The Walking Dead S06E12 “Not Tomorrow Yet” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: FOX, Mondays, 9pm
Writer: Seth Hoffman
Director: Greg Nicotero
Essential Plot Points:
- In Alexandria, Carol bakes cookies. They’re acorn and beetroot cookies because the town is low on supplies but still, they’re cookies. There’s rarely any bad there. We see a sweet, funny montage of her harvesting the acorns, baking, being mildly annoyed at getting blood on her white top as she kills a Walker and finally, handing cookies out.
- Morgan finds her and tries to talk about their fight/debate. She refuses to engage and leaves. As she does so, she leaves the last cookie near where she was standing. On Sam’s grave.
- Rick and the team who went to Hilltop return and Rick tells everyone to meet in the church in an hour. When Carol pushes him he tells her they’re going to have to fight.
- In the Church, Rick tells the town what needs to be done. He asks if anyone has any objections and, with a heartbreaking look on his face, Morgan stands up. He tries to tell Rick and everyone else that they don’t have to do this but Rick’s adamant; kill or wait to be killed.
- That night, Carol is sitting in bed doing some sums. Slowly, we realise she’s adding up how many people she’s killed.
- She starts to cry and gets up for a walk. Not long after, she runs into Tobin and the pair chat and flirt in a gentle, cautious way that’s both sweet and really very sad. They’re broken people, Tobin brutally honest about what Carol is to the town; a mom. She asks if that’s what she is to him and he says no. They kiss. We don’t so much go, “Yay!” as politely, quietly smile.
- Nearby Abe packs up, and Rosita realises something’s wrong. He’s not just leaving he’s moving out and she tearfully demands to know why. His answer: “When I first met you I thought you were the last woman on Earth. You’re not.” May be the nastiest, most honest thing anyone has ever said on this show.
- Andy from last week and Jesus help plan the raid. We cut between this and the others getting ready. Tara telling Doc she loves her, Maggie volunteering to go because it was her idea and so on. None of them are happy. All of them are worried. All bar Morgan mount up the next day.
- The plan is simple and awful; find a Walker that looks enough like Gegory to fool the guards, use its head to get close, kill them all. Glenn and Heath find a likely candidate and discuss what’s coming. Neither man has killed another living human. Neither man is happy about the prospect of doing so. Both still do it.
- Elsewhere, Gabriel reassures Rick he’s up for this and Rosita argues with Carol over concealing what Morgan did with the Wolf.
- Finally, they have some “candidates” and, after some fist-based reconstructive surgery from Rick, a “winner”. They wait till midnight and prepare to go to war.
- Carol is seriously bothered by Maggie being on the frontlines and confronts Rick about it. They both pull back.
- Midnight comes. Andy makes his play. The Saviors fall for it.
- What follows is an increasingly intense, savage 15 minutes or so of close quarters firefight. Abe, still dangerously off his game, is slightly injured but the rest of the Alexandrians make it through physically intact. Glen, who murders two men in their sleep, is clearly less than psychologically well. Likewise, Heath. The two men also find polaroids of a dozen or so corpses; they’ve all had their heads staved in with a bat.
- They clear the facility, and are cautiously celebrating. Heath, traumatised by what they had to do, leaves. It’s unclear whether he’s heading out on the supply run that’s been talked about or just leaving.
- Not long after he’s gone, as Michonne worries about which one of the men they killed is Negan, a bike breaks out of one of the side buildings.
- Daryl’s bike.
- They bring the rider down and Daryl pounds on him. Then a voice comes out of the Saviors’ walkie talkie
- “Drop the gun, prick.”
- They’re surrounded. The Saviors were so much larger than they thought.
- And they have Maggie and Carol.
“This is how we we eat… This is how we eat…”
This is the grimmest episode of the season to date and that’s saying something. It’s not because very horrible things happen this episode, although some do. It’s because from the moment it starts, you can see everyone either fighting their worst natures or leaning on old, hard lost behaviours to get through an impossible situation.
Rick’s the best example of this. The religious iconography of Pastor Rick speaking to his people in the Church is the sort of thing he’d have done three seasons ago. He’s driven, charismatic and absolutely ruthless. He cuts Morgan down, drags everyone along through sheer force of personality and refuses to look just how bad a situation this is in the eyes.
Compare that to the Rick who delivers the line above. He’s slumped, resigned and honest. This is Rick not giving a speech but telling it like it is. Alexandria can’t survive without the food from Hilltop. If they want to live, they have to kill.
It’s a hideous situation. He knows it, they know it and just for a second he’s brave enough to be honest about just what he’s leading his people into. A self-constructed tragedy, a no-win scenario. No wonder Morgan’s crying as he’s welding that new prison cell back in Alexandria.
“You’re supposed to be someone else!”
Change hurts and this episode is all about whether you embrace that pain or defend yourself against it. Maggie, pregnant, the nominal second leader of the group at this point and one of the few who is still morally pretty unimpeachable wants to be on the frontlines. She’s the only one who wants to be there and the reason is the same as Morgan’s refusal to participate; guilt. Maggie got them into this, made the best of an awful situation and if her friends have blood on their hands then so shall she.
Except nothing’s simple in the New World. The confrontation between Carol and Maggie is one of the best scenes of the episode because suddenly you see Carol in a different light. She doesn’t idolise Maggie, but she does view her as the most idealised of all of them. Carol is a killer, a woman who plays at being everyone’s mom and knows how to end everyone around her. She can never be Maggie. But she can defend Maggie from herself even as everyone else fights or gives into their worst natures.
You see it everywhere in this episode. Abe’s taciturn dumping of Rosita. Rosita’s pained, and understandable, desire to let people know what Morgan did. The look of resigned horror on Morgan’s face as he stands up in the church to have a debate he’s already lost. Time and time again this is an episode about people being faced with two choices and going for the worst one. There is no wrong here. But there’s no right either and everyone pays the price for that.
Blood’s here. The entire plan is a catastrophe in two ways. The one the characters can stand to look at is the realisation that the war is far more evenly matched than they thought. The other catastrophe is far more intimate and personal and none of them, bar Glenn, have the courage to face it yet.
They’ve killed people.
Many of them have done this before, that’s certain. But this isn’t defensive this is preemptive. The most powerful moment in the episode centres on this. Glenn and Heath sneak into one room and Glenn, silently, drives a knife into a sleeping Saviour’s chest. He breaks down in tears as he does so.
Behind him, Heath positions to do the same thing and begins to freeze. Glenn takes the knife and does it for him.
This is a show that deals in tragedy. It’s a show that just two weeks ago saw a small children eaten by Walkers. There has been nothing this season that’s as heartrending as the look on Glenn’s face as he commits murder, then saves his friend from having to do so.
“Lower your gun, prick.”
Rick’s lost. He lost from the moment he agreed to do this and he’s continued to lose. The enthusiasm with which he threw himself and his people into this epically half-assed plan was denial given form, a firearm and a target. The Alexandrians are outmanoeuvred and one of their worst nightmares has come to pass.
And in amongst all this is the slightest possibility that the show might be making us look at a punch that is chambered but not yet thrown. We might not get Negan next week. Someone may not meet Lucille next week. But he’s out there. Even if he doesn’t know what the Alexandrians have done yet he will. His shadow has fallen over the series and it’s brought a sense of dread that not even this show has managed before. What’s coming is going to be very, very difficult to sit through. But the build-up and gradual payoff is amongst the most impressive, hardest television I’ve ever seen.
- Every single Carol moment is fantastic here. There’s a lot of speculation on internet that she or Maggie may be meeting Lucille and I really hope that’s not the case as both have never been better. But they, Glenn and Abe are all clearly building towards something…
- So many brilliant, subtle character beats: Morgan welding a new version of the cell he was once kept in and the refusal to give up that implies; Tara admitting (maybe?) she was one of the people who attacked the prison; Carol and Tobin’s gentle, cautious sort-of romance. The first half of this episode is full of the sort of gentle, meaningful character writing this show got very good at a couple of years ago.
- The action direction here is absolutely top notch. It’s very difficult to do close-quarters combat like this and make it both realistic and easy to follow but this episode nails it. I especially liked the beat with the multiple locked doors.
- The Glenn and Heath scene in the armoury, which culminates with them firing through the door, is what that unfeasibly stupid gunfight on Gotham a couple of weeks ago aimed for and missed. Because it took place THROUGH A BUILDING.
- Both the first two Saviours we see this week are Hispanic. Diverse casting is both wonderful and a necessity that almost no show bothers with. Casting these two actors as petty, vicious thugs may not be lazy, tropey casting from a show that has only just uninstalled the revolving door on its black male leads, but it sure looks like it.
Gabriel’s 180° from being a terrified pacifist to kicking ass for the Lord is worrying. It’s not there yet but the, “Glassy-eyed holy warrior” is as lazy and meaningless a type of character as the “cowardly worthless priest” he started out as. A Man of God has just killed someone. That’s not going to sit well with him. We need to see that.
- We’re fairly certain Heath has driven off to star in the 24 reboot. We’re honestly not sure what excites us more; the existence of the 24 reboot or the fact that Corey freaking Hawkins is starring in it. He’s a great actor, incapable of turning in bad work and we can’t wait to see what he does with that franchise.
- Some people have taken Carol leaving the cookie for Sam as a tacit admission of her guilt in his death. But as other reviewers have pointed out she has no way of knowing that her words got Sam killed. So that scene is, for the character, a sweet moment of remembrance. For us, it’s the writers acknowledging Carol’s guilt even if they don’t let Carol see it herself.
- The opening “EVERYTHING IS FINE” montage is scored by “Weeds Or Wildflowers’ by Poor Old Shine. The closing grimfest is scored by “Arsonist’s Lullabye” by Hozier.
Review by Alasdair Stuart