Published on December 1st, 2015 | by Bean0
The Walking Dead Mid-Season Finale – Season 6 Episode 8 “Start to Finish”
The first half of Season 6 of The Walking Dead seems to grind to a halt rather than end with a bang. As ever, we are left with a number of narrative cliffhangers, merely business as usual. But the means of Rick, Carl, Michonne et al’s escape is such that it forces the episode to end in a weird real-life slow-mo sequence. Events leading up to this have been action-packed though, so the tension is well-earned. For an episode with a great deal of walker-action, the show weaves into it’s fabric a number of important exchanges or connections. Holding back the reunion of Maggie and Glen – the focus of much of the last few episodes, here fairly relegated to one or two moments – we have the one spot the other, and then we move on.
More meaningful encounters occur between Morgan and Carol however, who bring to a head their conflicting dogmas. Unfortunately, the scene plays out poorly for both involved – is she concussed? She seems over the edge, not at full capacity when she confronts Morgan, which muddles her otherwise cogent and valid argument, and puts her at a physical disadvantage. 100% Carol would never pull such a desperate move – would rather have played her hand with more cunning, waiting for Morgan to fall asleep or similar. Alas, no, she goes in hot (quite out of character) rather than utilising her wits. All a bit odd really, and it lands them all deeper in the mire.
Which leads to an exchange between Denise and the Wolf hostage, who is, indeed, full of shit but also unrepentantly nasty. Denise, both in her role as a medic and psychologist must a) do no harm, and also b) not lose hope in the redemption of her patients, which this shit-bag apparently is. But where do you draw the line between doing your best for others and needlessly playing into their psychotic hands? The last we see of either of them is as Tara helplessly watches her new flame walked out into the horde with an armed nut job who isn’t planning a mental reformation any time soon.
Deanna and Michonne talk of beliefs and desires as the former awaits her fate. There is a pleasing quality to Deanna seeming to find her spirit, resilience and gratitude as she faces the end. As she brings these important questions to Michonne’s attention – somebody who hasn’t hoped for a long time – Deanna shows her first real leadership qualities. Inspiring others is the deepest requirement of a leader and Danai Gurira plays the scene with the kind of pre-epiphanic gravity it needs, and they share a beautiful moment.
Deanna’s conversation with Rick is yet another attempt to pass the torch of responsibility for the town’s survival to this more experienced leader, which is in and of itself admirable, if not too little too late. And she can say it as many times as she likes, but these are not Rick’s people. Or at least not all of them. The application process to the elite forces of Rick’s group is a complex and contradictory set of circumstances. It’s not as if they don’t take on enemies; Tara was originally on the side of the Governor, and not at any ol’ time, but when he took down the prison and beheaded the beloved Herschel. (Oh, Herschel. We miss you.)
They also have their fair share of useless lameasses; the Reverend has until very recently been a liablity, but at least seems to be actively attempting to change. Eugene, on the other hand, hasn’t made one attempt to be helpful in months until this episode, when he explains that lock-picking is “in my skill-set”. Oh, I’m sorry, you have a skill-set now? Love the character, and Josh McDermitt does a bang up job playing Eugene’s mental nuances like a melting pot of anxious self-doubt, but seriously, the whole point of Eugene has been to be weak and have that piss everybody off. Rosita, one of his closest friends, ripped him a new one last week. In this episode, he once again proves he is incapable of protecting himself, even when armed with a machete, lamely mewing “help” as a zombie’s maw approaches. This is unacceptable. And yet he remains; he’s one of the team.
So, why shouldn’t Rick take on more waifs and strays? If you want my answer, it’s the scope of the problem. This isn’t one or two weak links. It’s a town-ful. Also, having a fixed location does not work on The Walking Dead; it kills the relentless, restless energy the show thrives on. Narratively, if that town physically resembles normality, it weakens the resolve and grit our characters need to survive. The main difference between Alexandria and the also ill-fated Woodbury is their leader’s approach to the apocalypse. I’m sure the show-runners would argue that the size of the settlement is all they have in common, but actually, the main community is similar – largely peopled by sheeple, with little or no active role in the running of their town. An assortment of ill-prepared expendables.
Certainly, in Woodbury there was only a very thin veneer of civility. Behind closed doors it was all heads-in-a-jar for the Governor, and zombie-gladiators for the townsfolk. They had the excuse of having been brutalised by knowledge of the outside world, a distinction the Alexandrians cannot even boast. Which brings us to another reason why Rick shouldn’t take on the citizens of loser-ville; they are simply too green. They haven’t the time or resources to train these folk up, and the Alexandrians haven’t the gumption. And those who do dig in are tethered to doom by less-resilient loved-ones.
Jesse, seemingly the only sane member of her family, is trying to keep it all together, but the odds are obscenely staked against her. Her eldest, the wee prick Ron, brings the living dead down on their heads in a teen-PTSD fit of who’s-got-the-most-murderous-Dad, which Carl handles as best he can, even covering for Ron after the fact, presumably because he imagines Rick would just shoot him on the spot, Jesse be damned. So there’s that shitstorm. But the real problem is Sam. After the beautiful cold open metaphor of an ignored ant-incursion, we finally see just how far down the rabbit hole Sam has slipped. And Jesse cannot help him.
The show goes to great lengths to show things from his perspective, as the adults stream in to his ‘safe space’ covered in blood, carrying a wounded Deanna and blasting him with scenarios he cannot handle. He’s seeing the end of the world. His Dad was a violent bastard (so he doesn’t have the role model little badass Carl had) who beat his Mum, killed somebody and then got murdered. A week ago. His brother might as well not exist for all the meaningful interaction or support they share. The only adult he actively went to for advice on how to survive these dire straights – Carol – was so damaged in regards to children herself that she callously spelled things out too baldly for his mind to cope with, and he has entirely retreated into himself, potentially regressing to an age and capability younger and lesser than he started out with.
And this child will be the downfall of Alexandria, because he too perfectly encapsulates everything wrong with their community. Fear. Denial. Regression. Repression. Weakness. Dangerous and wilful innocence. Whether or not he causes a major character death in the opening scene of the back nine of Season 6 will be an answer we now have to wait two freaking months to receive. Roll on February!
Review by Nina Clark
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