TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead 6.2 – JSS | FanboysInc

TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead 6.2 – JSS

By Mike Sains

TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead 6.2 - JSS

Last week’s debut episode “First Time Again” utilized some of the most stylish and artfully edited film making that The Walking Dead has ever seen, so, I was immediately curious as to how this sophomore follow-up would fare in comparison. The way this episode exceeded the debut was both surprising and for a fan of the zombie genre and this show as a complete story, it was absolutely thrilling television. At the end of the last episode, we were left dangling from the epic cliffhanger that was the sounding of the horn that lead the zombie horde away from Rick and Co.’s planned path, putting them on a collision course with Alexandria.

But, rather than open right where we left off, “JSS” gives us insight into the episode’s title via Enid, Carl’s quirky, hermit, sort-of-girlfriend. We get to see her post-apocalypse “origin story”, which is fairly cut and dry: her parents didn’t know how to survive in this new world, were ripped apart in front of her as she was forced to watch from the window of the family Ford Explorer, and took to the outside world by herself, now a shell of her former humanity. And while this is a relatively familiar scenario for survivors in this reality, for The Walking Dead, large jumps in time are not regularly done. It almost never happens. So for her to get this moment to establish her past feels significant for many reasons both stylistically and also being germane to her overall importance.

To see Enid’s transformation on screen from a scared, dainty young girl to near animalistic over the course of just a few brief minutes is extraordinary. She went from crying to eating a tortoise, raw, head first.  That scene alone makes her exponentially more dangerous and capable of surviving in this new world than nearly everyone else on this show, except for maybe Morgan or Carol. I could see them eating an animal uncooked, too. But I digress. In addition to eating an animal alive, we also see through this series of brief moments, that Enid has a habit of marking the places she’s been with a simple code: JSS. She writes it on a car window, she writes it on her hands, she uses it as a way to say goodbye. But what does it mean? Before we’re able to find out, Enid finally stumbles upon the entrance to Alexandria, and in a short extended shot, we see her fully contemplate whether or not to join up with this group. It is almost like watching a kind of movie monster – let’s say Godzilla – finding a city, deciding on whether or not to stomp all over it, and ultimately decides to do so. But, is Enid a monster? Is she here to do damage? I’ll admit, it is very hard to tell; she’s maybe the most enigmatic character currently on the show. Either way, this cold open was extremely potent.

TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead 6.2 - JSS

We knew you were weird, Enid. But we had no idea you were straight-up crazy.

From there, the tone shifts back to the current timeline, but the past of the current timeline. We’re back in Alexandria during the zombie escort from The Walk Quarry, but before things go wrong. I’ll repeat something I said quite a bit last week: this could have been just another run-of-the-mill “getting to know you” episodes where we see the side characters who are not important to the conflict away from camp begin to bond more or reveal more about themselves. And in a way, we do see that, however briefly. We see that Carol is back to her culinary ways, leading the ladies of the camp in a kitchen inventory check that shows Carol throwing her weight around as the clear female leader below Deanna. One could argue she’s vastly more influential than Deanna, but again, I digress.

During the aforementioned inventory scene, Carol lectures a woman about not smoking indoors at her job or at her house, to the woman’s chagrin and to the delight of the other ladies who aren’t being hassled by Carol. It’s a cute and endearing moment for all, as we are all only human; we’re all flawed. But to see Carol straighten Cheryl out like the brooding schoolmarm she can be was charming in its own way.

It feels like just an ordinary day in Alexandria: Jessie and Ron the Whiny Boy share a quick but heated exchange in which Ron yells at his mom because he is now in his ultimate Shitty Teenager form. There’s a small back and forth between Deanna and Maggie about the importance of moving on so Deanna can continue to be the leader of Alexandria. Eugene and Tara meet the new town doctor, Denise. Denise is not in the best place mentally and Pete didn’t want her around because of that reason. But she’s got spirit and she seems like a good person. These are all moments that build the characters up as human beings and it really feels like this is just another slow burn episode of The Walking Dead.

For the second week in a row, we see the priest attempt to reconcile with the group, this time through Carl. But young Mr. Grimes isn’t having any of it and not for nothing, but, would anyone believe this guy? At this point, why should they? But he volunteers to help and Carl eventually agrees to train him. After that we see Enid and Ron getting close and now there’s a triangle between the quiet killer girl, the kid who’s dad was murdered for being a monster and the guy who murdered the monster’s son. Yikes. And again, somehow, this all still feels like just another slow character building episode of The Walking Dead.

During this quiet, overcast day, we see Carol drop unsolicited wisdom on Jessie’s youngest child (“Your dad died. Get over it” – CLASSIC Carol), put a casserole in the oven, set a cooking timer, and looks out her window to see Cheryl is actually listening to Carol, as she steps outside for a nice smoke. And then, out of nowhere, the woman is hacked to death by a filthy and deranged looking, machete-wielding invader. Does Carol scream? Does run? No. She’s finally at home again. This is where this episode goes from ho-hum to Critical Mass in an instant. This is no slow-burn episode. This was the quiet before the storm. We are now in a hurricane of crazy.

Is it just one man with a machete? Oh no. This is a full-scale attack. We see the tower guard Richard get hit with a Molotov cocktail and in that moment, we can see on her face just how unprepared Deanna was for anything remotely this violent. She freezes up and Maggie has to pull her away from the gates, and it seems like many other Alexandrians have plans similarly as ineffective. Jessie tells her youngest child to hide in a locked closet while she stands guard, and many others seem to either run around screaming or stand there saying, “no, no, please don’t” rather than running to the armory or grabbing anything that looks like a weapon and defending their own lives.

If we’re being honest, we all knew that Alexandria would fall. Out of the entire town’s population, there seems to be just a handful of people who were ready to defend themselves and they all just so happen to be part of Rick’s group, and Enid. Rick has been screaming for more preparedness since last season. But did anyone listen? Not really. Did they train themselves to be better fighters or to defend themselves in hand to hand combat? No they did not. They relied on their high walls and faux comfort to keep them safe. Well now look, this is what happens when you sit on your laurels and hope for the best. You get the worst possible outcome. You get The Wolves.

In the fracas Enid is somehow able to get to Carl’s house with the set of master keys for the whole town, a smart move on both counts. Again, why aren’t more people thinking like this? Anyway, Carl insists that Enid stay in the house with him and the baby after she tries to tell him that she’s leaving Alexandria forever. But Carl isn’t having any of it. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t seem to be listening to Enid at all, he’s simply in survival mode and that blocks out key dialogue that he should have been paying attention to. It seems like Enid, in her days before finding Alexandria, might have met The Wolves, as she seems to try and tell Carl that she was in on the infiltration / invasion of Alexandria. But he doesn’t hear any of that and cuts her off before she can actually admit to any wrongdoing, saving all of the intrigue for us the viewers.

The Wolves, with what little we do know about them, seem like people possessed, as during their invasion they seem to be anything but coordinated. The attack itself feels manic, all over the place, and without focus. The attackers don’t just kill people, they hack them to death and then they hack them up some more. They’re almost like bad AI in a video game, in the sense that all you’d need to do is walk up to them and kill them while they’re obsessively hacking away at an already dead body. And that does in fact happen more than once. This makes it easy for anyone with half a brain to kill them and to avoid them as they maneuver around Alexandria. This is where we see Carol excel: she floats through the pandemonium with ease, dispatches any attackers that face her with aplomb, and silences the screaming, pitiful citizens who lay dying. She’s in full head-stab mode and it is a regular HeadStabAPallooza.

It’s after Carol’s maneuvering that we see the source of the loud horn from last week: a semi-truck involved in the invasion is headed straight for the gates, is shot to pieces by Deanna’s personal guard, and crashes into the wall, horn blasting with no one able to stop it. It serves as an effective story device that creates huge amounts of tension, the viewer wishing that the noise would stop, but it also intensifies the massacre playing out on screen. It’s like a woman screaming when two men get in a fist fight, only much, much more intense. While Richard the tower guard still burns on the ground and the horn from the semi still blares, the invasion seems to be dwindling, as the Alexandrians are figuring out just how nuts The Wolves are and with just a little fightback, they might be able to walk away from this invasion with their lives. Some of them, anyway.

After a prolonged and bloody battle, and just as Deanna’s personal body guard is about to reach the semi-truck’s horn, Morgan finally arrives to save what’s left of this day. He hears what happens from the guard and tells the man that they need to get back inside the walls to fight off the invasion. But the body guard being a proper Alexandrian, he chickens out. But instead of killing him or yelling at him like Rick or anyone from his group might do, Morgan simply accepts the man’s cowardice is tells him, “HIDE”. It’s a brief but humanizing moment for both characters. Morgan doesn’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do, up to and including fending off an invading force.

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Once Morgan leaves the cowardly body guard to be a coward, he almost faces off with a Wolf but instead watches as Carol – in full Wolves camouflage, complete with a “W” written in blood on her forehead – kills him. Morgan being Morgan, he is upset by the killing and serves as the moral compass, telling Carol that she doesn’t have to kill anyone, to which she swiftly snaps, “of course we do”. Now that they’ve teamed up the goal is to reach and secure the armory before The Wolves do. But again, why weren’t there more armed guards? I get the “no guns” thing, but, at this point why not at least create some version of a police or military force? You have a whole city to protect and all of the guns are in one building, away from the town center? This is exactly how you invite a slaughter.

TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead 6.2 - JSS

The Wolves, while crazy, do have a certain style to them.

From here there are a series of quick but key scenes. Denise the anxious doctor tries to save Holly’s life but fails. RIP Holly, we hardly knew you. It’s a key moment for Denise because she comes out of her shell and learns how to be brave in the face of true horror. Carl saves Ron’s life and offers to protect Ron, which Ron then refuses because again, he’s an ungrateful little shit who doesn’t understand how this world works. And lastly, Jessie fends off a female Wolf invader and eventually snaps, goes full abused wife, and stabs her to death with Ron standing right there to see the whole thing go down. Hopefully now Ron sees the damage that his father did to his mother and he finally gets his act together. Hopefully. But this trio of scenes, while vastly different, are all similar in the sense that the Alexandrians involved in these scenes become hardened; they get to places that they didn’t think they had in themselves. And it’s absolutely brilliant storytelling in the middle of such chaos.

In this mania, Morgan and Carol finally reach the armory where they have to immediately rescue the priest. Carol doesn’t want to for obvious reasons, but, Morgan does it anyway. It’s in this scene that Carol the Killer gets to shine bright. She kills without hesitation and she moves with purpose. Olivia, the one surviving Alexandrian at the armory, is so surprised by Carol that she doesn’t even recognize Carol through her camouflage. After her Call of Duty-like raiding of the armory, the group is finally able to take out the remaining Wolves with relative ease. Guns vs. knives mixed with The Wolves’ own crazy style of attack makes this easier than normal.

But even with the advantage, Morgan refuses to kill anyone he encounters, including a 5 vs. 1 battle between himself and a wolf pack lead by a red head who will surely be back to kill someone Morgan loves as a result of his kindness. After all, this is The Walking Dead and no good deed goes unpunished.

Overall, this was an episode that revealed a lot about the people of Alexandria, an episode that forced them all to make difficult choices under great pressure. Not all of them made the right choices and no one came out of the situation unscathed. What could have been a basic, paint by the numbers filler episode, turned out to be a gut-wrenching, morose slaughter. It’s an episode that proved Rick’s warnings to be prophetic, one that emphasizes Enid’s mantra to its fullest, JSS: Just Survive Somehow.

FBI SCORE: 9.5 out of 10. After last week’s stellar opening and this week’s sophomore “JSS”, the sixth season of The Walking Dead is establishing a pattern of deftly paced, well written, thrilling television.

Stray Observations:

This episode was directed by directed by Jennifer Lynch. Remember that name. She’s about to be all over the place.

Carol = Mrs. Peltier? That doesn’t even feel right.

Morgan’s “friend” is a cheese maker. A martial arts expert and a cheese maker. 

The callback to Cheryl, the woman Carol got killed, was a nice touch and added depth of story.

How many “inside men” were there already in Alexandria? Enid and who else?

Denise is the strongest new addition of the season.

“Make sure you get her brain”.

Mike Sains

Mike Sains is a writer, editor, and podcaster for FanBoysInc.com and other outlets online. When he isn't writing, editing, or podcasting, he's collecting comic books, Funko Pop and Hikari Sofubi figures, and vinyl records of all kinds. He also likes free stuff. 😉 Follow him on twitter @MikeSains

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