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The Walking Dead - Start to Finish - Review - "Ready for Season 6, Part 2"

With the second half of season six upon us, I thought now was a good time to post my review and recap of the fall finale because it’s been a while! The Walking Dead, “Start to Finish,” was written by Matthew Negrete and directed by Michael E Satrazemis. The episode continued the flat out run that season six has been so far. The writing and acting have been just fantastic and so has the directing and cinematography of this season. I’m thinking in particular of that beautiful shot of the tower coming down and the choices of when to use music, silence, or sound. This episode will stand out for the wonderful performance of Tovah Feldshuh. I was sad to lose Deanna, but the show gave the character a wonderful, hero’s send off.

After the shot of the tower falling in silence, the camera moves to Sam’s (Major Dodson) hallway, and the music shifts to Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” The camera pans over Sam’s toys and the record player with the 45 on it coming to rest on the picture that Sam is drawing. It appears to be him alone, tied to a tree in the woods with walkers coming for him. He brushes an ant off his picture and there’s a close up of a river of ants streaming into his room and devouring a half eaten cookie on a plate.

         The echoes to Carol (Melissa McBride) are terrific, from her cookie baking to that horrible threat she issued to Sam. And of course, the people of Alexandria are now the cookie to the river of walkers streaming into the breach in the wall. Sam has tried to completely remove himself from this time and place, but it insists on intruding.

After the credits, we see the tower fall again, this time with just noise and no music. There is a cloud of dust (dust to dust as a reminder of the dead, anyone?) and then the walkers are through into Alexandria. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) tells everyone to get back and it’s mass confusion. Ron (Austin Abrams) abandons what seemed to be his plan to shoot Carl (Chandler Riggs) in the back as they both run for safety.

Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) help Tobin (Jason Douglas) get to his feet, but then end up saving Eugene (Josh McDermitt), so we don’t see if Tobin made it to safety or not. We do see Eugene cowering behind a wall. The radio comes on at his feet – It’s Daryl (Norman Reedus)! And it’s clear that it was Eugene’s pathetic “help” that Daryl heard over the radio in the previous episode. Tara, Rosita, and Eugene manage to find safety in the garage that’s been acting as the school for Alexandria.

Maggie (Lauren Cohen) is on her own, and like so many of the others, there’s the rather clich├ęd moment of her tripping and falling and almost getting swarmed. She manages to get to the lookout platform and get up the ladder, but it’s torn away before she’s safe and she spends a few heart-wrenching moments having to haul herself up.

Deanna is in the front lines with Rick, shooting walkers. She helps to save Rick and then falls on a saw, so that Rick in turn saves her. They are joined by Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Ron and Carl, and it looks like they are trapped and surrounded until Jesse (Alexandra Breckenridge) appears and shoots a clear path for them. They all take refuge in her house.

Meanwhile, Glenn (Steven Yuen) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) watch from outside the wall. Enid is defeated and ready to give up – this is how it happens. This is how it always happens. But Glenn insists it’s not over: “People are still alive in there. People who care about you. My pregnant wife.” Glenn tells her to run away if that’s what she wants to do, but he also tell her that that’s how you lose people, even after they’re gone. How can you even remember them if you didn’t try to save them? This is the cost for not being alone.

Morgan (Lennie James) saves Carol after she falls and gets her to safety. It appears that she has pretty seriously concussed herself. She is disoriented and woozy but won’t let Morgan look at the bump on her head. He comments that she doesn’t trust anyone, but she counters, “Some more than others. You’re dead last.” But she clarifies that while she doesn’t trust him, she never thought he was lying. Morgan tells her to sit down and rest and that whatever they have to settle between them can wait.

Meanwhile, back at Jesse’s house, Sam is horrified to have his upstairs sanctuary invaded. I loved the use of slow motion to illustrate Sam’s distress. Jesse tells him to turn off the music – which he doesn’t for the entire episode – why didn’t someone go in and take the damn thing away from him??? She also tells him to simply pretend to be someone who’s not scared. Clearly, Sam does not need to be driven farther into a world of denial. He simply shuts his door on reality.

Meanwhile below Carol and Morgan, Denise (Merritt Wever) is alone with the Wolf (Benedict Samuel). She’s clearly terrified, even with him tied up, as she crams herself into the farthest corner. Denise worries that she has patients and that she should be with them. The Wolf tells her that Morgan isn’t coming back. When she says he killed people in response to his asking what she thought he’d done, he tells her that he freed them.

The two almost seem to be having two different conversations. Neither wants to nor can see the other’s viewpoint. The Wolf is completely detached. He says his wound is infected and while it might kill him, it might not. It’s not unfair or unjust and it will do nothing to change the world. Denise can’t help but care and insists on looking at the wound. She tells him that he wasn’t born the way he was. He changed. And he can change again…

Michonne cares for Deanna. It looks bad, but manageable, until Michonne discovers a bite. There’s a terrific shot of Deanna sharing a long look with Rick. Her only comment? “Well…. Shit.” She is completely stoic.

Rick tells Jesse that Deanna doesn’t have long and asks if Deanna knows how it happens. Jesse confirms that Deanna knows what to expect. Rick is impressed that Deanna is cracking jokes, brave in the face of certain death. Rick tells Jesse that he’ll wait for the walkers to cluster away from them, then he’ll get to the armory and use flared to lead the walkers away.

Michonne tells Deanna that she’s looked at the plans and gets it. She thinks it will work. She asks Deanna what the Latin written in the margins means – but we don’t get that answer until closer to the end. She tells Michonne that she feels lucky that she got to work with her family for a better future. She got to do what she wanted right up until the very end. She asks Michonne what she wants. Michonne says she wants Alexandria to work, but Deanna presses her for what she wants for herself. Michonne admits she doesn’t know.

Ron has been in the garage by himself and Carl joins him there, still not suspecting what’s going on. I loved Riggs in this episode and he’s terrific in this scene. Ron is also despairing, saying Enid is dead. We’re all dead. Carl maintains that Rick will figure it out, but Ron insists that Rick will get them all killed. Ron tells Carl that Rick is a killer. In what feels very grade school, Carl counters with “So’s yours!” Ron insists that he’s already dead. So’s his mom and so is Sam. Again, Carl insists that they’re going to make it, but Ron says Carl’s dead too before locking the door and going for the gun. They fight, creating way too much noise. Ron breaks the window in the door and there’s a really horrific moment as it seems sure that Carl is about to get bitten but breaks away just in time. Rick and Jesse come running when they hear the noise.

The boys are pulled out just in time and everyone tries to use a mattress to hold the hoard out of the house. Rick asks Carl what happened, and Carl lies. Jesse tells Ron it sounded like they were fighting and Ron lies, saying they were just fighting the walkers.

Carl then follows Ron into another room and pulls a gun on Ron. He takes Ron’s gun from him. Carl has one of his best speeches – possibly ever. “Ok. My Dad killed your Dad. But you need to know something. Your Dad was an asshole.” Ron just stares at him.

The noise of the walkers is drawing more and more to the house. They knock over Jesse’s sculpture which adds to the noise. Judith is crying and still we are hearing Sam’s Tiny Tim record playing! Rick goes for Judith, sees Deanna is missing and finds her leaning over Judith’s crib! He almost strikes her with an ax, but she says it’s still her. She wanted to see Judith one more time and her legs gave out. Rick carries her to the bed.

Deanna gives Rick notes that she wrote for Spencer and Maggie, and he promises to deliver them. She also asks him to look out for Spencer – the same way he looks out for his own people. And then she tells him, “They’re ALL your people.” I loved this scene. So well acted by both! She tells him, “I didn’t run to help you because I like you or you’re a good man or you can grow on hell of a beard. I ran over to help because you are one of US. That’s the right answer.” Do we blame hipster beards on Rick Grimes?!?!

When Jesse calls, Rick grabs Judith and leaves Deanna alone, even though he’s said she’ll need someone with her at all times. When the walkers inevitably break into the house, the group retreats up the stairs, using a couch to block the stairway. Rick says to Michonne, we’ll need at least two. Rick leaves Carl to guard the stairs, further adding that they’ll also need bedsheets. They are finally going back to the guts-camo trick!

It’s utterly gross as they cut open the two dead walkers and proceed to smear themselves with the guts. Michonne stresses that they have to do it because the walkers are in the house and more are coming because of the noise – and STILL the infernal music is playing down the hall!!! Gabriel is utterly grossed out, but when Rick says that anyone who stays in the house will die, it’s Gabriel who asks about Deanna. Michonne and Rick exchange a meaningful look.

We see that Eugene is reading a World History textbook. There is a map behind him and he's holding up a lighter to read by. At least he’s putting his down time to good use! It's actually a wonderful metaphor for keeping knowledge - especially history alive so as not to repeat it. Rosita has lost hope and is sitting with her head in her hands. It’s always nice to see Serrantos get more to do. Rosita has been struggling this season. She asks if this is it. Is this place over? Surprisingly, Tara has become the voice of hope – which feels like it could signal her death. Get hopeful? Die tragically? Regardless, Tara says the have to earn a place like Alexandria – it has to come with a price. Rosita feels like they’ve already paid – and I could agree more!

More to the point, Rosita has given up or is at the point of giving up hope that Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) is alive. Tara says, “He’s not dead because I didn’t see it.” And this echoes very strongly with what Glenn said earlier in the episode to Enid about not giving up on those you are closest to. It also resonates with Deanna telling Rick they are all his people. Rosita gains strength from Tara and decides it’s time to find out what’s on the other side of the door. Tara tells her not to waste a bullet on the lock, and Eugene actually springs to life – and the rescue – surprisingly stating that, “Lock picking is within my skill set.”

Morgan and Carol are still simply waiting. He asks if she’s ok, and she says she’s resting her eyes. He goes a few steps down the stairs to see if he can hear anything from the basement. When he comes back, Carol is gone, but then she suddenly pushes past him and rockets down the stairs. Carol pulls Denise away from the Wolf.

Morgan also barrels into the room. He tells Carol, who has pulled her knife on him, that they can talk. Carol tells him it’s over. Morgan insists that they can be better than them – the Wolves. Carol tells him that they already are better! Morgan counters that they aren’t better if they kill. McBride is at her best in this scene as we start to see her inner pain over the things she’s had to do come out. She hesitates before saying, “They made us kill. We had to stop it. I had to stop it.” And there are tears in her eyes.

Morgan tells her that with life, there’s possibility. He promises they’ll never let him out. The Wolf, annoyingly, doesn’t help his own case – he chimes in that he’ll get out! Morgan continues that if he never go out, he’d at least know what he’d done. Morgan fails to realize that they can’t force the Wolf to feel badly about what he did. Carol tells Morgan she doesn’t want to have to hurt him, and Morgan counters that she can’t, he won’t let her!

We cut to Michonne going to Deanna and a scene that really resonates with this one. Deanna is dying but she’s still holding on – with life, there is possibility. Michonne tells her the walkers are getting in and the rest of them have to leave. Michonne offers to kill Deanna before they go, to insure that she doesn’t turn. Deanna tells her that she’s not quite ready yet, but will be soon. She tells Michonne that she’ll do it herself. It’s her life. “Start to finish.” And there’s our title.

Deanna finally tells Michonne what the Latin means that Reg used to say when things were really, really bad: “Someday, this pain will be useful to you.” Deanna’s death may be painful, but her life will have helped them. Carol’s actions may be painful to her, but they were still necessary. Michonne thanks Deanna for believing. Deanna tells her that she still believes. She says that she cocked it up but she figured it out. She tells Michonne she needs to figure out what she wants. Michonne promises that she will. Deanna tells her, “Good. Give ‘em Hell.” And these are terrific, fitting last words for a great character.

Rick has coated all the others, but Jesse insists that she can do herself. Sam shows up just as Jesse is getting started – and it’s hard to believe that he can look more shocked and incredulous, but he does! Dodson continues to impress. Jesse tells him that they have to go and that they have to dress up like the monsters. She once again tells him to make it all pretend: “None of this is real.” But then, how will he know that he’s placing them in danger – very real danger?

Back at the Wolf standoff, Carol tells Morgan that she will kill him to get to the Wolf because she doesn’t want anyone else to die. Meanwhile, the Wolf continues to ask for it: “You should kill me, but you’re all going to die. You don’t belong here.” Carol asks Morgan to tell her he’s sure, that he knows how it will go. Morgan can’t answer her. The two fight. Carol is knocked out, and then the Wolf knocks out Morgan with his own stick. The Wolf gets the knife and holds it threateningly at Denise.

Denise is on her knees and begs him, “Please don’t.” She tried to use his own logic against him, pointing out that if they are already dead, he doesn’t need to kill them. He comes at her with the knife and she flies backward, trapping herself on the wall, but finding the courage to spit out, “You’re so full of shit!” The wolf tells her that “You’re what I like about people….”

It’s at this point that we realize, Tara, Rosita, and Eugene were in the garage attached to this house. They break in to the Wolf holding Denise and knife point. He gets them to hand over their guns and Eugene’s machete. Tara tries to reason with him, telling the Wolf he doesn’t need Denise, but it’s never been about need. He agrees with her: “No. I don’t.” But he takes her because he can. Tara tells him he’s not going to make it outside, but he goes anyway. Is Denise his camouflage?

We see that Glenn and Enid have climbed a tree and he can see Maggie. She stands up, but looks woozy. He can’t even shout to her because it would draw the walkers to him.

The group in the house prepare to move out. Gabriel promises Rick that he won’t give up or turn back once they’re out, and Rick says he believes him. Carl has Judith under his poncho, which seems a little like Rick putting all his eggs in one basket! They move the couch and head out in a line.

Deanna is about to shoot herself. But she realizes that she can help one last time. She draws the rest of the walkers to her, but staggering to the door and opening it and shooting until she empties her gun. Her final defiant scream is silent as the music comes up. I loved this final shot of the character - finishing this life as she no doubt started it with a primal scream affirming life.

The line comes slowly out of the house and they hold hands. Rick leads, followed by Carl, Jesse, Sam, Ron, Gabriel, and Michonne. They are no sooner off the porch than Sam starts saying, “Mom? Mom? Mom?” It’s all pretend remember. Perhaps he wants to stop playing? Sandwiched between Jesse and Ron, there’s no one close enough that isn’t close to him emotionally, who can do what needs to be done to silence him.

This was another fabulous episode with much to say about the sacrifices made to save others. What is the cost of safety, of staying alive? What did you think of the episode? Are you excited for the second half of season six? I am! I haven’t mentioned that sneak peek scene of Daryl, Abraham and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), but is there any way for them to get out of that ambush? Let me know what you are most excited for! And what should be done about Sam? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The X-Files, Defiance, Bitten, Killjoys, and a few others! I'm active on the Con scene when I have the time. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.
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