The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 7 - Who are the Monsters?
At this point in time, world and character is everything in a story that's in many ways endless. With Rick, his complexity is central to the show's identity, and Alexandria continues to grow. Oh and also, that cliffhanger.
The show answers its burning question immediately, and its a good thing too. If this had come at the end, it would have left a sour taste, because it was the most predictable of resolutions, entirely uninspired.
As it so happens, it's a disappointing introduction that allows for the following 40 minutes to make up for it. With Steven Yeun's name back on the credits, the episode tracks he and Enid's return to Alexandria, while Rick and co. get a chance to take a breath and plan an offense against the herd surrounding them.
Glenn and Enid get to bond in what's a pretty unorthodox pairing, but it makes complete contextual sense. We see Enid's 'JSS' sign again. And just surviving somehow is what these two characters are exceptional at. The fact that they now have to fight their way back home is fitting, and equally as promising that they're going to make it. After all that, Glenn's safe for a while now. Right?
That the cliffhanger ending is alluded to at multiple points in the episode, in blink-and-you'll-miss-it fashion, means that it felt both organic and incited a feeling that we haven't quite had since maybe even the Governor's assault on the prison - we're left wanting more. That is ultimately the key to a good story.
Of course, that idea is mostly reserved for the conclusion of a film, or the finale of a series. But as we head into the mid-season ending to 2015's helping of The Walking Dead, everything seems as though it's been leading to this.
They took a risk, having the entire first half span a day, and it's paid off. As such, it's, for the most part, the first half-season in a long time to feel completely sound and tightly-woven, despite some duds in the mix. And next week is sure to be a chaotic toying of our emotions. Rick's new friend probably won't make it.
Toward the end of the episode in question, though, two tense sequences build with a daunting soundtrack; Carl has a quasi-killer on his tale, and Carol is about to discover Morgan's secret. These both occur in the final five minutes, leading toward an impressive finale. Then it reverts back to that casual, relaxed pace as Rick has a chat with Tara. It's a jarring detour before the true cliffhanger, and it stands out as an awkward imbalance.
Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Morgan (Lennie James) come face to face for the first time in weeks, and it reminded me that this season was promoted heavily around the relationship between those two. Where did that go? The two have a simmering effect onscreen, two complete opposites that make for riveting dialogue. You never quite know what either is going to say, and we need more of it.
The meeting in which Morgan faces the jury of Rick, Michonne and Carol (Melissa McBride) met that criteria. Here, Morgan's backstory from a few weeks back is utilised to extremely resound effect. As he talks about whether he belongs in Alexandria with them, as they question why he let the wolves go, he's finally got us on his side. We've seen where Morgan went, before he turned it all around, and we don't want to see him return to his 'clear or be cleared' mentality.
Carol seems almost dangerous in this episode. Her kindly face but committed eyes create conflict within the walls, and that's the kind of thing they have to start implementing. The drama has been poor in the softer episodes of the season, mostly due to the fact that the Alexandrians for the most part aren't worth the time they're given.
Rick's depth still remains central to the series. When one man tells him that he scared them because he seemed as though he could see things others can't, it's almost a complement. Then, later, he's questioned whether he'd actually listen if Spencer made a suggestion. Michonne confronts him too, and Danai Gurira refreshingly gets to have an actual personality. It's amazing what they can do if they take the katana off of her.
It's surprising how refreshing it is to see the main cast members actually conversing with one another. Rick climbs the ladder and speaks with a concerned but held together Maggie (Lauren Cohen), and I can't quite remember when they last spoke. Their interaction gets a nice complete circle when the balloons go up and Maggie races to his side. Of course, we can't have good news end an episode.
That's not to mention the fact that the past seemed to actually matter. Maggie mentions Judith, and how she's beginning to look like Lori (I can't see it, but I probably don't see the baby enough). Rick agrees, and its one of those rare occasions where the shield is lowered. They never get a chance to look back, for better or worse. Here is a touching moment, albeit brief, in which the past actually happened.
A return to form sees The Walking Dead in good stead for its not-quite finale, with plenty to worry about both inside and outside the walls - which are essentially the same thing now. Recalling the epic direction of this particular event in the comic, we can only hope that the series pulls all stops and gives us a satisfying sendoff before leaving us hanging for a couple of months.