It would seem to go without saying that the scene where the dudes got freaking blown up Deadpool style from a bazooka would automatically rate as one of the best Walking Dead series moments ever. The fact that it wasn’t even the best moment of this episode makes No Way Out pretty spectacular.
Walking Dead hasn’t had a shortage of amazing, all-action episodes, but this was one of the craziest, spectacles yet. Basically, this was the make good for the curiously low-key mid-season finale.
Things kicked off with Daryl, Sasha and Abraham encountering Negan’s welcoming committee. The leader offers Abraham some solid advice about what to do when you’re forced to eat crap, but just as he’s decided he’s gonna kill Sasha and Abraham, Daryl unloads the rocket launcher and bombs them so thoroughly even their dismembered heads are smoldering. I laughed, but not in a ‘that was just ridiculous’ manner, but a ‘oh man, that was so ridiculously awesome’ way. Daryl hadn’t gotten a lot of Daryl Dixon moments this season, but by the episode’s end Daryl established himself as the show’s resident BMF big time.
After that crazy opening scene, Director Greg Nicotero slowed things down considerably. Rick’s plan to leisurely stroll out of Alexandria while covered in walker guts was working better than one would expect considering Rick’s hiking posse consisted of the cowardly Gabriel; shifty no-good Ron and snap at any second Sam.
Carol and Morgan both slowly recovered from their run-in with the Wolf and got not closer to getting on the same page while in another house, Eugene tried to rally himself for the inevitable confrontation with the walkers.
The episode’s middle portion really dragged. In hindsight, it was an extended lull before the storm, but Glenn’s pep talk to Enid felt like it was treading on old ground while Denise — like most of the Alexandrites — hadn’t been developed well enough to be all that concerned that she was the hostage of the Wolves’ leader. Alpha Wolf tried to sell Denise on the awesome wolves membership package, but the ability to brush her teeth, shower and possibly hook up with Tara proved too much for him to sway her. That ultimately led to a weird sequence where he led Denise to a potential escape route before getting bit rescuing her from a walker horde. Denise’s argument that Alpha Wolf had a change of heart seemed far-fetched. Alpha Wolf’s redemption didn’t become a back half of the season story arc as Carol spotted him and killed him. But no head shot, which would be relevant later.
Nicotero stuck fairly close to the comic in handling the “everything goes bad” segment where Sam predictably snaps and becomes walker food and Jessie’s perfectly reasonably panicked response leads to her also becoming a buffet with a death grip on Carl’s wrist. Seeing his brother and mother killed is the last teeny sliver of a thread Ron needed to go rogue and aim his gun at Rick. Before he can follow through, Michonne impales him with her sword, which results in Carl getting shot in the eye. The sequence almost played out like a dream and I half expected Rick to refocus and everything was just fine. Staging the scene like a hazy nightmare kinda dulled some of the impact, but Nictoero saved his best tricks for the Battle of Alexandria.
With Denise working to save Carl’s life, Rick had enough and decided to go off on the walkers. Armed with his hand axe, Rick went on a walker slaughter. Michonne could barely wait to give her friend some much needed back-up. The show hasn’t always done the best job of illustrating the bond between Rick and Michonne, but Danai Gurira was very strong this episode in conveying Michonne’s loyalty to Rick. Heath and Aaron quickly joined Michonne and Rick, once again reaffirming they’re two of the only useful Alexandrites.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen our heroes surrounded by walkers, but it was the first instance where killing them off was the plan instead of just escaping. One by one the other Alexandrites left the safety of their homes and joined the fight along with the rest of The Grimes Gang led by Carol, Morgan and Rosita. Even Eugene and Gabriel got in on the action in major evolving moments for both characters. Not so ironically, one of the walkers Morgan encountered was the Alpha Wolf so he had to kill him anyway.
At the same time, Glenn and Enid were desperately trying to save Maggie before the watchtower toppled. Just as Glenn was out of bullets and about to be overrun, Sasha and Abraham take out the walkers with their machine guns. The cavalry has arrived. Making use of the fuel tank, Daryl creates a lake of fire, which completely captivates the walkers making them easy pickings for Rick and company. In all honesty, it was a pretty sweet visual. This was an incredible sequence and Nicotero manages to run his hack and slash montage just long enough to be effective in showing the crazy odds without it becoming overkill.
By daybreak, Rick and company are exhausted and recovering from the battle to save their city. As he sits by Carl’s bedside, Rick admits he actually has hope again. Just in time for Negan to come and ruin everything.
Rating: 9.7 out of 10
Season 6 got off to a strong start before losing steam midway. This chaotic, action-packed episode steers the season back on track and reasserts The Walking Dead as a weekly must-see. This how to come back from a mid-season break.