I’ve sort of come to terms with the limitations of The Walking Dead. There are things that the show is particularly good at, and things that the show is particularly bad at. For example, the show isn’t great at long-term planning. It takes storylines from the comics and uses them in a way that isn’t very convincing, that glosses over instead of elaborates on. It’s also not great at supporting characters. Supporting characters on The Walking Dead are humanized minimally before fed to the machine that occasionally grinds up those on the show. The same goes for themes over the long term. The show often seems to turn its wheels in terms of the morality inherent in a lawless world (or at least a world that doesn’t have an overarching legal structure.
But the show is also great at a lot of things as well. When the show focuses on a single character, it often goes very well. “Not Tomorrow Yet” focuses on Carol, for the most part, and it does a fantastic job honing in on the internal struggle that keeps her anxious in the face of impending violence. Carol, when she is a killing machine, is fantastic. Carol in “JSS” was a high point, probably for the whole series. But Carol here, when she wonders about how to achieve peace in a world that she has accepted as violent and vicious, is also great. She has had to endure more than almost anybody else in the series, and is likewise hardened by it, but when she sees other characters that aren’t as hardened, she questions the way she exists in the world. Does she, after everything, still have a chance at life?
There isn’t really an easy answer to that. Having a chance means being vulnerable, and vulnerability can get you killed. But vulnerability is a safeguard from losing yourself entirely. Rick, along with most of Alexandria, decides that The Saviors are a huge liability, and decide to ambush and slaughter most of them in order to be safe. Approaching them like Morgan wanted could mean losing the edge that they need in order to take them out for good. So there’s a balance to strike, somewhere, but who knows exactly how to strike that balance? Who knows when to slaughter and when to show restraint? Without moral rules that govern the overarching society, there isn’t any way to know how other people are going to act. Mistakes will be made. It’s just what will happen.
That being said, the last third of the episode was absolutely fantastic, The Walking Dead basically turned into an action film. The Walking Dead works very, very well when it devolves into chaos and action, and the assault on The Saviors was the show firing on all cylinders, extremely tense when Rick and his group were sneaking around the base, and extremely satisfying when the plan fell apart, the assault turning into a firefight. I’m still not sure how I feel about Rick devolving into violence so quickly after he broke down in front of Carl in “No Way Out”, but watching him offer up such a brutal solution to a human problem was especially satisfying (not to mention watching him mow down Savior after Savior). Oh, and if you know anything about the plot in the comic books, the grisly photos on the wall in the Savior base were very, very unsettling. The Walking Dead may not be executing the Negan plot perfectly, but the show is still a lot better than it has been, and “Not Tomorrow Yet” was one of the best episodes of the half-season.
The in-depth character work didn’t always work as well as it does, but it did a particularly solid job with Glenn, Abraham, and Carol. Having Glenn finally kill after six seasons was interesting, as the show examined the toll of murder on those who haven’t taken life, juxtaposing it with someone who has taken many, many lives (Carol). That’s The Walking Dead at its finest, juxtaposing its characters for maximum effectiveness, showing how different characters function in different situations. But “Not Tomorrow Yet” also uses that juxtaposition to show how everybody is still human, considering their path and their way in the “Next World”. Glenn doesn’t know how to remain human, Abraham doesn’t know how to handle normal human responsibilities, and Carol doesn’t know how to deal with gentle tenderness and brutal violence existing in such close proximity. It’s great, riveting stuff, and it goes to show that The Walking Dead still has a lot of life left in it.
Really, being alive is still a liability. Carol shows vulnerability and her and Maggie are taken prisoner. Rick shows no vulnerability and alerts The Saviors, causing a firefight, making it impossible for any communication to happen between the two groups. “Not Tomorrow Yet” did a great job showing the delicate line between brutality and restraint, more so than the rest of the series. But The Walking Dead habitually loses sight of this line, and there’s no telling if next week it’ll completely forget about it again. But for now, The Walking Dead is handling this new story line well enough. Life is a liability, and there’s really no way around that.
So what did you think of “Not Tomorrow Yet”? Who do you think will end up dead next? Let me know in the comments!