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If you’re someone who watches The Walking Dead for your weekly does of adrenaline-filled Rick Grimes walker killing, then “No Way Out” was an episode tailor-made for you. If you prefer your Walking Dead episodes with some interesting character beats, forward plot movement, and walker attacks that create genuine fear as to whether or not a fan favorite might bite the dust, then “No Way Out” likely left you as cold as it did me.
Season six of The Walking Dead has been, on the whole, a pretty big disappointment. While some elements of the Alexandria arc have worked well (Carol’s ability to hide in plain sight, the addition of Denise, Deanna, and Aaron, the juxtaposition of Rick’s hardened band of fighters and the soft citizens in the town), a lot of the time spent in this walled paradise has been wasted time just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Some of that ennui is simply built into the show’s DNA- we know, as an audience, that at a certain point, this seemingly safe haven is going to break. There’s no show if there isn’t a need for our characters to have to deal with some outside threat. But with so many new faces to introduce in Alexandria (or, rather, so many random characters to meet before their almost immediate untimely death), the time behind the walls has really dragged- even if, in the actual time of the series, only a few weeks have passed (at least that’s my assumption- Rick seemed to indicate that they had been there for quite some time in his ridiculous speech to unconscious Carl at the end of the episode).
So, one would assume that the walker attack would liven things up and inject some stakes into the show once more. Yeah, not really. It’s pretty bad when the threat of certain death under a herd of walkers isn’t enough to give the series a shot in the arm. Did anyone honestly think that any of the show’s core characters weren’t going to make it out alive? Sure, I was a bit worried for Denise, and I was absolutely thrilled to see her finally come into her own, but never once did I worry that Carol, Morgan, Maggie, Rick, or even Glenn, wouldn’t be around next week. As for the deaths of Sam, Jessie, and Ron, well, I certainly didn’t shed a tear.
When my reaction to three characters getting killed off is to shrug my shoulder and sigh “Finally!” that’s a problem. I, like many people (and all the people who have read The Walking Dead comics), saw these deaths coming a mile away. Sam was clearly going to freak out, Jessie was pretty disposable and had never really been given all that much to do besides moon over Rick, and Ron was just the worst. These were three characters the show foisted upon us without really developing them at all, people we had spent enough time with to know their names (although, I did have to look up Ron’s name, so perhaps that isn’t the best indicator), but they absolutely weren’t characters we actually cared about. Next season, I doubt I will even remember that Ron existed within the series.
But this sort of thing is now par for the course on The Walking Dead. Ever since the great Glenn fake-out, the writers have written themselves into a corner. We have learned that any minor character is expendable (therefore, there isn’t really much reason to care about them), but major series regulars are untouchable. Heck, Robert Kirkman has even said that the show won’t kill Carol (since she is far and away the show’s best character, I can totally get behind that, but I want there to at least be some fear that death may befall even the most beloved of characters). The closest the episode came to making me fear for the safety of characters that matter in the grand scheme of things was when Abraham and Sasha were being held at gun point. While both characters desperately need some additional screen time, there was a legitimate fear that they weren’t going to make it out alive- at least until Daryl remembered Chekhov’s rocket launcher. But the walker attack at Alexandria had absolutely none of the same stakes as that brief moment with Negan’s henchmen.
And, aside from all of our favorites making it out alive, the battle royale at the close of the episode was absolutely ridiculous in and of itself. Rick running out into the herd with only a hatchet and inspiring everyone (including the poorly trained Alexandrians) to fight alongside him? Ridiculous. Had an Alexandrian done the same thing, Rick would have deemed him an utter fool and let him die. That equally ridiculous series of close-ups on the various characters hacking their way through the walkers? Complete overkill and overly stylized. And the use of the tanker to light a fire to save the day? Well, that was a pretty obvious use for it, no? I spent the entire episode just waiting for the tanker (and rocket launcher) to save the day- something I would have been much less disappointed with had the rest of the episode actually mattered.
— One thing I did enjoy was the scene with Morgan and Carol. Those two have quickly become the show’s two best characters and I am really looking forward to seeing how the failure to change the Wolf ultimately changes Morgan.
— So, Carl got shot in the head and only lost an eye? There’s no additional damage?
— While I may not have liked the episode as a whole, major props to Greg Nicotero for his excellent walker effects work and for directing the major battle sequence. Sure, there were some pretty cheesy elements, but that was not an easy fight sequence to pull off.