Television

Published on March 22nd, 2016 | by Bean

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The Walking Dead Review – Season 6 Episode 14 “Twice as Far”

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WARNING! SPOILERS!

It seems impossible that by this point in proceedings, we are only 627 days into the end of the world. With the apocalypse not even two years old by the show’s canon timeline, it is striking to see how far down into the mire our heroes found themselves by last week’s episode, “The Same Boat”. Becoming the Big Bad in your own show is a much-ploughed furrow in televisual drama, but seeing it en masse for whole communities in a steady decline of morals, as choices seem to narrow to a vicious point of kill or be killed, makes for a jaded viewing experience.

The great trick that must be pulled in order to sell such grave decision-making is to bring your audience on board with your characters, or at the very least factions of your viewership, so as to create debate and keep people interested. The Walking Dead successfully managed that for my part, as I have been vocally behind Rick’s ruthless perspective since it became discernible around Season 4, merciless mutha that I am. Ron Moore’s BSG reboot tackled such pack-mentality-brutality in it’s third season and caused a minor meltdown of my ethics. When television can make you question yourself, they are onto a winner.

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“Twice as Far” deals with the aftermath of yet more savage actions from two of the longest-running characters, Carol and Maggie. We don’t hear anything from the latter, and while Carol’s scenes are sparse with most of her dialogue shared with her longtime confidante Darryl           , her pensive mood pervades all of the episode’s activities. In the beautiful simplicity of the cold open, which bookends the episode like a wheel of anticipation, we see the normality Alexandria has been built to stand for, and by episode close we come to understand the cost of jars of homemade jam and the ability to walk anywhere without fear of imminent death.

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The lot of the functional and aspiring members of Alexandrian is thrown into jeopardy n “Twice as Far” as both Denise and Eugene pay for their attempts to advance beyond their current respective status’. Knowing and sticking to your skill set versus levelling up is a universal conundrum, and tonight’s episode muddies the waters of it’s own ethos; or perhaps it simply messed with my perception of it. But it begs the question, what is The Walking Dead trying to posit by it’s latest cull?

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Denise tries to empower herself, embrace her fears, go beyond her boundaries and available skill set and is immediately killed off for doing so. To be fair, yes, she does so in a manner that courts danger unnecessarily, but that kind of shit goes unpunished all the time. Her need to test herself is warranted and if her choices are misguided and problematic, as much responsibility lies at Darryl and Rosita’s feet, being vastly more expert in the field of active duty.

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Also, this feels like a missed opportunity to increase the peril regarding the inevitable Negan showdown. The threat the Saviours pose would have held more weight had they not ‘missed’ Darryl (and believe me, I am literally the last person on earth who wants less Norman Reedus in my life), but their menace points are docked and undermined by killing an outdoor newbie; it’s effective, but shooting fish in a barrel. Even killing off Rosita (again, she’s an interesting character, don’t actively want her to die) would have thrown up intriguing dynamics in the Abraham/Sasha romance, and we wouldn’t have just lost a medic.

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More seriously, Merritt Wever is an actress of rare quality and her loss will be felt; certainly, the fact she represents a shapely and non-size-0 element of womankind physically that we drastically need to see more of on television is a relative factor in my reasoning. We now have one less real-looking character up there front and centre being awesome. Wever has spoken about this before, more eloquently and succinctly than I. But it is just as concerning that The Walking Dead is circling the drain narratively in one major component of it’s storytelling, that of the romantic subplot.

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Despite pushing for a world in which it’s protagonists strive for normality and the important things in life like relationships and making babies whilst in the midst of hell, the second a pairing exist who seem well-suited and pleasingly functional the threat of one of them being killed off sky-rockets. Because blossoming romance based around people venturing for honest communication and a simple life is too pedestrian? That shit is just not dramatic enough? Frankly, it’s rare as hen’s teeth to see understated romance played out on screen, since the bells and whistles of people being pantomime arseholes to one another is fizzier and more ‘cinematic’.

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Oddly, Eugene manages to level up with nothing but a graze, grim as that gut wound seemed in the slow-mo. But then, he’s not just met his soulmate. Dropping that bone for a moment, it’s worth noting that Eugene and Abraham share several choice scenes in “Twice as Far”, in which it becomes increasingly apparent that the former has outgrown the necessity to be babysat. These scenes not only contain lovely, meaty material for the actors to dig into, but a couple of ingenious moments, with Eugene’s lead-head zombie and dick-bite-attack, Rottweiler style. Touches like this can jar if not done well, but director Alrick Riley makes sure everything plays out with a nice balance comedy and gravity.

Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter and Austin Amelio as D - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

So, where is The Walking Dead heading? Where Rick and co. go from here is still a mystery, but with the devastating anvil-drop of Carol’s departure come a necessary wave of imbalance. Best of all, Carol’s decision is fair and level-headed and will hopefully shake up the dogmas that have evolved since the Governor took down the prison. Alexandria, cosy as it is, remains a magnet for calamity, as anywhere with that level of apparent security will be. What options does that leave such a big group but to be ruthless and hard-line? Smaller factions might be able to negotiate the wilds with less trouble, but a group the scale of Alexandria (50-odd) is impossible to manage on the road. Unless they went all Mad Max. But that would be no less bloody. No, Carol’s choice is a mindful one, though I cannot bear to think of the show without Melissa McBride’s presence in it.

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There is much to love about “Twice as Far”, not least it’s willingness to break free of the safety net keeping favourites around engenders. The Walking Dead and Carol both made the hard call by removing her from the narrative, and whether this is the last we see of Miss Peletier remains to be seen (hardly likely), but if it is, she chose to bow out gracefully, owning her destiny and placing her own needs, her very sanity and her humanity above the needs of the many; a dramatic and honourable thing to see a woman do before a global audience. Hats off lady.

Review by Nina Clark

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Bean

Director at Nina Clark Music / The Musical Walkabout at Nina Clark Music
Bean is the family nickname of Nina Clark, singer, songwriter and professional musician. Nina's many nerdly passions, aside from music, include Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and all things Whedon. (re. GoT, she has NOT read the books, so please be cool - no spoilers!)
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