s philosophy, and certainly calls into question Carol’s ruthlessness. The matter is hardly resolved, but I like that it sounded out here on such an ambiguous note.
Rosita was also great, talking sense right and left and being generally tough and smart. Why isn’t Rosita a bigger part of the show? She could be the female Daryl, basically. She’s always held it together, is always good in a pinch, and never gets any lines.
In fact, most of the show’s characters were at their best tonight. The cowardly Father Gabriel showed real courage, both in taking Judith with him and joining Rick in his reckless battle. Even the cowardly Eugene, and all the rest of the cowardly townsfolk joined the fight, proving to Rick (as he tearfully admits it to an unconscious Carl) that maybe he had leaped to conclusions about the Alexandrians. Imagine that.
Things go bump.
I was less pleased with Glenn, who carelessly (even more carelessly than Rick) attempts to save Maggie by backing himself into a corner. I’m sure Maggie will be so pleased with you Glenn, if you finally return from the dead just to get eaten by zombies. Surely he could have come up with a better way to distract them without tossing his life away? Thank goodness Abraham, Sasha and Daryl showed up, though how their spray of bullets only mowed down Walkers and not Glenn himself still eludes me.
But this remains small potatoes compared to how irritating the death of Jessie and her family was. That single moment, which should have been the episode’s most tragic and dramatic, fell totally flat.
All told, a strong return of The Walking Dead this evening, but certainly marred by some strange direction. I also chuckled as they hacked and burned the zombies to death. In the beginning of the season, when they first found the quarry, I suggested that perhaps a smarter plan would have been to burn the Walkers inside the quarry instead of freeing them for a zombie parade. Either that, or let them out slowly and kill them one by one. Surely either of those options would have been safer and easier than what they ended up doing—even with the truck falling out of the way and letting the zombies out sooner than planned. (Surely they could have put up some more temporary barriers, etc.)
I am curious to see what happens with Carl, and the town more broadly. I imagine that as they attempt to rebuild we’ll get our first glimpse of the infamous Negan and the rest of his wicked crew, all of which should make for an exciting back half of the season.