The Walking Dead returned with “No Way Out,” and continued this season’s crazy, runaway train intense season. The episode was written by Seth Hoffman, and it’s no surprise that such a visually stunning episode was directed by Greg Nicotero. We pick up right where we left off. I love how this episode picks up so many threads from the first half of the season. There are some spectacular pyrotechnical effects in this one as well as an entire army of walkers. This show really does combine exceptional effects with terrific, thoughtful writing, and some of the best in the business acting. Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Lauren Cohen (Maggie), Chandler Riggs (Carl), Melissa McBride (Carol), Danai Gurira (Michonne), all deliver exceptional performances, but honestly, I could list the entire cast here!
He disarms Daryl first, and I have to wonder if, given Daryl’s appearance, whether he thought he’d be an easy recruit. He clearly underestimates him when he sends one guy with Daryl to see what they have in the back of the tanker. I loved that he did recognize “If you can get your hands on a tanker, you’re people we want to know.”
We can make a few assumptions about him based on his slightly southern accent? Daryl is going to fit in, Sasha and Abraham, not so much. He comments on the fact that Abraham is wearing dress blues. I’m betting that he’s figuring a military-minded, imposing figure like Abraham isn’t going to be so easy to intimidate or assimilate. I loved the shot of him walking up to Abraham and the disparity in their sizes. It’s clear that Abraham doesn’t want to comply. The leader tells him, “If you have to eat shit? Best not to nibble. Bite, chew, swallow, repeat. Goes quicker.” Anybody have a link to that t-shirt yet? Because I definitely want that one!
Daryl is holding one of the rocket launchers, and I have to admit, it had been so long since we saw them find those, I’d completely forgotten that they were in the back of the tanker! The benefit to a long hiatus! Daryl has killed the guy who went back with him – I loved the shot of the actor with his head pillowed on a gun! I imagine lying on the pavement would be even less pleasant – but there has to be a story there…. Daryl has been wounded, however, and there’s a shot of the knife wound weeping into his angel wings. His response to Sasha’s query about whether the guy cut him was so typical Daryl: A little bit.
This scene ends perfectly with a shot of the leader’s severed and now burnt and burning head. Abraham tells him, “Nibble on that!” It’s very clear in this episode that Abraham has found a new appreciation for life.
Back in Alexandria, we follow the group as they make their way through the heard of walkers. Rick has his head up, looking for the best way through. The rest trust him enough to walk with eyes averted downward so as not to attract the attention of the walkers. There’s a nice touch when we see a “Come in, We’re Open” sign in the background. Seems the walkers have totally taken them up on that offer!
Rick pulls the group to the side. Michonne and Carl automatically take up watch of the perimeter. He’s decided there are just too many walkers to shoot their way through. They need to go to the quarry to get the cars there to lead the walkers out of Alexandria. He’s probably right about that, but it seems like a possibly tragic miscalculation given what happens. However, if they had stuck to the initial plan, they might not have had everyone else join in, and they certainly wouldn’t have had the tanker’s help as that didn’t arrive until much later.
There’s a terrific shot of Gabriel going off by himself, head down, bouncing Judith gently under his poncho. The group joins hands again. Carl reaches for Ron’s (Austin Abrams) hand, and Ron hesitates. Carl has clearly felt like he’s cleared the air. They’re in this together, and regardless of what’s passed between them, he’s going to keep Ron safe. For his own part, it’s clear that Ron is still struggling with how he feels. It’s one of three really good moments for Abrams.
Back at the brownstone, Tara (Alana Masterson) is frantic to go after Denise (Merritt Wever), but Rosita (Christian Serratos) tells her that it’s basically suicide. Rosita tries to reassure her that the Wolf (Benedict Samuel) will keep Denise safe because he’s sick, she’s a doctor, and he needs her.
Meanwhile, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is helping Carol up and Morgan (Lennie James) is also waking up. Carol immediately commandeers Rosita’s gun to go and sweep the brownstone for any more surprises. As soon as Morgan asks where the Wolf is, Carol knows immediately that he’s taken Denise.
Glenn (Steven Yuen) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) make it into the church and there’s a terrific crane shot that shows them threading the needle to make it inside. Glenn sets Enid to looking for stashed weapons, ropes to help Maggie climb down, and something to start a fire with. Fire’s a good distraction, right?
Eventually, Enid turns the conversation back to what Glenn said in the previous episode. She asks him what he meant by, “that’s how you lose people even after they’re gone.” Glenn tells her that the people you love are still with you because they made you who you are. They’re still a part of you.
As Glenn says this, his voice is over a shot of the Wolf with Denise. It’s a great way of getting us to think about who is a part of the Wolf. Who made him what he is? And this dovetails nicely back into Denise’s comment that the Wolf wasn’t always like this. He changed and can change back. And, in fact, the Wolf comes back to that comment himself. He tells her that he wants to help her change, however. Yet, it becomes clear, that he’s the one to change – perhaps back to how he was.
It’s really wonderful for the show to take just a moment to honor those characters who have dies and who are most missed. Glenn tells Enid when she asks who the people were to him, that they were “My parents, a man named Dale, Maggie’s father Hershel, a woman named Andrea, a man named Tyreese.” Then Glenn asks her who they were to here and she answers her parents. He tells her that they are still her because she is still here.
Enid does draw strength from that. Glenn tells her that he wanted her to come back with him, to not give up on Alexandria or the people there, and he wanted her not to be afraid. But it’s more than that now. Enid really has found her sense of community and she insists that she’s coming with him to help rescue Maggie. It’s fitting then that she finds their savior – a glock – under the alter.
Denise is clearly terrified. Wever is brilliant in this episode as she is even shaking and we really see her character transform over the course of the episode. The Wolf tries to reassure her – it will be easier to move if she’s not terrified, but it’s pretty clear that he likes her in his own way. It’s totally creepy when he grins at her and tells her maybe he just likes her company. His remark that he’s going to change her, certainly seems to indicate that he’s planning on keeping her around.
He tells her that she’s been given a gift and maybe she’ll see that one day, or maybe she won’t. It’s not entirely clear what the gift is. It seems he means the gift of changing to a savage to survive, but it could also, less likely, mean the gift of her skill as a doctor which is highly valued in this new world. However, in the end, the real gift that she is given is actually seeing the Wolf change.
This brings us to just about the halfway mark of the episode, and while it was fast paced to here, it actually speeds up now – and becomes exponentially more horrific! Somehow it’s changed to night. I get that the group couldn’t just run through the herd, but did it really take them that long to walk down the block? This is my one big problem with the episode.
However, it had to be night in order to ratchet up Sam’s terror. Suddenly, we hear Carol’s voice saying again to Sam, “The monsters will come and you won’t be able to run away. When they come for you, they will tear you apart and eat you up, all by yourself.” It’s why he wouldn’t leave Jesse. He couldn’t bear to be alone.
Unfortunately, the thing that sends him over the edge is seeing a child (Brody Rose) in the crowd of walkers. It’s interesting because we so rarely see a child walker. We – and Sam – only see the child from the back and he looks a lot like Sam. Maybe if Sam had been able to see the child’s face, he wouldn’t have identified so strongly with him, but it’s the thing that completely freaks him out because it’s the fear that Carol’s words have instilled in him come to life.
Sam pulls away from Rick and backs away. Almost immediately, he is separated from the others by walkers wandering between them. Jesse tries to ground him the same way that she always has. She tell him he can do it, he just needs to be strong. Ron starts to panic now – and Abrams is again terrific in this scene as he too tries to get through to Sam. We get to see just a glimpse of the bond between these three. He tells his brother “Hey, you can do this. You just have to look at mom.”
Sam tells them that he wants to, but his keening and distress have already attracted attention. It still seems to come out of nowhere because the picture has been so tightly focused on these family members, but suddenly, Sam is horrifically engulfed in walkers and eaten alive.
Breckenridge is also terrific in this scene. She has been so strong all along, but this is something no mother could bear and she’s spent her life keeping this child safe. We see that she is still holding Carl’s hand and he’s frantically trying to break away from her as in her grief she is crying and screaming uncontrollably. We get shots of Ron, Rick, and Michonne who are all horrified.
The walkers are coming, and Carl tries to get through to Jesse, pleading with her to come with them. And then the walkers are on her. Rick is stunned and horrified as is Carl. Rick moans no, as he flashes to memories of Jesse. I have to admit that I feel badly that we didn’t get to see them develop more of a relationship.
Carl, however, pulls Rick back to reality and the here and now because Jesse is still holding Carl’s hand even as she is also devoured. Rick has no choice but to use the ax to chop off Jesse’s hand to free Carl. There is a terrific juxtaposition with the previous flashbacks as each time Rick strikes with the ax, we get another flashback of Jesse only this time instead of soft focus and sunny days, the pictures are bathed in blood.
As soon as the hand is off, Carl falls, dropping his gun. Carl stands up, and he’s between Ron and Rick. Ron has now seen his entire family die before his eyes and basically at Rick’s hands. This mutilation of his mother is his last straw. Ron raises his gun at Rick, saying “You. You.” Rick and Carl are both shocked and horrified – and Carl has no way to defend them as he dropped his gun. Of course, shooting a gun in the middle of a herd is a bad idea anyway.
And then we get a sequence right out of the comics. Possibly one of the most famous sequences, and one that fans of the comic have been waiting and hoping for. Carl slowly turns and lifts his head. The shot meant for Rick went wild and shot him right in the eye. He says “Dad?” before collapsing.
Rick is pulled back to action. He scoops Carl up in his arms and Michonne runs before them, chopping a path as the walkers swarm in response to the gunfire and fresh blood.
Back at the brownstone, Eugene is staring at his machete. He says to Rosita, “Sooner or later, we’re fighting our way out. I know you are fully aware that we will.” Rosita confirms it, but also says, “Not you.” Eugene protests, “Well, by my reckoning…” and she cuts him off. She clearly has no faith in his ability to help in any way.
The Wolf decides to use the distraction of the gunfire to finally make a break for the wall. He remarks that somebody is putting up a fight. Denise points out that they did put up a fight and that’s why all his friends are dead. The Wolf agrees they should have waited. “We should have waited. Watched a little longer. It was selfish. But maybe if I wasn’t so selfish, I wouldn’t have gotten that IV.” Did he knowingly sacrifice his own friends because he knew that he needed medical attention?
The Wolf tells Denise the plan and to not be afraid. She tells him to go to Hell. He tells her that it’s now safer to be outside the wall. They make a break for it, and he’s basically clear, but goes back for Denise and then he’s bitten in the arm. I loved the look on his face like he’s not even sure why he’s going back for her. Denise, however, tells him that if he gets her to the infirmary, she’ll save his life.
Meanwhile, Morgan and Carol have a heart to heart on the second story of the brownstone. Carol is clearly very distressed. I like how Morgan pushes her, but I’d hate to see her lose her badassness! When Morgan come in, she pulls her gun on him, but then drops it. He asks her about her husband and daughter. These are the people she still carries with her. Does she owe at least some of her anger and willingness to kill to the husband who beat her?
He tells her that he didn’t want to hurt her. She tells Morgan that he saved the Wolf for himself, not for them. He was acting selfishly. He was still trying to make up for those he murdered senselessly. I like that she also helps him to see that it’s important to do things for the greater good. Carol tells him that she should have killed him, and he reiterates once again that she can’t – something he also said in the last episode. This time, however, it’s not that he will prevent her from killing him, but that as part of their group, Carol is bound by her own code to protect him.
Denise and the Wolf make it to a building and Denise puts a tourniquet on the arm. The infirmary is just across the alley. The Wolf is clearly puzzled by his own actions. It was clear. He could have made it. Denise points out that he came back for her: “Maybe because you need a doctor, or maybe you changed.” The Wolf is thoughtful and doesn’t challenge her. Denise takes control here and asks him if he’s ready this time.
It’s sad that it looks like they are about to make it – the Wolf tackling the walkers out of Denise’s way – when Carol shoots and kills him. Carol doesn’t look happy about it. Denise almost turns back for the Wolf, but he goes down taking out another walker and tells her to go – clearly sacrificing himself for her, proving he did change. Or possibly changed back.
Denise makes it back to the infirmary, and she too is clearly changed by her experience. She’s met at the door by Spencer (Austin Nichols), Aaron (Ross Marquand), and Heath (Corey Hawkins) who have taken refuge there. Her first question is how are her patients. Once she knows they are safe, she takes a moment to let the shock wash over her, but not for long as Aaron spots Rick and Michonne with Carl, slicing through the herd. Aaron says “my God” and Heath wonders if Carl is dead. Denise takes one glance and says nope and springs into action. She insists they need more light, regardless of the walkers being attracted by it.
Rick simply utters “save him” as he hands Carl into her care. Between his shell shock at Jesse’s death and then his behavior once they get in the infirmary, I was a bit worried that we were going to see a resurgence of Rick’s breakdown after Lori died. Rick backs away from Carl and turns, pulling his ax – I miss his machete! Rick wades out alone into the herd and just starts killing. We hear Michonne’s voice from a great distance trying to call him back, demanding to know what he’s doing.
Michonne has stayed with Carl to help Denise, buy she’s frantic to go to Rick. It seems that all a gunshot to the eye needs is a few stitches. For those who don’t read the comics, it’s even more ridiculous there as Carl essentially has a hole blown through his entire head. Pretty sure you can’t survive that. I’m hoping we get some kind of explanation here – like it was just a graze that took out his eye… or something. Regardless, Denise talks Michonne down! She knows exactly what to say – let’s never forget that she was a psychiatrist – and she’s a good one! The second Denise is done, Michonne kisses Carl and runs after Rick. Will she blame herself for causing Ron to pull the trigger when she skewered him? Hope not…
Heath insists that they have to go out and help Rick too. This is it. They fight or die. Aaron is on board, but Spencer is clearly terrified but he also goes too. It’s awesome as in small groups, all the people in hiding come out to stand with Rick. Rick tells them, we can beat them.
Gabriel is in the church with others who have taken refuge there, including Tobin (Jason Douglas)! Gabriel passes Judith to one of the women and walks toward the door with his machete – is that Rick’s machete? Tobin wants to know what Gabriel is doing. Gabriel turns and tells them, “We’ve been praying together that God will save our town. Our prayers have been answered. God will save our town. Because God has given us the courage to save it ourselves.” And it seems that someone has indeed given all the cowards the courage to fight in this episode.
Tara sees the herd is thinning. Carol insists that they have to get out there because Rick is making a stand. Carol tells Tara that Denise is safe – she saw her make it to the infirmary. Morgan, Tara and Rosita all say they are going with Carol and Eugene says he’s right behind them. Rosita tells him that he doesn’t have to. But Eugene disagrees: “That’s incorrect. I do. No one gets to clock out today. And Hell. This is the story people are gonna tell.” Eugene finally has a chance to re-write his own cowardly tale, and he’s going to take it!
Morgan encounters the Wolf for the final time. He’s been turned, and it’s a shame that Morgan has to kill him now. He says he’s sorry before he does. Is he sorry for killing him or not saving him? Should Morgan have killed him to begin with? Should Carol have not shot him? I love that this show doesn’t make these moral dilemmas easy or clear.
Glenn and Enid also take advantage of the walkers being distracted and run for Maggie only to find that the walkers there are about to tip over the platform. Glenn sends Enid to get Maggie down while he distracts the herd and tries to lead them away from Maggie. It means almost certain death for him. Glenn is shooting to lead them away when Maggie spots him. Cohen has very little screen time in this episode, but these shots of her frantically screaming for Glenn are gut-wrenching. I have to admit that as I was writing down scenes for the best scene poll, I actually wrote, “Glenn dies saving Maggie…” And I was almost ok with that sacrifice. Almost.
How much better was it for bullets to come out of nowhere to save Glenn?!?! I adored the hero shot of Abraham and Sasha on the wall taking out the walkers with the assault rifles. And then of course, Abraham’s huge grin and “Can you get the gate? Appreciate it!”
Glenn jumps in the truck with Daryl and explains he just got back himself. Daryl has a plan. I loved the shots in these final scenes. We see them fill the pond with gas and then Daryl rocket launches it on fire. The walkers, like moths, are drawn to the flame and walk into the water where hopefully they both burn and drown. I hope someone has a plan to clean up that pond though! Once again, the noise goes down as the music comes up. I loved the montage that becomes everyone swinging and killing walkers and how those pictures evolved to just our people on a back background.
We fade out to the next morning and Alexandria is carpeted with dead walkers. Everyone is sitting exhausted and blood spattered on the porch, but it doesn’t look like we’ve lost anyone else.
Denise is stitching up Daryl’s shoulder, and Michonne is holding Judith. I know there are a lot of people who would dearly love to see Rick and Michonne as a couple… Rick is sitting with Carl who is still unconscious.
Rick tells Carl, “I was wrong. I thought that living behind these walls for so long that maybe they couldn’t learn. But today. I saw what they could do. What we could do. If we work together.” There’s that theme of change again. And there’s the theme of keeping people alive by what you do. Rick is honoring both Deanna and Hershel.
He goes on, “We’ll rebuild the walls. We’ll expand the walls. There’ll be more. There’s got to be more. Everything Deanna was talking about. It’s possible. It’s all possible. I see that now. When I was out there. With them. When 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 bed. I want to show you the new world, Carl. I want to make it a reality for you. Please Carl. Let me show you.” And Carl squeezes his hand. It's a nice shout back to the group holding hands to walk through the walkers - very much a valley of the shadows of death - but here so much more hopeful.
It’s pretty clear that Rick is actually feeling hopeful about the future again. Way back when, before he was in the coma, we saw Rick wondering about Carl’s future. Almost losing him again has reignited that in him.
This was just a fantastic episode. This is, as Eugene said, the story they will tell. Gohar Gazazyan is listed as the casting director on IMDb, and I have to give her props – assuming she is the one responsible – for finding so many amazing young actors! I loved the note of hope that the episode ends on, but I also loved the rise of the “cowards” and the themes of change. What did you think of the episode? Favorite scene? Line? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! And you get bonus points if you read all the way to the end of this review!