The Walking Dead’s zombies storm back on to television with ‘No Way Out’, a mid-season premiere that delivers on wholesale death, destruction and desperation…
The Walking Dead returned from its mid-season hiatus and decided to enter with a bang rather than a whimper – in fact, several big bangs AND some major whimperings as the death-toll and injuries among the people of Alexandria escalated by the minute. Picking up where we left off, Alexandria is being over-run by zombies as the walls come tumbling down and it seems that Rick and friends decision to make their way through the undead is doomed to failure… what could possibly go w̶r̶o̶n̶g̶ right?
One of the secrets of good drama is not only building tension but finding a way to release it effectively. There can be few viewers who didn’t, literally, ‘whoop‘ when the question of whether Negan’s men would kill Daryl, Abraham or Sasha was answered by Daryl unexpectedly blowing all the bikers with a bazooka. BOOM. How can you not applaud that? It was also something of a bookmark with the trio also turning the tide at the end of the episode courtesy of decisive firepower.
Speaking of which… If The Walking Dead often has the pace of Alien – tense, smaller groups menaced from off-camera with only the occasional incursive physical attack to deal with – No Way Out went full Aliens with a mass of zombies piling into Alexandria, a rotting wave of seemingly unstoppable hungry cadavers. With no choice left and their numbers dwindling, Rick and the surviving members of Alexandria drew on their inner strengths and retaliated with an angry ‘Hail, Mary‘, pulling in their resources and going on the attack. It was quite epic to watch both in a sense of scope and execution… the editing proving an essential tool to creating the growing momentum and frenzy of their last stand. It was a selection of scenes where almost everyone was at risk. Rick’s paramour Jessie and her two kids, Sam and Ron, unexpectedly bought the (Hershel’s) farm early in the episode. Having survived an abusive marriage, Jessie’s luck was no better as she got bitten. Sam was the whining one who, like Richie’s brother in Happy Days, spent most of his time upstairs and was little use thereafter (It was a telling and emotive factor that it was Carol’s earlier efforts to scare the youngster that led to his fatal panic attack). Ron was the sullen wrong ‘un who decided to take out Carl in a cloud of emo bullets and managed to squeeze only one off before Michonne rightly sliced and diced him.
The township is saved by the Alexandrians stepping up, the return of Daryl, Abraham or Sasha and their plan for a ring of fire – the dead being drawn like necrotic moths to the flames. It’s a post-apocalyptic apocalypse and another feather for the production designers and crew.
Those who are aware of the comic’s continuity were waiting for two major story milestones: the introduction of Negan and the possibility of Carl receiving a nasty head-shot from a bullet. We only get a name-check for Negan – the first of much foreshadowing – but Ron’s bullet had Carl’s name on it. It’s shot (literally) with some strong camerawork and a sleight of hand/head. The production used an amazingly life-like silicon sculpture for several of those related scenes and CGI’d the effect in as necessary. The result is impressive and some viewers must have presumed this was the end of Carl or the beginning of another selection of post-apocalyptic internet memes. Carl survives, but he’ll never watch a 3D movie again.
In short, No Way Out pulls out every trick it can – even putting Glenn in mortal peril once more (seriously, his uncanny luck can’t continue) – and reminding viewers how good The Walking Dead can be when firing on all cylinders. A more than solid return for the show and a statement of intent for the second-part of its current run.