Just Survive Somehow ⎯ The Walking Dead S06E02 Review


Beware of undead spoilers!

After five seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead, it’s easy to feel desensitized to the walkers. While they’re frightening in large numbers, the initial shock of their existence has worn off, despite the ever-increasing gore factor as the undead continue to decompose. In contrast to the in medias res opening of last week’s season premiere, this episode begins with a quieter type of horror sequence as we saw glimpses of Enid’s backstory. The recurring sound of distant thunder, the walkers groaning off-screen, and watching Enid wander silently alone through the world effectively revisit the isolation and dread that made the pilot so gripping.

After we see a traumatized Enid finally reach Alexandria, the opening credits run and we’re back in the present day: most of The Group’s star characters – Rick, Daryl, Michonne, Glenn – are out herding zombies, so the first third of the episode hovers over those remaining at Alexandria. About thirteen minutes in, I started to wonder: where’s the action? After the premiere, which felt essentially like a ninety-minute trailer for the second episode and ended on the blaring-horn cliffhanger, I was expecting to be dropped immediately into zombie-filled chaos this week. Just as I began questioning the episode’s pace, though, we see Shelly cut down by the Wolf with a machete, and the attack on Alexandria begins swiftly.

This is especially not great news for Denise, who has replaced Pete as Alexandria’s doctor. She went to medical school and planned to become a surgeon, but after she started having panic attacks she switched to psychiatry. As she says to Tara and Eugene, “I’m here now, and I only kind of want to throw up.” She jokes about being pretty sure she can’t kill Tara while diagnosing her headache. Obviously, this heightens the dramatic potential when the Wolf attack begins. Surely this will go badly.

Soon enough, Denise, Tara, and Eugene are standing together over an injured woman, Holly, who is dying due to internal bleeding. Denise knows this, but she lacks confidence in her surgery skills and hesitates out of fear. Tara reminds Denise that everyone is there to help each other. “Help her!” she shouts. Eugene steps forward, awkward and emotional, and delivers one of the weightiest lines of the episode: “You don’t want to be a coward. I know.”

It’s a tense and powerful scene. Eugene is now a fan favorite, but no one – least of all Eugene – has forgotten that he became a part of this group by lying in order to save himself and letting others risk (and lose) their own lives for him. When he finally confessed the truth in season five, Tara was one of the first to defend him. Having been given a second chance, Eugene rose above his mistakes, saving Tara after she was injured and knocked unconscious in the warehouse. On that same run, Nicholas’ cowardice got Noah killed, but despite that – and his trying to kill Glenn at the end of season five – our protagonists are cautiously giving him the opportunity to redeem himself, too. As Maggie said in the premiere, Tara was also on the “opposite side of the fence” once, when the Governor attacked the prison and killed Hershel. All of this now informs their short exchange over the dying woman, in which the show forces another character to face the question: how will you choose to respond to your fear? Tara and Eugene are the perfect characters to help Denise in this moment, as they know what it feels like to make the wrong choice.

While the scene in the infirmary is moving and significant for the characters involved, Carol and Morgan are the two characters really showcased in this episode. Many fans and critics spent the summer speculating over a potential ideological face-off between Morgan and Rick. Perhaps that is yet to come, and it was certainly touched upon in the premiere as the two discussed Rick’s executing Pete for being a killer. “I’m a killer, Rick,” Morgan points out. “I am and you are, too.” Yet in this episode, Carol and Morgan’s were the clearly conflicting viewpoints. The contrast of these two is quite interesting, as they seem to stand on two sides of a fine line. Both are skilled fighters and courageously take action whenever necessary, but Carol kills attackers without hesitation while Morgan prefers beating them up to instill fear while letting them live. As characters, they are opposite responses to Enid’s mantra, represented by the recurring “JSS” markings in the beginning: just survive somehow. That is a central question of the show: to what extent are the characters willing to go in the same of survival? Which lines are acceptable to cross, and which are not? Can you be merciful without being weak?

And do Carol and Morgan take their respective approaches too far? Is Carol too quick to kill? Is Morgan too merciful, even in the face of such brutal, senseless killers as the Wolves? Sometimes the show doesn’t allow us the luxury of pondering such questions; certainly, Carol’s grit and willingness to kill without delay has saved The Group before, most notably at Terminus. But Morgan’s character may open up a conversation on the show about what that does to a person, and whether it’s always necessary or worth the cost. Of course, Morgan letting those few Wolves live – and escape with a gun – promises to cause problems in the future. Maybe it will also provide some further exploration of the consequences of Morgan’s no-kill policy. But I have a feeling that next week’s episode will be another walker-palooza. Let’s not forget about the herd now heading straight back toward Alexandria.


  • I loved the scene between Maggie and Deanna outside the walls. Maggie demonstrates strength and kindness as she looks steadily at Deanna, reminds her of what matters, and hands her a shovel. “There’ll be some sore backs and tired feet,” Maggie says. “That’s how you know you’ve put in a hard day’s work.” Ah, it’s like Hershel’s still with us.
  • Wolf attack = time to kill off all the unnecessary Alexandria extras!
  • Hopefully this episode will finally put to rest the “Can we trust Rick’s group?” questions from the Alexandrians. They’re clearly the only ones prepared to respond to such an attack. Well, Aaron can hold his own, but he’s always been one of the few competent (read: least annoying) Alexandrians.
  • Why did Carol have to kill the Wolf who was already subdued and bound by Morgan and Fr. Gabriel? Wouldn’t it be useful to keep one for questioning?
  • “Maybe we can share the church,” Tara suggests to Eugene when he expresses his desire to use it for a lab or game room. Fr. Gabriel’s easy to hate, but I appreciate Tara’s non-partisan defense. We also got a glimpse into potential redemption for Fr. Gabriel in this episode. I hope they do something interesting with his character.

Review: Beyond the Mask

Note: A review copy of this movie was sent in exchange for a review. It releases today, and you can look for a local showing here

It isn’t often I’m sent a movie to review that I get excited about. Holy Rollers was an exception, as were the films by the same director. But those were documentaries. When it comes to fiction, I’ve found them lacking.

But watch the trailer for Beyond the Mask and tell me it doesn’t at least look like it deserves a shot. Continue reading Review: Beyond the Mask

Peace With People Amidst a War of Ideas

I have observed two kinds of tyranny in the media and public forum when it comes to moral, religious, or political conflict.  The first kind is a tyranny of bigotry which takes firm held beliefs about politics, religion, ethics, etc., and attempts to coerce or shame others into agreement.  It disregards the humanity and dignity of those with whom it disagrees.  The second kind is a tyranny of tolerance.  This tyranny regards “tolerance” as the highest (if not the only) virtue, and then attempts to coerce or shame others into a malleability of all other beliefs besides tolerance.  It is as though anything but indifferent relativism is a hate crime.

Continue reading Peace With People Amidst a War of Ideas

On Language: A Primer for Careful, Thoughtful Introspection

If words matter–and you’ll find that I am very quick to contend that they do–then we ought to be careful with the language we speak. For some, this point might seem like something akin to an argument against profanity. I’m not (necessarily) out to destroy those with foul mouths–it isn’t my habit, and it is one that I prefer as strong emphasis rather than filler words, but if done with thought and a certain sort of intention behind it, a chosen “swear word” can pack the necessary punch to communicate precisely what was intended. (See here Paul’s use of the word ‘skubala’) Continue reading On Language: A Primer for Careful, Thoughtful Introspection

Codependency and Egoism: Two Ways To Obscure Easter

It is that time of year when, once again, Churches of all denominations ramp up their hospitality.  One need not look far to find flier invitations for Easter egg hunts, local ads for sunrise services, or Church billboards declaring that all are invited to join them for Easter service.  According to Christian tradition, this is exactly as it should be.  Easter is the most important day in the Church calendar – the Feast of all Feasts – and is the greatest declaration of our salvation.

However, when we take this opportunity to tell people about the Christianity, our advertisements often betray bad beliefs which we have adopted alongside the good.  I have observed two strong motivational trends which I think betray such bad ideas: (1) the “Jesus wants to give you stuff” message, and (2) the “You should pay Jesus back for all He did” message.  The first invites me to come to Jesus because I want stuff for myself, the second invites me to come to Jesus because I feel badly for Him. Continue reading Codependency and Egoism: Two Ways To Obscure Easter

Why My Husband Is Not My “Other Half”

When I got married, I had a new experience of association which I had never had as a single person.  My husband and I were together for three and a half years before we got married, and yet, in all of that time, people rarely expected him to be with me everywhere I went.  But once we were married, if I came to any social gathering alone, people started asking “Where is your husband?” or “Where is your other half?” Continue reading Why My Husband Is Not My “Other Half”

Have You Kept Christ in Christmas?

Each year, the holiday season brings with it many historic traditions, like the red cups at Starbucks, the bad pop Christmas songs playing in every retail store in the country, and the revived rhetoric among certain Christians about “keeping Christ in Christmas.” Perhaps you have heard talk of this on the news or seen posts about it in your Facebook feed. I assume the underlying concern is that the removal of any religious references from the holiday might indicate a resistance against or stifling of Christianity in our country. I can appreciate that. But, first, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve got multiple holidays happening in tandem rather than one religious holiday being continually corrupted. C.S. Lewis identified three Christmases in his essay “What Christmas Means to Me” from God in the Dock: there’s the “religious festival,” which is “important and obligatory for Christians,” and the “popular holiday,” which is “an occasion for merry-making and hospitality” for many, regardless of religion or background. Lewis calls the third Christmas the “commercial racket” that “has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers.” He elaborates in typical Lewis fashion—smart, concise, funny—if you’re interested in reading the entire essay, but I’ve shared enough to make my present point. Continue reading Have You Kept Christ in Christmas?

What Can We Learn From the Mars Hill Shutdown?

Mars Hill Church began as a small gathering in Mark Driscoll’s home in 1996 and soon became one of the fastest-growing churches in the country. But the church that was praised just last year as one of the “Top Churches to Watch in America” has been the subject of much controversy lately, stemming primarily from its hyper-masculine, strongly opinionated founding pastor. The Puget Sound Business Journal recently ran an article stating that there are rumors of Mars Hill declaring bankruptcy (the Puget Sound region of Washington was home to several of the church’s locations). Even if such rumors are false, they are indicative of the dramatic decline in both popularity and organizational stability the church has seen in recent months. On January 1st, 2015, Mars Hill Church will officially dissolve. Continue reading What Can We Learn From the Mars Hill Shutdown?

Little Hope Was Arson – A Second Look (Film Review)

Note: a review copy of this film was provided in exchange for a review. Visit the film’s website here. See our earlier review from James here. Spoilers follow.

If you’ve ever been to Texas, you may have noticed the Jesus fish symbols on billboards used (presumably) to alert viewers that the company is Christian owned, or that it only takes a few minutes on the road to realize that there is almost literally a church on every corner. Continue reading Little Hope Was Arson – A Second Look (Film Review)

Pumpkins and Thanksgiving

In Germany, the asparagus harvest marks a national celebration. Whole restaurant menus center around asparagus, filling the hearts and stomachs of Germans thrilled by the wonderful harvest season. Asparagus has been an important crop in Germany, so the foundations of the festivities have economic and historic roots. In America, we have a similar celebration of the harvest of a particular vegetable — the pumpkin. Continue reading Pumpkins and Thanksgiving