Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points of Sunday night's The Walking Dead midseason finale, "Start to Finish."
Glenn is still on the other side of the (now crushed) wall protecting Alexandria, and there is a whole helluva lot of walkers shambling their way into town for some gated community grub. Titled "Start to Finish," the episode centered around our heroes largely stuck in houses, and trying to figure out how to escape. Meanwhile, Morgan and Carol came to blows over the former's Wolf prisoner, and Carl nearly got taken out by Ron, son of Porchd--k Pete. Judith was not eaten, and Deanna gave a few speeches before having a big exit, and Sam ... well, Sam had a rough day. Then, in the post-credits scene, viewers were introduced, in name, to the very, very bad man known as Negan.
Editor at Large Aaron Sagers and Contributing Editor Tara Bennett give their reactions to the midseason finale and look ahead to the February return of The Walking Dead.
Aaron: This was a fine episode, and made up a little for the supreme irritation I was feeling towards the show last week. The herd pouring into the streets of Alexandria brought back some tension to the show, and delivered a real threat to the characters. But it wasn't amazing; I didn't think it seemed like a big midseason finale. I was left wanting more and feeling ho-hum. Plus, we were denied a true Glenn and Maggie reunion (and Maggie overall was pretty forgotten about for the entire episode).
The pre-credits sequence was visually compelling, and made for a creepy horror scene. The rotting meat with the ants was like a shot from The Ring videocassette, and Insidious taught us that "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" could be used for scary effect. It didn't reveal much as far as opening scenes go, but I found it enjoyable.
Tara: I agree that as far as TWD midseason finales, this one wasn't my favorite. Overall, there was an odd pacing in this episode that I think stems from the fractured separation of the characters inside Alexandria. The break in the wall made it seem like this one was going to be as frenetic as "JSS," but once everyone got to initial safety there was a surprising amount of downtime as each cluster talked about what to do next, with some bursts of engaging action.
Aaron: Chandler Riggs gave a great performance as Carl this week, and he was working with some strong writing. The fight with Ron turned a plot point I was very much annoyed with into an interesting character beat. Carl could have gone full Rick, but instead chose a different path, as a peacemaker (but one who is still sharp, and can hold his own). Whereas Rick might have killed someone like Ron, Carl goes his own way -- similar to how Tara saved Spencer last week, much to Rick's ire. Deanna's hope that Team Rick will see Alexandrians as their own has come to fruition, even if Rick is the slowest to adopt that philosophy.
Tara: Show Carl, like his comic-book counterpart, is definitely becoming his own man, who is not a clone of his dad when it comes to making his own moral decisions. I like seeing him defend himself from Ron, then deal with confronting Ron on his own terms. Was I terrified for Carl for a minute there? Hell, yeah! But tonight's moment where he went full 100 on Ron about his messed-up dad, Porchd--k Pete, was not only a great moment in Carl's evolution but showed how far the character has come from his unfortunate meme days. Kudos to Chandler Riggs for totally landing that scene.
Aaron: As for Deanna, I liked her more in this episode than ever before. As she faced a bad death, she remained strong, funny and wise. The choice to empty her gun and get devoured, instead of taking herself out, is indeed a unique decision -- and a painful one.
Tara: I really love when the writers use a new character to provide unexpected insights into a core character. Deanna started out impacting Rick and Maggie in interesting ways, and in her swan-song episode ended up really giving us a welcome look into Michonne's psyche and further commitment to Alexandria. I loved Deanna pressing her to figure out, "What do you want?"
Aaron: It is only fitting that Carl and Deanna also got the two best lines of the night:
"Well ... s--t."
"My dad killed your dad, but there's something you need to know, your dad was an a--hole."
Aaron: The showdown between Morgan, Carol and the Wolf didn't do it for me. I think the Wolf is a very creeptastic character, and I enjoy watching him be so calm and cold. But his story really needs to be over lest Morgan continue to appear foolish and dogmatic in his beliefs.
Tara: Morgan, Morgan, Morgan. How are we supposed to back Morgan's moral compass when the Wolf clearly did what we expected him to do? The goodwill and context he earned in "Here's Not Here" has quickly gone out the window with his dangerous choices that are deeply naive and not in the best interest of his new pack. I wish there has been more time in any previous episode with Morgan and the Wolf so maybe their philosophies were explored more, or Morgan impacted the Wolf's thinking, which would allow us to get why Morgan is doing what he's doing more clearly. Instead, Carol obviously is the point of view you root for in this moment because she is thinking of the pack.
Aaron: Yeah, I never really thought Carol would significantly harm Morgan, and certainly not vice versa. Allowing the Wolf to escape with Denise seemed too contrived.
And two things: What was Morgan thinking leaving Denise with the Wolf in the first place? He knows how bad the guy can be, and Denise is not a trained fighter like him. Additionally, shouldn't Tara, Rosita (and pretty much everyone on this show) know to hide a second weapon on them? After the Wolf made them surrender their guns, they would have had ample opportunity to take him out with a backup.
Tara: And how about proper barricading prep in general in Alexandria. They have been surrounded by the herd for long enough that they all should have been panic rooming the hell out of every house, or creating a central space in case what happened, happened. Hello???
"Oh S--t!" Moment:
Aaron: For a moment I really thought the show was going to bring back Glenn just to have Maggie die. Then I checked myself; the show has lessened some stakes post-Glenn fakeout, so I just don't think they'll kill her off anytime soon.
Tara: I had three. One was when Judith cried and Rick registered Deanna was no longer in the room. His slow walk to Judith's room gave me the serious dreads, culminating in that great view of Deanna bent over the crib. Even if it turned out fine, it was a genuinely scary beat. Second, was Sam yelping for his mom as Rick and his group try to act casual in meat suits among the walkers to get to the armory. Seriously, at that point someone didn't put a hand over that kid's face? Bloody baby Bjorn Judith even knew better to shut up! Come on. Those Anderson kids are the WORST. Last, Negan getting name-checked in the added post-credits scene [embedded below] was a great confirmation of what we know and a storyline that is going to hopefully melt our faces.
Aaron: OK, I agree, that was a good moment with Deanna hunched over Judith. Is it wrong that I just keep waiting for Sam to get eaten? I mean, that has to happen, yes? He won't be able to survive in this world.
And since you brought up the post-credits scene: As Daryl, Sasha and Abraham drive along the road (and it was Eugene, by the way, they heard say "Help" into the walkie two weeks back), they encounter a group of heavily armed bikers, aka the Saviors. The leader tells them everything they own is being confiscated, and is now property of ... Negan! Yes, the next big bad of TWD has been informally introduced, and fans of the comic book know that ugly things are on the way. I am in no rush for the Negan arc, because I'd rather spend more time in Alexandria rather than having an archnemesis to contend with. This was fun bit of fan service tease for the show's return next year, though.
Aaron: What percentage of a human's body has to be covered in Walker guts to mask the smell of a living person? Won't they still pick up on the scent of sweat in their hair and face?
So, did everyone in Alexandria survive? If so, that's impressive, and highly unlikely.
Also: Stupid Enid.
Tara: You gotta love that Eugene is surely hiding some sweet hair accessories in his wonder-mullet. Nice lock pick job that barely redeemed you, Eugene.
I was completely underwhelmed by the continuation of Glenn trying to crack the ennui of Enid again. Nope.
How come the walkers can easily bust through windows in some scenes, and in others, they just bang on them? I'm not understanding.
Tara: As always, it's going to be a long 10 weeks until we get to see how all of these cliffhangers are going to get resolved. I'm looking forward to a break from this style of storytelling and I'm hoping for a more unified narrative for the Alexandria survivors and the reintegration of Glenn, Maggie and Daryl's crew in the new year.
Aaron: I don't know if I'd call the midseason finale unsatisfying. It is more that it just left us hanging there -- and that may be the point. Rick and company exit the house and they look around, with nowhere to really go. Where can they walk to, and how long will they have before they're reduced to running and trying to hide? Still, I think I'd have preferred "more" to the finale. I am looking forward to getting the band back together after several episodes of Daryl, Abraham, Glenn and Sasha being separated.
What did you think of the midseason finale of The Walking Dead? Sound off below, and if you missed that post-credits scene, check it out here.