Well, at least the Greene family midseason-finale streak has been put to rest with “Start to Finish.” But that doesn’t mean the Alexandrians got away clean from the events of season 6’s midpoint. As the walkers spilled into the streets of the Safe Zone, Deanna did not go gently into that good afternoon, and Father Gabriel made a Star Wars reference. So maybe he’s good for something?
If season 6 has been building up to any central ideas, it’s been a twofold approach — Rick having to come to terms with whether he considers the Alexandrians part of his group and the question of whether Morgan and Carol can hash out their differences. “Start to Finish” addresses both those throughlines, one to the possible benefit of Alexandria and the other, at least in the immediate future, jeopardizing one of the townsfolk.
And that omnipresent danger made itself a hassle from the start, forcing most of the main players to split up and run for the nearest shelter available. For some like Maggie, that means lone wolfing it up to a watch platform (which occurs in a protracted sequence of walkers grabbing at Maggie’s feet; it’s meant to be tense, the surviving Greene scraping by to save her life, but knowing the show just revealed the pregnant woman’s husband had survived after a weeks-long cliffhanger saps the scene of any tension it’s meant to have). For others, like Rosita and Tara, it means holing it up in a garage with Eugene, who reveals he’s still too scared to fight and happens to be the “Always Accountable”-ending cliffhanger voice over the radio.
And for a much larger group, which includes Rick, Carl, dumb Ron (I believe it’s his official character name), an injured Deanna, and Michonne, shelter means running to Jessie’s house. She saves the group from becoming walker lunch by creating a path in an encirclement to escape through into her house. For the moment, they’re saved from the horrors attacking their streets, but plenty more terrors lurk within the walls of the house.
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Among them are Deanna’s injuries, which reveal themselves to be more than a few combat wounds. She’s been bitten, delivering one of the series’ best reactions to the reveal with a perfectly timed “Well, s—.” Deanna quite calmly accepts her fate, mostly consoled by Michonne at her side. Rather than dwelling on her dimming light, though, Deanna wants to focus on bolstering the fire inside Michonne.
Then there’s the still frightened Sam to consider, as Jessie’s son won’t stop playing old records (and attracting a gross bug problem) while refusing to be the brave boy his mother needs him to be. But the most pressing problems lie in the garage, where dumb Ron is crying his eyes out believing Enid to be dead. He believes they’re all dead, in fact, including Carl, so he might as well take him out now, as he intended to before the walkers flooded their town.
Dumb Ron locks the door and pulls his gun on Carl, but Rick trained the boy well, and he’s able to wrestle it out of dumb Ron’s grasp before he can actually use it. He replaces his lost gun with a shovel, but misses Carl and instead whacks apart the glass window of the outer door, alerting passing walkers to their presence. They begin to come for the house as dumb Ron tries to choke out Carl, but luckily Carl escapes his and the walkers’ clutches.
NEXT: Bring on the zombie gut suits
The walkers eventually break through the door, but by this point, Rick has chopped open the other door leading into the house, rescuing the two boys as the undead pour into their once-safe haven. A group of the survivors (including Father Gabriel, who apparently abandoned his prayer circle he was so excited to start up to follow the one guy who absolutely despises him) push a couch up against the door, but now that the walkers have zeroed in on the house, they’re coming from all angles.
The walkers knock over a sculpture outside, drawing more to the house and dwindling the amount of time the survivors can safely spend inside it. And so they prepare for their inevitable departure, which includes dealing with the dying Deanna. (It also means addressing dumb Ron’s attempt on Carl’s life, to which the young Grimes says “Look, I get it: My dad killed your dad. But you need to know something: Your dad was an asshole.”) Rick thinks Deanna’s already turned, as she is slung over the side of Judith’s crib. But in one of the series’ greatest false walker moments, she just wanted one last look at the young girl before dying. Her legs just didn’t happen to agree with her, and so she fell.
She also uses the opportunity to tell Rick what the right answer was to her question about why he saved Spencer. Handing Rick notes for her son and for Maggie, she asks Rick to look after Spencer like he was one of Rick’s own because now they are all his. Deanna didn’t save Rick earlier during the walker surprise because she likes him, thinks he’s a good man, or because he can grow one hell of a beard. Even though those all may be true, she helped him because they belong to the same people. That, in Deanna’s mind, is the right answer.
The sweet moment is undercut as Rick is called for from downstairs. “There’s just too many of them,” Gabriel yells, again proving he is still a character on this television program, and walkers begin to break through the door and windows. The crew barricades itself upstairs, using the couch at the foot of the stairs, but they know a move is imminent.
And Rick has a plan for that move, resurrecting the ol’ cover-everyone-in-zombie-guts method of blindly passing through a herd. He takes a few walkers upstairs and begins pulling out their entrails to the frozen horror of Jessie, Ron, and, again, Gabriel. Gabriel is there too and displeased with the idea, but… Well, no one really seems to give his feelings a second thought.
He is concerned about Deanna, who Michonne has a final sitdown with while the rest of the group tries on this season’s hottest zombie-gut-tinged clothing. Michonne offers to end Deanna’s life now and save her the trouble, but she refuses. “Someday this pain will be useful to you,” she says to Michonne, quoting a Latin phrase her husband used. She asks Michonne to figure out what she wants, not just for the town but for herself, hoping to do good even in the final moments of her life.
NEXT: Can Carol and Morgan reconcile their beliefs?
This holds true even after the group leaves the house, when Deanna decides that, rather than using her pistol to initially kill herself, she’ll take a few walkers with her. She unloads into the hallway as they come for her while the others, hand in hand and covered in walker blood, exit the house and begin making their way to safety.
Yet safety might not await all of them. Sam, who took some convincing by Jessie to leave in the first place, begins to call for his mom as they make their way through the crowd. His calls only grow louder, and walker guts can’t quite cover up sound.
Their fates aren’t the only ones hanging in the balance. Morgan and Carol just so happen to end up paired off early in the episode after Carol stumbles and falls. The two make their way into a nearby house while Carol recovers from what Morgan fears could be a concussion. Carol won’t let him help, though, as she places him at the bottom of her list of trustworthy Alexandrians (score one for Father Gabriel).
Morgan wants to put their differences aside until she’s rested, but she would rather deal with the Wolf Morgan has captive. She makes a break for it, running to the Wolf, who is still with Denise. She makes some attempts to convince him he wasn’t born to be this murderous man who thinks he’s “freeing” people by killing them, but he’s bought into his line of logic and won’t consider other options.
He’s a lost cause, and Carol sees little reason to keep him alive. She arrives, only to have Morgan impede her plans. She tells him she’s willing to kill Morgan in order to kill the Wolf, but he won’t allow her to kill him (a nice callback to interactions with Eastman). Even the Wolf is on Carol’s side, though he believes they’re all dead as it is so what does it matter.
Eventually the standoff boils over as Morgan and Carol begin fighting. Carol gets a few swipes in, but Morgan knocks the knife out of her hand while also losing his staff in the fight. He knocks Carol out, only to have the Wolf knock him over the head with his own staff.
A few more uninvited party crashers show up when Eugene, Tara, and Rosita barge in through a door to the garage. (Eugene may have been frightened before, but his lock-picking skills come in handy without walkers bearing down on him.) The Wolf takes Denise at knife point as she tells him he’s full of s— for not letting them go if they’re all supposedly dead already.
He lets the knocked-out Morgan and Carol live, as well as the trio, but he takes Denise with him as he ventures out into the streets of Alexandria.
But their true fates will have to wait until the second half of the season, as will Glenn’s hopefully joyous reunion with Maggie. (Glenn reveals to Enid as they plan to find a way back into town that he’s known all along of her pregnancy). And it will be a second half, as glimpsed in the additional sequence aired after the episode, that establishes a much-anticipated villain from the comics and will hopefully have learned from the ups and downs of this first half (I would be shocked if many dumpsters appeared in 2016).
What did you think of the midseason finale and of the first half of the season as a whole? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @jmdornbush.