Television

Published on November 12th, 2015 | by Bean

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The Walking Dead Review – Season 6 Episode 5 “Now”

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After last week’s relatively peaceful hiatus of Morgan’s recent rebirth origin story, this week’s episode of The Walking Dead returns us to the current timeline, and the aftermath of the Wolf rampage of Alexandria. The tonal shifts of the last few week’s have been quite an upheaval for viewers, but this is nothing new for the show – it has often suffered from inconsistency or narrative stagnation followed by bursts of frenetic energy. But perhaps ‘suffered’ is an inappropriate description; the vicissitudes of a zombie apocalypse necessitate such oddities as the rambling journey of our heroes takes turns into new territories.

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Whether this is actually new territory either remains to be seen; we have watched communities face mortal damage repeatedly over the last five years. Herschel’s farm, Woodbury, the prison. Each time the odds have been stacked against the inhabitants and the pressure builds as they either fight or die. This very concept, a basic raison detre for The Walking Dead, is brought up by Jessie midway through ‘Now’, a well-captured vignette episode full of characters making speeches and statements either privately or to the greater populace.

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Of my three aforementioned Zombie Apocalypse Values (or ZAVs), the first and most important quality is being useful. Several people mark themselves out as assets by doing just this. Jessie discovers a freshly turned walker in a house, and as her less helpful fellow citizens stand by and watch, appalled, she capably takes matters into her hands, and carefully terminates the thing that was once her neighbour. The camera stands behind the clawing hand at the window, lighting it just enough to show the wedding ring. The scene is deftly handled, if not subtly scripted, but it is a necessary action and topic. She does not shirk the responsibility facing her, and appeals to those around her to do the same; wake up. Earlier we have watched as a dangerous every-man-for-himself mutiny is quelled by a hypocritical Spencer, as his mother impassively looks on, but things are on a knife’s edge and true colours are starting to show. If you are not of use, you will not survive.

Alexandra Breckenridge as Jessie Anderson - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The excellent Merritt Wever as novice medic and psychotherapist Denise is witness to Jessie’s call to action, and with Tara’s help discover’s the strength to overcome her own fears and insecurities, dipping her toe in the medical journals and finding a remedy to help her patients. While some viewers may find an episode like this ponderous or not action-packed enough, I found myself revelling in the way the show shuffled back and forth between different responses to this latest trauma. The blossoming connection between Tara and Denise which culminated in a porch kiss was of value too, not just from a need for solace, but as each brings out something important in the other, a natural wellspring for romance. We see more of these burgeoning connections between groups as Jessie and Rick share talk about the future and another kiss, though where this will all lead remains to be seen.

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Jessie’s sons respond in realistically age-appropriate ways. Sam is still young, just a boy and one who has until recently been sheltered from the ravages of the end of the world. Jessie’s attempts to coax him downstairs fail, and you can sense the burden she carries as she knows she must help him find his courage, and soon. On the other hand, Ron’s altercation with Carl over Enid and her disappearance seems painfully adolescent, but is ultimately a mature move – he is returning the favour of saving Carl’s life and the inevitable carnage that would ensue if Carl attempted a rescue mission with the current perimeter of walkers pressing in on the town. We see further growth as he makes peace with Rick and asks for training to help protect his family. These small moments are pivotal for each character willing to make a change, and inches them closer to the keeper pile (at least temporarily) of the Alexandrian barrel scrape of would-be survivors.

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Lauren Cohan portrayed Maggie with the same valiant spirit that we have become accustomed to in the face of an M.I.A Glen, and imbues the scenes she shares with her doomed-rescue-mate Aaron with defiance and sorrow – a complex combination that she pulls off with painful aplomb, particularly after the revelation that she’s pregnant with Glen’s child, and feels agonising guilt for not having his back in the field. Aaron also ‘fesses up to the Alexandrians that the Wolf attack was a result of his losing the pack with their location in, a speech that starts off in defense of Rick’s plan to move the walkers from the quarry and ends with no absolution or even seemingly any understanding from the townsfolk. Deanna walks away at this news (great, that’s helpful) and it is clear she is at a turning point in terms of her role in Alexandria.

Tovah Feldshuh as Deanna - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

‘Now’ is peppered with scenes from Deanna’s perspective; we see her stagger about in shock, incapable of action, then furiously possessed of inspiration for the town’s future, and back again to being lost in grief. In her encounter with her son Spencer, where he blames her outright for the death of the rest of their family, and again when Rick counsels her after she butchers a walker but doesn’t put it down, we see her literally compartmentalising to cope – she tidies away the jars and bottles, controlling her environment domestically but ineffectually as she represses her emotions. This a beautiful piece of character observation and Tovah Feldshuh is heartbreaking as a woman bereft of comfort, searching for purpose and a reason to hope. She walks the perimeter with a sense of defiance at episode’s close, though the show chooses to linger on a shot of blood oozing through the wall; are we facing a pile up outside? Whatever the outcome, with any luck Deanna’s latin inscription at the base of her new plan for Alexandria will be telling for her and it’s inhabitants; ’This pain will be useful’.

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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