10/18/15, 9 pm (EST), AMC
Balancing the character drama along with action has been a delicate proposition for The Walking Dead. Early on fans complained there was either too much drama or too much action. The last couple of seasons really brought that balance to life. While the season premiere had some action, it also seemed to be devoid more so than what we’re used to. Tonight’s episode, “JSS”, brought the action balance back, but also had some character development as well.
I like that this episode is a companion to the series premiere. While the premiere had some pacing issues with the flashbacks, we were really focused on Rick and company getting the herd of walkers away from Alexandria, with the truck horn ending the episode drawing the walkers back. “JSS” shows us what was happening with Alexandria while Rick was gone.
Before we get into the thick of it, we find ourselves getting Enid’s backstory, or at least part of it. Her parents are killed by walkers, and she seems to find a way to survive on her own (RIP tortoise). She constantly leaves the letters JSS in various spots while she travels, eventually finding her way to Alexandria. As far as we know, she’s survived on her own, which is a huge feat for anyone to take on. We’ll come back to Enid in a bit.
All seems well in Alexandria as everyone goes about their business. Carol is still playing the innocent housewife, while Maggie keeps an eye on Deanna to make sure she’s alright. Carl finds Enid hanging out with Ron, which seems to bother him. Gabriel finally confesses to Carl that he wants to be trained on how to protect himself. Things quickly turn for the worst as Carol sees a woman she was chiding for smoking earlier get hacked to death with a machete by an unknown assailant. The situation turns grim quickly, as more people enter the city through various means as they firebomb Alexandrians, but mostly hack them to pieces with knives or other sharp objects.
Carol immediately goes into killer mode, taking out any of the wolves she comes across as well as some Alexandrians who have been gravely injured. Rather than let them turn, she just stabs them in the head. She is incredibly brutal, more so than Rick. Carol is actually one of the deadliest characters in the show now. While Rick is very straight-forward in his threats, Carol tends to wait back and be more calculating, knowing when the best time is to strike. There’s a reason she was able to rescue the group from Terminus last season.
We also find out about the truck horn. Spencer appears to kill the driver of a truck looking to ram the walls of Alexandria, but crashes and sets off the alarm. By the time he’s able to get to the truck, he only finds a walker. Unable to kill him, Morgan thankfully shows up to finish it and turn off the horn. Realizing Spencer is a bit of a coward, Morgan tells him to hide as he runs into Alexandria to help. Interestingly, he refuses to kill anyone that isn’t a walker. While he’s ready and willing to defend himself, he seems to have conformed to some moral code. This is quickly put to the test when he and Carol go through Alexandria trying to get the rest of the wolves. They split so Morgan can save Gabriel, though Carol could’ve cared less if he survived. After securing the armory, Carol returns to put a bullet in the wolf Morgan was capturing, but not before the wolf tells them “we’re freeing you” and how there are other traps around. Carol leaves them with guns without wasting anymore breath.
Morgan eventually is surrounded by another group of wolves, but easily dispatches of them before telling them to leave before they’re shot and not given a second chance. One wolf responds, telling Morgan “they didn’t choose” before running off. Unfortunately, Morgan is forced to kill a wolf, the man he met at the end of last season when we first learned of his newfound staff skills, courtesy of a cheesemaker if we’re to believe what he told an Alexandrian. Morgan’s code will quickly get in the way of Rick in the long run, so I wonder if there will be a place for him long-term in Alexandria.
After helping him protect Judith, Enid disappears, but not before leaving Carl a note, stating “just survive somehow.” This seems like a great mantra, which helps explain how Enid was able to survive. Whether she was working with the wolves or not, we’re not sure. I doubt this is the last we’ll see of the wolves, but we do know their blitzkrieg assault did more damage on Alexandria than anyone could’ve imagined. This will only strengthen Rick’s resolve to seal it off and keep armed guards stationed at all times.
“JSS” helped bring The Walking Dead back to true form tonight. I hope that we are able to get more episodes like this as the season progresses. With the herd still lurking towards Alexandria, and the wolves still out there, I believe the stage is set for Rick and company to take on assaults on multiple fronts. The only question is how high the body count will get when it’s all said and done.
- I hate saying this, but Judith needs to go. I understand why they kept her around, but she’s only going to be another burden for Rick to worry about if something happens to her.
- Jessie turned into quite the badass, stabbing the one wolf to death with her beautician scissors.
- ”I’m not very good with guns.” “Me neither.” Morgan’s capable of defending himself without a gun, but Gabriel is still too weak to defend himself, period. Will this spell trouble for the unsettled preacher later this season? He can only survive so many close calls.
- What was the A left in blood on Carol’s porch? A scarlet letter of sorts, or perhaps a message from the wolves before they left?
- The whole battle lasted about 45 minutes since Carl was able to take out Carol’s casserole before the assault began. I like that they left something small in, but also interesting that Carl can go back to normal living so quickly after what happened.
Tonight’s episode is a step-up from the premiere for all the good reasons. The wolves’ assault on Alexandria shows how weak they truly are without the heavy hitters around. Rick will use this to his advantage, but how much more control will Deanna allow him to take?