AMC’s The Walking Dead figured out just how far they can push major plot points this season before rewarding audiences for their patience; it seems to be about a three-episode grace period before things get ugly. And it should go without saying for any of our recaps, but if you aren’t caught up with tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, consider this your strong spoiler warning and turn back now, or risk the major reveals of “Heads Up” being ruined for you.
Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to turn to this episode’s biggest moment – and its very first scene: the appearance of Glenn, very much alive. Yeah it all worked out exactly as most fans thought it would, with Nicholas’ body landing on top of Glenn’s after his suicidal fall from atop the dumpster. Yes, those were Nicholas’ guts being pulled out, and yes, Glenn did pull himself to safety under the very same dumpster. While I’m not a big fan of the way the writers/directors staged this scene – or how the show’s creative forces purposefully misled viewers rather than just staying noncommittal – I am glad to have Glenn back.
We’ll take a bit of a departure from the normal way we do things on the recap and take a look at this hour from the perspective of the main characters instead. Since we’re already with Glenn, we might as well stick with him. He’s responsible for staying alive by killing a pile of Walkers around him on either side of the dumpster so the others couldn’t get to him, but Enid is actually the one who shows up to keep him hydrated and give him the bad news about Alexandria. It’s a weird pairing that didn’t quite work for me; Enid’s stubbornness to answer a straight question really gets under my skin. They share a similar backstory of being orphaned thanks to Walkers (or at least that’s what Glenn tells Enid), which makes sense considering they develop a sort of big brother/little sister relationship. And though they find the way into Alexandria blocked by a massive wall of Walkers, at least they use their smarts to signal their relative safety to their waiting friends by way of a bunch of balloons. It’s a very hopeful moment that occurs just seconds before the episode’s most soul-crushing event; more on that in a moment.
While Walkers are surrounding the gates and the Alexandrians are staving off suicidal thoughts, Rick’s busy securing and reinforcing the perimeter. Oh, and he takes every opportunity to reestablish his dominance in the town. When Deanna brings him plans for Alexandria’s future expansion, he tells her that he’s got bigger problems. He rips down Gabriel’s postings announcing a prayer circle. When Spencer tries to shimmy his way out of town to safety – and nearly gets torn apart in the process – Rick treats him like a child (deservedly so, though he had no right yelling at Tara) and tells him to check with him next time he plans on doing something stupid. He even pulls rank on Morgan by putting his new-found pacifism to an idealogical test: Can Morgan keep his hands clean while his friends are dying all around him? It’s a question that will certainly be answered this season one way or another. The only decent thing Rick seems to do in this episode is train Jessie’s son Ron how to use a handgun, but that will likely end badly since we soon see Ron stealing bullets from the armory and stalking Carl through the deserted streets with a drawn gun…
So while Rick is enforcing his Ricktatorship and Rosita’s attempting to train the Alexandrians in the Art of War (using a machete), Morgan is busy trying to save one of their enemies. He stops by Denise’s clinic not once, but twice, unsure if he’s willing to drag her into something she may want no part of. When he finally admits to wanting to use some antibiotics to treat the injured Wolf – “All Life Is Precious” – Denise agrees and goes with him. Too bad the sly Carol follows Morgan and knows he’s up to something. She’s already ratted his pacifist ways out to Rick once before, so this will likely be strike two for the bo staff-wielding peace-loving warrior.
With the exception of Glenn’s appearance, “Heads Up” was pretty light on drama right up until the end. The Alexandrians continue to do stupid things while Rick and his people pull their asses out of the fire; Eugene is perpetually stuck somewhere in the middle. But throughout the episode, the camera continues to linger on the town’s watchtower which was damaged in the Wolves’ attack on Alexandria. First it creaks and groans, then the crack splinters and widens, then it leans precariously over the wall. It would be bad enough for this building to come down when the townsfolk are so ill-prepared, but it’s made even worse since the event happens just moments after they see Glenn’s balloon signal. So as the watchtower falls and wipes out a significant portion of the Alexandrian wall, it opens up a very juicy opportunity for the Walker herd to come streaming in.
Next week’s mid-season finale “Start to Finish” is probably going to be an insane hour – and hopefully it’s enough to tide you over until the mid-season premiere on February 14th… – but I’m amazed at how much (and at the same time how little) has happened in this first half of the season. We’ve had plenty of episodes that focus on either one character or a small sub-section of the cast but with the exception of Morgan’s flashback episode they have all stemmed directly from the failed attempt to reroute the Walker herd. Because of that failure, the dominos have fallen all season long, with the biggest one taking out the town’s best defense in this very episode. All Hell is about to break loose; the question is: Will Alexandria survive?
Rating: ★★★ Good
Sorry, Glenn, there’s no one left to deliver that message to.
How the heck long was Enid outside the walls anyway? A couple of nights?
Rick: “Morgan! We have to talk, we should, but later. Alright?”
Rick: “We’ve come back from harder things, from further away.”
“Prayer Circle by the Solar Panels Today at 1:00PM”
Carl: “You have to be strong enough to wait for your bullet.”
Morgan: “All life is precious.”
Morgan: “I don’t want to let that idea go.” Michonne: “You might have to. Things aren’t as simple as four words; I don’t think they ever were.”
Eugene: “I’m a weapons novice holding a significant blade here and there are people in my proximity wearing open-toed shoes.” Eugene has the best lines and Josh McDermitt is the only one who can deliver them quite the way he does.
That rivulet of blood from outside the wall is very disconcerting but Rick and the others don’t seem all that bothered by it…
Enid: “The world is trying to die. We’re supposed to just let it.”
Spencer: “Lost a damn shoe. Crap.”
Denise: “FWoPP’RS. Fever, warmth, pus, pain redness…“ Morgan: “What’s the last one?” Denise: “…swelling?”
I love that Carol took Baby Judith on a spy mission with her.
Sam: “What happens if you can’t live with it?” Carol: “I told you, it eats you up.” Sam: “The people who came, were they the monsters? Did my dad turn into one?” Carol: “What?” Sam: “If you kill people, do you turn into one of the monsters?” Carol: “The only thing that keeps you from becoming a monster is killing.”