Warning: Comic-book spoilers ahead
As I had said in my Advance Preview, if you think about everything that has happened this week in The Walking Dead universe, it really has been an overture to the comic super-villain Negan. First, there’s the big news in TWD world regarding Jeffrey Dean Morgan being cast for the Negan role. The fandom has been buzzing for well over a year about who would land the coveted role, and to everyone’s surprise, the casting was announced this week, well ahead of when the character is slated to be introduced in the series.
Second, if you’re a fan of the comic-book series and got a copy of issue #148 that was released this past Wednesday, you’ll know that it ends with Negan smiling at Rick with that ever-famous sh*t-grin. Rick and his group are facing a new enemy — Alpha and the Whisperers — 10X more evil than Negan ever was, and he is forced to go to the incarcerated Negan to ask for his help.
Then, we have tonight’s episode. No real mention of Negan, but if you’re a comic-book reader and take the subtle hints at face value, then we have just been introduced to the Saviors, as well as a character that will prove to be very important in Negan’s future turbulent relationship with Rick and the rest of the survivors.
A BIG WELCOME TO COMIC-BOOK DWIGHT — WELL, MAYBE
So many people complained about last week’s episode and its dreadfully slow pace, and so first off, I am very glad to report that this week’s installment makes up for that — in spades. In fact, before the opening credits have a chance to start, we check in with Daryl (Norman Reedus), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) as they are making their way back to Alexandria only to have that moment of peace rudely interrupted with shots being fired at them. What a great f*cking way to start an episode.
At this point, we have no idea who has attacked the group. Daryl flees on his bike after getting knocked off, while Abe and Sasha crash their car and continue to open fire on the people that ambushed them. Daryl ends up in a burnt-out area of a forest, and stumbles upon 2 women who are cowering in the woods to which they respond:
You found us. OK. We earned what we took
Then, Daryl is knocked out cold.
When he regains consciousness, a man (Austin Amelio) is standing over him with a gun in his face. By now, Daryl seems to have figured out the situation. This man and the 2 women are being chased by the people who had ambushed and shot at them, and the guy thinks Daryl is part of that group.
If you’re an avid comic-book reader, it doesn’t take too much to figure out who the players are likely going to be in these scenes. The man who captures Daryl is likely comic-book Dwight, and the people who are chasing Dwight are probably the protectionist group, the Saviors, lead by the charismatic — but also psychotic and sadistic — Negan. Dwight ends up being Negan’s 2nd-in-command in the comics, not necessarily because he wants to and believes in Negan’s cause. It’s because he HAS to if he has any hope of staying alive. That being said and for the purposes of this review, I will refer to this unnamed man as “Dwight.”
What we witness in these scenes I think is Dwight’s very naive attempt to leave Negan and the Saviors, something I’m sure Negan won’t respond very well to. Above all else, Negan values courage and loyalty, and if you betray him in any way, then eventually you will pay the price. In the comics, Dwight sports a half-burnt face, and while the Dwight we see is in no way disfigured, this blatant betrayal may explain how he ends up that way.
DARYL IS DOUBLE-CROSSED AND LOSES A CROSS-BOW
Over the past few seasons, one character that has surprised me with his transformation is Daryl Dixon. Reedus is at his best when Daryl is a badass, or when he’s emotionally devastated. This episode has neither of those, but it shows off the human side of Daryl that has developed since season 1, and the trouble it brings him. He has such great chemistry with his captors, even though they turn out to be complete assholes, and it made for a nice dynamic.
When one of the women faints, Daryl takes the opportunity to escape with their duffle bag which contains his crossbow. Once far enough, he realizes the bag also contains the woman’s much-needed insulin. The Daryl from season 1 would have kept going (and in this case, should have), but the humane part of the character takes over, and so, he returns to his captors to give back the bag.
When he arrives, he finds them under fire by the same group that had chased and shot at him, Sasha and Abraham at the beginning of the episode. These people arrive in a big-ass truck, and only their feet can be seen. “You’re going to return what you took!” with Dwight responding,“We are not going back, Wade” These hoodlums are very likely the Saviors that I mentioned earlier, with that giant truck being a pretty good tell. Daryl intervenes, and because of his help, Dwight and the 2 girls are able to escape. As an added bonus, one of the punks is bit and has to have his arm amputated right on the spot.
Of course, as would be expected, this all back-fires with Dwight double-crossing Daryl. After Daryl leads them to where he had stashed his bike in the forest, Dwight and his girl, Honey (Honey’s sister, Tina, had already been bit and killed), attack him and take off with both Daryl’s bike and crossbow. Bottom line — the zombie apocalypse is a dog-eat-dog kind of world, and honestly, the days of being nice and helpful are over. Daryl tried that, and all it did was cost him his mode of transportation and his weapon. However, even so, I suspect there eventually will be retribution. What is fantastic about Daryl’s character in this episode is the complete 180 he does by the end of the hour and after his bike and crossbow are taken. The woman, Honey, points a gun at Daryl’s face and says, “We’re sorry,” to which Daryl responds, “You’re gonna be.” Whoa. You don’t mess with Daryl-f*ckin-Dixon, and bitch, your time is a-coming.
The last thing I want to mention about this arc is the significance of Dwight having that crossbow, and if you’re a comic fan, you know what I’m about to say. In the comic-book series, Dwight’s weapon-of-choice is a crossbow, and I don’t think it’s an accident that the weapon falls into his hands at the end of the episode. Because Daryl isn’t in the comics, I think it’s an interesting twist that Dwight lands the weapon through Daryl in the television series.
It’s even more interesting and mind-bending if you recall what Dwight uses the crossbow for in the comics. Let’s just say a main character ends up with an arrow through his eye. I have no idea if they’ll follow the comic storyline, but how f*cked up would that be if someone in Daryl’s group is killed with his very own weapon? And, think about the guilt. I don’t know if Daryl could ever forgive himself if something like that happened.
Even though this episode is, by far, Daryl-centric, the other characters also give stellar performances, most notably Michael Cudlitz as Abraham. It was questionable as to where his story would even go this season, especially after season 5’s reveal that Eugene doesn’t have the cure for the zombie virus. Abraham basically lost his purpose, given that it was the only thing keeping him going following the loss of his family. All of this was sort of touched on in the back-end of season 5, but season 6 has shown Abraham to be a bit more reckless, a bit more on edge and a bit more like he has no idea where he’s going. There’s a lot of character development in this episode as he finally knows what it is he’s doing, and what he wants to be. Cudlitz does a great job of portraying this careless side of the character, and the transition that he makes. Oh, and how about that rocket launcher that he manages to scavenge off of a walker? I absolutely can’t wait to see Abraham in action with that weapon!
AN SOS FROM THE GRAVE
Okay, let’s talk about THAT ending. The fate of Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) has been widely discussed since his apparent demise in “Thank You.” Theories and speculation have splashed over social media everywhere about how he could have survived. Three weeks after-the-fact, I think we have heard just about everything. It was all a big hallucination by Nicholas, and the entire dumpster fiasco never happened. Glenn managed to slip under the dumpster to safety. Glenn managed to somehow get INSIDE the dumpster, paying special homage to the tank scene with Rick from the Pilot. And, on and on and on. At this point, it looks to be more likely than not that he survived. Either that, or the writers are messing with the fans’ heads once again (which wouldn’t surprise me at all).
After his bike and crossbow are stolen by Dwight, Daryl begins finding his way back to Sasha and Abraham. Daryl turns on his walkie talkie and tries to contact Rick, where he gets a message just saying “Help!” Was that? Could it be? Glenn! Who else could it be? Rick had a radio but he’s already made it back to Alexandria, and everybody else is either dead or made it back as well. I suppose it could be someone at Alexandria, but from where we are standing, everything is pointing to Glenn.
As I had said back in my review for “Thank You,” I’m torn about this Glenn storyline. I personally think it would have been a brilliant move by the writers to kill a main character off in such a nonsensical way. Why? Because it would have been realistic! People die in stupid, freak accidents all the time, and I suspect it would happen even more often in a zombie apocalypse. Not to mention it would have been a sharp deviation from the comics and would definitely catch the die-hards off-guard.
At the same time, Glenn surviving is also a brilliant play, especially given the alleged introduction of Negan’s henchman, Dwight, in this episode and the super-villain’s confirmed appearance for the season finale. As most of us know, Glenn doesn’t die by walker in the comics, but instead, has his head bashed in courtesy of Negan’s “Sweet Lucille.” If Glenn is, indeed, alive, is that a hint that he’ll likely die his comic-book death? Or, was Glenn’s fake-out death orchestrated to illicit the same emotional response from the fans as if he died, while giving the famous Lucille death to another character?
If I had to guess, I would bet on the latter. If we learn Glenn is alive next week, the fandom will have already gone through the mourning process on the loss of the character, and I think Glenn getting Lucille’ed would lose its momentum and emotional impact because of the fake-out death. For the Glenn Rhee fans out there, that should cause you to breathe a big sigh of relief. But, for the fans of all of the other characters — especially ones closest to Rick — get ready, because when Negan plays his eenie-meenie-miney-mo game, the bat is likely to land on another beloved character’s skull.
The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
Critic Grade — A-
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com