NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “The Walking Dead”, including a potential character death, are present in this review
Ugh, The Walking Dead really face-planted this week. After a rather noticeable filler episode last week, the show pretty much completely spun its wheels even more this week, seemingly wasting viewers’ time far more in this case. Last week’s episode was definitely a filler episode, but it at least had a decent finish, even if most of the story felt inconsequential. “East” however is an episode that blatantly serves no purpose, feels lazily written, and is transparently straining to get the necessary characters into place for what’s hopefully a better season finale next week.
One of the most pressing issues with this episode is how much it forces characters to leave Alexandria for little to no reason. Some of this was set up last week, with Carol suddenly departing the community for… Reasons, and now, Daryl’s also decided that he’s going to up and leave, because he really wants to kill Dwight on account of Dwight murdering Denise during last week’s episode. I wasn’t aware that Daryl was truly that attached to Denise, though I guess he only has so many people to prepare him crappy sandwiches.
That’s a major problem here. With an inevitable attack from the Saviors looming on the horizon, many essential group members suddenly leaving Alexandria feels stupid and illogical. Surely, Carol understands that her random crisis of conscience is something that she has to put aside for the greater good, at least until Alexandria no longer has to worry about the Saviors. Likewise, as much as Daryl is a fan-favourite Walking Dead character, I have to admit that he’s become a bit of a doofus in Season Six, and that’s been worse than over the past few episodes. Sure, Daryl has still had his share of cool moments this season, but he’s becoming too trigger-happy and reckless lately. It’s like he’s actively challenging the writers to kill him off now, as odd as that is to perceive.
Fortunately, Carol leaving at least offered some decent moments to compensate for a largely weak episode this week. When she’s inevitably come upon by Saviors, she once again pretends to be helpless, only to unload a hidden machine gun that she had in her coat, and take most of them out in one fell swoop, even if it leaves her in tears afterward. As much as one can easily call bullshit on Carol somehow being able to conceal and spray a pocket-sized gatling gun from her coat, like she’s goddamn Robocop, this was still a cool moment, and at least provided some entertainment within a story that largely went in circles.
That was another major problem with, “East” in fact; Up until the very end, the episode never really feels like it goes anywhere. It only places characters inside and outside of Alexandria as necessary, in order to set the stage for the extended 90-minute season finale next week. When characters decide to go out looking for Carol or Daryl, most of them just stay looking, Rick comes back to the community, and that’s it. It was an hour of mostly nothing, and it all just felt like a waste of an episode, while viewers’ eyes are inevitably already turning to next week’s season finale.
There was a solid moment of self-reflection shared between Rick and Morgan though, especially since these two were the first characters to be properly introduced on The Walking Dead, way back in its first season. Morgan brings up how Rick formerly banished Carol after she killed and burned two people at the prison a couple of seasons back, and Rick said that if she’d done it now, he’d be thanking her, since he’s come to realize what he needs to do to survive. At the same time, Morgan confesses that he refused to kill the Wolf that had attempted to kill him previously, while stressing that him sparing the Wolf also led to Denise being saved by the guy, proving that even killers can change. Yes, fat lot of good that ultimately did, since Denise just died a few episodes later, but nonetheless, Morgan’s point is valid. It was very appealing to have these two discussing their mutual growth over the course of the series, even if it was annoying that Rick had to separate from Morgan, who decided to wander off on his own to find Carol, for… Reasons.
Even in a largely underwhelming episode, the final minutes are bound to divide viewers, which is a bummer, since the final few minutes are the only time where the story feels like it adequately moves forward this week. After Maggie concludes a pointless subplot of pushing herself too hard, and finally letting Enid look after her and her chores a bit (really?), Maggie cuts her hair, then has some sort of intense abdominal pain, and that’s where we leave her. Likewise, Glenn and Michonne get captured by Saviors, who, might I add, have largely been buffoons before now, but somehow got some spike in competence this week, leading to Daryl and Rosita going to recapture them… Until Saviors somehow get the drop on them (isn’t Daryl supposed to be a tracker? How the hell did that happen?!), and Dwight shoots Daryl while ending the episode abruptly after saying, “You’ll be fine.” What the?!
Ok, I’ve got to be honest, both of these cliffhangers are really, really dumb, not to mention irritating. Regarding Maggie, her change in hairstyle will likely be met with a shrug, and the abdominal pain, no doubt pregnancy-related, will annoy either way, because it’s either A) Nothing, or B) A miscarriage that ultimately makes her entire pregnancy arc completely pointless, and amount to nothing. Either way, that’s frustrating. As for Daryl, he’s in a similar ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ writing pickle, because either A) He’s merely wounded, and will survive next week, making this cliffhanger pointless, or B) he’s dead, and this fan-favourite character was killed in a flat, unceremonious way that had him dying like a dog. I can see this being another troll by the showrunners on both counts, as fans are speculating that both Maggie and Daryl are due to die soon, but after Glenn already improbably survived falling into a whole horde of Walkers earlier this season, teasing that maybe one of these characters is dead isn’t funny or amusing anymore, and is just very annoying at this point.
Whatever ends up happening in next week’s season finale, hopefully it’s worth the wait, because, “East” is a real let-down. Most of the episode accomplished nothing beyond arbitrarily forcing characters to leave Alexandria for rather illogical reasons, which inexplicably has them leaving Alexandria vulnerable to Negan because the plot says so. Season Six of The Walking Dead has been frustratingly uneven for most of its duration, but I was really hoping it would keep up that better groove that it seemed to be finding after the middling midseason premiere back last month. Once again though, the show seems to be hitting some rough ground, and has returned to merely wasting time. With one episode left, hopefully the season will at least close out on a strong note. After all, we finally get to meet Negan in the season finale. Surely that can’t turn out badly, right?
- Carol cutting down a whole group of attackers
- Rick and Morgan's reflection
- Characters leaving Alexandria makes no sense
- Dumb cliffhangers for both Daryl and Maggie
- Most of the story goes nowhere