So far, season six of The Walking Dead has centered on the growing pains between Rick’s group and the citizens of Alexandria. While Rick & Co. are clearly hardened survivors with few among them failing to pull their weight, the Alexandrians have been relatively pampered in this new, terrible world. And yet, there’s always at least one soft citizen who questions Rick’s leadership and attempts to play a game of “Anything you can do, I can do better,” usually immediately before getting eaten. That theme continued in tonight’s episode, but “Thank You” also took great pains to show that just because you have survived, it doesn’t mean that you will.
To set the stage for tonight’s hour, let’s remember that the first episode of the season featured the combined efforts of both groups attempting to lure a massive herd of Walkers out of a quarry and away from town. Though it worked well for a while, the plan went pear-shaped when the Wolves attacked Alexandria, an event that played out in real time in the second episode. Other than the theme, one thing tying those time-synced episodes together has been the blaring airhorn of the crashed semi-truck. That horn also kicks off tonight’s episode, “Thank You.”
While Morgan sprinted back to the city to help out, Rick and the others were forced to improvise a new plan to deal with the back-half of the line of Walkers that strayed from the path. Though he starts off by leading a ragtag band of his own people and some Alexandrians (most of them Redshirts), Rick soon goes off on his own to deal with the herd while Glenn and Michonne lead Heath and his fellow citizens back to town. And even though the well-edited episode ratchets up the tension by jumping back and forth between the two storylines, we’ll take them separately to keep things a little clearer.
While Rick sprints a country mile to get back to the RV, planning to use the rumbling monster to lure the Walkers back on track, he radios his plan to Daryl. Ever the maverick, Daryl leaves the responsibility of keeping the current line of Walkers moving forward to Sasha and Abraham, essentially abandoning them in an effort to help Rick. Things take a while to pan out, and we soon learn that Daryl’s instincts were correct, he just had bad timing.
Rick’s also in radio contact with Glenn, who fills the ex-Sheriff’s Deputy in on his own plan to distract the herd; more on that in a bit. While dealing with some wayward Walkers, Rick gets himself a new machete, but takes a nasty cut to the hand in the meantime. (Don’t worry, even if it’s infected, as long as he doesn’t die from it he should be fine. Not like he’s going to lose a hand that way …)
Eventually he makes it back to the RV. Daryl’s the only one answering his radio hail, and as they hear gunfire coming from Alexandria, Rick rallies his troops and convinces them to keep pushing forward. He’s about to give them a few more words of wisdom when a Wolf (the guy Morgan lets escape at the end of the previous episode) bursts in, gun blazing. Rick’s caught off guard when another man attacks him as well, but this is Rick-motherclucking-Grimes we’re talking about here. These guys are no match, and neither are the folks creeping up alongside the RV, whom Rick dispatches with a burst of automatic rifle fire. (Rick lifted the weapon from one of the dead men [Edit: Correction, he had the rife with him already), along with a less-useful jar of baby food.)
Though the RV was working fine just a few minutes ago, it’s now decided not to start (Edit: Because the Wolf shot it all to Hell), just as the herd starts to emerge from the woods. Rather than meet up with Rick, Daryl has joined back up with Sasha and Abraham, all of whom are expecting Rick to reunite with them in the RV. We’re left with a shot of a stranded Rick Grimes, bleeding and coming down from an adrenaline rush, and for the first time in a long time, the Man with the Plan looks absolutely terrified…
And yet he’s still in better shape than Glenn and Michonne’s crew. This storyline was an absolute bloodbath, complete with one of the most shocking moments in the series’ history. Rick’s warning to Michonne and Glenn to get themselves home even if it means leaving the others behind is an obvious foreshadowing of the drama that is to come, but I, for one, was not expecting it to be anywhere near as bad as it ended up.
So remember those questioning Alexandrians I mentioned? Yeah, the first one to question Rick’s motives quickly gets his throat ripped out by a Walker. A second Alexandrian, Sturgess (Jonathan Kleitman), soon loses his cool and starts blasting away at Walkers with a pistol, accidentally shooting his fellow citizen Scott (Kenrick Green, as in Sonequa Martin-Green’s husband!) in the leg. Sturgess runs away but doesn’t get far since the gang of wounded travelers soon finds him in the form of Walker chow. An Alexandrian named Annie (Beth Keener) twists her damn ankle walking through the woods and another gets a Walker bite to the shoulder [Edit: That’s David (Jay Huguley)]. These people are an absolute disaster! Even the somewhat-battle-hardened Nicholas (Michael Traynor) is experiencing periodic freakouts. So you’d think that maybe Heath (Corey Hawkins) would be a little smarter than they were, that maybe he wouldn’t question Rick’s advice, Glenn’s courage, or Michonne’s loyalty.
Danai Gurira gives her best performance of this short season when she stands up to Heath and addresses his allegations in a fierce whisper while their surviving group members hide in the pet shop. It’s a great distillation of this season’s theme: The Alexandrians think they know what it takes to survive and that their moral high ground is superior to Rick’s brutality. It’s soon revealed throughout the course of events that survival depends upon more than being smart, prepared, and ruthless; you’ve also got to be damn lucky.
While Michonne and the wounded wait for the Walkers to slip by their hiding place, we learn a bit about them, especially David, the man who was bitten. He’s worried that he’s not going to make it back to Betsy to tell her she’s basically the reason he was able to keep on living. He goes so far as to write a farewell note to her, to which Michonne responds in kind by writing a reassuring note on her own arm, silently telling him that he’s going to make it home. Sad to say, you know that’s not going to be the case. When a commotion draws the Walkers to the pet shop – and by extension the entire herd – they have to fight their way out. One by one, the wounded sacrifice themselves, which is something they even agreed to earlier. Annie falls and is devoured, David is pulled down from a gate and eaten. Despite Michonne and Heath’s best efforts, they’re only able to get Scott back to the burned and ravaged town of Alexandria. The only good to come out of this escapade is Heath’s realization that his best intentions are not enough to save everyone and this new reality can turn him just as savage as the people he despises. Maybe he finally understands.
Meanwhile, Glenn concocts a plan to burn a building in order to draw the herd toward it. Nicholas, who has been spacing out this episode but is making an attempt to get back in Glenn’s good graces, offers to lead him to a feed store that should go up like dry kindling. Along the way, they encounter a reanimated corpse of one of Nicholas’ former teammates, a teenager named Will whom they left behind. Glenn reassures him that he’s changed now, and with that vote of confidence, Nicholas puts Will out of his misery.
Then all Hell breaks loose.
With the herd in town, Glenn and Nicholas soon run themselves into a literal dead end. Sealed off on all sides by fences as Walkers march down the alley towards them, the two men take down as many as they can but to no avail. They find a brief sanctuary on top of a nearby dumpster, but as Nicholas is overwhelmed by the faces of the dead all around him, he experiences another spell. Glenn attempts to bring him back around, but Nicholas opts out. He tells Glenn, “Thank you,” and shoots himself in the head. What happens next is both shocking and suspicious. Nicholas’ body falls onto Glenn as the two are knocked to the ground. We see Glenn’s face of terror as Walkers rip into flesh and pull bloody organs out of the warm body. So Glenn and Nicholas are now dead, right?
Maybe. But what I think happened was this: Nicholas, having been given a second chance to right his previous wrongs, to fight for his allies rather than abandoning them, found himself with no other choice at the end of that alley other than suicide. So before he departed this awful world under his own terms, he wanted to thank Glenn for that opportunity. What happened then was, I’m hoping, a sleight-of-hand trick played by the showrunners. Why else would Nicholas fall onto Glenn’s body when they fall off the dumpster, except to give the Walkers easy access to flesh while making it look like they were ripping into Glenn himself? We’ve seen time and time again that, when any character dies, the effects team is not shy about showing every gruesome detail. In this case, Glenn looked to be almost separate from the body that was being torn into, even if his reaction to the violence was gut-wrenching.
On another note, if Glenn did die here, then his sacrifice was very poignant considering his character on a series level and in this episode in particular. He has made it a point to give people second chances, to save as many of the living as he can while dispatching Walkers along the way. Even when Michonne gave him a chance to turn back on his plan to distract the herd because he had a wife at home, Glenn said that that’s exactly why he was doing it, to protect her and everyone else he loves. So while this hero’s death might not be a satisfying one, it would at least be in keeping with his character. (But I think he’ll escape somehow. What about you? Let us know in the comments!)
Red herrings aside, “Thank You,” was an amazing episode that did a great job of showcasing real character traits – flaws, redemption, heroic qualities, etc – while delivering truckloads of gore and Walkers. This is one of those episodes that makes The Walking Dead so entertaining because the deaths actually serve a purpose, even when it’s just a Redshirt; losing a main character impacts viewers even moreso. Even though the first three episodes of this season have all revolved around more or less the same event, each one has been more intense than the last. At this rate, I don’t know if I’ll survive the season, let alone Rick & Co.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Annie: “You just gotta stay ahead of em. They walk, we run.” And then she twists her damn ankle…
Rick: “The rest of that herd turns around, the ‘bad’ back there gets worse.”
Rick: “Get home. They might need you there.”
Rick: “If something’s in front of you, you kill it. No hiding, no waiting. You keep going.”
Michonne: “We’ll catch up with a lotta things. We gotta end them. We have no choice. We keep going forward.”
Sasha: “If you want to leave, we can’t stop you. But without you, they could stop us.” Daryl: “Nah, I got faith in ya.”
RIP Sturgess, ya jerk.
Glenn: “We all have a job to do.”
Glenn (to Rick): “Good luck, dumbass.” Nice nod to the first (I think?) episode.
Heath: “We don’t leave people behind; not us.” Michonne: “No one is leaving anyone behind.”
Michonne: “Have you ever been covered in so much blood that you didn’t know if it was yours, or Walkers’ … your friends’? Then you don’t … know.”
Michonne: “They’re coming.”
RIP Annie, you martyr.
RIP Bitewound/David. We’ll tell Betsy you loved her. [Talking Dead guest Damon Lindelof made a good point that David’s tale from beginning to end was an encapsulation of Glenn’s entire story so far.]
RIP Glenn…? [Talking Dead not mentioning Glenn in the ‘In Memoriam’ section was probably a screw-up. Also, showrunner Scott M. Gimple wrote into the post-The Walking Dead show to tell audiences we’ll see the character again in some way or another going forward, so I won’t believe he’s really gone until all other options are exhausted.]
Whether or not Glenn is dead, you can still vote for who you think will die in our The Walking Dead poll!