The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 5 - This Pain Might be Useful to You
After last week's detour, we get back to the present, and it's the calm we all saw coming. There's little interest in picking up on the overwhelming question of Glenn's fate, but there's plenty of tears as Alexandrian secondary characters get the spotlight.
When we last saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln), he was showing the first cracks in his cold exterior. The baby formula he found in the van sparked something, and he all of a sudden felt fear. What we get in this episode is Rick exhibiting all of the confidence and none of the concern.
Putting Judith in his arms for just a moment in this episode would have followed up on this successfully. Instead, we have Rick continuing to tell the Alexandrian people how it is now, and there are two scenes with Deanna and Jess that stand out, but not in the ways you'd expect.
In fact, it almost feels as though he's manipulating those people, even if it does seem like he's regaining a little of his humanity. When he and Jess finally come together, it's more like he's taking her, claiming her in a way. It isn't violent or forceful, certainly. But the confidence is that of a man who knows how to take what he wants, even if she did make him wait for this one.
Jessie (Alexandra Breckengridge) faces her own actions after taking her first life last episode, though instead of falling into a hole she embraces it just as much as she fears it. Deanna (Tova Feldshuh) is a different story.
She seems to be coming unhinged, and one particular scene cleverly mirrored the one last season in which Rick, blood soaked, brandished a knife out in the open street. Here, it's night, and it's only the two of them. But that image couldn't help but come back when seeing Deanna, also blood soaked, proclaiming to Rick that she wants to live.
A lot happens, or rather a lot is discussed, but this isn't hard to keep up with. It manages to touch on questions of leadership, Jessie's family dilemma's, Denise's (Merritt Wever) lack off faith, along with her developing romance with Tara (Alanna Masterson) that actually manages not to come right out of left field. Though, Denise isn't exactly a sympathetic character just yet.
This is just a handful of the sub plots that get touched on here. It's very much a subplot driven episode, as strange as that may sound. The central conflict isn't forwarded in any way. This is the aftermath of the wreckage that came about in the opening episodes. It's important even if just to show that there are some of these new characters that can hold their own on the screen. Though, certainly not all of them.
Spencer Monroe (Austin Nichols) has a very brief redeeming role to play, stopping the hungry (and useless) Alexandrian red shirts from raiding the stocks of food. Not long after that he takes ten steps backwards, shown to have stolen first a bottle of liquor and then a packet of biscuits. Way to surrender any restored faith, Spencer. Not that he matters enough. His words to his mother are particularly cold.
But the plot most people would have been closely tuning into is Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Aaron's (Ross Marquand) brief and failed search for Glenn. This trip played no role but to follow Maggie's mind frame, and her decent into fear and hopelessness is perfectly scripted. Her wordless confidence is only forwarded by the fact that she has set her mind on doing something.
And it speaks volumes to the group we've spent six seasons with (give or take for most of the characters now). When there is action to be taken, things to be done, they can let go of their emotions and focus on the task. But they have so rarely gotten to slow down and think about it until now. When Maggie gives up on their short search for Glenn, she loses it in a beautifully written mini-monologue.
The reveal that she's pregnant doesn't come as a shock, especially for fans of the source material. It has the benefit of adding another layer of drama to the tension behind Glenn's absence. Apart from that though, she and Aaron's trip into the sewers plays no role but to fill in time.
Despite an obvious intent to give us an Alexandrian-focused episode, it is bizarre that Carol (Melissa McBride) is completely absent from the episode, despite being the leader of the town's defense against the wolves. So too, Michonne is only very briefly shown.
This commitment to the town's much less interesting characters means that, apart from Rick, everybody else gets shelved. It would be acceptable if it made sense, but considering the presence some of these core characters had during the fight, it's unrealistic to think they'd hole themselves up inside so that the ones needing saving could wander around town with a camera on their faces.
Filler or not, a few of the characters get important moments here, that may hopefully pay off in the long run. Missing characters and circular, pointless plots mean that this episode is ultimately forgettable. It's not quite a bump in the road of a solid season, but it is a drop in quality. It's plenty of drama, and a lot of it mostly pointless.