The Walking Dead S06E05 “Now” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: FOX, Mondays, 9pm
Writer: Corey Reed
Director: Avi Youabian
Essential Plot Points:
- In the wake of the battle with the Wolves, Deanna climbs the wall to see if there’s any sign of the Quarry team. Nearby, Michonne breaks the news about Glenn to Maggie.
- Rick appears, sprinting towards the gate, pursued by the horde. He makes it inside but the town is now surrounded 20 deep.
- Rick tells the Alexandrians they can survive this but the town’s mood is shattered. Spencer barely stops a rush at the stores. Later, his mother congratulates him on it, only for a drunk Spencer to admit he did it to cover his own thievery.
- Deanna draws up a plan for how the town could become self-sustaining, including growing its own crops. She writes the phrase, “Dolor hic tibi proderit olim” on the plans – it translates as: “This pain will be useful”.
- Aaron sees Maggie prepping to go outside to look for Glenn as, nearby, Glenn and Nicholas’s names are added to the memorial wall. He tries to reason with her and finally shows her a way out through the sewers that may be easier.
- Carl and Ron get into an incredibly endearing and rubbish teenfight over whether or not Carl is going over the wall to look for Enid. Carl wins the fight. Ron threatens to tell. As a result, Ron wins the war.
- Jessie discovers an Alexandrian who’s killed herself rather than wait for the wall to come down. She euthanises the woman and then tells the stunned onlookers that things are different now and they have to adapt.
- Denise is still in the infirmary, disgusted at herself for not being able to save a dying patient. Tara arrives, gives her a brutally effective, Grimes-esque pep talk and Denise keeps working. She finds the solution, saves her patient and then finds and kisses Tara.
- Aaron and Maggie find the sewer exit is too close to the horde and are attacked by a pair of magnificently disgustingly rotted Walkers. They kill them and Maggie admits she’s pregnant, finally breaking down at the thought of losing Glenn.
- Deanna is attacked by a Walker who used to be a Wolf and died inside the fences. She stabs it to death with a bottle and, covered with blood, admits to Rick that she wants to live.
- As the episode finishes, Maggie and Aaron are cleaning Glenn and Nicholas’ names off the wall, Spencer is standing watch while eating stolen food and Rick and Jessie are kissing. Deanna walks up to the wall, pounds on it in defiance and then walks off. Unnoticed, blood seeps through a nearby slat…
Scott Gimple and the writers room on this show have nerves of steel. Any other team on the planet would have cut straight back to the fate of Glenn after last week’s Morganfest but not this one. No, they prod the bear for another week. The result is an episode that continues this ludicrously strong run of TV but does so by focusing on characters very few people are that interested in; the Alexandrians.
This is essentially the story of five Alexandrians; Deanna, Spencer, Aaron, Denise and Jessie and how they deal with their world ending. The fence still holds (for now…) but the illusion of safety the Alexandrians have laboured under is finally, and completely, shattered. They’re still the coddled, inexperienced cannon fodder Rick and co have had to work around for ages but now they’re aware of that and the result is fascinating.
Let’s start with Aaron. His confession that he inadvertently led the Wolves to Alexandria is brave, honest and the situation is so bad he may as well have not been talking. It’s an interesting position to be in and one that puts him next to Maggie in every way; both feel powerless, both feel like they’ve let people down, both want to make up for it. And they do, by not only trying to find Glenn but realising just how boxed in Alexandria is. It’s an interesting arc and one that Glenn fans will probably hate, with some reason. The episode flirts with closure there, but instead gives us Maggie opening up as Aaron reaches out. They bond in a way that few other characters have and their final scene is lovely. Maggie, in a moment of huge faith, wipes Glenn’s name from the memorial wall. Aaron does the same for Nicholas.
We know one of them is wrong. But both? Again, we’ll have to wait and see.
Which brings us to Spencer, who is both wrong and right. The only Alexandrian more clearly traumatised than his mum, Spencer has suddenly become one of the most interesting characters on the show. His passionate speech defending the store is brilliant. The fact he does it to cover his own thievery is even better. Hero? Villain? Neither. Spencer’s a survivor, something every Alexandrian will have to become.
Jessie’s changing too, as this episode shows. Her murder of an Alexandrian who kills herself rather than face the apparently inevitable end is difficult, ugly and clearly a line Jessie can’t cross back over. Like Spencer, she gives a big rousing speech. Unlike Spencer, she immediately begins trying to figure out if it was the right thing. Time and again, this show holds Rick up as the paragon of survivors but here it’s Rick who questions if Jessie’s okay. Again, she’s a survivor but she needs to be reminded that she’s more than that too.
Denise is trying to do the same thing: be more than she is. Her arc this episode is almost minimalist but it’s one of the most heartfelt. She refuses to leave her patient, even when she gives up on being able to save him. Because, when it comes down to it, she’s not given up. Denise is one of the bravest characters on the show and the courage to look her limitations in the eye and stare them down is at the core of her time in the episode. She’s not a doctor, not yet, but she’s what they’ve got and right now that’s good enough. Better still, she sees it is and her quiet little smile of triumph is one of my favourite moments in the show to date. Good job, doc.
But it’s Deanna who stays with you. Tohvah Feldshuh opens and closes the episode and it’s her face that becomes the embodiment of what the town goes through. She goes from numb and traumatised to frantic and, it’s implied, potentially suicidal. In fact, when Jessie kills the Walkers I first thought that was her.
But again she’s a survivor, even though she may not want to be. Her frantic dissection of a Walker and blood-stained defiance embodies not just her town but the corner it’s turned. Alexandria is going to fight to survive and there’s joy and pride in that. But, as the final shot shows, there’s blindness too. Is the wall cracking? If it is, she doesn’t see it. It’s a smart, mute testament to the Alexandrians; enthusiastic, good, hopelessly naïve people. They’re learning, but is it fast enough?
“Now” isn’t pacy, it doesn’t move any major plots along and it features very few main characters. Inevitably, it’s been criticised elsewhere as being a bad episode or filler and that’s neither fair nor accurate. It’s a typically clever script in a very strong season that provides welcome context for what’s to come. But for all that, it may be time to stop poking the bear.
Next week, we find out what’s been going on with Darryl, Sasha and Abraham. I’m sure they’ll be fine, right guys?
- Truth and consequences to quote another very odd episode of a very good show this week. This episode is the moment the Alexandrians stop being a liability and start working on surviving. It’s a vital narrative fulcrum for both the show and its supporting cast. Whether it should be placed where it is, well, we’ll get to that under The Bad.
- Deanna. I was honestly expecting this to be her last episode and the Alexandria map she lays out definitely looks like a preparatory last will and testament. But she’s not close to done yet and Tovah Feldshuh does amazing work showing us her journey this episode. The last time I saw this arc done this well was Mary McDonnell’s work on Battlestar Galactica. Feldshuh here is at least her equal and may just be edging ahead.
- Denise. I love that this episode we go back to her and she’s right where she was before. I love that she’s unconfident, that she doesn’t stop and that the possible relationship with Tara is dealt with so delicately. A really smart addition to a really strong cast.
- Spencer. Spencer’s speech at the stores is brilliant and subtle and heartfelt. His moment later where explains it was a cover for his own thievery is as heartbreaking as it is repellent. I love that the last time we see him is on the wall, having volunteered to take a shift, eating stolen crackers. He’s complex and difficult and interesting and more of him please.
- Weasly Ron, who really might have just saved Carl’s life. Or might be planning something. Or both.
- Jessie, now essentially alone in her house after her youngest son saw her murder that Wolf a couple of episodes ago. Again, she’s a compassionate, tough, brave community leader. She’s also a mom. She’s also a murderer. No one gets off easy in this show.
- No Carol, Michonne or Morgan. Although seeing Michonne break the news to Maggie about Glenn’s “death” (THERE IS HOPE!) from Deanna’s point of view was a nice touch.
- After last week’s Morgan-centric flashback some viewers are going to be justifiably annoyed that we get another episode playing coy around Glenn’s fate. That’s a fair criticism too and Scott Gimple’s playing a dangerous game of showmanship, in every sense, this season. But, so far, it’s working. But damn if they aren’t pushing their luck.
- A lot of people are complaining that Deanna’s enthusiastic but unfocused stab fest at the Walker was ridiculous given how long she’s survived. On the surface it’s a fair criticism; even in Alexandria, they know to shoot or stab a Walker in the head.
- But her entire arc this episode is essentially Nicholas’s from “Thank You” just without the suicide. She sees all help die, sees her town surrounded and under siege and she withdraws, curls up as tight as she can in her mind and hopes it all goes away. The Walker shakes her out of it, forces her to fight and allows her to dump all the anger, rage and grief she’s bottled up out and onto its rotting frame. In that situation I’m not only surprised she wasn’t thinking clearly but amazed she isn’t still kicking its dead body.
- Alexandria as a base is paying dividends for how the show’s shot as well as its traumatised central characters. I like that we see the gate along the same approach Michonne and co came in through a couple of weeks ago. I also really like that we can have sequences like Aaron seeing Maggie prep, walk through to the remembrance wall and still have Maggie in the background. It gives the town a real sense of place and a feeling that this is somewhere worth fighting for.
- The slap fight between Carl and Ron is brilliant. No overblown choreography just two tired, scared teenagers flailing at one another.
- “The wall’s gonna hold together… can you?” You actually see Rick as a leader this episode which the show doesn’t always do. This speech is great, acknowledging what’s going on, putting a line in front of it and asking the Alexandrians to stand it with him.
- “Doing this will start us down a road where nothing matters. Where no one else matters. And then we’ll all look back at this moment right now as when we destroyed this place.” Such a great line and it makes Spencer’s arc this episode all the sadder.
- “I’ll tell your dad! He’ll go out there to find you then other people will too and then somebody’s gonna die. You saved my life now I’m saving yours.” This entire episode is about the Alexandrians waking up and smelling the ambulatory, carnivorous corpses. Ron is absolutely on the button here. Carl will go outside and die and get more people killed doing it. Or at least Ron believes that.
- “And if he’s dead I don’t wanna be waitin’ on him.” Maggie’s great this episode and this line in particular is her in a nutshell. Grieving, heartbroken, practical and looking at tomorrow.
- “I don’t get to know what will happen I don’t get to know why it happened I don’t get to know what I did right or wrong. Now I have to live with that and you do too.” And this one too. Maggie finally losing it, where no one but Aaron can see her, is all the more heartbreaking because of how tough she normally is.
- “It’s worth mentioning that Aaron, Erin, works for a boy or a girl. Depending on the spelling. Just saying.” And this is just adorable. Aaron gently needling this ridiculously tough, compassionate woman and having faith when she can’t bring herself to.
- “This is what life looks like now.” I love how this episode circles back around, with Spencer being both a liability and a hero and Jessie’s words getting back to Rick and, in turn, him calling her on it. The Alexandrians are finally starting to integrate and it’ll be interesting to see if the show lets the characters stay here not to mention how many it’s going to let live.
- Multiple kissings! This is the most romantic episode so far this season which – given it’s also the episode where Deanna beats a Walker to death with a broken bottle – speaks to the show’s versatility.
Review by Alasdair Stuart