Monday, October 26, 2015

The Walking Dead Season 6, Episode 3: Thank You

Holy Flarking Schnit! This may have been the most tense episode of The Walking Dead yet! I was exhausted by the time it was over! As much as I like the series, it's definitely not easy to watch.

Ever since Rick & Co. arrived at Alexandria, the show's been hewing pretty closely to the comic. They made a huge diversion this week though, as a major character died way before they were supposed to and in a completely different manner. Or did they? 

They've deviated like this before, of course. In the comic, the Governor beheaded Tyreese, and later Michonne had to put his still-living noggin out of its misery. On the show, the Governor did the same to Hershel. Lori, Shane and TV Andrea all had different fates on the show than they did in the comic.

But this divergence is different. This particular character's death wasn't due to happen for quite a while yet, and it famously came at the hands of a major villain that hasn't yet been introduced. If this character really is dead, it's a massive change, and makes me wonder if they'll even bother adding the villain and his storyline.

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

The Plot:
This week we rewind a bit, joining Rick & Co. just after they've heard the horn blasting away in Alexandria. The vast walker heard has split up, but Rick is determined to salvage the operation. He tells Glenn and Michonne to get the Alexandrian redshirts back home, and to abandon anyone who slows them down. Rick heads for the RV alone to try and divert the walkers if possible.

Things immediately go from bad to worse. In classic horror movie fashion, Annie twists her ankle. The group is surrounded by walkers, while Scott is wounded in the leg. David is bitten in the shoulder, but insists on returning home to say goodbye to his wife. 

Glenn and Michonne decide to stop in a nearby town to rest and regroup. Unfortunately the town is quickly surrounded by walkers. The group hides inside an abandoned pet shop. Glenn volunteers to set fire to a feed store to lure the walkers away so they can escape. Nicholas offers to go with him, since he's supposedly familiar with the town. Glenn radios Rick and tells him the plan, and says, "Be careful, dumbass."

Meanwhile, Daryl, Abraham and Sasha are still luring the front half of the zombie herd away from town. Daryl hears shots from Alexandria and wants to help. Sasha advises him against leaving, but he does so anyway. He drives toward home (I guess), but eventually meets back up with Abraham and Sasha, in a puzzling subplot that went nowhere and existed solely to pad the run time.

Nicholas and Glenn find the feed store, but it's already been burned to the ground. Isn't that always the way? They try to find their way back to the pet shop, but Nicholas is visibly distressed and disoriented. He quickly gets them trapped in a dead end alley. As hordes of walkers file into the alley, Glenn and Nicholas climb on top of a dumpster. Nicholas looks at Glenn, tells him "Thank you" and shoots himself in the head. His lifeless body knocks Glenn off the dumpster and he's seemingly devoured by a huge crowd of walkers.

Rick is attacked by walkers and injures his hand while taking them out. He makes it back to the RV and tries to coordinate the operation by walkie-talkie. He contacts Daryl and Sasha, but Glenn and Tobin don't respond. Suddenly the RV is attacked by Wolves. The very group of five Wolves that Morgan let go last week. I told you that was a bad idea, and it would come back to bite someone in the ass!

Rick easily dispatches the Wolves. As he's looting their bodies, he finds a jar of baby food in one of their pockets and realizes they've come from Alexandria, and probably his home. He starts to head back, but naturally the RV's plot-specific ignition won't start. He's soon surrounded by the approaching walker horde.

Thoughts:
 The Walking Dead really loves symmetry. Over and over on the show, a character who's about to die will utter one of the very first lines they ever said.

Way back in the first episode, Morgan's son hit Rick in the head with a shovel, thinking he was a walker. When he came to, Morgan was standing over him. After getting no response from Rick, Morgan says, "Look, I ask, and you answer. That's common courtesy, right?" In the first episode of this season, Rick visits Morgan in the improvised jail and sees he's practicing his sweet bo staff skills. He asks where he learned it, and gets no response. Rick says, "I ask, you answer. It's common courtesy, right?"

Also in Season 1, TV Andrea had to put down her recently zombified sister Amy. Rick handed her a gun and told her the safety was off. She said, "I know how the safety works." Later in the Season 3 finale, TV Andrea was bitten by Milton, and asked Rick for a gun so she could shoot herself before she turned. Rick hands her the gun and she again says, "I know how the safety works."

At the end of the very first episode, Rick is surrounded by walkers and dives into an abandoned tank to escape. He hears Glenn's voice on his walkie-talkie, saying, "Hey you. Dumbass. Yeah, you in the tank. Cozy in there?" In this episode he tells Rick, "Be careful, Dumbass." Symmetry. Deadly symmetry.

 This episode is a treasure trove of horror movie cliches. Annie stumbles slightly and twists her ankle. Sturgess fires his gun in panic and hits Scott in the leg. David can't wait to get back to his wife, so of course he's immediately bitten. And of course we have the ever popular unreliable vehicle with the plot-specific ignition that only fails at the worst possible time.

 After being attacked by walkers, Rick nurses an injured left hand. At first I thought maybe he'd been bitten, so I rewound the scene to watch it again. Upon closer inspection, one of the walkers looked like it had a machete sticking out of its head. It appears that Rick cut himself on the machete while he was taking out the walker. So he wasn't bitten.

I think it's still going to be a problem for him though. The machete probably had walker gore all over it, and it sliced open Rick's hand. In the comic, Negan-- the villain who out-governored the Governor-- controlled an army that dipped arrows and bullets in walker gore before shooting them at victims, which guaranteed they'd become infected and die.

If the show goes the same way as the comic in this respect, Rick's got a big problem. It's no secret by now that Rick is missing his right hand in the comic. It was chopped off by the Governor, who tortured him for information. Is this how the show's going to introduce one-handed Rick? 

The series has always been vague and inconsistent about how the whole zombification thing works. In this universe everyone's already infected with the zombie virus, which is why anyone who dies for any reason turns shortly after. A bite or scratch from a walker simply becomes infected and kills you. That much we know. What isn't clear is why people sprayed with walker blood and guts don't appear to become infected and die. Getting walker blood in your system seems like it'd be just as bad as a bite, but what do I know?

Robert Kirkman, creator of the comic, admitted that he wrote the "Rick losing his hand" plot just to be shocking, and didn't fully think things through. He's said if he had it to do over again-- and he does, here-- he wouldn't have him lose his hand after all. 

So who knows where they're going with this? It would be a shocker if it happens on the show, but it would also be expensive. Will AMC want to pony up the dough to greenscreen Rick's hand out of virtually every scene from now on? And if they're not going down that road, then what was the point of him cutting his hand? Just to worry us?

 Glenn, Michonne and the others rest in a small town near Alexandria. I'm guessing the name of this place is Mazeville. The entire town apparently consists of nothing but dangerous dead end alleys.

 Michonne, Heath, Scott and David run down one of these dead end alleys. The only way out is over a tall metal fence. Everyone makes it over except for David, who's swarmed with walkers. 

So why does everyone just wring their hands and watch helplessly while David's eaten alive? Jesus, Michonne, stick your sword through the fence and into the poor guy's head to put him out of his misery. She did it to the other redshirt earlier in the episode, why not here?

 As I said earlier, the Wolves who attack Rick in the RV were the ones Morgan "reasoned with" last week, and sent on their merry way. I knew they'd return sooner or later to cause trouble, but I figured they'd come back for Morgan, not attack Rick.

 When Michonne, Heath and Scott make it back to Alexandria, we see a brief shot of them walking past what appear to be burned out buildings. I don't remember any buildings being on fire last week. Did the Wolves torch some houses before they left, while we weren't looking?

UPDATE: Looking at this scene again, that clearly wasn't Alexandria. They walked through an opening in a low brick wall and entered what appeared to be a burned-out village. Where that village might be, I have no idea. Somewhere between Alexandria and the quarry, I guess.

 And at last we come to Glenn and his untimely and shocking death. Glenn, who's been the heart and soul of the series ever since the second episode six years ago. Glenn, who was done in by his own humanity and mercy, as he tried to give Nicholas a second chance.

Glenn's sort of had a countdown timer around his neck for the past couple of years, as the character was killed off in the comic a while back. So despite the fact that I wish he hadn't died, it wasn't all that unexpected. 

He was murdered in the comic by the aforementioned Negan in such a famously shocking and brutal scene, that it's hard for me to believe that the show would alter the manner of his death. Glenn's demise defined Negan-- it got the comic readers to sit up and take him seriously. If Negan could kill the beloved Glenn and get away with it, then no one was safe. If the series ever gets around to the Negan storyline, he's going to be diminished if he doesn't have Glenn to kill.

Glenn's already been almost killed at least four times that I can think of (and probably more). In the Season 3 episode When The Dead Come Knocking, Merle tortured Glenn, then tied him to a chair and left him alone in a room with a hungry walker. In the Season 4 episode Inmates, after the prison is destroyed, Glenn wakes up on a slab of debris, just out of reach of a herd of walkers. In the Season 5 episode No Sanctuary, he's almost killed by a Termite brandishing a baseball bat (in a very Negan-like manner). Later in Conquer, he's at the bottom of a zombie pigpile and somehow escapes. As you can see, Glenn's no stranger to near-death experiences.

But what if he isn't really dead? Believe it or not, there's quite a bit of evidence to support this theory. First there's Glenn's aforementioned run-in with Negan, who hasn't even appeared on the show yet. Surely they wouldn't diverge that much from the comic, would they (On the other hand, doing so would definitely be more shocking for the fans who were expecting Glenn to die by Negan's hand, or bat, as the case may be).

More evidence: we see Nicholas' dead body knock Glenn off the dumpster. The next thing we see is Glenn seemingly torn apart by the zombie horde. But something about the scene seems... off. It's a very tight shot, so all we really see is Glenn's blood-splattered face as the walkers pull guts out from... somewhere. The guts look a little too high to be coming from Glenn himself. Unless his guts are right under his neck. 

What if they're really snacking on Nicholas' guts instead? Nicholas' body could have fallen on top of Glenn and the walkers are really eating him. That could buy Glenn a few seconds to either hide under the dumpster (assuming there's room) or to smear himself with gore and lie very still, becoming virtually invisible to the walkers.

Even more evidence: On AMCs companion show The Talking Dead, any time a major cast member dies, they're a guest on that night's show. Steven Yuen, who plays Glenn, did not appear. The Talking Dead also traditionally airs an "In Memorium" montage featuring shots of recently deceased characters. There was no such montage on the show.

Scott Gimple, the current showrunner, actually issued a statement about the episode, saying, "In some way we will see Glenn, some version of Glenn, or parts of Glenn again, either in flashback or in the current story, to help complete the story." Well, that was certainly vague without being informative, wasn't it?

There's also the fact that so far every major character death on the show has been witnessed by someone else. Glenn would be the first to ever die "alone." Make of that what you will.

There's also the matter that Steven Yuen has been spotted on-set with actors who've not yet appeared on the show. That would seem to indicate that he's not really gone.

I'm torn by this. I don't want the character to be dead, but giving Glenn such an implausible out and toying with the audience like this seems cheap and manipulative. It's beneath the show, and does a disservice to all the other characters who really DID die. Plus if he really is alive, it's just going to diminish his inevitable death at the hands of Negan, if and when it ever happens. I guess we'll find out in a couple of weeks whether he's really gone or not.

We won't learn Glenn's fate next week though, as instead we're apparently getting Morgan's origin story, explaining how he became a Ninja Turtle.

3 comments:

  1. I commend you for doing so much good work in the face of zero comments. I would be frustrated long ago.

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  2. This is a different Anonymous than the Anonymous @ 1:54 but I check everyday for you to opine on pop culture goings-on. I'm sure hundreds- nay, thousands do the same though we leave no comments. It's not you, it's me. I don't comment much on FB either despite checking it all the time. I'm in my 40's so maybe it's generational. I was first drawn here for the art, being an artist myself, but enjoyed the articles just as much.

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  3. Thanks, guys. It's good to know that someone out there's reading!

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