The third episode of the sixth season of The Walking Dead is an awe-inspiring hour of television and confirms the show’s title as one of the best on TV. And for another superlative, it is still the best show on cable TV right now. “Thank You,” the latest episode, is another strong showing from TWD showrunners — who have decided to flex their muscles a bit in the first couple of weeks of the new season. (They’ve gone there, already…)
The episode features some grade-A storytelling, as episode writer Angela Kang uses a little known character, David, to foreshadow what seems to be the fate of a major character. Further, she reminds viewers that some members of the core group are in fact susceptible to the anguish we’ve come to know in TWD universe.
What is more, “Thank You” effectively humanizes some of our favorite characters — like Michonne, Glenn, and Rick — and one who is not so much our favorite, Nicholas (Michael Traynor).
Granted, it is an extremely taxing episode, and will undoubtedly tug at your heartstrings. But, at the end of the day, poignant storytelling is required to keep the whole narrative moving forward, and that’s what Kang and company deliver this week while the survivors deal with the “Mega Herd.”
“Thank You” runs the gamut, and even features sound editing and audio, neat establishing shots in the Georgian landscape, effectively “propped-up” ghost towns, and a mix of Alexandrians that add to the suspense, but are truly dispensable.
Most of the time, a TV show is productive when there is motion — emotionally, physically, metaphorically. Any time viewers are asked to sit in place, to let the loose ends sort themselves out, they lose patience. That’s obvious. In “Thank You,” the core survivors are on the run, trying to beeline it back to Alexandria to prevent the herd from reaching the entrance. Rick is all alone (if you exclude his radio), Glenn and Nicholas are isolated in the alleyways of a town the latter man once visited on a run, and at least one Alexandrian is making a name for himself: Heath (Corey Hawkins). Thus, there is plenty of motion.
Major spoilers ahead!
There have been moments of melodrama so far this season (although it may be the best string of at least three episodes in a long time), including Tara’s motivational pep talk with the new surgeon, Denise (Merritt Wever), or Carter’s earlier antics with Rick’s leadership, etc. While there’s plenty of that in “Thank You,” including another moment of anti-Rick banter from an Alexandrian who is swiftly killed off, there are also truly raw, heartfelt moments, including with David (an Alexandrian), and Michonne, on her callous yet communal worldview.
A few flags also go up, however, on how some of our characters get so carelessly lost in the apparently labyrinthine streets of these villages, and on how “the herd” can sometimes move so quickly. But these quibbles aside, “Thank You” is up there in the rankings of best TWD episodes of all six seasons.
Why is that?
For one, we’ve lost Glenn (Steven Yeun). (Or so it seems). He’s the first season one survivor “to go” in a long time, and it was as emotionally taxing as it sounds. As a matter of fact, it may have been the most emotional moment in the show since we lost Hershel in season four. But, Glenn’s apparent death may trump that, for Glenn was Rick’s sidekick and oftentimes moral compass since the second episode of the series. There is a pleasant moment a few scenes before Glenn’s death where he says “dumb ass” on the radio with Rick, something he also does in that episode oh-so-long ago from season one.
However, and that is a key word, Glenn may not in fact be dead, in which case The Walking Dead fans everywhere will be compelled to shout from the top of a mountain in excitement. As it stands now, though, it’s horrible to think about how Maggie (Lauren Cohan) will cope with this — she’s now lost just about everyone that’s important to her.
To give Glenn’s death its due diligence, however, we’ll need to delve into the episode’s plot, which will follow.
The episode runs concurrently with last week’s episode, “JSS,” which was the interior group’s response to the wolf attack. “Thank You” is another fine example of non-linear storytelling, and has viewers following Rick, Michonne, Glenn, Nicholas, and Daryl/Sasha/Abraham to a lesser degree.
It begins as the group attempts to rush back to Alexandria to respond to the blaring horn that is stirring the walkers, and to, most likely, help the Alexandrians survive by keeping the “detour” plan in effect.
Alexandria’s de facto leader informs Michonne and Glenn that they need to get back to Alexandria, but that the ill-equipped Alexandrians will not be able to make it, for they just hold back the rest of the gang.
Then, he is seen running around frantically for much of the episode. He contacts Glenn to keep the plan in order, and kills a small group of walkers (cutting his hand in the process), and also heads to an RV to get ahead of the “herd.” Eventually, he is met with heavy resistance from the wolves Morgan spared in “JSS,” who he kills, and the herd of walkers which swarm his RV that has failed to start. This is the last we see of him.
Maggie’s husband decides to sneak through the ghost town the group has entered, to deter the herd of walkers from making it any closer to Alexandria (and his friends immediately near him). Nicholas, who’d been to the town on a run, decides to come with him, and the duo plans to burn down a feed store to distract the zombies.
Ultimately, Nicholas (whom episode director Michael Slovis follows occasionally in subjective shots), leads the two down a dead-end alley, and the swarm of zombies overruns them. Nicholas, who has completely checked out of this world, thanks Glenn for giving him a second chance and shoots himself in his head. In the process, he falls off the dumpster the two were hiding atop of and he takes Glenn with him. The two hit the ground and are immediately devoured by the hundreds of zombies that were on their tail. (Glimmer of hope: Nicholas falls on top of Glenn and viewers can’t quite tell if it’s only Nicholas’s guts that are being handled like sausage links. Could he survive?)
Michonne becomes the fearless leader in Rick’s stead, and guides her mini-group back to Alexandria, where she discovers that the wolves have practically lit the community ablaze. In the process, however, she loses a few Alexandrians (including “the dissenter,” Annie, and David) and has to put Heath in his place after he tries to compare himself to her and her group.
Following the show, on The Talking Dead, Damon Lindelof, showrunner of Lost, said that TWD writers and directors were “audacious” for bringing such an emotionally stirring episode to the small screen so early on in the season. And he’s right. So, if all of this has gone down already, what else should we expect this season?
Catch a special, 90 minute episode of The Walking Dead on AMC on November 1 at 9 p.m.
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