'The Walking Dead,' Season 6, Episode 9: The monsters will come
The midseason finale of The Walking Dead season six left us at an all-time low. Daryl, Sasha and Abraham struggled to make their way back to Alexandria after the not-so-successful plan of steering the massive horde of walkers away. A tower in Alexandria fell, resulting in hundreds of the aforementioned walkers streaming into the town and gnawing on everything in sight.
All hope seemed lost, with Rick throwing it back to season one by covering everyone in walker gore in an attempt to escape Alexandria unscathed. Then Sam opened his mouth.
AMC drops us right back into that action. Rick, Carl, Michonne, Gabriel, Jessie, Ron and Sam hold hands and inch their way out of the house and through the streets crowded with the undead.
Things go pretty well for a while. Gabriel is still a sniveling coward but bucks up in time to get Judith to safety in his church. Jessie tries to push Sam to join Gabriel, but he insists he can handle keeping on. Sam makes it into the night, but his fear finally catches up to him.
While everyone else is ignoring the stumbling herd of mangled bodies walking and bumping along past them, Sam becomes transfixed with their groans and the occasional dangling limb or set of entrails brushing against him.
Then he sees the boy.
He finds the one child walker out of the hundreds and just stops in his tracks, cementing his feet into the ground and stopping the caravan. He hears Carol's voice in his head: "The monsters will come and you won't be able to run away. They will tear you apart."
Sam won't move, no matter how much Jessie, his brother or Rick prod him to keep going. About half a minute of tears later Sam has two walkers coming in to eat his face.
Still holding on to him, Jessie watches her youngest son get eaten alive. The domino effect kicks in and Jessie gets eaten.
Still holding on to them, Rick watches his new love and her son get torn to pieces in a matter of seconds. What he doesn't realize until it's almost too late is that Jessie's corpse hand still has a tight grip on Carl.
Luckily Rick is basically always packing an axe of some sort, so a few quick whacks and some red-tinged flashbacks of Jessie's face later Carl is freed.
Crisis averted right? Well, that's not the way The Walking Dead works.
Remember when Ron pulled a gun on Carl and almost shot him before the tower fell? He still has that gun, he pulls it on Carl and then gets taken down by Michonne's sword. But not before he fires off a round, hitting Carl directly in the right eye.
Rick and Michonne have no choice but to fight their way through the walkers and try to get Carl to the infirmary as quickly as possible. This is one of those rare moments when pure panic washes over both Rick's and Michonne's faces.
The last half hour of the midseason premiere has everything start falling into place, and the tide starts turning. The situation becomes less about running away and hiding and more about fighting back and taking back what belongs to the people of Alexandria.
Rick and Michonne make it to the infirmary just as Denise escapes the wolf who kidnapped her in the last episode. For Rick, everything becomes a blur. He doesn't hear or see the people around him rushing to come to Carl's aide. He only sees his only son with a gaping wound where his right eye use to be.
He chooses to do what he does best — kill. It's Rick against the world, like it's always been. And this time it's Rick against hundreds of hungry walkers just outside.
Until Michonne joins him. Then Heath, Spencer and Aaron follow suit. Soon, all the able-bodied people of Alexandria join Rick outside their hiding places to fight back against the invading walkers.
Alexandria's two biggest cowards — Eugene and Father Gabriel — are among those quick to help the cause.
"We've been praying together, that God will save our town. Our prayers have been answered, he will save Alexandria because he gave us the courage to save it ourselves," Gabriel says.
The killing goes on through the night and into the morning, ending with a fourth-wall piercing series of slashes and stabs from those fighting. We get to see and hear every sickly stab of a walker skull, but then The Walking Dead puts us on the receiving end of those slashes.
It was a scene of pure edge-of-your-seat action that had me — and probably everyone else in the fandom — cheering from the sidelines.
Reunited and it feels so good
Everyone who was missing from the action made it back to Alexandria just in time to get in a few kills.
Enid and Glenn execute plans to distract the walkers around the tower where Maggie is stationed, and successfully rescue her. In a moment where hope seemed to be lost yet again for Glenn, Abraham and Sasha take out the walkers surrounding him.
In typical Daryl fashion, he uses his newly acquired rocket-propelled grenade to set the town's lake on fire, drawing away walkers from Rick and Co.
Morning comes, showing every street carpeted with bloody dead walkers. Rick is by Carl's bedside, promising him they will rebuild this town. They will continue to fight back, and he will make this a better world for Carl to grow up in. Carl gives his hand a tiny squeeze to show he hears him.
About that Negan reference
The Alexandrians may have won the battle to reclaim their town from walkers, but the war is far from over.
Before Daryl, Sasha and Abraham made it back home, they encountered a group of motorcyclists who stopped them to take all their weapons and supplies. Whatever the three have now belongs to Negan.
They don't get an explanation of who the group is or who their leader Negan is. What they did get is some psychotic banter and a few guns aimed at their heads from the group's leader, who gives them this advice: "If you have to eat s---, best not to nibble. Bite. Chew. Swallow. Repeat."
About a half-second before the group's leader shoots both Abraham and Sasha, Daryl and his perfect arms blow up the psychos and their bikes. Charred motorcycle parts and body parts rained down from the sky.
They escaped the wrath of Negan's Saviors now, but next time they probably won't be so lucky.
I may regret this later, but for now it's safe to say this episode was my favorite of the entire series — so far.
"No Way Out" gave us that adrenaline, edge-of-your-seat fix that many episodes have been lacking. Killing off a beloved character (or faking killing off a character — LOOKING AT YOU AMC) isn't the only way to get fans' attention.
Kill off an annoying enemy (the Wolf), shooting someone's eye out (poor Carl) and getting everyone to work together for a rousing game of "let's kill all the walkers so we don't get eaten" and you've got yourself an intense, feel-good episode with just a hint of sadness and anxiety.
Don't worry, the happiness won't last for long.
As someone who has FINALLY caught up in The Walking Dead comics, I can safely say I CAN'T WAIT to see what the Hilltop and The Saviors have in store for Rick's larger world.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @chelseatatham on Twitter.