The Walking Dead 6×02 ‘JSS’: A pack of wolves

The Walking Dead 6x02 Cover

To me, the season opener seemed like a spectacle simply because there were a large number of zombies on display. It was a great way to introduce the season and reorient us to how Alexandria is working, but it focused heavily on those dynamics rather than the actual execution of Rick’s master plan. See, The Walking Dead works best when it’s not pondering and brooding. It works best when things happen, things that take the inaction and make it mean something. We can hear characters say things about themselves and about those around them, but until they actually go through something, it’s all just talk. The Walking Dead is a compelling show when it has a vision and an idea, and it’s a plodding, boring show when it’s aimless. The first half of Season 5 was the show’s best stretch yet because it took characters and made their actions reflect their development, while Season 2 will (probably always) remain the show’s worst stretch because it was mostly characters talking about themselves rather than putting that to action.

The Walking Dead 6x02-1

Source: AMC

That being said, “JSS” is a great episode of television and the best episode The Walking Dead has produced in a while. That assault on Alexandria that we’ve been waiting for? “JSS” shows the carnage between the Alexandrians and the Wolves, and it is a marvelous spectacle, taking up at least twenty minutes of the show’s runtime. In a “perfect storm” situation where The Wolves end up striking while Rick and half of the town’s citizens are away, Alexandria is besieged and those who aren’t used to violence have to commit to it in order to survive. The spectacle of the violence is thrilling and doesn’t let up until the very end of the episode, and it provides us with the action and the thrills that “First Time Again” didn’t necessarily provide.

The Walking Dead 6x02-2

Source: AMC

Of course, there’s more to the violence than blood and viscera. “JSS” stands for “Just Survive Somehow”, a mantra that Enid clings to in order to get her through the horror of existing after her parents’ death. The episode uses that idea throughout, that, in the face of unspeakable violence, you have to be willing to commit violence as well to survive. It’s the status quo putting people to the test. The new status quo requires an amount of violence to survive, and more than that, it requires that such violence becomes commonplace. It doesn’t mean losing yourself entirely, as is what threatens Carol, but it means to become capable of the violence necessary to survive. But what I’m talking about is something controlled, while the mantra JSS speaks to the chaos that comes with surviving. “Just Survive Somehow” suggests that there’s no clear way to do it. Find whatever keeps you going and just do it. In a chaotic world, nobody can just expect to fit in with the status quo and move forward. Evolving is a chaotic process, and there’s no one way to do it.

The Walking Dead 6x02-3

Source: AMC

But there’s a truth to what Morgan says here. While the weaker Alexandrians are quickly picked off, Morgan tells a number of the Wolves that committing to a life of violence will only get them killed. And it does, as Carol and the Alexandrians slaughter the vast majority of the Wolves. There’s a balance to the amount of violence that somebody needs to commit in the new world, as you can’t be a pacifist but you can’t be only violent. There needs to be a level of control over when that violence is unleashed. Most of the personal stories reflect this reality. Denise (the new doctor) is completely unprepared when she has to deal with a patient whose femoral artery is severed, requiring emergency surgery. Deanna has to hide in a truck because she knows that she doesn’t have what it takes to kill the Wolves inside the walls. But there’s a stark difference between these two stories. Denise tries to save her patient, and even though that patient died, she’s more ready to deal with the world than she was before. On the other hand, Deanna is still hiding, and the more she hides, the harder it will be to survive when things inevitably get worse.

The Walking Dead 6x02-4

Source: AMC

But the best part of the episode, hands down, goes to Enid’s flashback origin story, which quickly shows us not only how Enid got to Alexandria, but what she had to do to get there. The cold open strategically shies away from the gorier components of her journey, not because it didn’t want to show them, but because they don’t matter. Violence is just a part of life, something that you say a mantra to push through. And even though Enid isn’t committing a great deal of violence, she still has to move through discomfort, pushing through pain in order to make it in the world. It’s what The Walking Dead has always been about, the idea that evolution is the only way to thrive, but it’s also horribly painful. Rick may want to save the Alexandrians, but you can’t force somebody to evolve, and it only takes one mistake to get everybody killed.

“JSS” is a great way for The Walking Dead to continue its sixth season. Most shows have run out of steam by now, but The Walking Dead is able to keep itself moving by using unconventional plotting and pacing, continually trying new things and innovating the way it tells its stories. Of course, “JSS” doesn’t reference the horde of zombies, but looks to wrap up the Wolves, using them to bring the zombies toward the town. But this is certainly a welcome break from the zombie horde, as the Wolves were a great threat and a great way to raise the stakes yet again. “JSS” might not have been perfect, but it was a great, great deal of fun.

What did you think of “JSS”? Who do you think is going to be killed next? Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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  • George Liapes

    I was a little disappointed that the Wolves were dealt with so quickly, because it kinda felt like a repeat of the Terminus arc, but it’s extremely possible that the members that Morgan let go of may come back in the future, (they may be the ones to have captured Daryl in the Comic Con trailer) so I’m hopeful. I was also disappointed that the zombie horde from last ep didn’t come but I figured that it would feel kinda rushed for two huge developments to occur at the same time.

    Overall, I thought the episode was great too and I loved the contrast between the members of rick’s group and the Alexandrian survivors. Hopefully, the rest of the season is just as good.

  • Gui

    Pretty great review as per usual! I do think the few wolves Morgan spared will be back at some point, so I doubt we’re done with them, though they’ll likely be a lot more careful this time around. They weren’t expecting the level of retaliation they got, that’s for sure.
    Highlights of the episode for me were definitely the moments between Carol and Morgan. We know the hole Morgan fell into that we saw him in back in Clear, and his pacifism makes sense if you think about it: He’s probably scared that he could lose himself again. We’ve seen that with how he contrasts Rick’s brutality now, too. Carol, on the other hand, is definitely one of the best shows of the episode’s namesake. She will survive however she can, and she’s ready to take on whatever persona she needs to take to deal with the situations at hand. She dropped the friendly neighbor act instantly and was ready to kill every wolf in the area to keep her people safe, even though as we could see in the last scene it’s taking its toll on her. I’m looking forward to more stuff between them, it should prove fascinating.
    This season has a lot of potential for sure. I think we’ll be dealing with the herd during the next few episodes, and considering they took care of most of the wolves in Alexandria in the time it took for a casserole to be ready, the people in there will barely have time to recover from this. And that’s bad news for them. I think Ron is a likely victim, the way he’s been acting, he got lucky this time thanks to Carl but he won’t last long if we’re talking about luck alone.

  • Michael St. Charles

    Thanks for the comments, guys! I do wonder whether or not the Wolves will be back. One of them did pick up a gun on the way out, and I can see that coming back to haunt Morgan, so maybe the Wolves will be back later in the season. I can’t see the Wolves being built up in one episode and then getting so quickly dropped, so I’m fairly certain we’ll see them again, though I was wrong about them last season, so who knows. Gimple is willing to do just about anything with story pacing now. Which is awesome, of course.

    I’m willing to place money on Ron (and probably Jessie too) being zombie food for the herd. It seems clear that the herd will be a threat that looms over the latter half of the season, and I’m excited to see how the characters deal with that as they attempt to recover from having half of the town wiped out. I mean, obviously Carol will survive, but I wonder which Alexandrians will actually be left when all is said and done.

    Also, Gimple is really keeping this season under wraps. Only a vague plot teaser for the next episode is available, so he’s trying hard to keep everything fairly secret. Must be some crazy stuff coming up.