"The Walking Dead" returned on Sunday night with a thrilling, action-packed, walker-heavy episode.
"No Way Out," the ninth episode of Season 6, covered just about one day's worth of time, but it was a massive episode that brought resolution to arcs set up last fall, featured some big reunions and included an intense battle for Alexandria.
Here's how things unfolded Sunday night on AMC:
It's daylight and Daryl, Sasha and Abraham are stopped in the road. Some seemingly unsavory characters are asking our gang to hand over everything they own. It's all for Negan, the biker group's appointed speaker announces. Our gang is cautious, but not intimidated. Sasha asks who they are, but gets no answer. Biker guy insists he'll be the only one asking questions today – like where Sasha, Daryl and Abraham hang their hats so he can continue to pocket their stuff. After ordering Daryl to show one of his buddies what else is in the truck, Negan's man starts threatening Sasha and Abraham as they stand in the road. "I'm not gonna kill you," he tells them. "No wait, yes, I am," he says raising his pistol.
But not today. Boom! An explosion goes off right in the middle of the biker gang, killing them all. A moment later, Daryl strolls back, a rocket launcher on his arm. "Son of a b***h is tougher than he looks," Daryl tells Sasha and Abraham, who notice their friend got cut in the process of taking the other guy down. "Let's get you fixed up at home," Sasha tells him, before they all hop back in the truck and continue on the road to Alexandria.
Meanwhile, Back At Alexandria…
We return to Alexandria where the place is overrun by quarry walkers. In their meat ponchos (ponchos covered in walker blood 'n' guts), Rick leads Ron, Michonne, Carl (and baby Judith), Jessie, Abraham and Cookie Sam through the town as they attempt to find safety or a way out. As walkers pass by in their varying states of decay, Sam starts to get spooked, but he manages to keep it under control.
With their town in complete walker chaos, Rick comes up with a new plan – they'll go get the vehicles back at the quarry. Jessie realizes it's too dangerous to bring the baby on this journey and for a moment, Rick is at a loss over what to do.
Surprisingly, it's Gabriel who steps up to the plate. Desperate to finally prove he can handle the post-zombie apocalypse world, he volunteers to keep the tot safe in his church until the group leads the walkers away. "Can you do this?" Michonne asks (I mean, it is what everyone is wondering). "I'm going to keep her safe," Gabriel replies. And for the first time, it looks like Rick believes him. After an earnest "Thank you," from Rick to Gabriel, our leader Rick grabs Sam's hand, Sam grabs Jessie's and Carl reaches for Ron.
Walkers Aren't The Only Problem
The injured wolf (who Morgan had locked up until the man turned the tables in the midseason finale last year) is now out in Alexandria with his prisoner -- Dr. Denise. Tara wants to get out there to save Denise, but Rosita says they need a plan. Luckily, the woman who managed to take down Terminus singlehandedly – Carol – is here. She stands up with a little help from Eugene, and immediately springs into action, asking for Rosita's gun so she can see what other "surprises" (as in, other than the wolf Morgan had in the basement) are nearby. Morgan wakes up and immediately notices that the wolf is gone. "Where's Denise?" he asks. "He took her, didn't he?" an annoyed Carol "asks" back.
Merritt Wever as Dr. Denise Cloyd in ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 6, Episode 2 (AMC)
Out in the darkness, Denise is shaking as she sits next to the wolf who tells her they'll make a break for it when there's an opening in the walker pack.
While the wolf works on how to get out of Alexandria (or at least to the tower), inside a nearby church, Glenn and Enid are working on how to get in. Glenn is convinced someone probably hid a gun in a carved-out Bible, and they need every weapon they can find if they going to save his pregnant wife, Maggie, and their friends.
Monsters In The Dark
Rick and his meat poncho gang have had to move so slowly through the walkers that it's already dark, and they aren't even close to the quarry. And with darkness now all around, every walker they pass is affecting Cookie Sam more and more. With each decaying walker he passes, young Sam hears in his head the warning about monsters that Carol gave him when he caught her stealing from the armory (after Rick's group first moved to Alexandria).
Finally, he reaches his breaking point. Sam stops and starts backing away from his mom as terror takes hold. Ron tries to urge his little brother to get moving (Rick and Jessie do too), but it's no use. And just like that, Sam loses sense of what's going on and two walkers pounce (RIP Cookie Sam). Jessie loses it and starts screaming, and she's taken down too, but somehow manages to keep her grip on Carl's arm (RIP Jessie). Rick has to pause his emotional Jessie montage/flashback of their brief romance and snap out of it so he can chop off her hand, and free Carl.
But Ron won't be letting this go, or moving on. He picks up the gun that was dropped in the Jessie-has-Carl's-arm chaos and aims it at the Grimes boys. "You. You," he says. Michonne cuts him down from the back (RIP Ron), but he gets a shot off before falling – one that hits Carl in the eye. The young Grimes falls to the ground and Rick leaps in, picks up his son and begins carrying him back to Alexandria, as Michonne cuts through walkers to clear a path.
It's time to make a break for it, the wolf tells Denise. After some deep breaths they head out into the walker chaos. Denise isn't fast enough, and although his path is clear, the wolf turns around, comes back and saves Denise from several walkers. He's bit in the process. Come back to the infirmary right now, she tells him, and she'll save his life.
Or not. Moments after one of those tense Morgan/Carol discussions about their different philosophies, Carol, who is now in the second floor window of one of the homes, shoots the wolf as he runs with Denise to the infirmary (RIP wolf guy) on the street below. After a brief second, Denise turns and runs into the medical building where we catch up again with Heath, Aaron and Spencer. While Denise checks on her patients, the men see Rick running their way, Carl in his arms.
"Will you save him? Please," Rick asks Denise, who is completely calm under pressure, and gets to work right away. Rick though, is still in shock. Michonne has to remove his meat poncho. After a few minutes (during which he overhears someone mention that the light of the infirmary is attracting the walkers toward them), Rick grabs his axe and heads out.
He slices walkers down left and right, one man on a mission to end this. After helping Denise, Michonne grabs her katana and heads in too. Heath, Aaron and Spencer also jump into the fight. Alexandrians inside their homes grab their weapons and help too. And then, Gabriel decides he's going to leave his praying congregation behind and join in. "God will save Alexandria, because God has given us the courage to save it ourselves," he tells Tobin.
And from that moment on, it's an epic "Walking Dead" battle pitting the living against the undead. "Rick's making a stand," Carol tells the rest of the gang before heading out. Even Eugene joins in telling Rosita, "No one gets to clock out today. And hell, this is a story people are going to tell." And it is.
Outside, Enid scales a wall to save Maggie as Glenn distracts the walkers away from the scaffolding his wife is stranded on (And as it all happens, Maggie finally sees Glenn again! Tears!). He backs himself into a corner, but in perfect TV timing, he's rescued too when the cavalry shows up – Abraham and Sasha on top of the fuel truck with machine guns.
A United Front
Glenn jumps in Daryl's truck, and Daryl comes up with a plan. He drives a little further along into Alexandria, opens the hose in the back, and lets the fuel out. Moments later, he gets the rocket launcher and lights up the lake, drawing many of the walkers to a fire/water death, while the rest of the group and the Alexandrians take care of the other walkers with axes and swords.
A New Day, A Renewed Hope
The next morning, the streets of Alexandria are littered in dead undead. The Alexandrians and Rick's gang are on the porch of the infirmary. Inside, Denise is treating the cut Daryl got in the fight with Negan's man. Michonne is holding baby Judith close while Rick sits at Carl's side.
"I was wrong. I thought after living behind these walls for so long that maybe they couldn't learn," Rick tells his son, who isn't yet awake. "But today I saw what they could do, what we could do -- if we work together. We'll rebuild the walls. We'll expand the walls. There'll be more, there's gotta be more. Everything Deanna was talking about is possible. It's all possible."
As he sits at Carl's bedside, Rick mentions a feeling has come back to him – one he had before he was in the coma at the very beginning of the apocalypse. "I want to show you the new world, Carl," Rick says. "I want to make it a reality for you. Please, Carl. Let me show you. Please…" And as the episode ends, Carl's fingers close around his dad's hand.
"The Walking Dead" continues Sundays at 9 PM ET/PT on AMC.
-- Jolie Lash