Sunday, March 6, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Walking Dead' - Rick Leads the Charge for Another Bloody Encounter & Carol Stays Behind in 'Not Tomorrow Yet'

AMC's The Walking Dead - Episode 6.12 "Not Tomorrow Yet"

Rick and the group realize the only way to maintain the peace of Alexandria is to fight a new enemy. This time though, our group might be outmatched.

"Not Tomorrow Yet" is an incredibly dark and morally compromising episode of The Walking Dead. Probably the darkest one in the entire series' run. This hour works because it commits to these very horrifying actions with its main characters. Rick and Maggie made the deal with Gregory last week that they would take out Negan and the Saviors in exchange for food and peace between the two communities. They did so just by taking people at their word that the Saviors are a bunch of manipulative and brutal dicks. Rick and his group don't do anything to confirm that fact. They trust Daryl's story and the Hilltop's own interactions with Negan. They decide to strike first before a war even falls on Alexandria. A group goes out to the Savior compound and kills everyone inside. That's very brutal. It makes the audience question whether or not the main characters can still be considered heroes. That's an interesting setup for this episode as everyone is dealing with how they feel about all of this killing.

Killing is a part of this world. In order to survive, one must kill. That has become a way of life. Some survivors have been fortunate enough to have never killed another living person. Others have done it multiple times and even know the exact number of lives they've claimed. This plan to kill all of the Saviors has the potential to go wrong in so many ways. Rick's plans haven't always gone all that well. Remember how this season started with him trying to move all of the nearby walkers only to bring them to Alexandria? The community is still trusting his leadership. No one really questions this plan except for Morgan. His no-kill policy has been a frustrating development this season. It's not a bad idea at all. It's a refreshing and different perspective in this world that challenges what everyone else has accepted as their reality. But it's being positioned weirdly. It's just something that pops up as the only form of debate to this big battle. It's a concern for a moment and then just disappears. It never has enough stakes to actually justify it's position in the narrative.

But the cost of this fight is weighing heavily on the citizens of Alexandria. All of them have changed so radically because of this world. Some of that happened when the world first fell. Rick and his gang have become master survivors in this world. Some of the people in Alexandria just recently embraced this world for all of its bloody and lethal realities. The entire community is willing to embark on this fight just to ensure their own survival. It's not something that Rick does lightly. But he does justify it by saying that "This is how we eat." It's a blunt statement that is enough motivation for him. But everyone else has to find their own inner strength to take on the burden of this fight and kill people. Long stretches of this episode include various characters coming to terms with that reality. They've all killed walkers. But this is a whole new experience for a number of people who go out on the mission. And that leads to a number of really thrilling and engaging scenes between some unexpected characters.

Glenn and Heath bond over the fact that neither of them have killed another person before. They've seen some dark things in this world that have rocked them to their core. But they have never deliberately killed someone while they weren't expected it. It's a horror that will change them. They don't know how either. When the group invades the compound, Glenn kills a living person for the first time on the show. That's significant. It's a fact that became known when the creative team was doing interviews about Glenn during his "fake death" arc last fall. So, it's a significant change for the character. It's something he takes willingly and allows Heath to avoid that change. Heath hasn't been a major addition to the show this season. But it's still an incredible gesture on Glenn's part. However, it's also a great final punchline that the two of them are force to act instinctively when several of the Saviors wake up and are determined to kill them. They hold up in the armory killing everyone who wishes them harm. But it's still a horrifying sight to behold once they look at the carnage they've just done.

This attack also brings up a ton of memories about the time in Season 4 when the Governor launched an assault on the prison. He led his group into the battle because of his personal feelings towards Rick and Michonne. And now, Rick is delivering a speech to convince his people to kill the Saviors and it sounds very familiar. This show doesn't always have the best memory of its own past. But it's still significant when Tara mentions being a part of something like this before. She was the sole survivor from her side of the conflict that time. And now, she finds herself a part of it again but under the leadership of Rick. She trusts him but the parallels are still apparent. Her side of the story is complicated a little bit by frequent mentioning of going on a supply run just after this fight. That seems weird and likely a way to write out Tara for a little bit considering Alanna Masterson's real-life pregnancy (which isn't hidden all that well). But it's still very awkward and feels problematic that two characters get to leave this conflict while things are only getting worse for everyone else.

In addition to the Governor's assault on the prison, this episode is also reminiscent of the time Carol single handedly took down the Terminus compound. That event showed just how much of a badass Carol is. A fact that this episode remembers despite her being absent for the last few weeks. This is a really strong episode for Carol even though she's not a part of the group that actually goes inside the Saviors' compound. She has undergone so much change over the course of the series. She has become a really skilled warrior who has thrived in this world much more than the previous one. She has no problem killing other people when it's a question about survival. She doesn't object to this big fight in order to find peace. But this episode also does a number of interesting things regarding the way Carol has changed and the life she has made for herself in Alexandria.

The cold open of this episode really isn't that great. It shows Carol foraging for cookie supplies while also taking down walkers outside the walls. It almost plays as a parody of how a housewife has to survive in the zombie apocalypse. Carol's housewife routine was just a ruse in order to fool the Alexandrians when she and the rest of the group first arrived. But now, it's a life that she does enjoy. She likes baking cookies and being an active part of the community. She's still a lethal warrior when the situation calls for it. But she's also showing this different side of her that worries about the changes that the people around her are undergoing as well. Her flirtation with Tobin comes out of the blue. That's an odd moment. But she's also the only person of the group worried about Maggie being out in the field during this big fight. That's a really stupid move. Who brings a pregnant woman to a battlefield where the mission is solely to kill people while they're sleeping? It's really idiotic and Carol wants to be there to protect Maggie. Of course, that doesn't seem to do a whole lot in the end. The episode concludes with Rick getting a message that some of the Saviors escaped and are holding Maggie and Carol at gunpoint. It's an action that happens offscreen in order to set up a tense final reveal that shows that this conflict is far from over. It's a pretty effective moment too. Everyone has changed under Rick's leadership and this battle to survive. It's not going to be simple or easy either. This is a fight that is going to drag out and claim many more victims before it's over. And that is very thrilling.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Not Tomorrow Yet" was written by Seth Hoffman and directed by Greg Nicotero.
  • Before leaving for the big fight, Abraham also finds the time to officially break up with Rosita. He's pretty cold and brutal about it too. He tells her the only reason why he was interested was because he thought she was the last woman on Earth. That's devastating. This also isn't a show that can do post-breakup life in a zombie apocalypse all that well, I'm suspecting.
  • No one from Alexandria dies during this big assault either. They're a group who always has a ton of good luck during these incredible circumstances. This episode certainly did set up a number of possibilities with characters saying goodbyes or making promises that they'd be back. But alas, no one died. At least, not yet.
  • Again, the Carol-Tobin kiss is just so weird and random. They've never really had a connection before this episode. The creative team probably just decided that Carol needed some loving and picked a random person in Alexandria. She has lost so much. She knows the consequences of finding love in this world. But there's still not enough reasoning behind why Carol is going for this.
  • It continues to be great that the threat from walkers is just an inconvenience that everyone in this world just has to deal with. In fact, it comes in handy when Rick hatches a plan to deliver Gregory's head to the Saviors like they wanted.
  • That's Daryl's motorcycle, right? It seems like it given his reaction and wanting to know where the Savior got it from. Now, he just needs to be reunited with his crossbow.
  • Tara wants to confess to Father Gabriel about the horrible feeling she has about this plan and how she lied to Denise before leaving Alexandria. But it's even more amusing when one realizes that she's actually confessing to Jesus - who finds a good justification for her.
  • Carol's desire to keep the truth about Morgan from Rick and the rest of the community seems ill-advised. Her rationalization seems to be to protect Denise from getting swept up in the repercussions. But it still feels like something that Rick should know.