***Spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 6, Episode 9 “No Way Out” follow***
Well that was an explosive premiere, literally. Whoever thought it was a good idea to to give Daryl a rocket launcher should receive an Emmy. The episode started with a group of bikers being blown up and ended with walkers heading into the Alexandria lake (or pond) to their fiery
deaths ends. Both of these events were exciting, but they were merely the bookends to a really enjoyable episode which was filled with substance and style.
Though “No Way Out” brought together all of TWD main characters, this episode was primarily about Rick. When we last saw Rick he was leading Carl (carrying Judith), Michonne, Gabriel, Jessie, Sam, and Ron through a herd of walkers disguised in walker blood and guts. The plan was working, Gabriel got Judith safely to the church and the group was moving along without incident. Then Sam, Jessie’s youngest son, freaked out and started the most exciting chain reaction the show has seen. First, Sam was taken by walkers followed by a wailing Jessie getting ripped apart. Ron pulled out his pistol to shoot Rick, but Michonne stabbed Ron through the heart which then caused him to fire an errant shot which hit Carl in the eye. It was a great sequence which later inspired Rick to begin the greatest zombie killing spree since Shaun of the Dead.
It was this killing spree which ignited a new hope within Rick. Despite his plan completely falling apart (thanks Sam), and momentarily losing his sanity which led to the walker offensive, Rick admits that he is at a place he hasn’t been since before everything started. For so long he did not believe the town was capable of protecting itself, but when everyone came out of their safe places to attack the walkers together, he saw that they were capable of staying alive, together. As Rick sat as Carl’s bedside he spoke of his newfound hope that the town would be able to survive. This episode alludes to a Rick which has come full circle and wants nothing more than to make the world a better place for his son to survive.
While the mayhem was being unleashed in the middle of the town, a couple other survival missions were playing out elsewhere. Glen and Enid half-concocted a plan to rescue Maggie, during which Glenn explained to Enid his theory of keeping loved ones alive by not running away. While this exchange had some nostalgia with mentions of Dale, Andrea, and Tyreese; the whole thing seemed a little awkward and unnecessary. Fortunately the episode didn’t linger on this much and the next time we see the two they’re running towards Maggie. The escape plan ended up with Maggie and Glen both firing shots to distract the walkers from the other, with the herd eventually collapsing on Glen’s location.
Glenn seemed even more doomed in this situation than his previous predicament earlier in the season. Fortunately for him, and the rest of Alexandria, help was on the way. After blowing up Negan’s biker gang in the opening scene, Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham showed up in their tanker with automatic weapons, gas, and a rocket launcher, aka the perfect anti-zombie survival kit. Sasha and Abraham took out the zombies converging on Glen. Daryl then dumped gas into the water in Alexandria and set it ablaze which drew the remainder of the walkers to the fire.
There were ancillary stories which played out in the midst of all this. Carol shot the Wolf guy as he came to back to save Denise from walkers. Morgan and Carol had a cold exchange which left little resolved between the two. Eugene and Gabriel finally picked up a weapon with intent to take out some walkers. The biggest little story from this episode was the introduction of Negan. Though we didn’t see him, the bikers mentioned Negan as their leader. Comic book fans will recognize Negan as the baseball bat-wielding psychopath. How Negan is portrayed in the series remains to be seen. Show writers have shown a tendency to tone down characters, as they did with the Governor. Will Negan receive the same treatment? That remains to be seen, but there will likely be some tense moments by the end of this season.
Coming off a middling first half of season six which was filled with a lot of “wait and see” episodes, The Walking Dead finally delivered an end to end action packed episode that lived up to the expectation set by first episode of season six. It was fun to watch and featured excellent moments for some characters. The question going forward, as always, is “what happens next?” This situation is nearly identical to where things stood after the first episode of season six, which then led to some disappointing results. Negan has been identified as the next big bad guy, which could lead to some big losses for the Alexandria group. Hopefully the rest of this season can live up to the hype.