Trying to match the insanity of last week’s action packed bonanza would have been stupid. And while it was very jarring to go from a blood-soaked epic battle to one that was equal parts funny, touching and shocking, this was The Walking Dead at its most versatile best.
Some time has passed since last episode, which would have worked better had it been the midseason finale episode to help mark the passage of time for the viewers. Carl is fine save the bandage around his eye, but Maggie is still not showing so it’s just been a few weeks since the Great Walker Alexandria Invasion of 2016. After getting some supply requests from Michonne, Denise and Eugene, Rick and Daryl head out looking for a lucky break. Rick’s chipper mood is almost bizarre, but Daryl remains consistently surly to help maintain some sense of balance in this Walking Dead universe.
It’s been too long since it was Rick and Daryl hanging out/on a mission. Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus have built a great chemistry so whenever they’re interacting on their own it’s the closest TWD has to a buddy action movie. After finding a truck stuffed with supplies, Rick and Daryl decide to go another route to Alexandria to ‘see what they can see.’
Rick is clearly emboldened by the populace of Alexandria coming together otherwise he’d never indulge in such a risky, impulsive decision. Naturally, it backfires immediately as they encounter Paul ‘Jesus’ Monroe (Tom Payne), a quick-talking, quick fingered guy with a perfectly styled hairdo and beard. Jesus pickpockets the keys and makes off with the supply truck. On account of it being in a garage for who knows how long, it’s not completely ridiculous that it breaks down and Rick and Daryl catch up to him.
Jesus again proves formidable by hanging with Rick and Daryl until they get the drop on him and pull out their guns. The episode was filled with some great character moments, but Rick and Daryl exchanging ‘c’mon man!’ glances after both shoot an approaching walker to prove to Jesus their guns are loaded was terrific.
They tie Jesus up and head back to Alexandria only to realize Jesus has slipped the knots and is hitching a ride atop the truck. If it’d been any other two characters delaying bringing much needed supplies back to headquarters to settle an increasingly personal score other than Rick and Daryl this whole scenario wouldn’t have worked. Their personalities have been developed enough to know they get tunnel vision when they get outsmarted or even momentarily one-upped.
And there’s probably no better way to make a new character immediately come across like an A-level player than having them take on both Rick and Daryl and more than holding their own. Jesus isn’t going to be a Eugene, Gabriel or Tara. He was quickly established as a front line character with Carol, Morgan, Michonne, Rick and Daryl. But in the last fracas, the truck and all those precious supplies end up in a lake.
With so many terrible moments that happen to the characters it was a nice change of pace to have some funny misfortune happen to the characters that didn’t result in some crazy tragedy. My wife actually asked was the show she only knows from groans and explosions supposed to be funny. Not always, but it worked perfectly here.
After bringing an unconscious Jesus back to Alexandria, Rick and Daryl agreed it was stupid for them to keep going out there together and just as quickly agreeing to do it again tomorrow. The rest of the season could just be Rick and Daryl getting into trouble and this would be one of my favorites.
Early on, the two supporting subplots seemed like they were just time-killers. Carl and Enid were being ‘kids’ hanging out in the woods until they encountered a walker Carl didn’t want to kill. My initial thought was it was they spotted Walker Ron, whom neither would necessarily want to kill. Instead it was Walker Deanna, whom Spencer spotted a few nights back and was trying to put down in a final act of love. Spencer has turned the corner from being the latest in a series of annoying, worthless characters. He’s actually matured seeing his entire family killed instead of going the more obvious unhinged loose cannon.
Michonne spotted Carl leading Walker Deanna to them and confronted him about it later. Carl had a perfectly childlike explanation in Deanna should be killed by someone who loved her — like he would do for Michonne. Only in TWD can a declaration of genuine love and caring be expressed by saying I’d stab you through the head if you become a zombie.
That further helps set the stage as Rick and Michonne meet back up on the couch and avoid discussing their day. I haven’t exactly been a Richonne shipper — their platonic bond was far more compelling from a storyline perspective — but with no TV and little else to occupy the time, Rick and Michonne started making out and eventually hook up! Didn’t see that one coming. Safe to assume Rick is over Jesse now, huh? No need for an awkward walk of shame though since Jesus walks in and says they need to talk.
Of all the shows that had a winter break, TWD seems to have benefited the most. There’s a greater sense of energy, creativity and character development that was trending downward before the hiatus. Provided this momentum continues, this season could still end up as the best of the series so far.
Rating: 9 out of 10