The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 2 - Revealing Our True Nature
Amid all the fire and death, there are scenes of stiff reflection as the characters carry out deeds that clearly continue to tear them apart. It is these scenes that make the madness worth it, as The Walking Dead shows a clear intention to up the intensity for season 6.
After last episodes cliffhanger, no one could be faulted for predicting a walker-instigated bloodbath, though those horns to close the premiere certainly made it clear something was not quite right at Alexandria.
And the opening scenes (post titles) certainly threw me off the scent. Quiet scenes of brewing teen drama (unfortunate) and the like created the assumption that this episode would fill in a quiet gap leading up to the arrival of the walkers.
Then an out-of-nowhere attack on an unsuspecting neighbour (which I actually found hilarious) set off one of the bloodiest massacres in Walking Dead history. The attacking members of the Wolves were truly frightening as they sprinted after victims, reminiscent of the zombies themselves in World War Z.
The Wolves' motives are hinted at in only a couple of brief moments of dialogue, but it seems that they are truly fighters for nature, and against humanity. What is also hinted at is that Enid (the teenager to whom the opening teaser belonged to) seems a likely candidate for the spy the Wolves must have required for the attack.
Her opening sequence cleverly keeps a lot of things from us, but most notably is that she goes from one state of being (eating a raw turtle from its shell and resembling a walker herself) to standing before the gates of Alexandria. Her eagerness to disappear during the chaos makes it pretty clear that she is spying for the Wolves, though hopefully there's a little more to it.
Where Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Morgan (Lennie James) were shaping up as season-long foils for one another, in episode 2 Rick is absent and Carol (Melissa McBride) is the opposing force to Morgan's good nature. The difference here is that the pain is very clearly on Carol's face. Only when we reach the eye of the storm does Carol allow herself to feel the pain, and the killer she has become is clearly taking its toll.
That, matched with Morgan's desperate attempt to convince the Wolves to leave before they are killed adds a third dimension to its front-and-center characters, an examination that was mostly missing from the premiere but a depth that, for the most part, the series excels at.
While the first episode directed its attention primarily to Rick and Morgan, this episode does spread things out a bit. We see every recurring character that stayed behind in Alexandria last episode, even if only briefly. Carl (Chandler Riggs) is finally given a role to play, and while it was true to character it continues to be disappointing to see him reduced to a sideline character. Jessie (Alexandra Beckenridge) is given her transformative moment as she does what's necessary to protect her family.
Though her eldest son, Ron (Austin Abrams) is far from compelling. His role of meandering from one location to another, making stupid decisions and being stubborn, isn't worth the time on the show. Merritt Wever's Denise Cloyd makes an interesting debut, a doctor learning the ropes as a surgeon on the job.
I'm most curious about the repercussions this episode will have, whether those come before or after the giant herd of walkers arrive. Will people be angry that half the town's people disappeared in time for the Wolves to attack? (Obviously, planned to take place when the town was at its weakest). Now that Carol's cover is blown, what will the reaction be to her true nature? Though after her breakdown, it's completely possible that she hadn't been faking the domestic mask since arriving in Alexandria. She might have genuinely wanted that life.
Where Carol has revealed herself to some of her less capable neighbours, Enid hasn't quite let herself be known (nor will she want to). Morgan continues to assert his own world-view, though could this simply come across as weakness to the Wolves, who themselves have finally revealed something of what they truly represent. I have no doubt that there will be more from them, at least this side of Christmas, because there is so much we still don't know.
The Walking Dead continues to fire on all cylinders, and while the Wolves aren't completely finished yet, there are other threats that may destroy the town completely. A fast and brutal second outing for this season is either setting the standard for the rest of the season, or, like season 5, may just be hooking us in for a long, laborious ride later on.