Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Sunday night's The Walking Dead Season 6 episode, "East."
Carol's exit from Alexandria and the still-stinging loss of Denise via the Savior attack are the central narratives of "East." We get to see how Carol seemingly vanished under her family's nose, and exactly how far she got on the road to nowhere. Meanwhile, Daryl's not OK with letting the Savior Dwight get away with murdering Denise. Riddled with guilt after bonding more with Denise, Daryl clearly blames himself for letting "D" escape his clutches in the burned-out forest, which then allowed for the recent deadly scenario. He takes off on his own for retribution, which Rosita anticipates because of her own connection to Denise. She, Michonne and Glenn take off after Daryl to stop his quest before more of their community gets killed. Last but not least, Rick and Morgan also leave the compound to find Carol once her absence is discovered via the note she left behind.
Editor at Large Aaron Sagers and Contributing Editor Tara Bennett give their reactions to this episode, directed by Channing Powell and written by showrunner Scott Gimple.
Tara: Carol didn't just disappear! Bless the writers for allowing us a little more time with Melissa McBride and giving us a scenario that highlighted the best aspects of who this woman has become. Her scary encounter with the pickup truck full of Saviors excelled in reminding us how smart and savvy she is. She will become whoever she needs to be in any given situation to survive, and her enemies never see it coming. It's a reminder to us as an audience, she's going to be ok out there. And it also showed her heart again. She desperately didn't want to wipe those asshats out but she was given no choice. It tore her apart to do it, and it's important for us to see again that her compassion and humanity is just as important to her as her strategic prowess. Rick is 1000% right when he calls Carol "a force of nature."
Aaron: I also applaud the writers for giving us more of a proper Carol story this week. I didn’t really like the abrupt nature of her exit last week, but her story here really showed how resilient of a fighter she’s become, but also one who has evolved to embrace her humanity -- without becoming a victim of it. I love watching McBride adopt the scared lamb façade when she faces off against these morons because I anticipate what she’ll do next, and I can’t wait to see them get theirs. It was a nice touch watching her sew up her jacket and pack food for her trip. It was such a display of what is typically a domestic behavior, but which Carol is doing to prep for her survival. I quite like Carol the warrior mom.
Tara: I for one am also incredibly grateful there's a future narrative started here, with Carol clearly not dead (which is a gift for us all) and her clear intention to still go out on her own. Morgan understanding her mindset and taking the responsibility of following her to make sure she's ok if injured, is a really interesting story I hope we get to see next season. Or even in a future season.
And speaking of Morgan, I loved his discussion with Rick about everything that's gone down, including his confession about the Wolf he kept alive and the chain of events that proved his mantra of "All life is precious." Denise being saved by that Wolf is why Carl is alive today and that circle is an important story Rick needed to hear and come to grips with.
Aaron: This was indeed a better Morgan than what we’ve seen in the last several episodes. His moral compass is shown once more as a strength. Plus Lennie James was allowed to be a little more alive this week following a continuous mopey streak. Still, will his good deed go unpunished? The Morgan saved will be back – but as friend or as foe?
I am very concerned about Michael Cudlitz’ Abraham. I already thought we’d see Glenn die this season (if not Glenn and Daryl), but Abraham is now marked for death in my book. As much of a bastard as he was with his harsh breakup with Rosita, I have come to appreciate his tender side we’ve seen with Sasha. But this week, he was a little too happy. This is a show who punishes the happy, and while I don’t think Michonne or Rick are going to die (too unkillable), I think Ol’ Abe is done for.
Tara: The final ambushes by D and his Saviors of Glenn and Michonne, and then Rosita and Daryl were pretty stupid. All four of our savvy survivors got picked off in the woods like newbies and that just didn't sit well in terms of plausibility. All four of our heroes know what is at stake with the Saviors and to allow themselves to be in scenarios talking and not staying keyed into their environment was just dumb.
Aaron: Very much agree with this. This team is smarter than that. Plus, it surprises me that the strongest fighters all left Alexandria so readily. I realize they were on the hunt for Daryl, and Carol, but they feel a war coming, and still diminished the defensive capability significantly. Also, Rick’s hubris is a real problem. I suppose one must have a strong dose of confidence to survive (or even sleep) in this world, but saying, “The world is ours, and we know how to take it” strikes me as a bit too cocky.
"Oh S--t!" Moment
Aaron: That Daryl shot was certainly a surprise, but the Walker who vaguely looked like Carol from afar elicited a reaction from me. For a brief moment I really thought we were about to have a zombified Carol on our hands.
Tara: Daryl taking an ugly shot at the end of the episode definitely made me jump in surprise. Plus Maggie's apparent miscarriage cramping was a big shocker!
Overall and Spoiler Speculation (Don't read if you want to go into the finale pure!)
Tara: "East" is clearly setting up a lot of scenarios for the 90-minute season finale on April 3rd. Per all the press and casting of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, we know the ghastly villain from the comic books makes his debut in the next episode. If the show does some kind of riff on his comic book entrance there's going to be a horrible price to pay for Rick and Alexandria's aggression all season.
Negan carries a barbed wire baseball bat named Lucille and he uses it to make a gory, and deadly point, on Glenn in the comic book. "East" sets up one of four scenarios for that likely visceral loss: Glenn, Michonne, Rosita or Daryl. Let's speculate the likely victim:
Rosita: Frankly, she's the most expendable in terms of fandom connection. That's no knock on Christian Serratos' performance. Rosita hasn't gotten a lot of character exploration or a deep background story yet so there's not as much emotional connection to her. Abraham will surely feel some major guilt if she dies, but otherwise her impact is minimal which means she's likely to survive. A death in the finale needs to upend Rick and Alexandria and I don't see her doing that.
Aaron: I think Rosita is safe. I agree she could be bumped off as the most expendable of those in danger, but that almost makes her too obvious of a choice. I do think, however, she’ll bear witness to something terrible.
Tara: Glenn: The good guy of Alexandria already got two death scenarios alone this season. Is the third time the charm? It's certainly tired if the writers decide that Glenn will go out the way his character does in the comic book. When you yank our emotional chains so hard with Glenn twice, you haven't set the stage for surprise if Glenn does die, you set the stage for our emotional apathy. And that would be terrible because Steven Yeun is too good of an actor to get an exit like this. However, Glenn's death would have a major impact on Maggie which is key in the comic book narrative. It would also solidify to Rick how much of a foe Negan is. Glenn is a lot more likely to die.
Aaron: Glenn has to die. His death has been built up far too much at this point for him not to. His death at Negan’s hands (bat) is such an iconic moment for this story that I do not think the show will deviate from it. However, we’ve been teased twice before, so his exit has to hit hard in order to make audiences care. At one point I thought Maggie might die in his stead, but I am now fairly convinced she’ll survive, and he’ll be taken out.
Tara: Michonne: Happiness is the hallmark of bad things on The Walking Dead. Michonne's new romance with Rick, and her newfound goal via Deanna of living in a place like Alexandria to make a new future has become realized. Of course that means a terrible end for the warrior queen of Alexandria is plausible and maybe even likely. Actress Danai Gurira is a powerhouse talent in the playwriting world and it wouldn't be a shock to discover she's ready to go back to that part of her career full-time. Michonne dying would rock Rick to his core, not to mention Carl and the rest of her collected family. Be afraid.
Aaron: Danai Gurira’s work as a playwright indeed offers her the opportunity to leave the show and focus on that full-time. And I agree that she’s getting a little too happy, which is never a good sign for a character’s chances of survival. Her death would be a massive surprise because of what she means to Rick and Carl. But I think she’s safe.
Tara: Daryl: Can you kill Daryl at this point? Norman Reedus' popularity is off the scales and his character feeds a tremendous sector of the show's merchandising. He's become the Chloe to Jack Bauer on 24 in terms of character safety. There was no-kill bubble around that duo, and I would argue the same has organically happened with Daryl. I think he's safer than Rick is at this point. And they added that shot and the audio addition of, "You'll be alright" at the end of this episode which undercuts his mortal danger.
Aaron: I had been thinking Daryl might be on his way out at one point, but I am of the mindset that the character is safe for at least another half season. As the fans say, “If Daryl dies, we riot,” and the showrunners are aware of Reedus’ popularity. He will be fine – for now.
Abraham: As I stated previously, I believe the days of Abe’s witticisms are nearing an end. The character is beloved, but not unkillable. He is a bit too optimistic about the future; instead of making him a stronger force to be reckoned with – as I think it will with Michonne – it puts a big target on his back. But I think Abraham’s death will be at Alexandria, and not out on the road with Negan. His demise will serve as yet another reminder how vulnerable the community is.
Carl: For the record, I don’t think Carl – the John Connor of The Walking Dead – is going to die in the finale. But I do think he will step up in a big way, and be a driving force in the finale. I expect major things for him next week. Moreover, I predict we may see a comic storyline of him taking matters into his own hands accelerate a little faster than anticipated.
Tara: In terms of the strength if this episode, Melissa McBride got a fantastic goodbye that was both admirably brutal but emotionally gutting as she once again had to kill to survive, which is killing her soul one death at a time. Seeing that personified once more leaves the character in a much more enigmatic and hopeful place. I absolutely feel like this isn't the last we'll see of Carol, and with Morgan's mission to find her, maybe they could show up in the future as a new breed of leaders that prove that there's another way. An alt Kingdom, perhaps? Otherwise, "East" was lot of setup but not exactly a ton of meat. It was necessary to set up what comes next but it won't be standout as a high mark of the season.
Sound off below with your thoughts of "East," and what you predict will happen in the Season 6 finale.