Warning: This recap for the “No Way Out" episode of The Walking Dead contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead midseason premiere is an episode with major endings (read: deaths) and a big beginning for those who’ve been residents of Alexandria for any length of time. Most surprisingly for an installment that includes what is possibly the most devastating three minutes in Walking Dead history — an episode in which so much happens, and most of it not good — things end on a hopeful note. Not that that’s likely to last…
We saw a teaser of the episode’s opening scene as a postscript to last November’s midseason finale: Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham had the misfortune to have their trip home in the Pattrick’s Fuel Company truck interrupted by a group of motorcycle-riding baddies who identified themselves only as working on behalf of a man named Negan.
“Working” = stealing from others, and when the full scene plays out in the midseason premiere, additional details are revealed: The leader of the pack is an oddly charismatic fellow whose name we don’t know, but who colorfully demands Daryl and company hand over their weapons. When Abraham hesitates, Head Negan Dude advises him, “If you have to eat s–t, best not to nibble. Bite, chew, swallow, repeat. Goes quicker.”
HND goes on to tell the trio not to ask questions, and then sends one of his men with Daryl to the back of the truck to see what other goodies they might have stashed. When Abraham — referred to by HND as “this ginger” — dares to ask “Who’s Negan?” HND is angered, and shares how he and his crew have a very specific way of introducing themselves to people: They kill one of the newbies. He wasn’t going to do that this time, he says, but now … he has a gun in each hand and points one at Abraham and one at Sasha.
“Wait!” Sasha says, launching into an attempt to reason with HND. Abraham tries to stop her, but she tells him, “I am talking to the man.”
“No, you’re not,” HND says, guns still aimed. “I’m not gonna kill you,” he continues, as Sasha breathes a sigh of relief. “Wait, wait, you know what? Yes, I am,” and he means it this time, which is why it’s great that Daryl has perfect timing. It’s this exact moment that Daryl chooses to step from behind the truck, RPG launcher (found by Abraham in “Always Accountable”) at the ready, and fires it at HND and his crew. They explode, with bike and body parts flying.
Daryl also killed the guy behind the truck, and now that he’s disposed of the rest of Negan’s men, he and his group are continuing on their trip home. As Abraham walks past the burning head (which is no longer attached to its body) of HND, he tells him, “Nibble on that.”
The Eye of the Storm
Back in Alexandria, Rick, Michonne, Jessie, Gabriel, Carl, Judith, Ron, and Sam are still holding hands, wearing their DIY zombie gut ponchos, and trying to weave their way through the walker-overrun streets to make it to the armory for more weapons. But Rick steers them off into a corner, where they whisper about their next move.
He thinks there are too many walkers, too spread out across the town, and too few guns at the armory to make continuing there worth the trip. Instead, he says, they should make their way to the quarry, where they left all their vehicles when carrying out his first plan to deal with the pit walkers. They can use those vehicles to lead the walkers away again. Everyone agrees, but Jessie says the trip to the quarry is too taxing for Judith. Father Gabriel steps up and says he’ll take Judith to his church, promising Rick he can and will keep her safe until they return. “Can you do this?” Michonne asks him.
“I’m supposed to. I have to. I will,” Gabriel says, and Rick, without hesitation, agrees to put the life of his baby in Gabriel’s hands. Jessie also wants Sam to go with Gabriel, but her youngest, most vulnerable child won’t leave her side. She agrees to keep him with her, in a monumentally bad decision, and Gabriel walks, with Judith under his poncho, towards the church.
Rick and the others slowly continue to snake across the town, and by nightfall, Sam is getting more and more freaked out about the walkers. He starts hearing Carol’s voice in his head, and the speech she made to him about monsters eating him alive when she threatened him in Season 5. He starts to imagine walkers — gnarly, bloody, sharp-toothed walkers — up close, and he stops walking. He lets go of Rick’s hand, and sees a kid-sized walker ahead of him. He starts crying, and Jessie, Rick, Carl, and Ron try to encourage him to keep moving, but he’s too afraid to move.
And that’s when a walker sneaks up behind him and starts eating him, alive, just like Carol had warned. That begins a brutal, three-minute domino effect in which:
* Sam is eaten by walkers;
* Jessie can do nothing but scream as she watches her child being devoured;
* Carl tries to get Jessie, who’s still holding his hand, to move on, but she can’t;
* More walkers, drawn by the commotion and Jessie’s screams, attack Jessie, as Rick watches, saying, “No, no,” as he flashes back to scenes of her smiling and laughing;
* Carl yells for Rick to help him, as walkers are moving quickly towards him, and he can’t free his hand from Jessie so he can run;
* Rick has to take out his ax and chop off Jessie’s arm — the arm of the woman who was likely to be his next love — so he can save his son’s life;
* As Carl gets free of Jessie, he stumbles and his gun drops to the ground;
* Ron picks up the gun, and, having just watched the last two members of his family get eaten, points the gun at Rick, the man who killed his father;
* Ron, saying, “You… you,” is about to fire on Rick, when Michonne stabs him through the back with her katana;
* As the katana goes through Ron, the gun goes off, but Rick is not shot;
* Carl, who was standing near Rick, turns around and says, “Dad?” as Rick sees that Carl has been shot in his right eye. Carl collapses;
* Rick scoops Carl up and runs toward the infirmary, as Michonne chops through the walkers to clear a path to get Carl to medical help.
Morgan vs. Carol: The Aftermath (Round 1)
Carol and Morgan both awaken from their knock-down fight, and Morgan is upset to learn the Wolf has fled and taken Denise with him. Tara and Rosita, who are in the same room with them, debate whether they should go after Denise, but Rosita decides they need to wait for the right time to act. Rosita tells Eugene, who plans to help, that he won’t be part of their rescue operation.
Later, Carol is upstairs in the brownstone they’re all in, by herself, thinking, and clearly upset about all that has happened throughout the day. Morgan walks in and sees her. “You had a child, right? A husband? I didn’t want to hurt you, I just had to stop you,” he says.
Carol: “You saved him for you, not us. If it was for us, you would have… I should have killed you. I should have.”
Morgan: “You can’t.”
Get a sneak peek at the rest of Season 6 of The Walking Dead:
Denise and the Big Bad Wolf
Denise and her captor, meanwhile, are still in Alexandria, and he’s trying to lead the two of them to the edge of the walls so they can leave town. He tells her not to be afraid, that life outside the walls will be safer than it is inside. She’s terrified anyway, but as they see an opening to run to a ladder that will give them access to flee Alexandria, they bolt. Wolfie makes it to the ladder and is ready to climb, but Denise gets stopped by a walker. The Wolf could go, but he turns back and runs to help Denise, and a walker takes a big chunk out of his arm. Denise tells him she can save him, and promises to if he gets her to the infirmary.
They run for her medical office, and make it as far as a room across the alley. She takes off his belt and ties it around his arm, above the bite. He’s in shock, not from the bite, but because he can’t believe he sacrificed his own chance to escape to save her. “You turned back for me,” she tells him.
“Maybe it was because you needed a doctor. Or maybe you changed,” she adds, using his own words, about how he wasn’t always the savage he became post-apocalypse, against him.
They run back outside to finish their journey to the medical office, and Carol, who’s looking down on the streets from inside a brownstone, sees the Wolf and shoots him, yelling for Denise to keep running. The Wolf also tells her to keep going, and Spencer, Heath, and Aaron hold the door open for her as she runs into the infirmary.
Aaron looks out the infirmary window and sees Rick running towards the building with Carl. He tells the others, and Denise pulls herself together and begins issuing orders to Aaron, Heath, and Spencer to gather supplies, IVs, clean towels, and a gurney. Rick runs in and puts Carl on the gurney. “Will you save him, please?” he asks Denise, as Michonne slips his guts poncho over his head. Angry and terrified about Carl’s condition, Rick looks out the window and sees all the walkers. He decides the best way to help Carl is to try to clear the town, so he takes out his ax and runs outside, singlehandedly whacking away at them.
Michonne, Heath, Aaron, and Spencer soon go out to help him, but the throng is so large that Rick finds himself standing in the middle of a walker circle, still chopping away as they begin to close in on him.
That’s when other Alexandrians, the ones Rick worried would never be able to take care of themselves, look out the window and decide they have to step up. Eric, Olivia, and Kent run out to help Rick battle the walkers.
“Knock ‘em away, drive ‘em down!” Rick yells to his neighbors. “We can beat ‘em!”
Father Gabriel asks a woman in his church to keep Judith safe so he can go help. “We’ve been praying, praying that God will save our town,” he says. “Well, our prayers have been answered. God will save Alexandria, because God has given us the courage to save it ourselves.”
Morgan, Carol, Tara, and Rosita also prepare to join the fight, and Rosita tries to stop Eugene when he says he’s going out. He tells her, “No one gets to clock out today.”
As Morgan steps into the fray, he goes one-on-one with the Wolf, who’s turned into a walker. As Morgan prepares to kill him with his bo staff, he looks at him in the face and says, one more time, “I’m sorry.”
With most of the townsfolk doing their best to take down the walkers, Glenn and Enid sneak up to the platform where Maggie was trapped. Enid climbs up to secure Maggie, while Glenn uses himself to distract the walkers away from them. He shoots at them and they follow him, quickly trapping him into a small pocket against one of the walls. As Maggie and Enid look on, the walkers close in on Glenn, and he is a second away from dying (for realsies) when a string of rapid-fire shots begin to mow the walkers down. It’s Abraham and Sasha, back in town just in time to help save their loved ones. Abraham stops firing for a moment and asks Glenn, “Can you get the gate?” Laughing, he adds, “Appreciate it, pal!” and resumes mowing.
Glenn opens the gate, allowing Daryl to drive the fuel truck through it. Glenn hops in, and Daryl asks what happened. Glenn tells him he’s not sure, as he just got back, but thinks they should start leading the walkers away with the truck.
Daryl has such a better idea, though. He backs the fuel truck up to the lake in the middle of Alexandria, and empties the gasoline into it. He uses the RPG to set the whole thing ablaze — making for a beautifully shot sequence that really begs to be seen on a movie screen — and the lake burns giant flames against the night sky, lighting up the middle of town and drawing the zombies to walk right into their own death pool.
Everyone else continues their hand-to-hand combat in another intense action sequence that is movie screen-worthy, and by daylight, the surviving Alexandrians are gathered on the porch of the infirmary, surveying the body-filled streets of what’s left of the town.
Rick, meanwhile, sits beside Carl’s bed inside the hospital, holding his hand. Carl’s still unconscious, but Rick tells him he was wrong about the Alexandrians. He thought they’d lived behind the walls too long to be able to learn to defend themselves.
“But today, I saw what they could do, what we could do if we work together,” he says. “We’ll rebuild the wall. We’ll expand the walls. Everything Deanna was talking about is possible … When I was out there with them and it was over, when I knew we had this place again, I had this feeling. It took me a while to remember what it was, because I haven’t felt it since before I woke up in that hospital.”
“I wanna show you the new world, Carl,” Rick says, crying. “I wanna make it a reality for you. Please, Carl, let me show you.”
And Carl squeezes his hand.
* Glenn has finally convinced Enid that she needs to continue to survive to honor her parents, and that she has a place among the Alexandrians. And she was key in helping him gather supplies from the church to rescue Maggie from the guard platform. But there’s still the matter of what Enid’s connection, if any, was to the Wolves. Remember, in “JSS,” she started to tell Carl about a weakness in the Alexandria security. “That’s how we…” she said, but didn’t finish the thought. If she is connected to the Wolves, will Glenn and the others continue to welcome her into their family when they find out (and you know they’ll find out eventually)?
OK, Dead-heads, let’s hear your reactions to the midseason premiere: Were you shocked by all the death and destruction? Were you sad to see Jessie and her family go? Can you believe they went all the way there with Carl’s eye, one of the biggest storylines in TWD comics? Did you think Glenn was going to die at the wall, after surviving at the Dumpster? Did you love that Daryl got to use the fuel truck and the RPGs to be the hero, especially after D and Honey stole his bow and arrow and motorcycle? And what do you think the Alexandrians will do now that their town is in shambles?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.