You didn’t forget about that rocket launcher did you? Abraham risked his neck and sacrificed his shirt too much a few episodes back for the holy grail of explosives to not come into play. Was it awfully convenient for Daryl to put the beatdown on one of Negan's henchman without anyone else noticing? Of course. But with November’s big cliffhanger quickly resolved by blowing away Negan’s motorcycle crew and Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham surviving another day, let’s focus on those who weren’t so fortunate in tonight’s midseason premiere.
“No Way Out” featured the most brutally efficient dispatching of characters in the entire series, killing off an entire family back-to-back-to-back and leaving another character’s fate up in the air. After insisting he could continue to stay strong and walk amongst the zombies, Sam froze like Cam Newton’s offensive line while thinking back to Carol’s ominous quote. “The monsters will come,” Carol said back in season five’s “Forget.” “And you won’t be able to run. They will tear you apart and eat you up whole while you’re still alive.” And that’s exactly what happened, as the cowardly ballad of young Sam came to an end. That sent his mother, Jessie, into hysteria, which sends her to death’s way. Rick was momentarily dazed, but snapped out of it when he needed to axe her arm off to get her to let go of Carl. Watching Rick hack his mom’s arm off inspired his second murder attempt of the day. Michonne skewers him from behind, but he still pops off a shot that lands square in Carl’s right eye. That’s a lot to take in in just three minutes.
The entire sequence was beautifully executed, justifying Greg Nicotero's decision to sacrifice an extra day’s budget for a rare nighttime zombie set piece. Carol’s menacing whisper over cuts between Sam’s panicked face and close-up zombie feasts; the isolated, echoing screams; flashes of Jessie at Rick’s first Alexandria dinner party, followed up by similar shots overlaid in red as he hacks her arm off; Carl’s slow turn as he reveals his wounded eye and lets out, “Dad?” before collapsing. All of it was perfect, creating a spectacularly eerie and devastating death for one of the few Alexandrians we care about, as well as her two insufferable children.
You’d think Rick would be too far gone after he lost his second shot at love and his son’s life is put in peril. And for a minute he was, trying to take on a several-thousand-strong wave of zombies by himself with an axe. But before his insane lapse of judgment can get him killed, the Alexandrians finally discovered competence and helped him take on the hoard in what history will (probably) refer to as the Battle of Alexandria. This surprising departure from ineptitude instilled something we haven’t seen in Rick or this show for years: Hope. Carl survived surgery, and at his bedside Rick expressed his newfound faith in Alexandria and its residents. The walls will be rebuilt and expanded. “There’s more,” he said. “There’s got to be more.” His ruthlessness began pushing away even his oldest comrades in the first half of season six, but it seems the most interesting development of the next seven episodes will be a shift to optimism. It could be nice to stop being hit over the head with “Everything is terrible.” We have our real lives for that.
And leave it to the last remaining Wolf to add another dash of hope. Homeboy took Denise hostage in the midseason finale but didn’t make it far tonight. After promising to change his captive his to nihilistic, murderous ways, he ended up saving her life and getting a fresh zombie bite in the process. Homegirl Denise hit him with semi smug, “Maybe you needed a doctor, or maybe you changed.” Perhaps Morgan was right to save the Wolfe’s life after all.
The entire squad was finally back together for the first since the beginning of the season. Glenn and Maggie finally had their reunion, with Glenn cornering himself to distract the zombies from Maggie/fuck with us again before he’s bailed out by potential power couple Sasha and Abraham. Seriously, how many times are the writers going to tease us with Glenn’s death? It’s quickly become a parody. And as jarring as the Anderson family’s death scene was, it’s been too long since the show’s killed off a major character who’s been with us since the very beginning (or at least close). Somebody’s gotta go this season, and if it does end up being Glenn, his death has already lost significant power.
Once again the rocket launcher saved the day, as Daryl used it to ignite the lake after dumping in a tanker full of gas. The final zombies wandered their way into the flames, which will allow the Alexandrians to rebuild while we wait for Negan to arrive. What will Alexandria 2.0 look like with a subdued, hopeful Rick leading a beefed up team ripe newly minted non-idiots? Will it be strong enough to take on the much more dangerous human threat via Neegen and his clique? And how will they use the remaining two rockets Abraham happened upon? Those are the questions that’ll keep us buzzing through the remainder of season six.