Whoa! This Season 6 is off to a crazy start… I’m really starting to wonder what has changed with TWD this season because we’re off to a stronger sustained stretch of goodness than the series has had before. There isn’t a new showrunner or anything like that, so I almost wonder if some formerly meddlesome force has left the series? Addition by subtraction?
Anyway, the obvious place to start on this episode is Glenn. How sad and tragic to see the end of this OG character. It has the obvious impact of showing the TWD isn’t afraid to kill a central character. When was the last central, OG-status (i.e. since Season 1) character to die? Andrea? Further, the way he died was telling. Most of the other characters who have died have had a send-off episode: Tyrese, T-Dogg, Andrea, Merle, etc. Glenn was in this episode, but it wasn’t Glenn-Centric.
The other thing that struck me about Glenn’s death is how it illustrated the difference between Rick’s approach and Glenn’s in a subtle way. Rick went off to get the RV all by himself, refusing all offers of help. And it wasn’t easy for Rick as he had to run a lot, fight walkers and deal with bandit attacks (Wolves?). But you know what? Rick dealt with all that because he’s a badass. He ran faster because he was alone and he took care of all the fighting just fine. Conversely, Glenn had a chance to go set that building on fire alone. Nicholas even offered to draw him a map because he knows he’s lame. But, Glenn insisted on bringing Nicholas along because he was trying to redeem the guy– and it got him killed. If Glenn was solo, he probably survives, but he tried to help redeem a loser and it got him killed.
What’s more, the episode didn’t smack us in the face with that dichotomy. It’s really only clear when you think about the episode a second time (or sit down to write about it). This show isn’t often subtle like that and I applaud it.
And the last thing about Glenn: They’re not even going to find his body. He died alone and the only way they’ll know is that he didn’t make it home. As far as the other characters know, he just vanished.
[Note/Edit: I guess there’s also the possibility that Glenn isn’t actually dead. There was some internet jabber that I was unfortunately unable to avoid before finalizing this review. If Glenn’s death was a fake-out and that was really Nicholas’ body getting devoured on top of Glenn, well that’d be lame as hell. In hindsight, this might be the case. For one thing, the angles were weird. It looked like the zombies were pulling intestines out of Glenn’s chest. For another, they didn’t really show where Nicholas landed. The camera was very careful to just show Glenn’s face and his facial expressions didn’t seem quite right. Furthermore, I spent the first draft of this review believing that the writers had suddenly gotten their act together, but a fake-out would be more their style. I’m not totally against a character surviving “certain death,” but it’s a little insulting to 100% try to trick the audience. Let Glenn just fall into the hoard of zombies and cut away. Showing us the guts is just patronizing.”]
The episode also did some good work with the new, supporting characters. The guy who was bitten on the shoulder who knew he was going to die, but just wanted to get back to tell his new wife how much he loved her, the new nameless black dude and the limping girl… All effective characters. Some were short-lived, but compared to the lameness of supporting characters in the past, they’re pretty top-notch.
The deaths were all brutal too. I mean, nobody saved a bullet for themselves and just got eaten alive. Ouch and yuck!
Other things were great about this episode too. Honestly, so much that it’s hard to write about it without just saying, “And another thing…”:
The missed sappy opportunity with the bitten dude’s note. I honestly thought that as that guy was getting eaten against the fence, that he would push the note to Michonne through the bars with his last dying strength. I guarantee you that past TWD writers would have done this and it would have been sappy as hell. They showed the note, but he didn’t get to give it to Michonne because well, shit happens. Unsure why Michonne didn’t stab him or something.
The unexpectedness of the bandit attack on Rick. Were those Wolves? I don’t think they were. They were just bandits and it showed how there’s never a tranquil moment. Wonder if they’re part of something bigger?
The continued excellence of the zombies. I mean, there are tons of them AGAIN. I wonder if they shot all these episodes at once and just kept the extras in costume? It’s amazing how terrifying a swarm of zombies are, considering how lame and useless they seem one-on-one. And it’s filmed so well with all the low camera angles to make the swarm look scarier (an old horror technique) and the overheads to show the immensity of the swarm.
That the three survivors from the run were all black. For a show that gets flack for killing all the black characters, this was a nice moment.
The sadness of seeing dead pets in the pet shop cages. Nobody even released them and they died of thirst.
There really isn’t much to fault in this episode. I mean, I guess I never really understood what the hell Darryl was up to, but who cares.
A final thing, for a show that has milked stories before (The Farm, The Prison, The Governor), TWD is showing that milking isn’t always a bad thing. This opening arc is still basically telling the same story from before and it isn’t concluding as rapidly as I’d thought, but I don’t mind because it’s a good story.