‘The Walking Dead’: Eye have to hand it to them…

The Walking Dead
“No Way Out”
February 14, 2016

I am going to start this recap by admitting that I am CONFUSED. I’m not crazy, right? I’m pretty sure that when we left The Walking Dead back in November, Rick was leading Jessie, Sam, Ron, Carl, Father Worthless and Michonne out of Jessie’s house while wearing entrail-drenched ponchos, hoping to trick the horde of walkers who had shuffled their way into Alexandria into thinking they were walkers, too. This plan was going swimmingly until that idiot Sam started screaming for his mommy, which is where the show left us hanging until last night.

But when we pick up our story in the mid-season premiere, the group makes its way from the house to a nice shady spot by some trees that the walkers apparently can’t see or something where they stop and calmly discuss their next move without anyone losing their damn mind. So … what was that in the mid-season finale? Just Sam’s internal dialogue? Because frankly, if that’s the case, that seems like a bunch of nonsense and a worse fake-out cliff-hanger than Glenn’s non-death.

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ANYWAY. So Rick takes the group aside and is like, “New plan: we go to the quarry and retrieve our vehicles and lead the walkers away.” This isn’t a half-bad plan, except for the part where they have an infant with them, so Father Maybe-Finally-Finding-Some-Purpose offers to take Baby to his makeshift church and wait for them there. Carl unhooks his sister from the Baby Bjorn under his intestine poncho and hands her over to Father Trying-For-Once to put under his intestine poncho and I just need to know what, exactly, they drugged this baby with, because not even a gallon of Heavy Duty Benadryl with X-Tra Codeine would keep a toddler calm in this situation, come on. Horse tranquilizers? Quaaludes? What was it? WHAT DID YOU GIVE THAT BABY?

Sam, however, refuses to climb under Father Turning-It-Around’s poncho and be separated from his mom, and she’s like, “FINE, YOU CAN COME ALONG, BUT BE COOL.” Spoiler alert: He’s not going to be cool.

And then it’s night? Somehow it just becomes nighttime and Rick, Jessie, Ron, Carl and Michonne still haven’t made it out of Alexandria? Y’all, how big is Alexandria? Is Alexandria just so huge? Because I didn’t think it was “takes several hours to walk from point A to point B” huge.

Anyway, they are walking along in the dark when Sam spots a child walker in the crowd. Sam begins to replay Carol promising to leave him out in the woods to be eaten alive and he freezes in place — never a good idea while standing in a sea of walkers unless you happen find a nice little safe spot like Rick did just a few minutes hours ago. Everyone is like “OMG THAT’S NOT BEING COOL SAM COME ON” until some walkers come along and begin nomming on his face. Nom nom nom.

cookie-monster-nom-2
I just couldn’t bring myself to post a gif of a 10-year-old being eaten.

As if that’s not bad enough, poor Jessie (understandably) loses it while watching her baby being eaten alive in front of her and is unable to pull it together, so a bunch of walkers begin nomming on her face.

cookie-monster-nom
Keeping with the theme.

And as if that’s not bad enough, Jessie has a death grip on Carl’s hand, so Rick has to take his axe and hack her hand off at the wrist so as to free Carl.

walking-dead-wrist-hacking-jessie-carl

As if that’s not bad enough, Ron then decides that he’s had enough of Rick and pulls out the gun he has no business having. He begins waving it around like a dummy, intending to shoot Rick, maybe Carl, who even knows. But before he can properly aim, Michonne stabs Ron through the neck.

As if THAT’S still not bad enough, though he doesn’t have a chance to aim the gun, Ron is able to pull the trigger, and he shoots Carl’s eye out.

youll-shoot-your-eye-out-christmas-story
Or your romantic rival’s eye out. You know, whichever.

But! Carl might still be alive, so Rick picks him up and carries him to the infirmary while Michonne slashes their way through the walkers. Which, you know, maybe they could have tried with Sam when he froze up. Hindsight is 20/20 … or for Carl from here on out, 20.

Meanwhile, Dr. Denise has been kidnapped by that one Wolf that Morgan refused to kill (Again: great plan, Morgan! Good thinking, buddy!), and the two venture out into the sea of walkers, taking refuge in a sub-level entrance … thingy. (I’m not an architect, sue me.) There, Wolf outlines his plan: the two of them are going to run to the tower that Maggie is trapped on … so they can be trapped, too? Unclear. The point is, Dr. Denise tries to talk Wolf out of this whole kidnapping business by reminding him that he wasn’t born this way, and he’s like, “I know, I changed. And you’re going to change, too.”

So they run for the tower, but they don’t quite make it before Wolf gets his fool self bit. But because he tried to protect her, Dr. Denise feels obligated to help him, and they hobble their way back towards a house where Dr. Denise fashions a makeshift tourniquet.

While that is going on, Carol and Morgan, who had both been knocked unconscious (Carol by Morgan; Morgan by Wolf) wake up, and Carol is all, “HEY! WAY TO GO, MORGAN. GOOD JOB, PAL,” before taking the one gun Rosita somehow managed to keep from Wolf.

As Dr. Denise and Wolf attempt to get over to the infirmary, Carol appears on a balcony and just cold shoots and kills Wolf. Dr. Denise who just minutes ago was determined to save him, just kind of shrugs and hurries over to her infirmary, just in time to accept ol’ One-Eyed Carl. While she works frantically to save his son, Rick goes all suicidal and wanders dazed back into the walkers armed with nothing but his axe.

Killing walkers, killing walkers, killing walkers, and Michonne comes out to drag his white butt back inside to safety to join him, followed by those other guys whose names we barely know, that Aaron guy, that Heath guy, that one worthless son of Deanna. Killing walkers, killing walkers, killing walkers, and their stupidity bravery inspires Pantry Lady and Some Rando to come join them. Killing walkers, killing walkers, killing walkers, and Father Cowardly Lion leaves Baby with some strangers in his church to pick up a machete and join the others outside. Killing walkers, killing walkers, killing walkers, and finally, Morgan, Carol, Tara, Rosita and Dr. Mullet join the fight, whereupon Morgan finds a now-walkered Wolf, and does what he should have from the very start: kills him.

GEEZ. TOOK YOU LONG ENOUGH, MORGAN.

walking-dead-kill-montage

So, you remember how Daryl, Sasha and Abraham found a bunch of RPGs and a tanker truck at the end of the mid-season? They are making their way back to Alexandria with these goodies when they are stopped by the Sons of Anarchy, armed to the teeth, and demanding their weapons. As the greaseball Sons of Anarchy leader explains, their property belongs to “Negan” now. After informing Daryl, Sasha and Abraham that they’re just going to take their things before escorting them back to wherever they came from so as to get a looksee at the place, Greaseball sends one of his henchmen around to the back of the truck with Daryl. Meanwhile, Greaseball threatens Abraham and Sasha a little, and when Abraham dares to ask who Negan is, Greaseball is like, “Welp, now I’m going to have to kill you!” before being all, “J/K, no, I’m not,” before again being all, “LOL, J/K, TOTALLY AM.” But before he can shoot and kill Sasha and Abraham, Daryl kills all of Sons of Anarchy with an RPG.

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They blowed up good! They blowed up REAL good! (uproxx.com)

As for Glenn and Enid, they go into a proper church looking for materials they can use to somehow save Maggie from her precarious tower. There, they have a whole Hershel-esque philosophical discussion about loss and the reasons for surviving and not giving up and James 2:26 and blah blah blah, Enid is convinced to help Glenn and Alexandria and not run away like a jerk.

They take a handful of decorative prayer cloths and a gun that was squirreled away in a cigar box, and head out to the tower. While Glenn fires the gun to distract the walkers, Enid climbs up to the tower with the intention of tying the prayer cloths together to climb down … into some sort of space and time portal that will get them to safety, I suppose. Glenn runs out of bullets and is almost overrun when he is suddenly saved by an indiscriminate and lucky spray of bullets from above courtesy of Abraham and Sasha. (But, no, seriously though, how did they not shoot him?)

Maggie and Enid climb down onto the roof of the truck, and after opening the gate, Glenn climbs into the truck with Daryl. They drive into Alexandria where Rick, et al, are still slashing their way through the walkers — and miraculously, not getting killed. Not even Pantry Lady!

Once inside, Daryl pours the tanker fuel into the town pond before setting it ablaze with an RPG round. The walkers are like, “OOH PRETTY,” and begin wandering into the flaming pond, finally finishing off the quarry threat once and for all. But not before leaving Alexandria covered in rotting corpses. That’s gonna get really ripe really fast.

Before going and taking a much-needed shower already, Rick sits at Carl’s bedside where he pleads with his unconscious — but alive! — son to stick it out. There’s a new world out there that Rick wants to show him (even if it will now only be in two dimensions for Carl). And Carl squeezes his father’s hand because of course he’s not dead, come on.

Look, there are more holes in this episode than there are in Carl’s face: Daryl waiting until the perfect dramatic moment to kill Sons of Anarchy before deus ex machina’ing the heck out of Glenn and Maggie’s rescue; Rick’s completely unhinged “I’ll just stomp out into the mega-horde and swing my axe around because that’s a great idea and just not a suicide mission” plan and how it somehow inspired the others to follow suit; Baby; and the way time dilated for no good reason.

But you know what?

don't even care ron swanson

This was an exciting, upsetting, consequential episode of The Walking Dead, and I don’t even care if some of the events were overly convenient. Some on the internets are REALLY REALLY MAD about Sam’s death, arguing that it was gratuitous, dumb and ultimately meaningless. But I couldn’t disagree more. Aside from setting off the series of events that lead to the deaths of the entire Anderson family, and the loss of Carl’s eye, Sam also represented old Alexandria, the Alexandria that couldn’t cope, the Alexandria that was never going to survive.

Also, the loss of Sam and Jessie (but maybe not Ron so much) will haunt Rick — they already do. He went out into the horde with nothing but his axe out of anger at himself for bringing the horde to Alexandria (although he was only partially responsible for that). It remains to be seen how these deaths will change the survivors (I mean, aside from Carl’s missing eye) and shape the community that Alexandria becomes, but I believe there will be ramifications: their deaths won’t have been in vain — at least not from a storytelling perspective.

But let’s talk about that missing eye for a moment: it is a powerful, potent symbol, and will serve as a constant reminder to Carl, his father and the others that Rick has his weaknesses. Symbolically, wounds like this represent a change, a transformation. The individual has been brought close to death — but survived — and is now a different person for this experience. Very often shamans have these sorts of near-death experiences which serve to imbue them with other worldly wisdom.

As for eyes, they are a hugely important symbol: they represent perception, enlightenment, wisdom, creation itself. What is interesting is that there are many ancient Gods that are depicted having only one eye, including two of the most important: the Norse god Odin, and the Egyptian god Horus. According to the Norse tradition, Odin gave his eye in exchange for a drink from a well that imparted knowledge of all things. As for Horus, he lost his eye in a battle with his brother over the throne. Later, the eye was restored, and Horus offered it to his father as a means to resurrect him. The Eye of Horus became a symbol of transcendence, secret knowledge and power over death. And so, not to overthink it, but I believe Carl’s loss of his eye, aside from being a physical reminder of the consequences of this world, will also serve as a symbol of a change (literally and metaphorically) in Carl’s perception of reality and his relationship with his father, a symbol of his gaining of knowledge and loss of innocence (whatever was left of it) and as a symbol of his transcendence into adulthood.

Finally, there is another symbol of transformation in this episode: that fiery pond. Daryl turns Alexandria’s pond into a pool of fire which attracts, burns and submerges the remaining walker threat. Universally, fire and water serve as symbols of destruction and creation, of death and rebirth. While it was certainly a cool way for Daryl to dispatch the mega-horde once and for all, it also represents Alexandria’s fiery transformation from this naive space into something war-hardened and strong. Though the community was very nearly consumed — quite literally — it survived and will rise from the ashes to be something different and renewed.

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The Walking Dead airs on AMC on Sunday at 8/9 p.m.

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.

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