The Walking Dead review S6,E2 – “JSS” is a series standout

“Don’t turn your back on the wolfpack. You might wind up in a bodybag.”

Much like The Wolves, Season 6 of “The Walking Dead” is taking absolutely no prisoners so far. Granted, it’s super early in the season, but off the strength of the first two episodes alone this is looking like a strong contender for the series’ best season.

We had the wolves striking first blood, Carol turning into a ninja and Morgan pretty much being Batman in the defense of Alexandria resulting in one of the series’ most pulse-pounding, thrilling hours yet. And that was without a second on Rick, Daryl or Michonne.

While Rick and company are off herding walkers, the citizens of Alexandria are trying to resume life as normal. Eugene and Tara meet Denise (Merritt Wever), the new forced upon doctor with Pete dead from being a nutjob.  Job reassignment wasn’t something the Grimes Gang had to deal with out in the wild or at the prison. I’m intrigued of the future possibilities seeing as how the established Alexandria folks keep getting killed off.

The Walking Dead - JSS - Gabriel and CarlGabriel is still seeking forgiveness, Maggie is trying to keep Deanna motivated and retain everyone’s confidence while Carol is charming the housewives with her creative recipes.

“TWD” constantly gets shafted when it comes to award acknowledgment, but Melissa McBride — one of the show’s consistently strongest performers — makes a strong case tonight. She goes from sunny, cheery homemaker to jaded survivalist to bada$$ protector and dejected defender through the course of the episode in a way that comes across so credible and authentic.

A resetting of the deck to introduce a few new characters and establish the pulse of the residents with Rick essentially in charge wasn’t going to be a bad way to go especially considering last week’s action packed premiere. Instead, the writers opt to top the kickoff and further increase the stakes for Alexandria’s inhabitants.

The Walking Dead - JSS -JessieThe show writers have long established that the walkers are a threat, but the biggest concern is the craziness the surviving humans will inflict on each other.

We’re quickly reminded of that as Carol watching a neighbor she scolded earlier for smoking lighting up outside when some wildman runs up and cracks her head with his machete. Alexandria is under attack!

If a killer instinct was out of the question, Rick at least tried to instill some sense of self defense in the Alexandrians, but they’re paralyzed with fear and hopelessly unprepared for the savage onslaught. Suburban living during the zombie apocalypse has made them marshmallow soft.

Naturally, the remaining members of Rick’s fighter squad left behind — Maggie, Carol, Carl, Tara, Rosita — spring into defense mode (Eugene stays with Denise to help save a victim) and get some reinforcements from Morgan, who was already making his way back when the attack started.

The Walking Dead - JSS -AaronCarol’s evolution from the start of the series has been fascinating. She started off as an abused wife and overprotective mother and now she’s the most decisive stable character on the show.

With her new friends dying around her, Carol kills them to ensure they won’t have to worry about walkers as well and she has a coldblooded mentality whenever confronted by the Wolves. The series doesn’t offer a lot of get hyped and cheer moments, but between Carol’s overall efficiency and Morgan coolly disarming Wolves, tonight was packed with them.

While last week, Morgan was the sensible one in talking to Rick, Morgan’s continued refusal to kill the Wolves over some moral conflict seemed foolish.

The Walking Dead - JSS - RositaI get the desire to fully illustrate Carol and Morgan’s fighting prowess, but it seemed a bit of a stretch that Rick and the cavalry didn’t arrive at some point. The air horn was turned off pretty early in the fight and it’d seem like a prudent move for Rick to send at least a few of his team to check in on the others and backup Morgan.

Jessie’s son Ron has quickly supplanted Gabriel as most useless character I’d be fine seeing written off ASAP. It’s hard to make the moody teen endearing and the writers haven’t given us a reason to try and see his side especially after he blows Carl off from saving him from a Wolf.

Jessie meanwhile, seems to fully understand the kill or be killed mentality of the real world as she viciously kills a Wolf that tries to ambush her in her home. Aaron also reinforces the belief he’s the only capable Alexandrians as he kills a Wolf and finds his bookbag of Alexandria photos that was lost when he and Daryl were trapped.

The episode kicked off with a fast-moving flashback revealing glimpses of how Carl’s love like interest Enid came to Alexandria. Initially, she starts off with her parents as walkers converge on their broken down car.

Next clip shows Enid covered in blood watching walkers munching on her folks and it’s purposely unclear if she sacrificed them to stay alive. Throughout these segments as Enid gets increasingly more weary, she draws JSS in the grass, dusty windows or even the bones of turtle unfortunate enough to cross her path.The Walking Dead - JSS -Enid

It’s not until the episode winds down and Carl momentarily leaves her do we learn the meaning behind the initials. Enid left a note for Carl saying “Just Survive Somehow.” That seems to hint that Enid may be in cahoots with The Wolves. And who put the red “A” on Rick’s doorstep?

One thing for sure is Alexandria isn’t the safe haven Deanna and the others considered it to be for so long. Their only hope relies on how quickly they can adapt to Rick’s strategies otherwise this won’t be the only tragedy that strikes the city.

Rating: 9.7 out of 10

Just like the prison assault and the escape from Terminus, this was one of the series’ signature episodes reinforcing the notion that the characters are never truly safe from the most terrifying threat of all — the human race. Even if they arrived too late to do anything, it was odd not to see Rick and company and Morgan’s unwise displays of decency is guaranteed to cause problems later.