As AMC’s The Walking Dead closes in on its Season 6 finale in just two weeks, the citizens of Alexandria are taking stock to make sure everyone is bringing their best game to the fight against Negan and the Saviors. Tonight’s episode, “Twice as Far”, proved that there are still some weak links in the chain. So even as the walls of Alexandria are shored up, the food stores are replenished thanks to the Hilltop Colony, and a plan to make more ammunition comes closer to fruition, it’s clear that threats still lurks around every corner, and the Saviors are the clearest and most present danger.
Before we get into tonight’s episode, now seems like a good time to address a recurring gripe with The Walking Dead, namely the fact that otherwise semi-intelligent people do stupid things on occasion, which more often than not directly results in their deaths. The list of “Stupid Things” is too long to recount six seasons into this show–Glenn’s descent into the well in “Cherokee Rose” springs to mind–but our remaining heroes apparently have not passed these Darwinian lessons along to their new cohorts. Or more to the point, the show’s writers continue to have sane people do silly things in order to put them in dangerous positions for the purposes of dramatic tension and to kill characters off. Unfortunately, “Twice as Far” continues that sinful practice.
After opening with a nice little montage that showed the daily, and increasingly redundant, life of the citizens of Alexandria, two small groups headed out of town on different supply runs. One, composed of Rosita, Denise, and Daryl, headed to a nearby apothecary in the hopes of finding some medical supplies. The other, a pairing of Abraham and Eugene, traveled to a machine shop with a mind to start up an ammo-making operation. We’ll start with this pair of at-odds egos.
If you’ll remember, Abraham made it his post-apocalyptic life’s mission to protect egghead Eugene and escort him safely to Washington, D.C. so that he might save the world with his arcane knowledge. Except that Eugene had been lying about that knowledge the entire time in order to keep Abraham around as a bodyguard. Clearly that betrayal is still on their minds in this episode but since they went out on a mission together, we’re led to believe that things are on their way to being patched up…at least until Eugene let loose with a childish tirade as part of his effort to rebrand himself and “dismissed” Abraham from his service. (This all came about after Eugene failed to dispatch a Walker whose chrome dome was coated in a solid helmet of molten lead, which was a pretty cool effect.) Abraham left Eugene to his own devices in the machine shop; what could possibly go wrong?
The bulk of the episode was spent with Rosita, Denise, and Daryl. Denise, the town’s resident medical expert (by default) convinced the hardened survivors to accompany her to a nearby pharmacy that hopefully hasn’t been completely scavenged. They’re understandably reluctant to babysit Denise but she managed to convince them that she’d go on her own if she had to, though she stands a better chance of surviving if they go with her. It’s not the most well thought out plan, especially considering the relatively unknown threat of the Saviors lurking outside the walls, but that’s not the convoluted bit of writing that frustrated me this episode.
While the trio made the trip, we learned a bit more about Denise’s life before her arrival in Alexandria: she grew up driving beat-up old stick-shift cars (respect), had a slightly older twin brother named Dennis (whom Daryl reminds her of), her parents had a drinking problem (which likely came with some form of abuse, if the imprisoned and disfigured child Walker in the apothecary’s storage room is any indication) and she has long been fearful of the wide world. It’s this last personality trait that forced Denise out beyond the wall to test her mettle in this terrifying world and to force herself into doing scary things like admitting that she loved Tara or standing up for herself against Walkers and other threats. She also did it as a psychologist of sorts, concocting a reason to get Rosita and Daryl out of their shells. Oh, and she wanted a can of soda for Tara…
And yet it’s these very decisions that ultimately get Denise killed. Honestly, there was no reason for her to be on the trip at all considering that Daryl and Rosita just bagged all of the meds without the need for Denise to identify any of them. Much like Eugene, whose best asset was his clever out-of-the-box thinking, Denise’s only expertise was her medical knowledge, limited as it was. That’s a skill that should be protected behind the walls of Alexandria, not drawn out into the savage world like some sort of military combat medic. I get that Eugene and Denise and other “weak” characters in this world want to make themselves feel useful by killing Walkers and other threats alongside their more macho comrades, but there’s a place for everyone in this world and their place is safely at home.
This is played out to full effect when Denise is stopped in the middle of her monologue on the virtues of courage by a crossbow bolt through her eye, and Eugene is hauled out by a dozen or so Saviors, led by Dwight, the man Daryl previously encountered in the burned forest. (Dwight sported a new facial burn, so either I missed that on a previous episode or he caught hell for attempting to flee from the Saviors and was punished for his transgressions.) With Denise dead and Eugene tied up, things didn’t look too good for the out-gunned Rosita and Daryl. When Eugene spotted Abraham on the perimeter and appeared to give away his position, things looked like they were about to get worse. Instead, Eugene created a diversion by chomping down on Dwight’s little middle bits and Abraham, now positioned behind the enemy, started to take the Saviors out. All Hell broke loose for a few minutes but our heroes managed to escape relatively unscathed…oh, except for Eugene, who got shot. (Should have stayed off the railroad tracks like Daryl said.)
Don’t worry, he’s fine, even without Denise around to patch up his bullet wound. (Oh and there’s always another medical professional around when you need one, like Hilltop’s obstetrician.) Unlike pretty much anyone else who’s been shot on this show, Eugene’s fine in a matter of hours. To be fair, at least they mentioned that the bullet only grazed him and that the recent cache of antibiotics should keep the infection at bay. They also apparently retrieved Denise’s body since Daryl and Carol took the time to bury her, which led to perhaps the most surprising moment of the episode overall.
Carol left. She wrote a note–mostly to Tobin, but one he’ll share with Rick & Co.–and abandoned her friends and family in Alexandria. Her excuse? She loves them, but because of the threats posed by the Saviors, she’d have to kill to protect them and she can no longer do that. What’s interesting here isn’t just Carol’s final decision, one she’s been mulling over for a few episodes now, it’s how her departure affects the daily happenings in Alexandria and the action going forward. Carol no longer sits on her porch swing enjoying a cigarette, and even Morgan seems disturbed by the dynamic shift in the town’s power struggle…or maybe it’s because two Alexandrians were wheeling carts loaded with guns and ammunition down the street, likely preparing for all-out war on the Saviors.
Though this episode continued its season-long debate over whether killing to protect/survive was acceptable or whether “All Life Is Precious”, it didn’t really do much to posit an argument for one side or the other. Instead, the only lesson learned–rehashed, really–was that this world is no place for the weak. Or the long-winded. RIP Denise.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Rick: “Morgan, why?” Morgan: “It’ll give us some choices next time.” Building a prison cell in your basement is a totally normal thing to do and not a waste of time or resources at all, by the way.
Daryl: “The ones who took you and Maggie, what’d they do to you?” Carol: “To us? They didn’t do anything.”
Denise: “I’ll go alone if I have to.” Daryl: “You’ll die alone.”
Eugene: “Brass tacks: The hair doesn’t make the man, the man makes the man.”
Eugene: “You don’t spit game, you are game.”
Eugene: “I’ve changed, adapted, I’ve become a survivor.”
Abraham: “I’m gonna hit pause so I can kill that thing behind you.” Eugene: “Pump your brakes, Red. I’m callin’ dibs on this one. And dibs is dibs.”
Denise: “Aw man, I threw up on my glasses.”
Kudos to The Walking Dead writing team for flipping the script from the comic books since a very different character died in a very similar way.
Daryl: “I shoulda killed you.”
Dwight: “She wasn’t even the one I was aiming for.”
Nicole Dollanganger’s “Chapel” was a weird music selection for this scene.
I like Rosita’s little moments in this episode: her interactions with Spencer, her team-up with Daryl and Denise, and her subtle nod to Abraham after saving his life. Abraham’s love confession to Sasha, however, was less impressive.
Eugene: “I was not trying to kill you, I was only looking for a moment.”
Abraham: “You know how to bite a dick, Eugene. I mean that with the utmost respect. Welcome to Stage 2.” These nerds…
Carol’s departure probably means that she’ll either end up a victim of the Saviors or will return just in time to save the Alexandrians, right?