Airdate: November 15, 2015
Directed by: Jeffrey F. January
Showrunner: Scott M. Gimple
Written by: Heather Bellson (episode); Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore (graphic novels); Frank Darabont (creator)
After last week’s amateur hour, I was really hoping that this week, with a return to Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha, would provide us with something a little more solid. Ultimately, that’s exactly what we got: something a little more solid, but not much more than that. Click through for my snapshot review of Episode 606.
<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss plot points of The Walking Dead S06E06, “Always Accountable” – read more at your own risk.>>
This episode gives Gimple and his team of writers a respite from the convoluted storylines (not to mention loose ends – Glenn, anyone?) back in Alexandria. The problem that happens is that, with three interesting exceptions, we don’t really learn anything new, with the episode largely treading narrative water.
In a nutshell, what we learn is that:
- Sasha has her act together now,
- Abraham still doesn’t, but…
- He’s sweet on Sasha, and she might just be sweet on him too.
- Oh yeah, and there’s some jerks with guns, and a guy named Wade.
Okay, so that looks four things we learn, but two and three are tied together intrinsically.
About half the episode is wasted on Daryl. I say wasted, not because I don’t like Messr. Dixon – he’s long been in my 1/1a position with Carol – but because there is absolutely no movement for his character. I’ll get to that in a moment, after a brief synopsis.
We open on the three bantering over the radio about how they’re getting ready to leave the horde behind, and head back to Alexandria. This leads to my first problem with the episode. The three of them are so busy navel-gazing, that they don’t take the usual, ingrained precautions, and just drive right into the middle of a small collection of buildings without any caution whatsoever. They’re ambushed, Daryl is injured, and he takes off, getting separated from the others as one car chases him, and Sasha crashes the car through a fence.
She and Abraham grab their guns and have a quick, rather one-sided gunfight. This just comes across as stupid – they’ve been ambushed, they’ve no idea how many enemies there are (but they DO know that the ambushers have guns), but they walk right out in the open and unload on the car. Frankly, strategically speaking, there’s no way that they should be alive. Yes, we can argue that both have been making borderline suicidal decisions recently, but this moment just comes across as false. And stupid.
They hole up in an office, and Sasha says the smartest thing of the episode so far – when trying to find a tracker, stay put. Abraham wanders around listlessly, finds a dress uniform with family photos, and gets a little angsty. He finds Sasha in a room with a glass partition, a walker behind it trying to get at them rather ineffectually. He wants to kill it, but she tells him not to. She’s trying to dig into his rage and self-destructive behavior, something that has been building in him on-and-off since discovering Eugene’s big lie last season. Of course, that was with a pretty big stop along the way, when he was doing the same with Sasha following the deaths of Bob and Tyreese. Neither has been presented as reliably stable, so it is kind of interesting to see the two trying to find support/provide therapy for each other. Very much a case of the blind leading the blind.
Abraham scouts around the local area, and finds a broken down military vehicle on an overpass, with a walker pinned by a broken fence post hanging out over the drop. He’s got an RPG over his shoulder, and Abraham covets it. This leads to a confrontation with the self that I neither anticipated, nor am sure how I feel about here almost a week after my first viewing. Abraham crawls out on the overhanging chainlink, making his way to the walker, and then getting right up in its face. Before doing so, there’s a tight shot on his gun, as he places it against the overpass barrier. This tight shot was misleading, as that kind of focus by the director would easily be understood as foreshadowing – something’s going to happen to the gun! – but the focus is a red herring.
Instead, the focus is on Abraham’s rage and grief. The photos of family he saw back in the office haunt him with memories of his lost wife and children (we do see a flashback to that moment), and the dead soldier hanging off the overpass is a reminder of where he could – perhaps, in his mind, should – have been. He gets right up in the walker’s face, taking no regard for his personal safety, batting at its face and nearly getting bitten half a dozen times. He goes face-to-face, inches away, and yells, primal rage venting. This triggers something in Abraham, a self-awareness perhaps, and he backs away. Karma gives him a gift – the walker’s struggles to get at Abraham have eased the fencepost through its decaying shoulder, and it falls with a wet thunk, leaving the RPG looped over the fence. Abraham retrieves it, and heads back to meet up with Sasha. Mark my words – this RPG will play an important role (okay, that’s an easy prediction to make, and pretty obvious – but so was this while sequence of “Abraham is raging, Abraham doesn’t care about his own safety, Abraham remembers the things that make life worth living).
All of this is not to say that I don’t like Abraham, or the excellent Michael Cudlitz. I just felt that the scene, and his character exposition, could have done with a defter touch.
He returns to Sasha, and puts on the dress uniform he found earlier. He makes a rather ham-handed attempt at courting, expressing his interest in Sasha – she quickly reminds him that he has some things to tie up back home (that would be his relationship with Rosita), and she asks him how he knows the feelings are reciprocated. “A man knows,” he replies, in what was for me the most convincing line of the entire night. Cudlitz as Abraham oozes confidence, his recent existential crisis apparently bringing him to some profound realizations about himself and what he wants. His recognition of his own mortality is a big part of this, and was the most honest part of the episode.
Daryl. Daryl’s hurt, but it’s hard to tell how, exactly. Yes, he has blood on his arm, and yes, he gingerly removes his jacket, but I can’t figure out exactly whether he was straight-out shot (I think this is what happened), or if he hit something in his flight. He ends up in a burnt out section of sparse forest, and drops from his bike, apparently from weakness and exhaustion – except he then gets up, pushes his heavy bike into cover, and proceeds to do a whole bunch of physical things for the rest of the episode.
He comes across a couple of women talking, and is ambushed, yet again, and knocked out. I call bullshit. First, his spidey sense didn’t warn him of danger at the beginning of the episode, which was pretty bad. But here? He has to a) walk right past the guy that hits him without noticing him, and b) not hear him when he comes up from behind. Come on. This is simply not believable, and jarred my suspension of disbelief right out of its groove.
So, they knock Daryl out, tie him up (his hands in front, showing how amateurish the group is), and take him hostage. The group is made up of Dwight [Austin Amelio], his partner (possibly?) Sherry [Christine Evangelista], and a young woman they’re helping, Tina [Liz E. Morgan]. They’re planning to trade Daryl for their safety – turns out they’ve run from some group that demands people show fealty on their knees, and they think that Daryl is with them, and will be a valuable bargaining chip. When his captors are distracted, Daryl takes off into the woods, stealing a bag with his crossbow in it, and manages to escape. Unfortunately for the good-hearted redneck, he finds a cooler labelled “Insulin” inside the bag, and decides he has to return it. Of course, he doesn’t bother to check the contents because, you know, people in the apocalypse don’t repurpose old items ever, so the cooler just must have insulin, which means one of them must have diabetes, which means…yes, far too many logical leaps, and for what? To show us that Daryl has a heart of gold? Don’t we already know this? Haven’t we seen his innate goodness in spades? There is absolutely no point to this particular character choice, its an empty arc.
He returns with the insulin, and takes the man’s gun as well. They wander through the woods – the would-be captors seem to suddenly trust Daryl, oddly enough, and he seems to trust them now. Ooookay.
They are being chased – a group shows up in a vehicle, and shots are exchanged, Daryl returning Dwight’s gun so that they can both try to protect the group. We don’t see the face of the leader, Wade, which is a heavy-handed directorial choice happening whereby the camera is never raised above chest level whenever Wade is in-shot. This really only makes sense for one of three reasons: this is a character we already know; this is an actor we already know; or the character will be recognizable as someone from the comics. Based on his voice, it isn’t the first option, and the second option is really irrelevant (although directors/writers have been know to go after cheaper gotchas in the past). I vote, therefore, for option three. I have some ideas, but won’t give direct spoilers here. Let’s just say that I don’t believe it is the major comic character whose casting was announced this last week; rather, I think that Wade is more of a lieutenant, someone who works for a stronger, recognizable character (such as the one that was cast recently). Based on the fact that his face isn’t shown, it leads me to believe that it is likely a character whose name begins with D – I won’t go any further than that to avoid spoilers, but if you’re curious, you can always send me a private message on my Facebook page for my thoughts.
Despite not seeing his face, we do get some interesting character building for Wade. When one of his men is bitten (thanks to a nice little ambush set up by Daryl, his only really smart move of the whole episode), he doesn’t hesitate to remove the man’s arm with a machete, telling him to “Walk it off,” which is both darkly humorous and slightly awesome at the same time. He also tells the others to pack it up and head back to their home, as “he” isn’t interested in unwilling brides. Brides? He? This is what keys me into who this guy might be, and who he is working for.
The four now-comrades of necessity go deeper into the woods. Turns out that the man and the women set the fire that torched the local area, done to prevent their recapture. They come across a greenhouse that is partially melted, and Tina reminisces about the two people that owned it. There are two bodies covered in melted glass cocoons, and Tina places flowers on them. Predictably, they are both walkers, and break through the glass to chow down on Tina. This is just plain stupid. None of them, in a world where everyone who dies becomes a walker, thinks to check the bodies first? Dwight, Sherry and Tina I can forgive, because I don’t know them, and they seem to have come from a sheltered life; but Daryl? He doesn’t make mistakes like this.
Tina gone, Daryl makes an offer to Dwight and Sherry to go to Alexandria with him (because, you know, Daryl has consistently shown a willingness to trust people, especially after they’ve knocked him out and tied him up). They aren’t interested, and consider returning whence they came. Daryl, again showing that characteristic (yes, sarcasm alert) trust, walks in front of the now armed Dwight, only to hear the click of the gun’s hammer being cocked. To his credit, Daryl does look a bit exasperated – I hope with himself. They take his bike and his crossbow, and take off.
Daryl finds a fuel truck hidden in the woods – he worked out that this was how Dwight and co. started the forest fire – and he drives it back into town (because, you know, the people who ambushed them earlier are probably long gone to that place we don’t know where they came from, but is definitely not here in this built-up area that would be full of supplies and defensible locations – nope, they’re not going to be anywhere so close that they might hear a big diesel engine. Nope.). Sasha and Abraham hear him drive up – because he sees Sasha’s hand painted sign on the office building’s door – and they all head back off into the sunset (well, technically, they are heading west-ish back to Alexandria, so I can say sunset here).
Yes, it was a bit better than last week’s episode – the lines weren’t stilted, the sequencing and character locations was relatively logical, and we did get the promise of a new, dangerous threat.
But really, Daryl? I love Daryl, I can’t reiterate that enough, but his character was treated with absolutely no respect to his established traits tonight, making me seriously question what the writers and Gimple himself are up to. And when you don’t respect the character and established traits, you don’t respect your audience either. I know that we get the old chestnut of “everything is done for a reason” when we hear Gimple speak, but this just doesn’t hold any water when it means wholesale and inexplicable changes to the received wisdom of the show. I’m all for change and development – I love good solid character arcs – but when things take on a heavy and arbitrary flavor, I’m quick to call BS. This episode should have tried to live by its title, “Always Accountable” – but it doesn’t and it isn’t.
Steve’s Grade: C
An episode with plenty of promise and a return of a fan favorite, but it is undermined by poor character development and a distinct sense of treading water.