[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday's midseason finale of AMC's The Walking Dead. Read at your own risk.]
Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead took a lot a guts.
No, I'm not talking about the kind of courage the show balked at earlier this season by faking Glenn's death for cheap thrills. I'm talking about good old-fashioned zombie guts, which, just as they did way back in Season 1, proved to be a useful way for our heroes to escape certain death at the hands of a zombie horde. But even the best disguise can be foiled by stupidity. We'll come back to that later.
Let's start with the question posed in the headline: Who died? Perhaps fittingly for a show that has now called any future death into question, no one technically died. Then again, more than one person in this episode argued that everyone is already as good as dead, so perhaps the answer is everybody died. But even though we didn't see her fully expire, the one person we can be pretty sure is a goner is Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh).
Once the wall collapsed, the walkers piled into Alexandria just like the ants storming the castle of Sam's cookie in the opening scene. Although Rick (Andrew Lincoln) opens fire to buy the other residents time to make it into their homes, it's clear he's out-manned. Deanna comes running to the rescue, and in the process gets tackled by a few walkers and badly cuts her leg on a blade. However, once Rick helps Deanna back to Jessie's house — where they are joined by Michonne (Danai Gurira), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) and her sons Ron (Austin Abrams) and Sam (Major Dodson) — we quickly learn that Deanna has also suffered a walked a bite. "Well, sh--," Deanna mutters, perhaps delivering the best line of the season.
But while Michonne tends to Deanna's wounds and Rick tries to formulate a strategy to reach the armory, Ron and Carl have a little dust-up in the garage. Carl defends his dad's actions, while Ron argues Rick is to blame for all the evil that's befallen Alexandria. "Your dad is going to get more people killed," Ron says. "That's what he does. That's who he is. Your dad's a killer." When Carl argues that Ron's dad was also a killer, Ron says all of his loved ones are basically dead, locks the door, and takes aim at Carl. He doesn't get off a shot, but the two struggle, eventually breaking a window pane and drawing the attention of the herd. Rick goes all Jack Torrance on the garage door to free the boys, but when Rick asks what happened, Carl lies and says they were fighting off the herd together. Even though Carl eventually disarms an apologetic Ron, this is the kind of stupidity Rick usually mocks the Alexandrians for. Got to keep your own house in order too, Rick!
Speaking of stupidity, Carol (Melissa McBride) refuses to let Morgan (Lennie James) hold his Wolf prisoner. They bicker back and forth about trust and lies, but Morgan rightly suggests that now is not the time to settle this argument. You know, because there are hundreds of undead munchers roaming right outside. But reason be damned, Carol pushed her way past Morgan and made it to the holding cell, if you can even call it that. There, Morgan and Carol continue their debate, as Carol insists she must kill the Wolf — and that she will kill Morgan in order to do so. They end up in a struggle that ends with Morgan knocking Carol out. Unfortunately, the Wolf who was supposedly tied up was able to whack Morgan over the head with his staff and steal Carol's knife in order to free himself.
Although Tara (Alanna Masterson), Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) find their way in, it's too late. The Wolf takes Denise (Merritt Wever) hostage and makes his way out of the house with Tara's gun. Not sure how he plans to survive among all the walkers, but hey, that's what next season's for! (At least we can maybe finally put the debate to rest. Carol should have totally killed the guy, right? Way to go, Morgan.)
But there was some hope in the episode. As she prepares for death, Deanna asks Rick to look after he son Spencer (Austin Nichols) "like you look out for your people." Indeed, Deanna, the smart cookie that she is, knows that Rick has never fully accepted the Alexandrians as worthy, but she implores that he must. "They're all your people, Rick," she says. "That's how it is. I didn't run over to help you because I liked you or because I think you're a good man or a good father, or because you can grow one hell of a beard. I came over to help you because you are one of us. That's the right answer."
And with her teaching complete, Deanna told Michonne that she didn't want Michonne's mercy killing. "I'm not ready," she says. "I will be soon. When I am, I'll do it myself. It's my life, start to finish." And what a magnificent finish it was. Just before she was about to put a bullet in her own brain, she hears the walkers making their way upstairs. She opens the door and takes out a few more walkers before screaming into her own blaze of glory. She might have been naïve at first, but Deanna was a smart lady. Her brain will be missed.
Especially since everyone else seems to have lost their heads. While I can't fault Rick for suggesting the old "cover ourselves in zombie intestines and walk out of the house" strategy in this instance — what other option did they have? — Rick should have known that someone would screw it up. And that someone was young Sam. I, for one, am shocked — shocked, I tell you! — that the kid who hasn't left his room all season and is inexplicably blaring "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" on his record player even after he's been told to shut it off wouldn't do so well in the face of the "monsters." Even though Jessie told him to "make it all pretend," Sam just couldn't keep his mouth shut, and the season ends with him shouting, "Mom!" — possibly alerting all the walkers that they've been duped by some old sheets and their fallen brethren's gory innards.
Like last week's Glenn (Steven Yeun) reveal — BTW, he and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) do make it back to Alexandria in time to see that Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and her unborn baby are trapped on a watchtower with no ladder — this felt anticlimactic. Yes, the zombie threat was real and present throughout, but this finale was decidedly less bloody than many in recent memory. (Sorry, zombie guts smeared on willingly don't count!) And after the bonheadedness of Ron, Carl and Sam, I began to actively root for the zombies.
Perhaps I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the way this half season revolved around a plot that ended up not being what it seemed. Even so, I would have liked to some definitive moves being made as this chapter of the story came to an end. Instead, the show seems content simply baiting the hook for the second half of the season. So, until then, let's just watch the prologue below (which debuted after the finale ended during a commercial break for Into the Badlands) and eagerly await the arrival of Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan. Maybe he will "beat" some sense into these people.
The Walking Dead returns in February. What did you think of the finale?