The Walking Dead 6×09 ‘No Way Out’: Blood and guts

The Walking Dead 6x09 Cover

“No Way Out”, in a nutshell, is what is so good and bad about The Walking Dead. It features what is probably one of the most intense sequences in the history of the show, where Rick leads a blood-covered human chain through the walkers, only to have Sam, Jessie, and Ron all slaughtered within two minutes, and Carl shot in the eye.   It’s a fantastic sequence in that it’s visceral, brutal, and relentless, never stopping for the sake of exposition or useless character interaction. It’s amazing, shocking stuff. There’s a lot to like about this episode. The Lord of the Rings-esque zombie fight at the end of the episode is a lot of fun and a way to bring the first half of the season to a strong coherent conclusion. Really, “No Way Out” is much stronger than “Start to Finish”, even if some of that is simply because it’s the conclusion.

The Walking Dead 6x09-1

Source: AMC

But man, there’s a fantastic fifty or sixty minute episode to be made out of the eighty-five minutes that encompass “Start to Finish” and “No Way Out”. So much of those two episodes could have been whittled down for the sake of keeping the tension high, because so much of those two episodes was only there for the sake of wrapping up loose ends. Glenn, Enid, and Maggie could have been scratched from these two episodes entirely. The Wolf storyline also could have been scratched. Daryl’s confrontation with Negan’s Saviors (while awesome) could have been put in a different episode. The anchor point for “Start to Finish” and “No Way Out” was Rick and his group desperately trying to stay alive amidst the zombie invasion, and it was clearly the strongest facet of the episode, wrapping up Rick’s character arc and providing a strong status quo moving forward.

The Walking Dead 6x09-2

Source: AMC

Still, it’s dangerous to amplify the stakes by simply creating more violence and gore (and if you’re a comic reader, then you should be substantially more nervous). It makes seasons of television a collection of moments, and even though those moments can be exciting, it can ultimately dilute the impact of the episode as a whole. Because let’s be honest, who remembers any of Game of Thrones’ “The Rains of Castamere”, a 52-minute episode, except for the 7 minute ending? Who remembers any of Game of Thrones’ “The Mountain and the Viper”, another 52-minute episode, except for the one scene at the end? And those scenes always make audiences want more bloodshed, more violence, more insanity. While scenes like that are always fun (like I said, the zombie walk scene was fantastic), if they’re not supplemented with other strong content, it can be a big problem.

The Walking Dead 6x09-3

Source: AMC

A lot of this has to do with ambition, which I have always praised The Walking Dead for. At least they try to top their violent action scenes, and at least they try to create episodes like “Here’s Not Here”. Scenes like the zombie walk show that at least the show is trying, but the kind of ambition that damages “No Way Out” is the expansion that the first half of the season included. Fragmenting the cast and isolating them can be a good thing, as it is easier to create episodes around three characters than it is around then. But then this faux-two-partner (“Start to Finish” and “No Way Out” has to reintegrate EVERYONE, which can make the overall episode extremely muddled, as it did here. Look at everything this episode had. Daryl shots a rocket launcher! Glenn and Enid have to save Maggie! Denise has to escape from the Wolf! Abraham, Sasha, and Daryl have to escape from The Saviors! Rick has to get his people through the zombies! There is so much happening that it all becomes garbled. Compare that to Better Call Saul’s masterful finale, where every storyline is shed, instead having Jimmy go to Cicero, Illinois to hang out with his old friend Marco. It’s clean, simple, and easily one of the best episodes of the season (“Five-O” has a special place in my heart). “No Way Out” is very strong, but it has almost too much noise for its own good.

The Walking Dead 6x09-4

Source: AMC

And it goes to show that The Walking Dead has to become more than its comics, something it occasionally shoots for but doesn’t seriously commit to. Carl getting shot in the eye is played fantastically, giving Rick the chance to reflect on his attitude towards the Alexandrians and his overall view on the world. But the comics, on a deeper level, always had a difficult time communicating a deeper thematic message than “The world is rough and you need to be tough to SURVIVE!!!”. The Walking Dead has consistently shown that it is capable of thinking further, of getting artsy and reflective and really pondering the thematic concepts that it claims to tackle. But when episodes like “No Way Out” pack their runtime with extraneous action, it becomes difficult to really reflect and dig into characters. Instead, characters like Father Gabriel are given ridiculous speeches (please, The Walking Dead, stop giving minor characters speeches) that communicate a complete lack of engagement with complex notions of status quo. Because there’s a lot to be said here. The Alexandrians are able to conform, the world is able to change, people are able to endure and transform. The Walking Dead gets so close to really saying all of that, but is so far from being able to say anything particularly enlightening about it.

The Walking Dead has absolutely been getting better. I’m certainly excited to see how the new status quo informs Rick and the rest of the characters. The show just needs to be more than that if it wants to be as prestigious as the rest of AMC’s greatest shows (it’s not even the best show on the channel right now, that honor goes to Better Call Saul). “No Way Out” is a lot of fun and excitement. But it’s not one of the show’s highs. And The Walking Dead is still fighting to be a consistently good show, not just a show that has periodic “highs”.

So what did you think of the mid-season premiere? Are you torn about it like I am? 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

    First, I’m so glad that I’m back to reading your reviews and discussing them with you man!

    About the episode… I’m know I’m gonna sound like I’m complaning a lot but I agree that it was a lot better than the last episode and that it should’ve been the mid season finale.

    But man… I don’t know if it was because I had JUST got back from a school trip and was reeling from the feeling of returning home, but I wasn’t as pumped as I thought I’d be while watching the episode.

    The death of the Andersons and Carl’s injury, while definitely brutal, wasn’t really all that shocking both because I read the comics (even though I’m sure it was shocking for those who didn’t read the comics) and the Andersons weren’t really that fleshed out (except for Jessie a little) that I didn’t really feel anything but shock at how brutally they got killed (even though I’ve seen worse on the show).

    I agree with you that the show needs to stray from the comics to become a truly great show, especially since the show’s proven that it can do great things without it (Shane and the Governor’ fleshed out arcs being a prime example).

    I also agree that the show is getting tedious with the scenes where minor characters are given speeches in an attempt to flesh out their characters and accentuate the themes of the episode ( I still remember Andrea’s speech from the Suicide King *shudder*).

    Also, the action at the climax, while badass, had me rolling my eyes with how everyone was able to kill ALL of the walkers without one of them getting bit. Also, once again Daryl has to be the hero in driving the herd away AND rescuing the others from the Saviours.

    Don’t Really Know how to feel about the Alpha Wolf getting shot but it did provide a clear contrast between Carol and morgan.

    Overall, I’m interested in seeing how the rest of the season goes and the inevitable introduction of Negan (there’s a certain scene upon his intro that tops the scene with the Andersons and Carl). But I’d like to see something more than Just gruesome deaths and badass zombie action and more like the character based moments that defined the first half of season 5 (one of the show’s best stretches if not THE best).

    See you for your next review!

    Also: So glad I’m not the only person who thought the fight at the end was similar to Lord of the Rings.

    Also also: Glenn’s near death experience was cliche and another prime example of the series’ flaws.

    Also also also: So glad you love better Call Saul as much as I do! Can’t wait for the premiere tonight! Up for a review of the show?

    Also also also also: Sorry it’s so long but I really missed your reviews and I had a lot of feelings to air out about how I currently feel about the show.

    • Gui

      Well, looking at the filming schedule, the sequence they filmed this in basically had it set for midseason finale. Gimple had written Here’s Not Here around the time of Comic Con, if not during, and they filmed it until after this episode. But here we are. That said, I both agree and disagree with some things said by both of you here, and I think I see the reason for some.

      I want to start with the elephant in the room, that being everyone’s lord and savior Daryl Dixon. I’m starting to feel that he might be gone by the end of the season. We had a first half with barely any Daryl and still got pretty good ratings in terms of viewership, and the episode that did feature Daryl noticeably was among the bottom 3 in terms of views, only barely beating Now. Still well over 12 million, though. And now there’s the promise of “far more Daryl Dixon” for the second half of the season and Reedus getting his own bike show with AMC. I feel that he’ll get a lot of attention from the writers during this back half to give him quite the huge goodbye if they’re aiming for it. Of course, I still think his constantly being the hero manages to get ridiculous even if that’s what they’re aiming for, but if it IS the case, then I’d definitely understand. And to add to this, there’s the Glenn scenario. I think they’re aiming for a bait and switch, people think that Glenn might get a “boy who cries wolf” situation with all this close calls, but then the character people think is safe, Daryl, dies. Again, I think it could be pulled off better, but if this is their aim it makes sense to me.

      Then we have the saviors. I think they should’ve split things between episode 6 and then show how the trio got there in episode 10, or cut some of the unneeded content from Start to Finish so the distribution of content between episodes worked better. Start to Finish moved too slowly and that forced parts of this episode to move too fast. I think either of the 2 should’ve been extended and focusing mostly on one side of the story. If Start to Finish had been an hour long and focused on the rest of Alexandrians, and then this episode was extended and focused on Rick and his group and then the fight between Rick/Alexandrians against the herd. And regarding that fight, I actually like no character got bitten/killed. At this point, they’ve finally come together as a proper unit rather than being the old us vs. them, and in the end zombies are actually something you can manage. Though, again, Daryl the hero happens to be rather silly.

      That said, I do think the show should stray more from the comics. Though a few key moments, like Carl’s eye getting shot out and the big moment that’ll surely come at the end of the season are appreciated, I like to keep it at that: Certain moments. And even then, I like it when they switch up characters. Hershel and Bob’s deaths being two examples I do like, they’re key comic scenes and yet different enough to work. The only one I’m glad they kept the same was the fact Carl gets his eye shot out, because of the Grimes family moments which are the heart of this series.

      And finally, the Wolf storyline. This one I do like because it gives you evidence in favor of both Carol and Morgan’s views, and his death is left up to interpretation making you wonder who had the right idea. Did he actually change his ways in the end and showed genuine goodness? Or is he just following up on the Wolves idea of being “freed” and willing to accept death because of it?

      Well, we’ll see during the rest of the season. Nice to be back in these reviews! As far as TWD reviews go, they’re definitely my favorites to keep up with, I like the insight. And the ideas brought up in comments here are fascinating. Anyway, this has gone on for long enough, sorry about the length!

      And to actually finish off: Nice to see two other people hyped for BCS! Definitely looking forward to its return later today, should be great.

      • George Liapes

        Welcome back man!

        I’m glad you agree with me on Daryl’s legend status and it IS possible he’ll end up dead. It definitely would show that the series is still capable of killing off major characters (Glenn’s “death” will always be a mark against the show as far as I’m concerned). I also agree with the both of you that this episode should’ve been combined with the last one. Now we only have seven episodes to deal with the threat of the Saviours or whatever arc the show will throw at us next. Having seen both of your criticism of the episode “Them” from last season, we’ll have to see if the finale for this season is hindered by “Start to Finish”

        I agree that Carl’s injury was a great scene that once again showed the relationship between him and Rick. I just wished that they had changed it to another setting and time so it could’ve been more shocking for those who read the comics like us. Similarly, with the Anderson’s deaths, the show could’ve had them making it out, or maybe at least one of them surviving and being forced to deal with loss like Rick and his group have (Remember what Michonne said to Heath in “Thank You” about the Alexandrians not knowing real loss?

        I also liked the ambiguity of the Wolf’s intentions and that’s it up to us to intepret said resolution to the Carol/Morgan storyline. I’m just disappointed we won’t get more of that potential storyline.

        And finally, The scene with the Alexandrians DID show that they had what it took to survive and the scene also accentuated Rick’s leadership but realistically, it seems ridiculous that not one of them died. However, your point is so good that I can forgive that realism issue.

        Don’t worry about the length of your comment man! I was pretty long too and I enjoy conversing with you and Michael!

        Can’t wait for BCS man! See you next week!

      • Michael St. Charles

        Hey, thanks for coming back to the reviews! I really did like the zombie walk and Carl’s injury, and I’m glad they included it. I think that, upon bingewatching, “Start to Finish” and “No Way Out” will play a lot more smoothly and will work better together. The mid-season break really messed with the pacing of these two episodes, and while I like that they try to start strong, I could definitely tell that they were trying to make up for lost momentum.

        You know, I really like the idea behind the Wolf storyline and the juxtaposition between Carol and Morgan. I think that it would have worked way better if it had its own episode or took place over a shorter span, because stretching over 5ish episodes did it no favors. That’s kind of The Walking Dead in a nutshell: Great ideas, rough execution.

        Also, since it sounds like you read the comics, do you think that Daryl will be involved in the “big moment” that will clearly take place in the season finale? I almost like that more than involving that one character who is supposed to be involved in it.

        And I already said it above, but! I will be reviewing Better Call Saul and my review will be up tomorrow!

        • Gui

          Fantastic! Looking forward to that review. That series definitely gives a lot to talk about.

          Yeah, I think Daryl will be the one who’ll be involved in that “big moment”. The changes done to the part of the comic book storyline leading up to it fit into place better if Daryl’s involved, I feel. I went back through Issue 100 again yesterday after that to be sure regarding the character’s motivations for the event that happens, but I’ll discuss that more in depth when the big event happens if it goes the way I think it will.

    • Michael St. Charles

      Thanks for coming back, man! Good to see people are still excited and engaged with the show. “No Way Out” was definitely stretching itself and trying HARD to be memorable. ROCKET LAUNCHERS! CHILDREN DYING! CARL IS SHOT IN THE EYE! WILL GLENN DIE!?!?!?!? Anyway, haha, one thing that I didn’t mention is that, since the status quo has been shifted again, 6×10 will be a good restart for the show. There’s a lot of potential in this back half, as long as the show doesn’t become a recap of the comics and is able to stretch its legs a little bit.

      But yeah, “No Way Out” wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, or really even THAT good. And that does not bode well considering how hard TWD tried to make this a super intense, memorable episode. Those speeches and the redundant character interactions REALLY drag down any episode, and how common they are is really disconcerting.

      Also: Season 5A is ABSOLUTELY my favorite stretch of the series to date.

      Also also: I am reviewing Better Call Saul and my review will be up tomorrow!

      • George Liapes

        AWESOME!!!