"You know how to bite a dick, Eugene. And I mean that with the utmost respect."A Brief Recap
This week's episode of The Walking Dead was heavily focused around characters attempting to overcome their own perceived weaknesses and make changes to themselves. Whether it was Eugene trying to overcome his cowardice, Carol deciding that she needs to stop adding to her list of people she's killed, or Denise attempting to gain experience outside the walls of Alexandria, this theme was present throughout the episode. Eugene was able to successfully make changes. Carol, however, will most likely find herself in the position of having to kill again. And alas, for Denise, we will never find out how her changes may have worked out.
The episode was predominantly split into following two groups of people trying to complete tasks outside Alexandria: the unlikely trio of Daryl, Rosita and Denise going to obtain medicines from an apothecary, and the awkward pairing of Abraham and Eugene attempting to make a start on manufacturing ammunition in an abandoned warehouse.
There's some great tension that gets built over Abe and Eugene's scenes; Eugene, as stated before, is attempting to make changes to himself to adapt to the post-apocalyptic world, and wants Abraham's approval. Abe, meanwhile, is struggling to see Eugene as anything more than the intelligent but somewhat spineless individual that duped him into acting as his bodyguard and travelling across America with him. This tension all comes to a head when Eugene struggles to dispatch a walker and Abraham steps in. They have a heated argument which ends up with Abraham storming out of the warehouse, telling Eugene that he can make his own way back. In a very touching moment, however, he does end up following Eugene to make sure he's safe and sound, resulting in him being able to save the group later on.
Daryl, Rosita and Denise's plot-line features a lot of character development for Denise, who sadly doesn't survive the episode. It starts off in Alexandria, with Daryl talking to Carol about regretting his decision not to kill Dwight back in Episode 6 (foreshadowing for his return later on.) Rosita, meanwhile, is still clearly very shaken by Abraham's decision to leave her, and is attempting to find comfort in a relationship with Spencer; unfortunately for him, she clearly isn't taking it seriously. The two are then recruited by Denise to head out to the apothecary with her.
The scenes in the apothecary focus heavily on Denise trying to make herself useful, but struggling to do so due to her lack of experience outside the community walls. They start to make their way back, as Denise and Daryl bond over the brothers they have lost; Denise had a twin named Dennis who Daryl reminds her of. Denise then sees a car containing a cooler; however, a walker is also trapped inside. The others advise her to leave it, but Denise is determined to make herself useful, and tries to kill the walker. She is very nearly unsuccessful, but does end up doing so, retrieving the cooler that happens to contain the brand of soda that she wanted Daryl to get for Tara in episode 10. Daryl and Rosita reprimand her for nearly getting herself killed, but she snaps at them, delivering an impassioned speech about her desire to overcome her weaknesses, saying that the two of them also have issues they need to deal with, hence why she brought them out here.
Her speech is cut short, however, as she is hit by a crossbow bolt through the eye. She continues talking for a second, unaware of her fatal injury, before finally falling to the ground. The person who shot her was, of course, Dwight, who turns up on the scene with a band of saviours, whom he seems to have returned to. He also now has burns on one side of his face; comic readers know what that is about, of course. They have Eugene with them and demand Daryl and Rosita take them back to Alexandria and let them in. Eugene sees Abraham concealed behind some oil barrels and uses him as a distraction, allowing him to bite Dwight in the crotch in a truly epic moment.
A gunfight ensues, ending with Eugene being grazed by a bullet. The saviours suffer far more casualties, however, and Dwight orders a retreat, allowing Daryl to reclaim his crossbow. The others get Eugene back to Alexandria for treatment and reconciliation with Abraham, before burying Denise. Carol has to accept that Daryl was right before; he should have killed Dwight. This seems to push her over the edge, as she leaves a note for love interest Tobin saying that she is leaving Alexandria; she has too many people that she cares about here, meaning she would have to kill for them. She doesn't want to be that person anymore.
What To Take Away From This Episode
This, in my opinion, was yet another strong episode, though not without it's flaws. Abraham and Eugene's scenes were hilarious; the two have a very unique way of speaking but Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) and Josh McDermitt (Eugene) do a great job of making otherwise ridiculous lines seem completely natural to them. They should do more with the two as a duo. It was also nice to see Rosita have some screen-time and development that she has needed for a while.
Denise's death was a real shock; comic readers will of course know that Abraham originally died in this way, so another character taking the arrow was a big surprise to me. The death itself was brilliantly directed and acted; Merritt Weaver (Denise) made the moment feel horribly real, while Norman Reedus (Daryl) was great at reacting to the death, which he has consistently been amazing at throughout the show. The speech before her death was somewhat meandering; the writing could have been better and should have done a better job of getting her points across, especially as it was the character's final moments.
The writers did, however, do a good job of building up Denise's character through her interactions with Rosita and Daryl, but I do have some issues with how often this kind of thing is done. A character will get an episode, sometimes even a whole story arc, focusing on their development, just so the viewers feel something for them when they die. It happened to Beth, it happened to Bob, it happened to Noah, and now it has happened to Denise. Also, I do think the death lost some of its impact by being switched to Denise instead of Abraham. Denise is a relatively new character, and is not considered a badass like Abraham is; this means the saviours and Dwight do not seem as dislikeable or threatening as they did in the comic version. This may just be my personal bias due to not being a huge fan of the character, and I am relieved we get to see Cudlitz's Abraham on our screens for a while longer, but I still think a more liked, developed character could have been picked as Dwight's victim.
However, Dwight himself was very cool. Austin Amelio was good in the villain role, making the character seem suitably cruel and cowardly. The prosthetics for his burns were great; realistic and a little disturbing, but not as ridiculous as in the comic version, which I feel would not have translated well to TV. His relationship with Daryl will certainly make things interesting going forward, as will the involvement of Carol and Morgan in the Saviours arc, as they were not present at this point in the comics.
Despite my complaints, overall, I liked this episode. It managed to be humorous in the right places, while doing a good job developing all of the characters, before finishing with a shocking death and a good action sequence at the end.
To surmise, a solid episode, that left me very excited to next week, not to mention the 90-minute finale in two weeks. RIP Denise.
Jacob is a long-time Walking Dead enthusiast with a bizarre idea of what constitutes a 'good character'. He tends to spend most of his time crying into his pillow over Beth Greene's death that happened two years ago.