This is a spoiler-free review – read on at the bottom for additional, spoiler-filled analysis.
As the sixth season of The Walking Dead edges ever closer to its conclusion, the stage is set for war, as the inevitable showdown between Alexandria and The Saviours lurks in the shadows ahead. But as exciting and terrifying as that prospect is, we are forced to wait just that little bit longer. For 30 minutes of Twice As Far, we follow two groups as they explore outside the walls with nothing of merit really taking place. It isn’t until the final act that the fright grips us once again and the promise of conflict sends shivers of anticipation. But is it just more of the same?
Many episodes throughout the series tend to follow the same formula, quiet apprehension followed by an out of control conclusion that sees us forgive the banality of what came before. The Walking Dead is a horror show, so there have to be moments of quiet to allow characters and the viewers alike the chance to breathe, but that doesn’t mean that it should just pass the time. The pre-title section repeats the same scenes over again, marking the passage of time, showing a daily snapshot of life in Alexandria. The stock take, the training and a small hint into Carol’s (Melissa McBride) mental state.
The middle of Twice As Far sees Daryl (Norman Reedus), Rosita (Christina Serratos) and Denise (Merritt Wever) head out for medication – it’s Denise’s first time outside the walls and throughout we are reminded of this and her obvious intentions to bond the group and feel stronger together. But it is her good intentions that are her weakness in this new world. It is almost a welcome relief that during her monologue, where she states the blatantly obvious, she is interrupted by the appearance of the Saviours and an almost familiar face for one of them.
The other group outside Alexandria is the pairing of Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Abraham (Michael Culditz), the comic relief and prime candidates for another Walking Dead spin-off or their own late night TV show. Their use of dialogue in their Southern States twang and deadpan interactions is just pure entertainment, even when their conversation turns sour. The pair also enjoy one of the most pleasurable zombie attacks of the season so far, as Eugene comes face-to-face with smelted walker. Even when the laughter stops once they join up with Daryl on the tracks, they are still able to find humour in the more alarming of circumstances.
It is this ending, a frenzy of bullets and panic, that forgives an otherwise bland build-up. Outnumbered and out-gunned, it’s the perfect concoction for a dramatic climax, although this isn’t the final scene. We end as we began, with highlights from Alexandria, as they prepare themselves for the fight of their lives, one that not all of them may be ready for.
Twice As Far is another case of the quiet before the storm, the writers clearly saving their best for the finale (and hopefully penultimate episode). It’s a pattern that has happened one too many times and while there are some frights, these are standard jump-scares that you really should see coming. The final act steals these how, but Eugene and Abraham are its saving grace.
The Walking Dead Season 6 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. You can also buy and download it on pay-per-view VOD.
Photo: Gene Page / AMC
Spoilers and further consideration:
– “You know how to bite a dick,” may be one of the best lines the show has ever come up with, and when delivered by Abraham in his unique, matter-of-fact way, it’s even better. It looked as though Eugene was selling his friend out, but it takes more than stealing another man’s dibs to break this reformed friendship. For all the humour that their pairing brings, Eugene proves he is still one of the smartest survivors. Able to find a potential place to start manufacturing their own bullets, it is “damn fine, genuine, outside the box thinking”.
– On top of that, Eugene now stands out as the only one of the core survivors to never have the blood of the living on his hands. This entitles him to take Glenn’s place as the heart of the show: the good Samaritan who doesn’t deserve to die. But we are acutely aware of what hand a good-hearted nature deals you in the zombie apocalypse – thankfully for us, Eugene has been at Stage 2 for a while now.
– The mental strain has finally taken its toll on Carol and after sitting on that porch smoking for however long has passed in the opening section, she has finally decided that she can’t take it anymore. Leaving a letter for Tobin, she explains that she can’t fight for Alexandria, she cannot kill for those she loves, she won’t. As the music fades, the creaking sound of the porch swing echoes – it’s haunting and more punishing than the episode’s death. Morgan is left between looking at the empty porch swinging in the wind and Alexandria preparing for war, with walls being reinforced and guns being carried. Perhaps he won’t need that prison after all.
– We can only hope this is a sabbatical for Carol, a chance to clear her head and understand herself. We pray that we’ll see her again someday, hopefully sooner than we think, just like she did at Terminus. The hard truths of what she has had to do have been weighing on her for a while now, and her exit seems oddly finite. She has been around since Season 1 and, usually, when an actor decides to leave the show, they do so as a corpse. If McBride’s contract is indeed over, at least the door is open for a potential return.
– “I should have killed you,” says Daryl when he is reacquainted with Dwight (Austin Amelio) on the train tracks. The last time we saw Dwight, he was escaping his group and their leader, only to reluctantly return to take a knee. It looks as though whoever he bowed to took more than a knee, as the side of Dwight’s face is showing some serious burn scars. If anything good has come out of this meeting, it’s that we now know the Saviours are interested in Alexandria and taking what’s inside. That, and now Daryl is reunited with both his motorcycle and his crossbow.
– Goodbye, Denise. We hardly knew thee. Alexandria’s doctor-in-training is dead, taken by a bolt to the head, one that Dwight would have us believe was meant for Daryl. It’s a death we should have seen coming – the whole episode was showing how fragile Denise is outside the walls, bringing up her breakfast after an encounter with a walker. Her impassioned speech was the final clue, fresh from a personal victory, the only way from here was down. It’ll be a tragedy that will hit Tara hard, but also enough for Carol to call it a day, realising Daryl was right that he should have killed Dwight and all the others. Denise’s death was also the kick the episode needed to get itself back on track. Ironically, the train tracks that Daryl had earlier said no to walking on, the road to Terminus still plaguing him. Hopefully, that isn’t his weakness.
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