Beware of Spoilers! Proceed with caution, survivors.
Seriously, we repeat: you are totally spoiling this episode for yourself if you read any further. You have officially been warned twice now!
Tension, thy name is The Walking Dead. After a season premiere that offered a record number of zombies and last week’s episode, a character study focusing almost exclusively on Carol and Morgan, the show hits us with something it hasn’t in some time: genuine nail-biting suspense over whether one of our heroes will perish. Sadly, the anxiety “Thank You” generates proves entirely justified.
“Thank You” begins where this season’s opener left off — with a splinter herd of walkers making its way to Alexandria, and Rick hellbent on stopping them from slaughtering the entire town. While Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl drive the main herd away, Rick heads off with a few Alexandrians, as well as Michonne and Glenn, whom he reminds shouldn’t sacrifice themselves for the sake of their new friends. At this point, however, Michonne and Glenn have a slightly different perspective on living, and have long since decided that the only thing that makes life worthwhile is how much of it can be preserved.
There’s some ominous Dawn of the Dead-style synthesizer cords that run through the episode’s soundtrack from the cold open, and some foreshadowing when Rick warns Michonne and Glenn that they won’t all make it back. But the one dead giveaway is when Rick, running after the truck horn he heard at the close of the season premiere, talks remotely to Glenn, who calls him dumbass, just as he did the first time they met in the show’s very first episode.
As for pairing Glenn with Nicholas after the latter tried killing him just a couple of episodes ago? Well, that’s just begging for trouble. Still, there’s nothing more heroic than putting your life on the line for your enemies. While some may call it stupid, it’s pretty much the ultimate example of turning the other cheek. But dear God almighty it’s heartbreaking to see Nicholas’ cowardice literally drag our boy down, after we’ve assured ourselves that the Alexandrian alone will die. And with nary a soul in sight to hear his cries nor witness his sad end. The violins playing over the scene don’t help much either. Yet they’re certainly warranted — Glenn is, after all, the only character other than Rick who’s been with The Walking Dead since that first episode.
The effectiveness of this episode’s final scene is one that would be damn near impossible to replicate with any other character’s death, with the possible exception of Daryl. As a frightened, visibly shaken Rick sits alone in a camper surrounded by teeming masses of walkers, growing gradually weaker from blood loss; having just slaughtered the folks coming to claim the RV. It’s a better cliffhanger than last season’s finale, the closest the show’s ever come to convincing us its lead could die.
— There’s a great use of a found object — the ruined “Alexandria: The Start of Sustainability” billboard — changing Daryl’s mind about staying with Sasha and Abraham instead of racing back to help.
— Michonne gets more to do here than she’s been given in some time. Danai Gurira’s expressions are sublime as she learns of the backstory of a doomed Alexandrian and decides to risk everything to get him home to his new bride. It’s the concern she shows that makes it all the more harrowing later when she too almost sacrifices herself, her legs just centimeters away from being chewed off.
— “This is for them. Going back now, before it’s almost done, that’d be for us.”
— That Alexandrian’s death, by the way, turns out to be one of the show’s grisliest, as he’s devoured at the same time as he’s crushed to death against an iron gate by a mob of eager zombies.
— “Have you ever been covered in so much blood that you don’t know if it’s yours or walkers’ or your friends’?”
— As The Walking Dead readers know, Glenn and Nicholas die at a much later point in Robert Kirkman’s comic. Which makes their end as great a surprise to longtime fans as it is to more recent ones.
— I can’t imagine that kind of a will Maggie needs in order to endure this in the wake of her father and sister’s deaths. But if she survives, she could emerge as the strongest person yet on this show.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).
Image Credit: AMC