After the pressure cooker of last week’s episode, The Walking Dead returns to the relatively wide-open spaces of Alexandria, where life marches on at its normal pace. The food pantry is surveyed, guards arrive on time for their shifts, and Morgan practices out in the yard.
But as much as things stay the same, they’re also changing. Carol is now involved with Tobin beyond that one kiss they shared, Morgan is building a full-on jail cell to “give [them] some choices next time,” as he tells Rick, and Rosita has found a new bedmate in the form of Spencer.
All three are, in some fashion, wrestling with their pasts. While Morgan’s internal struggle is dealt with least attentively in “Twice as Far,” both Rosita and Carol’s concerns are at least addressed in an episode centered around Denise.
(Carol’s development is more of a book-end to the episode, so more on that in a bit.)
Rosita is doing whatever she can to dull the pain caused by Abraham’s rip-the-Band-Aid off approach to breaking up with her. Spencer is a body to keep the bed warm, but she doesn’t seem much more emotionally invested than that. Spencer, chasing her as she leaves for the day, tries to play it off like he doesn’t care whether they’re casual or something more. But he clearly would like for them to be more than the occasional hook-up.
She’s initially curt but eventually accepts his invitation to dinner before he leaves her be for the day. And if only he knew just what kind of day she was about to have.
The whole conversation takes place outside Denise’s, and she just so happens to have overheard at least enough of the conversation to get the gist of it. Denise has more in mind than the traditional weapons training Rosita would normally provide, and she’s looking to include both Rosita and Daryl in her plans.
There’s an apothecary and boutique Denise saw in a strip mall a ways out of town, and if it’s truly an apothecary, Denise believes there may be a store of drugs there. Daryl and Rosita are reticent to have her go outside the walls of Alexandria, but Denise promises she’ll head out with or without them.
And though neither Rosita nor Daryl is pleased with the idea of babysitting Denise, her resolve to go along for the ride forces them to bring her along. The whole awkward road trip starts off on a low note as Daryl can’t quite handle the stick shift while Denise, who promises she knows how, offers to help.
Their need for a ride quickly comes to an end, however, when they come to a downed tree in the road. Naturally, Daryl and Rosita are suspicious, so they go out to check whether the tree is a trap first, but a trapped walker and a rotted trunk reveal it to be nothing more than an accident.
So the trio must continue on foot, and ahead of them they have two paths they can take — a set of railroad tracks or the main road. Rosita refuses to take the latter path because it’s assumedly twice as long a road to travel, but Daryl has had enough of train tracks in his life (no need to accidentally run into another Terminus, right?), so he chooses the longer road. Denise goes with him.
The two eventually come to the other end of the tracks, where Rosita, practically bored, waits for them. Denise tries to explain to her that she wasn’t choosing one of her protectors over the other, but her attempts to connect with Rosita further do little in the moment. (Asking who taught Rosita what she knows, she receives a curt response back.)
They eventually find their way to the apothecary, a few dead walkers lying in the parking lot and dozens if not hundreds of hand prints appearing on the boarded-up windows and door. They make their way in, where the trapped odor almost makes Denise gag. But rather than revealing what she had for breakfast, Denise collects herself and begins exploring with others. She finds a few photos of a child by the counter and a display of name keychains while Rosita and Daryl make their way into the locked pharmacy section. Once they’re inside, they decide to just take everything rather than have Denise sort through what’s most important, leaving her to her own devices.
NEXT: Something regained, someone lost as the scavenge winds down [pagebreak]
Unfortunately for her, the free time allows her curiosity to get the better of her when they hear noises, presumably a trapped walker, behind a door in the store. While the other two continue hoarding supplies, Denise pokes into this backroom, finding some children’s toys, a pen for a small child, other supply boxes, and…a hideously decomposed walker on the floor with a cast on its leg.
There’s a much more telling horror to the room, however, when Denise spots the word “Hush” scrawled all over the walls. (Sadly, the walker does not simply seem to be a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.) Denise eventually discovers a sink seemingly full of viscous blood, and, worst of all, a young child’s shoe.
Her imagination putting everything together for her, Denise rushes out, waiting outside the store for Rosita and Daryl to finish up. She’s holding onto a keychain seemingly with her name (which later proves to be that of her brother’s), breathing deeply, and starting to tear up until the others come out to meet her. Daryl tries to console her, and Rosita takes the more blunt approach of saying they tried to warn Denise, but either way, the job is done and now it’s time to head back.
They do so via the train tracks. Though still a shorter trip than the road, they still have some time to chat as Denise fills Daryl in on her older (by six minutes) brother, Denis. Her description of him reminds Daryl of his own brother. (I demand a Fear the Walking Dead episode where Denis and Merle run into each other in the background and become the best of friends.) But what it reminds Denise of is that she needs to be brave.
So as they’re walking back, Denise spots a car with a cooler, along with a walker, inside of it. Rosita and Daryl think it’s better left alone, but Denise doesn’t listen. She goes to open the passenger door and grab the cooler, but the walker inside hangs onto it and topples out of the car onto Denise. The other two rush over to help, but Denise wants them to leave her be.
She needs to do this. She needs to prove to herself that she’s brave, that she’s ready to face this world. And so she kills it. She throws up (on her glasses no less), and we finally get to see her oatmeal from this morning, but she killed it. Daryl and Rosita are, frankly, pissed. She did all of that for what turns out to be a few sodas, but it meant much more to Denise (and the orange soda she can bring back for Tara is an added bonus).
Daryl and Rosita don’t want to leave the moment alone, and so Denise fills them in on what this whole trip was really about. She invited Daryl because he reminds her of her brother, and she asked Rosita along because she believes she’s stronger than she thinks she is despite being alone right now. They give her hope; they give her strength to not be afraid. She’s sick of living her life in fear, not having gone with Tara on her run or telling her she loved her. But she’s been afraid all this time and she’s sick of it. She’s ready to change.
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But she’ll never get another moment to act on that change in her because an arrow comes flying straight through her eye mid-speech, draining the life from her as she collapses. And the guy who fired that arrow is Dwight, one of the escaping Saviors that Daryl ran into and lost his bike and crossbow to during “Always Accountable.”
Dwight has not only killed one of their party, but he has another Alexandrian hostage — Eugene. While this trio (now, sadly, a duo), was out on their mission, Eugene went on a trek of his own with Abraham. It was one of personal validation for Eugene, but one in which he wanted to clearly prove himself as up to Abraham’s walker-hunting level.
Eugene believes he has adapted, he’s changed, that he’s a role-playing game character who is learning to survive, but Abraham has his doubts. The two eventually find their way to the intended destination, an abandoned workshop area where Eugene announces he intends to produce bullets. Especially if they’re trading now, ammunition will soon be in short supply, so he thinks they can help bolster their stocks here. Abraham loves the idea, but the celebration is cut short when a single walker appears.
NEXT: Eugene takes an unusual approach to distracting his captors [pagebreak]
He preps to kill it, but Eugene calls dibs. He wants to prove himself, and so he goes for the kill. But the walker’s got a metal casing around its head that makes it tough, particularly for a novice, to kill. Eugene wrestles with it for a bit until Abraham finally ends it, which only enrages Eugene. He called dibs and believes this is a sign Abraham doesn’t think he can kill.
But Abraham is just trying to be sensible. Each of them has their own skills, he argues. Finding this place and coming up with this plan is Eugene’s skill, and killing walkers is Abraham’s. Eugene then concludes that Abraham’s defenses are no longer required to save his life. He’s outlived his usefulness.
And if that’s the case, Abraham lets Eugene find his way back by himself. Of course, somewhere along that way, Eugene was captured, and Dwight, now with a burned, gnarled face, is using him as a bargaining chip.
Dwight wants passage into Alexandria so they can take what and who they please, or they’ll kill Eugene and then them. Eugene decides to make a move of his own, though, and reveals that he’s noticed Abraham hiding behind a nearby stack of barrels. Suggesting they start with him, Eugene goads Dwight into sending a man to investigate. And as their attention is diverted, Eugene bites Dwight in quite a sensitive area, hanging on by the teeth for dear life. The surprising bite heard round the train tracks throws everyone into chaos as Eugene, Daryl, and Rosita go on the offensive. (Rosita even saves Abraham’s life in the process.)
A firefight breaks out, with the Saviors losing plenty of men in the ensuing battle. Eugene is injured in the fight after Dwight eventually manages to free Little Dwight from Eugene’s grasp. Realizing he’s lost this particular battle, Dwight decides to flee with whatever remaining men he has, and though Daryl, reunited with his crossbow, goes to chase after him, Rosita stops him.
They have their own wounded and dead to attend to, after all. They return Eugene to Alexandria, where he’s patched up, and Rosita explains that the meds Denise made them scavenge may be the key to keeping him healthy. “That’s what Denise did,” she said in an episode that sadly takes one of the latest additions to the show to feel like one of the more fully realized characters.
The fallout of Denise’s death gives a few of the characters a chance to reflect as life settles back into its routine. Abraham approaches Sasha and tells her they both have choices, particularly if they can make life last in this place. (Although Rosita temporarily taking Eugene’s guard post near to Sasha should make those choices more complicated for the time being.)
Yet one of their group is, at least for the moment, not meant to remain in Alexandria for the foreseeable future. Carol leaves a note to Tobin but to the town at large. While burying Denise with Daryl, she admits that he was right when they spoke earlier in the episode. Right about what? Well, Daryl asked what the Saviors did to her and Maggie. At first, she covered it up and said “nothing” — she sought to look unaffected by the ordeal. But the Saviors did something to her. They’ve made her currently incapable of killing, which she knows she would have to do for her people. She can’t love anyone because she can’t kill for anyone, she says.
Carol leaves, asking them not to come after her. And so Alexandria, at least for the time being, suffers another loss. A self-elected one, yes, but one that is sure to have its repercussions as well as the season winds down.