The Walking Dead Review: No Way Out

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

The Walking Dead is adapted from previous source material. This review is not meant to compare similarities and differences between the show and comic. It’s meant to be read purely as a take on the episode as it stands.

That being said, SPOILERS AHEAD.

“No one gets to clock out today.”

Any notion that The Walking Dead would return on a quiet note was quickly dispelled by Daryl with a rocket launcher. Twice. And while his badass persona is increasing in stature as a result of the action, viewers did at least get a small glimpse into the big bad for the back half of the season in Negan. Considering Negan as a character got absolutely zero screen-time, you were able to surmise enough about him to know that he and his group aren’t really to be trifled with. The entire exchange that opened the episode was only about five minutes in total, but it was extremely effective at giving viewers a sense of what kind of character Negan will be.

Gabriel’s Zombie Baby Bjorn was interesting, showing up just in time to remind viewers whom exactly had Judith as the group made their way through the Walkers. That leaves Rick, Carl, Michonne, Jessie, and her two sons to make their way through the zombie masses. The “wear the Walkers” trick certainly isn’t anything new and at least there’s not rain this time, but it was a case where Carol’s “sage advice” ended up doing more harm than good. Sam had a moment of weakness where he was paralyzed by fear and subsequently eaten alive. The entire scene was a pretty tense build-up to that moment, but it definitely got tenser from there.

Sam’s freak out resulted in the natural reaction of Jessie freaking out – a reaction to be expected if you’re holding your child’s hand while he’s being eaten. That made her next in the buffet line and even prompted a moment of paralysis in Rick as he lamented the fact that his most recent shot at happiness was literally being devoured in front of him. Ron took the mayhem as an opening to extract his revenge on Rick, failing to realize that Michonne was right behind him and proficient with a sword. Michonne taking out a teenager is a little rough in itself, but things got worse from there when it’s revealed that Carl got a bullet through the eye.

It was an astounding turn of events that essentially jolted the episode (and series) in that it was completely unexpected. The Walking Dead has suffered from something of a complacency problem as of late, as by the sixth season the formula was pretty familiar to viewers. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see something like Carl’s injury happen because it does prove some of the bigger characters are still vulnerable. Carl is one of Rick’s few links to the way things used to be since he’s his son. And in Carl’s defense, he’s grown significantly as a character, thanks in part to giving him a more important role and to Chandler Riggs settling into the role itself.

The chain of events each of the characters encountered all dovetailed into a pretty frenetic rally at the end when Rick charged out and started swinging his hatchet. The action spurred the others to action and again reminds the viewer (and characters) that despite his presumed flaws, Rick is the unquestioned leader of the group. The survivors slowly started joining him in mowing down Walkers (punctuated by a pretty stabby montage) and Glenn made a run for Maggie. When things looked bleakest (and viewers were about to lose it with Glenn “dying” again), Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham showed up with a lake of fire. The events coming together was insanely tense and exciting, maintaining a pace that felt like a sprint from start to finish.

It’s possible that the explosive opening was really the writers metaphorically blowing up any and all expectations – both established to this point and expected from here on out. “No Way Out” was an episode that was truly off the rails in a tremendously positive way, as it bucked The Walking Dead status quo in favor of resetting quite a few things. Gone are many of the more superfluous characters, streamlining the cast down to the older fan favorites and newer characters who have garnered plenty of attention. Present now is a new group of survivors with the chance to shape Alexandria in their own image and without any preconceived notions.

“No Way Out” was as much about setting up the second half of the season as it was about resetting fan expectations. The last few seasons have featured some of the better episodes of a show you could watch, but to say it wasn’t getting a little stale would be disingenuous. The series could easily have come back and answered with the status quo, but instead “No Way Out” is probably the best episode of the season and – quite possibly – the entire series. Rick has a renewed vigor, the survivors know they can trust one another, and Daryl will no doubt mention the threat of Negan looming in the distance. The Walking Dead has never really been a show about celebrating victories big or small, but the characters should take a victory lap after these events (even Gabriel redeemed himself!). The creative team should also take a victory lap for delivering a stellar episode that was high on adrenaline and reshuffled things in a way that was needed for the series.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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