The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 8 - What do You Want?
Despite a cliffhanger that's part successful and part infuriating, the mid-season finale brings to a close a first half that's had more ups than downs, and this hour does so in a far more somber-yet-peaceful manner than we might have expected.
We track three different locales within the walls of Alexandria, two of which are far more heavily prioritised and two of them linking up by the credits. The residence of Alexandria are, apart from a handful, forgotten for the sake of our core players, luckily enough.
And while the events bounce around from moody and somber to eerily creepy, Deanna instills some optimism and genuine hope on her final legs, giving Rick some much needed advice and helping to advance the show into its next phase with her farewell.
Her death itself is less of a talking point. The Walking Dead is in many ways an event show. Its premiere promises the path forward, giving us a glimpse into what's to come. Its finale, mid-season or otherwise, explodes onto the screen with at least one major death. It's routine at this point for the show.
Which I think is why I enjoyed it so much. Last year's Beth-centric finale was a let down not because it lacked a higher gear but because the plot-line itself failed to feel as though it could hold the episode count it was given. It was full of circumstances that lacked logic and failed to be enticing. It's a trait that's come about often when the show veers away from its source material.
Here, there are some clear callbacks both to the comic and to the first season. The group covering themselves in walker blood is especially nice to see (not pleasurable, though) because it is often a tactic that feels heavily under-utilised. The final scene of the episode has Rick, Carl, and the rest going single file through the walkers.
That particular scene will both infuriate fans, of the comics and of the show, ending mid-sentence and feeling as though the episode never got to finish. Personally, it helped build anticipation and excitement, but god that next scene would have been nice.
Man, only now should we realise how lucky Rick was with Carl. That kid was pretty strong at the start of all this, considering the children we've seen on the show since. Jessie's youngest son Sam has not dealt with the real world very well, though of course he waited till the very end to start talking. Things are going to get ugly very quickly.
Speaking of Carl, he and Ron finally have their confrontation. And I really wish Carl had of pulled the trigger. His line (and Chandler Riggs' delivery) was superb, but the stupidity of Ron continues to be amazing. But while many expected a bit more from it, I'm glad it wasn't laboured on for too long. It did add a little spice to the whole walker situation though.
The Morgan and Carol conflict has been fascinating, not quite exclusively but helped by the fact that their particular dynamic was unexpected to begin with. But the two play against one another beautifully. Where after season 5 Carol as a character felt as though she had run her course, Morgan has bled new life into her by questioning the stoic and concrete presence that she's adapted.
Morgan is unshakable, especially now, and it questions whether he does have growth left in him, or whether he will continue to maintain the same ideals and repeat the same questions for the group going forward. Particularly with the Negan threat just around the corner, it could prove interesting or otherwise to see which way the character is taken.
In many ways, though, Carol's insistence on dealing with the Wolf right that moment, amidst a crisis, seemed a bit silly. In that moment, see felt like a caricature, so hell bent on dealing with someone who isn't the priority right now. And it got her knocked out cold.
The Wolf was always going to escape, and having Denise in his grasp is a little anti-climactic. Had Carol been kidnapped instead, it would have been interesting. Instead, it feels like the writers went the safe route, on a sub-plot cliffhanger that's not nearly as concerning as it ought to be.
The brunt of the episode is mostly in the waiting. The Walking Dead shows off its ability for pure anticipation. It spends the episode mostly building tension that mostly doesn't get resolved. It in many ways feels as though this is part one of a two-parter with February's recommencement closing it out.
Of course, if you saw the post credits scene, you know what's coming. The Walking Dead teases the arrival of Negan by giving us a brief glimpse at Daryl, Abraham and Sasha's whereabouts, where they encounter a group of bikers on the road. I bet Daryl's seen enough of them in his post apocalyptic time.
Plenty of build-up for an arguably lacking payoff, but on a cliffhanger that's sure to keep anticipation high for February. If fans of the show don't know what results from that single file march through the walker herd, then they probably will by then.
Season 6 so far has been a wild 24 hours for the group, with more highs than lows. Still, Alexandria doesn't quite feel like a fully fleshed out community just yet. With a few new names to come in the second half, and a walker herd still to deal with, hopefully the town can start to feel a little more real, and a little more inhabited. For now, we close out 2015 with a tense hour of both exhilaration and reflection. The show finishes by playing to its strengths.