“It doesn’t have to be this way….nobody has to get hurt.”
As The Walking Dead approaches its sixth season finale, so much is at stake for Rick and company – from protecting their home and newfound way of life in Alexandria, to those struggling with what is necessary to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, to imminent threat for the ones encountering this group known as the “Saviors.” A lot is going down, some characters are in big trouble, and others are off in different directions in this latest episode, entitled “East”. So, let’s see where things stand, and as always, spoilers ahead for anyone not caught up with the show.
First off is Carol, who is going through a crisis of conscience that has forced her to leave the confines of Alexandria and her ‘family’ and go off on her own, Mad Max style, in her spiked up automobile. When she is stopped on the road by a gang of Saviors, she so desperately wants to avoid this confrontation, she begins to hyperventilate, just as she did two episodes prior in “The Same Boat”, where she and Maggie were captured by another small band of Negan’s group. In what was perhaps her most standout, Emmy-worthy performance yet as Carol, Melissa McBride so masterfully portrayed this woman dealing with this intense, internal conflict, that her captors, Maggie herself, and we the audience, couldn’t be sure what was real or what was an act. Now we know that her panic attack was genuine, and the two sides battling for Carol’s soul are clearly depicted by what lies beneath her sleeves. On the left, she is holding her rosary beads, and this symbolizes what she wants to be, a caring, loving, God-fearing person. On the right, hidden in her sleeve, is the gun that represents who she needs to be, to protect those she cares about, or just to survive on her own. Luckily for her, she decides to go with the right in this instance, though the jury is still out on what the ultimate outcome is. And while some may question her transition from Killer Carol to Crying Carol as too abrupt, it’s not too difficult to understand how so much killing can suddenly catch up to someone, especially after spending time with another who has been haunted by the very same thing.
“There is no right, there’s just the wrong that doesn’t pull you down.”
Morgan is definitely feeling some responsibility for Carol’s departure, and he feels it is up to him to head off in search of her, begrudgingly letting Rick accompany him. As they happen upon the scene of Carol’s carnage, with her nowhere in sight, the two set off on her apparent trail. This also gives them a chance to argue their current philosophies of life, which seem to be in direct opposition to each other. While Rick is declaring once again, “I don’t take chances anymore,” Morgan is spouting his “all life is precious” mantra, which seems to have rubbed off on Carol. It should be pointed out that while everyone cares about the others in the group, their ‘family’, so to speak, Rick has an actual family, an adolescent son, and an infant girl to protect. It does put him in a unique position where he cannot afford to take chances, especially after what he’s been through. Morgan, however, points out the case of the alpha wolf he let live, who, whilst seemingly utterly unredeemable, ultimately sacrifices himself to save Denise, who in turn ends up saving Carl. There is a ripple effect he explains to Rick, which is why you must think before you kill. But this ripple effect works both ways.
“Maybe they keep knowing more about us than we know about them.”
Now, while Rick and Morgan are in search of Carol, who’s in search of herself, Daryl is on the hunt for Dwight, out of revenge for the other side of the coin from what Morgan was saying with regards to that ‘ripple effect.’ Daryl had tried to apply Morgan’s philosophy with Dwight by attempting to bring him into the fold upon first meeting him. But that backfired when Dwight and his companion stole Daryl’s beloved motorcycle and crossbow several episodes back. It came back to bite him even more when Dwight and his buddies captured Eugene and killed Denise with that very same crossbow. Daryl feels responsible, and he kind of is, as he now wishes he had just killed Dwight at the outset. So, who’s right, Morgan? Rick? Or is there some middle ground, as Daryl had seemed to find previously, and Carol now finds virtually impossible. On The Walking Dead, it is rarely as simple as black or white. Though in this case, with Glenn and Michonne captured, and Daryl and Rosita now too, with Daryl apparently shot as well, it would seem Daryl, at least in this instance, would have been far better off taking out Dwight from the beginning.
Another point that’s worth bringing up is looking at things from the others’ perspective. While, obviously we root for Rick and company, what if we had followed the show from the beginning, instead getting to know this Negan and his followers as this group formed? Maybe they started off as good people, but kept running into worse people and had to change their tune in order to survive. Now, they’ve run into Rick and his group, who are blowing them to pieces with rocket launchers and stabbing them to death in their sleep. From that viewpoint, Rick’s gang would look like the bad guys, as it has been pointed out to them on more than one occasion. To compare to the real world, we in America and Europe have trouble comprehending the motivations for ISIS and other terrorist organizations. However, if your country was occupied by foreign troops and was constantly being bombed for years or even decades, you might become angry and looking for a way to express that anger. Certainly in no way condoning any acts of violence against innocent people, it’s evident that you cannot understand your enemy unless you put yourself in their shoes. And violence usually does nothing more than beget more violence, something Rick and company are learning the hard way.
In addition to the various scenarios playing out that we’ve already mentioned, there’s Maggie suddenly having pregnancy complications, the ability of the residents of Alexandria to protect their town while so many of their best warriors are outside the walls, and of course, the looming presence of Negan, the leader of the Saviors. Luckily, fans are being rewarded with a 90 minute long season finale this Sunday to contend with all these loose ends. No doubt there will be casualties before the season comes to its conclusion, which is why we sometimes refer to the show as The Walking Dread. We know we are going to lose characters we love, it’s inevitable, and the price we pay for enjoying the most exciting, intense, drama-filled, action-packed show on television.
As we prepare ourselves for the onslaught to come, there’s one final point to make, and this might be something for the Emmy voters to take note of. In a show that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where the bloodthirsty living dead pose an ever-present threat at every corner, they remain, for the most part, a backdrop for everything going on with the characters and plot of the show. If you read back on this review, the walkers, or zombies, aren’t mentioned even once, until now. While the walkers are portrayed amazingly and convincingly by Greg Nicotero and crew, and are undeniably a big draw for many viewers, it’s this incredible world that Robert Kirkman, Frank Darabont, Gale Ann Hurd, Scott Gimple and everyone has created that keeps so many millions of viewers tuned in each week. The Walking Dead is far more than just a ‘zombie show,’ and while its success is unparalleled on television worldwide, it’s time it gets the credit it deserves by the Emmys as well. Long live the Dead!
— written by Brian de Castro