Gene Page/AMC
Jonathon Dornbush
February 15, 2016 AT 02:54 AM EST

For those let down by the relatively low body count and lack of action in The Walking Dead’s midseason finale, “No Way Out” feels almost engineered to address those concerns.

After an extended prologue heralding the incoming arrival of Negan (more on that in a bit), “No Way Out” picks up almost immediately where the last episode left off, with Rick, Carl, Michonne, Gabriel, Jessie, and her sons making their way covered in guts through the zombie masses.

Rick establishes a new plan mid-slog, though, wanting to get vehicles from the quarry to round up these walkers and drive them away. And despite everyone’s wishes, Gabriel offers to take Judith and bring her safely to his church. (His offer and acknowledgement that he has to do something of value feels almost guaranteed to tee off the character’s death in the episode, but alas, Gabriel remains alive by the hour’s end.)

Splintering off from Judith and Gabriel, the group spends the entire day at a slow, measured pace through the hordes. Nighttime eventually falls, and all seems well…until Sam starts to panic. While Jessie’s son promised earlier in the day he had it in him to keep going, the threat of his surroundings sinks in, Carol’s words about monsters hanging in his head. Every walker’s gnarled face, hanging limb, and foul stench feels like it’s right in front of him, causing the whole pack to stop as he freezes into place.

Jessie tries to urge her son on, his entire focus seemingly directed at a young walker in his view, and despite her best efforts, a group of walkers starts chomping down on Sam as he remains rooted to the spot. His mother, still holding onto his arm, begins to scream, attracting other walkers who make a meal out of her as well.

Jessie, who was holding onto Carl’s arm, hasn’t let go, so Rick, despite being devastated by the loss of another woman he cares for, chops her arm off to free his son but loses his gun in the process. And who is there to pick it up but Jessie’s other son, Ron. Rocked by the instant loss of his mother and brother after having already seen his father die, Ron’s blame of Rick only intensifies, and he takes aim at the group leader. 

Ron dies before he can hurt Rick, but he isn’t felled by walkers. Michonne swoops in with one swift cut of her blade through Ron, unwilling to risk Rick’s life inching any closer to death. But as she kills Ron, his finger hits the trigger of the gun, setting off a stray bullet and attracting even more walkers.

That bullet doesn’t simply go flying off into the night. It hits Carl directly in the eye, as if to say Rick’s night hasn’t been bad enough. The father grabs his son as Michonne leads a charge through the walkers, clearing a path to safety. The time for stealth is over. The bloodbath has begun.

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And where is everyone else during this thinning of the Alexandria herd? Well Rosita, Tara, and Eugene are holed up with Carol and Morgan, who have finally both regained consciousness as the others debate whether to go out amongst the zombie hordes. Meanwhile, Denise and the Wolf are hidden from the walkers outside, debating where to go next as the Wolf whispers manipulative words to prey on Denise’s frightened state. And Glenn and Enid have made it back into town, first stopping by the church during the day to look for hidden ammunition.

Glenn is in work mode — now that he’s made it back from a half-season full of story choices best left in the past, he’s doing all he can to help save his people. Enid is less sure of what to do next. She questions what he meant about how you lose people when you decide to run, and what better place to have a philosophical discussion of how one views their relationship to lost loved ones than in a church? 

Glenn explains how he believes running is to give up on who you are. The people you love and love you in return are the ones who made you this person. To run is not only to give up on yourself, but it’s also to give up on them. And in a world that so often and repeatedly makes giving up an easy option, Glenn would rather fight the hard way, to hold on to the people he loves and thereby hold on to his own sense of self. For him, those are the friends lost along the way, and for her, those are her parents. But whoever they are, they give both Glenn and Enid the strength to keep fighting, which is why, despite Glenn’s reticence, he allows her to come help him save Maggie.

NEXT: A father scorned 

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