Safe, secure, and seemingly impermeable safe zones are the Chekhov's guns of zombie television: Introduce one on-screen in one season, and it will be overrun with zombies by that same time next year.
And on the Sunday, Nov. 29, episode of The Walking Dead, the inevitable finally happened: Alexandria, that solar-powered Eden in the midst of zombie-land, saw its walls come tumbling down. Lives were lost. Plans were made. And extraordinary risks were taken, in the hopes that our heroes might live to fight another day. Here's what went down on the mid-season finale.
There Goes the Neighborhood
The last time we saw Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and co., they were watching in horror as a falling tower came down and opened a giant gap in the only wall that stood between Alexandria's humans and the thousands of zombies outside. This week, we picked up right there, as the undead hordes stumbled in looking for fresh meat and the Alexandrites fled for safety. To underscore the catastrophic terror of this moment, it's worth mentioning that this entire episode played out to a continuous soundtrack of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" by Tiny Tim, lest anyone wasn't already scared enough.
With the streets overrun by zombies, the survivors sheltered in arbitrary groups: Tara (Alanna Masterson), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), and Rosita (Christian Serratos) in a garage; Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride) in the empty home where Denise (Merritt Wever) and the lone Wolf were hidden in the basement; Maggie (Lauren Cohan) on a guard platform, alone; and Rick, Carl (Chandler Riggs), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) with Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) and her family.
This was bad news for Morgan and Carol, who aren't exactly on friendly terms at the moment. It was worse news for Deanna, who made it to safety only to discover that she'd been bitten on the way in.
"Well, s–t," Deanna said on seeing her wound, which pretty much sums it up.
An Actually Enjoyable Carl Moment
Not only did Carl Grimes continue to be remarkably non-annoying this week, but we'll be darned if he isn't a fledgling badass, too. After Ron (Austin Abrams) threw a tantrum that resulted in roughly two dozen zombies invading Jessie's garage, Carl didn't rat out his friend — but he did follow him upstairs, demand his gun, and give him some Rick Grimes-esque Real Talk about the bad blood between them.
"I get it, my dad killed your dad," said Carl. "But you need to know something: your dad was an asshole."
Best line ever, or best line ever? (Hint: Best line, EVER.)
Dolor Hic Tibi Proderit Olim
That Latin phrase that Deanna wrote on her plans for the expansion of Alexandria translates as, "This pain will be useful to you" — which is what you should tell yourself when you think about the devastation wrought by this mid-season finale.
First, a standoff and a scuffle over the fate of the Wolf in the basement ended about as badly as humanly possible: with both Carol and Morgan unconscious; with the Wolf free, armed, and back on the (zombie-infested) streets; with poor Doctor Denise as his hostage; and with Tara once again deprived of a shot at finally finding love, which just seems unfair, honestly.
And while we'll have to wait until February to find out if Denise survived, there's no such question about Deanna. The woman who built Alexandria and recruited the people in it left her legacy in Michonne's capable hands, and then went out in style, with the greatest war cry the show had ever seen (but not heard; this emotionally intense and impactful scene took place in total silence). RIP, Ms. Monroe. Say hi to Reg for us.
A Classic Strategy
With walkers pouring into Jessie's house through multiple entry points, the survivors sheltering there had to make a new plan, leading to a big moment for longtime fans of the show: The triumphant return of the zombies guts-as-camouflage strategy from way back in Season 1 (which doesn't get used nearly enough, considering how effective it is).
In a tense conclusion to this intense episode, the survivors emerged onto the overrun streets, clad in viscera-covered sheets that masked their scent and allowed them to pass by the dead unnoticed.
There was just one problem: Jessie gave some good advice to her youngest son, Sam, to "pretend you're someone who isn't afraid" — but she apparently forgot to mention the part where you also have to be quiet.
"Mom," Sam said, as they walked hand in hand through the zombie crowd. And then again, louder: "Mom. Mom!"
And … cut to black, for the end of the episode. But calling it now: If that kid makes it through this alive, he is going to get such a spanking.
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