Plans go south, as they always do, but the Alexandrians prove there may be hope for them yet
Credit: Gene Page/AMC

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

The Wolf and Denise, mostly on his beckoning, also make their move, but its on his desire to cut their losses and run. They make a break for it, but he is bitten in the process. While he at first tells her to run on without him, she decides to offer him help, and the two make a break for it at the infirmary.

Even after patching him up, though, the Wolf is not long for the world. When the two come back outside after a brief pit stop, walkers surround them, and Carol, from a nearby balcony, helps ensure Denise makes it away safely. The Wolf is less lucky, though, and goes down amongst the walkers. (Before Carol leaps into action, she and Morgan have a brief moment together and it appears this division of ideals is far from being settled. Morgan tries to speak to the humanity in her as a mother, a wife, someone with familial ties. He acknowledges that he didn’t want to hurt her, just stop her from becoming someone else. It has shades of Glenn’s beliefs but put into practice in a different manner. Carol, on the other hand, digs into what she sees as Morgan’s selfish behavior. He wasn’t saving the Wolf for the sake of the group’s humanity; he was doing it for himself. The two may be able to put aside their differences for the night, but they are far from becoming friends.)

Denise, freed from her captor, returns to the infirmary to find a group of Alexandrians prepping the place as a temporary safehouse. They’re hoping to hole up and hide out, but the night has other plans in store for them. Denise and the others notice Rick and Michonne running with Carl outside, and although the others think RIck’s son must have been bit, Denise knows better. She opens the front door to let them rush into the relative safety and kicks into patient-care mode, ordering everyone around to help treat Carl’s grisly face.

As Carl is treated, the world closes in around Rick (director Greg Nicotero nicely playing everything else but his singular focus falling away with the loss of sound as Andrew Lincoln processes the scene). He only has one response to the injury of his son. He’s tired of running, and so he heads out, hatchet in hand, and begins chopping his way through walker after walker. His fury is unbounded as he fights his way through with reckless abandon. Michonne wants to go help, but she’s a key aide in Denise’s operation for the moment. However, Heath knows how important it is for them to go fight.

Eventually Denise gives them permission to leave, and the group goes out to assist Rick in a savage takedown of the walkers trying to overrun their house. The other Alexandrians, hiding out amongst the homes of the town, appear initially nervous but eventually head out into the fray themselves to help. They’re becoming what Rick always knew they could become — survivors.

And Morgan, Carol, Rosita, Tara, and even Eugene also venture out into the night. He knows he can’t turn tail and hide, and plus, stories will be told of this night, he reckons. Why not be whispered in the same breath as the other valiant fighters?

(Morgan comes face to face with his choices as they do so, however, taking down a walker only to discover it’s the Wolf he sought to rehabilitate. With no choice left, he knocks it out and continues fighting with the others.)

Glenn and Enid are also out in this mess of a night, fighting their way toward Maggie, who rests on a rickety guard tower. Glenn tasks Enid with climbing up to her as he draws away the gaggle of walkers surrounding the base of her tower. Firing off his gun and yelling into the air, Glenn manages to pull their focus over in his direction, but Maggie also notices. She sees Glenn for the first time since he’s been separated in a heartwrenching moment. (I will admit, for much as I still have issues with the storytelling decisions of the last half-season, I cannot deny how raw and real Maggie’s emotions felt in this moment. Lauren Cohan, who may have teared up watching some of the show herself, definitely brought a tear or two to my eye.)

And just as the walkers descend upon Glenn, seemingly ready to kill him (though the moment is definitely wiped of its tension after the first half of season 6), he is saved by a hail of bullets felling the undead fiending for a bite. It’s all thanks to Abraham, who is downright gleeful to be back and in the thick of the fight.

NEXT: Alexandria is heating up

Not that his return was an easy one. The episode opens with Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham being stopped along the road by a biker gang, who announce they’re working for the big, bad, and still unseen Negan. The crew, with a leader absolutely oozing with creepy, malevolent charm, essentially takes ownership of everything the trio has on them, as well as their very lives. While one of his men heads to the back of the truck with Daryl to look for supplies, he holds Abraham and Sasha at gunpoint.

Normally, he’s a killing kind of guy, but he has questions for them and wants to be taken back to their camp. Still, his bloodlust gets the better of him as he toys with the two of them. One second, he’s ready to let bullets fly; the next, he’s prepared to let them go, but he finally decides that maybe losing one of the three wouldn’t be the worst course of action. And just as he aims to kill, he and the rest of his group explode in a hail of fire, exploding along with their bikes thanks to a rocket-propelled grenade that Daryl fires off. (Apparently Abraham didn’t collect those last year just for show.)

“What a bunch of assholes,” they lament, but that bunch comes courtesy of Negan, who likely won’t be happy to hear about a group of his men being decimated. What repercussions will come are uncertain, but the mere ominous presence his name has on the show suggests there will certainly be some nasty after-effects. (And yes, I’m ignoring what happens in the comics because, for those new to these recaps, I have not read them in favor of treating the show as its own entity; the series will likely come up with more than a few different spins on the Negan’s actions and introduction.)

So the trio returns to Alexandria ready to leap into action, and as they reunite with Glenn, Daryl already has a plan in mind. He doesn’t want to lead the walkers away. Instead, he’d rather bring them together, and so this sect of the Alexandrians begins laying down a plan to aid those fighting in the streets. Spilling a trail of oil, the group uses it to start up one hell of a barbecue.

Daryl shoots an RPG, which, thanks to the oil, ignites the surface of the water in town. The small lake becomes a sea of flames, drawing the walkers attention toward the place of their destruction. Many of them willingly shamble toward the fire and their underwater (second) deaths, but the group fighting in the roads of the town do not simply stand by. Their passions, their anger, their desire to protect their home has been similarly ignited, and they slash their way through every walker they can find.

The day dawns, and the street is littered with corpses, but all is quiet. The group takes a breather together, silently celebrating their victory, the salvation of their town, while Rick sits inside with his son. Carl, either asleep or in a coma, rests in bed with a bandage over his eye as his father tells him of what that day and night of fighting has taught him. Rick has learned that these people are ready to fight, that they are ready to make a new life, a new world where they can all survive. There is so much they can do, so much that Deanna wanted in expanding the town that he believes can now be accomplished. They can rebuild and live in a world that Rick not only approves of, but one he wants to show to his son.

It’s a feeling he hasn’t had since before he woke up in that hospital so many seasons ago, but he can’t shake it. He wants this world, but he wants it to include Carl. And as a sign that he will likely get to show him that world some day, Carl’s hand closes around his father’s, a symbol of hope after a day filled with so much loss.

And though more loss may come to face them — this is The Walking Dead after all — there’s a renewed hope that some good could come to them as well.

Episode Recaps

The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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