For two-a-half months, fans of The Walking Dead had been plunged into their annual state of mid-season limbo: would Rick and his intrepid band of survivors escape from yet another hoard of walkers/cannibals/marauding gangs/one another? Well, as it turns out… oh, hold on a minute.
Before we continue, a quick announcement:
SPOILERS FOR THE NEW EPISODE OF THE WALKING DEAD ARE POSTED BELOW AND THROUGHOUT. LOOK AWAY NOW IF YOU’VE YET TO CATCH UP.
Phew. Now that that’s out of the way, how good was last night’s episode? Generally, the opening, closing and mid-season resuming episodes are thrilling rides into the The Walking Dead’s nightmare universe, putting aside character development and tedious sub plots to place brutal murder, tense stand-offs and zombies en masse at the front and centre for 42 unflinching minutes.
And, it seems, that viewers rather enjoy when this happens: ‘No Way Out’, the ninth episode of the show’s sixth season, scored a record-breaking 9.9 out of 10 on IMDb from over 8000 users – the highest-ever rating attained by a Walking Dead episode.
It’s led many to proclaim ‘No Way Out’ as the greatest episode of the 76 that have been aired since its 2010 premiere. Debate will no doubt rage on about that, but here’s a few highlights from last night’s stunning return to form.
Three main characters got mauled
Characters who are part of Rick’s forever changing band of “good guys” often meet their maker in these sorts of episodes – apart from the core group of Glenn, Maggie, Carol, that is – and ‘No Way Out’ was no exception.
It was a family affair in terms of who got the chop: the perennially-annoying Sam, whose sweaty bowl cut couldn’t save him from giving the group away to the walkers, broke free from the chain link as he experienced yet another freak-out. Look, kid, you’ve got to be tough in this universe, because those nasty, hungry walkers will pounce on any delayed movement you make.
And that’s precisely what happened to Sam, who was devoured in front of his horrified mother Jessie. Her anguished screams attracted more walkers who promptly finished her off too, right in front of Rick, whose stunned silence matched that of the viewers at home.
With his mum and brother violently killed in front of him, Ron got hold of Carl’s gun and pointed it at Rick, blaming him for the horrific events. But Michonne, the show’s chief samurai sword enthusiast, wasn’t having it: just as he was about to pull the trigger, she stabbed the teenager in the back, stopping him from killing Rick. But the madness hadn’t finished there: Ron had still managed to pull the trigger, which, in another chilling moment, had transpired to strike poor ol’ Carl in his right eye. “Dad?” he asked, blood spilling for his gouge.
Possibly the darkest four minutes in the show’s history? They’re a strong contender for such an honour.
The survivors finally fought back en masse against the Walkers
Enraged by what stupid Ron inadvertently did to his son – and no doubt traumatised by having to hack off his crush’s dead hand to free his son; stylised, interestingly in true Tarantino fashion with flashes of red filter – Rick decided that, to paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson, had had enough of these motherfucking zombies on this motherfucking plane. Brandishing a butcher’s knife, he stormed outside to take on the flock in what appeared to be an absolute kamikaze mission.
But this is Rick, and Rick is an uncompromising badass: chopping and fighting his way through the zombie invasion, his heroic actions on the Alexandria battlefield encouraged the rest of the townspeople to come out from the safety of their houses to join the uprising against the undead. Absurdity of the situation aside, it really was a rather stirring moment – even the usually-cowardly duo of Eugene and Father Gabriel joined in with the slaughter effort.
That bastard Wolf finally got what was coming to him
This nasty and unnamed fella, who kidnapped the trusting and kind Denise, got his comeuppance after trying to escape with Alexandria’s only doctor – and after she’d been trying to “change” him from his nasty, murdering ways as well. Look at his teeth and his ‘W’ scar – it was optimistic thinking a best from Denise, really.
Anyway, after a foolish attempt to jump the fence, the Wolf was bitten by a walker, and Carol proceeded to finish him off with a few choice gunshots from a balcony. Denise was unharmed, and returned to tend to Carl – all’s well that ends well, eh?
Everyone was reunited
With Daryl, Abraham and Sasha back in the town – as well as Glenn and errant runaway Enid – our core group of survivors finally managed to get back together. Obviously, this is The Walking Dead, so unwise group separations will continue to be the norm in the coming episodes – but, for now, all the characters we know and love are all in one contained place.
Daryl now uses a fuck-off RPG
Crossbows are so 2015 – everyone’s favourite leather vest-wearing, motorcycle-riding, squirrel-tracking rebel now apparently uses an RPG rocket launcher to dispatch both bad guys and walkers alike. Look at how he lit up the Saviors gang at the start of the episode!
It resets everything back to zero
With everyone reunited and a mass group of walkers now exterminated, the show can develop some new plotlines – will the survivors stay on in Alexandria? Who is this Negan that the lead Savior mentioned in the mid-season finale last year? And will Carl become the new Governor now that he’ll surely have to wear an eye patch?
These questions, and many many more, will hopefully be answered over the next seven episodes. And if they’re anything like last night’s offering, then us Walking Dead fans are in for quite the treat over the next couple of months.