Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
This week’s action-packed episode of The Walking Dead not only showed us what was going on in Alexandria while Operation Walker Dispersal was falling apart in the field, it also introduced Merritt Wever as Pete’s reluctant successor, Denise; ushered Gabriel and Jessie past major turning points; and reestablished Carol as the most badass action heroine since Buffy.
Oh, and yes, the hour also revealed the meaning of its enigmatic title, “JSS.” Wanna know what it is? Keep reading!
‘INITIAL’ IMPRESSION | As the episode began, we flashed all the way back to the fateful — and fatal — day that a car breakdown got Enid’s parents killed by walkers. In the aftermath, as the shell-shocked teen wandered through the woods, dodging walkers and eating anything that didn’t move faster than she did (poor turtle!), she wrote “JSS” everywhere — in the dirt beneath her feet, on a car in which she hid, even on her own hand as she entered Alexandria for the first time. But what did it MEAN?
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM | Next, we flashed-forward to (close to) the point at which the season premiere left off. And, if only for that moment, things were pretty okay. Carol was talking recipes with her gal pals in the pantry and dispensing tough love to Sam. Maggie was leaning heavily on metaphor as she gave Deanna a crash course in vegetable gardening. (“Reg wanted this community to grow!”) Gabriel was apologizing to Carl for his betrayal and asking if the youngster would reconsider teaching him how to fight. (The boy not only agreed to do so, he added, “We’ll start with the machete.”) Tara and Eugene were getting to know Denise, who nervously tried to lower expectations of her medical expertise by pointing out that she was a psychiatrist, not a surgeon. (Am I the only one who thought there were fairly hilarious sparks flying between Eugene and Denise?) And Ron was refusing to let Jessie use a haircut to force him to talk to her. (Hey, I said things were pretty okay, not perfect.) Later, Carl spotted Enid comforting Ron with a hug.
WOLVES? WHERE? | Out of nowhere, the near-perfect day in Alexandria was shattered — and stabbed and burned alive — by the Wolves. They were inside the gates, they were outside the gates, they were freakin’ everywhere! Naturally, Carol went straight into Terminator mode. And though she failed to save the lady next door, she did at least hold the soon-to-be-deceased as she stuck a blade in her head to keep her from turning. (That’s what friends are for.) Nearby, Jessie was telling Sam to hide in the closet while she went to find Ron when — damn the luck! — a Wolf broke into their house. When Ron eventually came home, Jessie emerged to protect him, and damn! She didn’t just keep her kids safe, she brutally dispatched the Wolf with her haircutting scissors! On sharpshooter duty, Spencer took out a Wolf driving a semi right for the gate. Which was great and all, except that the Wolf then fell on the horn (as we all heard last week). I’ll give Deanna’s son points for making his way to the vehicle to take care of the problem. But then I’ve gotta take those points away again since a) Morgan got there first and dispatched the walker, and b) the prettyboy wouldn’t accompany Morgan into Alexandria to help fight off the Wolves.
CHECKOUT TIME | With the streets of Alexandria becoming bloodier by the second, Denise froze when faced with her first critical patient. “You’re afraid?” Tara said. “I don’t care! Help her!” Even Eugene told the doc that she didn’t want to be a coward. (And when it comes to cowardice, he knows of whence he speaks.) Sadly, despite Denise’s best efforts, the patient didn’t make it. Meanwhile, Enid chose that, of all times, to drop by Carl’s to say goodbye. No way, he replied, insisting that instead, she stay to help him protect Judith. During a quiet moment, she suggested that it was hopeless, that the place was too big to safeguard, and there were too many blind spots. “That’s how we were able to… ” What she was going to say next, or who “we” are, we didn’t find out, because Carl interrupted her, damn it. But at least we learned what “JSS” meant. Before she slipped away, she left Carl a note: “Just survive somehow.”
A BATTLE WITHIN THE WAR | Upon being reunited with Spencer outside the gates, Deanna (wisely? wimpily?) told Maggie that she’d just be another person to save if she joined in the fray, so Maggie should go fight without her. Inside the gates, Morgan took a novel approach to a face-off with a Wolf: He politely asked the monster to leave. (Seriously, he even said please.) Then Morgan got ticked when Carol intervened and shot the guy. (Morgan really, really, really doesn’t want to kill anybody.) On their way to the armory, Morgan and Carol saw Gabriel being attacked by a Wolf. Carol’s reaction? Good riddance. Morgan’s? Let me go save him. Which he did — without killing the villain. “We’re freeing you,” the psycho told Morgan and Gabriel. “You’re trapped.” (Mmkay.) Before the nut could blather on much more, Carol passed by on her way back from the armory, shot him and gave Morgan a gun (which — sigh — he immediately gave to Gabriel). Next thing we knew, Morgan was surrounded by Wolves — including one of his attackers from “Conquer.” Since even Morgan probably couldn’t have taken all of them, he scared them off by suggesting that his fellow Alexandrians had guns pointed at them right that second. “You keep choosing this life, you will die,” he warned. “We didn’t choose,” replied his old adversary.
IN THE AFTERMATH | As the hour drew to a close, we saw the toll that the day had taken on Carol. (She even seemed to contemplate smoking one of her late neighbor’s cigarettes.) Aaron discovered that one of the felled walkers had been carrying around his old backpack, inside it his pictures of Alexandria — basically, a blueprint for attack. And, upon returning home, Morgan got jumped one more time — by the other Wolf he’d fought in “Conquer.” (At least I think it was him. Hard to tell when they’re grimy and bloody!) In disbelief, the Wolf observed, “You can’t [kill me], can you?” and added, “You should’ve.” In response, Morgan said, “I’m sorry,” and whacked him. (So what was in the bag he was carrying down the street as the episode ended? The guy’s heart?)
OK, your reviews? Personally, I liked this episode even more than the premiere. (But then, I’m a Carol fan.) Hit the comments!