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Published on March 30th, 2016 | by Bean

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The Walking Dead Review Season 6 Episode 15 “The Calm Before”

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WARNING! POSSIBLE SPOILERS!!!

We are now at the gates of hell. The glowering threat of Negan’s Saviours has been building for weeks, ineffectually perhaps, but clearly leading to something. In “The Calm Before”, season’s six’s penultimate episode, The Walking Dead chooses to name the scenario. All of the final pieces must fall into place for next week’s finale to drop it’s bomb and blow us all skyward. This is fine, I trust the show to know what it’s doing, by and large, and this season has been the most resoundingly solid yet. Thematically, the scale of Rick’s group’s trauma reaches such a level that they are the true threat of season six. And yet, why must things get so daft, just when it needs to be tight and on the ball?

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My complaints are not new ones; on several occasions have people acted most uncharacteristically, and for no ascertainable reason. Things go tit-shaped and everything gets unnaturally amped. The way everything and everyone suddenly conspire into a perfect storm of idiocy is one of The Walking Dead’s most tiresome tropes. Can’t get the narrative to where you want it go in a way that makes any sense? Neyh, fuck it. So we have a catalogue of duff moves to catapult us into the shithouse that’s coming; Darryl acts very irresponsibly, which leads to four of the crew’s best fighters going after him. And a grown woman making her own decisions by leaving, Carol, leads Morgan and Rick away from home too. Thus Abraham, Sasha and Maggie remain the only ‘old hands’ on deck, leaving Alexandria less and less well protected.

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I wish the showrunners could fathom that the peril is infinitely greater when only one element goes awry and things still get fucked up. When everybody starts acting like morons, the situation is robbed of gravity – the jeopardy everyone is in feels cheap, forced, an unnecessary scenario. Were this all unavoidable, the drama would be exponentially more tense, and I wouldn’t be tutting at the fact people’s behaviour and decision-making is all over the place. Certainly, let there be fallout from what has come before. I’m a fan of consequences. But can we still act like we have a clue?

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Darryl may seem a reckless sort, but he’s smarter than this; putting everyone in danger the way he does in “The Calm Before”, pegging it out the gates in a pissy fit of vengeance, knowing full well the act is provocative and will draw out his fellows is just dumb. And not Darryl. That he even re-affirms the crap decision later, in a scene with Glenn and Michonne, is worse. His actions are selfish and designed to get the people he loves killed. Yeaaah, not buyin’ it.

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The scene with Carol and the ute full of Saviours is marvellously interesting, as we see her survival instinct and her humanity battle it out. The oversized jacket, which swamps her frame, giving the impression of timidity, actually conceals a machine gun, and when push comes to shove, Carol wants to live. Melissa McBride plays Carol’s fear of herself like a primal creature, cornered and desperate to flee from the consequences of these stupid men’s actions. Taking a car was asking for attention though, and makes her not only an easy target for enemies, but simple to find for her allies. Was her departure merely a cry for help? Seems unlikely, but her methods don’t add up, if she wanted to slip away with the least chance of being found.

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And so Morgan and Rick give chase, allowing them the chance to discuss their respective points of view, what secrets Morgan’s been keeping, and the evolution in Rick’s philosophy. These scenes are not just necessary character development but important way points as we reach the end of another season of The Walking Dead. Recognising and naming how far Rick has slid from his original moral compass, which was still in effect two and a half seasons back, serves to prepare us for the coming onslaught. Had the Governor turned up at his gate in this season, Rick would have had no qualms about taking down the big bad.

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Worryingly, he seems a little laissez-fair regarding the approach of Negan’s group, if his conversation with Michonne is anything to go by. Their easy romance gives me pause, as no-one is allowed to be happy for long in The Walking Dead, or much of any modern drama, actually. Spooning and dozily eating apples? Doomed. And by episode close, wouldn’tchya know it, Michonne and Glenn are hostages. Another happy couple in peril, on both sides of the fence, as back in Alexandria Maggie seems to be miscarrying her and Glenn’s baby. More consequences, of the beating she took at the hands of the Saviours.

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Many characters are left hanging in the balance by the end of “The Calm Before”, their futures uncertain. Carol has disappeared, and may or may not be wounded and bleeding. Morgan is out looking for her, alone and unwilling to protect himself by mortally harming even the most violent of humans. Maggie may be losing her baby, and without any sort of medic to hand, that could put her own life in peril. And finally, Glenn and Michonne watch defenceless as Rosita and Darryl are caught trying to ambush the Saviours, letting the real cliffhanger rest with Darryl. The camera cuts on a blood splatter, the weedy little turd that jumped him makes his move and puts a bullet in our favourite redneck. I’ll not be having that, let me tell you. Not on my watch.

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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  • You’ve not mentioned the most important point Nina, which is Maggie having her hair cut in that rough-and-ready-but-somehow-still-stylish way. It focused my mind on something that’s been bothering me since he entered the series – how does Abraham maintain that worrying but carefully sheered barnet? And what is happening to Eugene’s mullet? Perhaps all will be revealed in the finale.

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