In the season 6 premiere of The Walking Dead, Rick led his people and the Alexandrians in a dangerous plan to lure hundreds of walkers out of a quarry and away from Alexandria. Alas, things went awry when a horn started blaring, drawing the walkers off the chosen path and straight toward the sound. And since that sound was coming from Alexandria, things did not look good for the people back home.
In this episode, “JSS,” we see who sounded the horn and why, as those left behind in Alexandria are faced with a dangerous threat. We also learn more about Carl’s friend Enid and get the introduction of another popular comics character in Merritt Wever‘s Denise. While the season premiere delivered a lot of cool zombie action, this episode is even more intense and gives the secondary characters a chance to shine.
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Enid and Denise
The opening scene of the episode gives us a look at Enid’s backstory. After her parents are killed by walkers, Enid is alone for a very long time. She copes with this by writing ‘JSS’ into every surface she can find. She struggles to survive, stooping so low as to eat a turtle to keep from starving, before she makes her way to Alexandria. She almost does not go in, suggesting that she has been skittish about joining the community right from the beginning.
After exploring Enid’s backstory, the episode continues to move slowly, giving us a glimpse of how everyone in Alexandria is coping after the deaths of Pete and Reg. Jessie is having a hard time connecting with Ron, who resents her friendship with Rick and lashes out in that annoying way teenagers often do.
Sam is still going to Carol for support, but she sends him home after telling him that if he does not accept his father’s death, it will eat him up. We then see Maggie working to help Deanna move past her grief. She wants Deanna to help her start planting seeds for a vegetable garden, and she tells Deanna that her people need to see that she is still their leader.
Before the action kicks off, we meet a new character. Denise, recognizable to fans of the comic, is the town doctor now that Pete is dead. She was a psychiatrist before the world fell apart, so she feels like she is in over her head now that everyone is expecting her to step up. Tara tries to boost her confidence and acts as her first patient. Eugene is his usual self and points out one way Denise could kill Tara despite Tara only having a dizzy spell. Never change, Eugene.
The Wolves Arrive
Carol is in the kitchen cooking when she looks out her window and sees a woman get killed by a man with an ax. The Wolves have gotten inside the walls and are killing everyone they come across. Carol tells Carl to stay in the house and protect Judith while she heads outside to see what she can do. Carol moves quickly and quietly but is unable to help most of the people she runs across, including one of her fellow housewives.
Meanwhile, Spencer is in the clock tower, failing to be of any real use as he tries to shoot some of the Wolves entering the community. He also fails to notice the truck headed straight for the clock tower until it is too late. Once it crashes, the horn goes off, hence the sound we heard in the season premiere. Spencer manages to get out of the tower and goes to shut off the horn, but there is a walker in the truck and he hesitates. Luckily for everyone, Morgan arrives just at that moment, takes care of the walker and shuts off the horn. Morgan then goes inside to help.
Once inside, Morgan runs into one of the Wolves. He plans to let the guy live, but Carol shows up in disguise as one of Wolves and kills the guy. Carol wants Morgan to help her get to the armory because the Wolves do not have guns, and if they can get some, they will have an advantage.
Morgan tries to argue that they do not need to kill these people, but Carol is not having it. She chains Morgan up to help sell the disguise and it works until Morgan runs off to help someone being attacked. Carol, meanwhile, uses her disguise to kill a few more Wolves before she finally makes it to the armory. Once there, she stocks up on guns and heads back into the fight.
Morgan is on his own again when he comes across a group of Wolves. He starts to fight them with his stick, all the while telling them that it does not have to be like this. He says that his people have guns and they do not, and they will be killed. He also says if they keep choosing to act like this, they will be killed sooner or later. One of the Wolves says they did not choose this life, but he nods to the others and they decide to leave rather than facing the angry, armed Alexandrians. Morgan closes the gate behind them once they are gone. I like Morgan, but knowing what we do about this show, his decision to let these people leave alive is going to come back to haunt him.
But Morgan does not avoid killing everyone in this episode. When the fighting is all but over, Morgan finds the leader of the Wolves hiding out in one of the houses. This is the same guy he let live in the previous season. Morgan and this man fight, and Morgan tries to take the high road once again, but this guy is not letting up. He keeps coming at Morgan, telling him that he should have killed him the last time. Finally, Morgan has had enough and he kills the man. The episode ends with a distraught Morgan passing Carol on the street after the Wolves have all been killed or run off.
The highlight of this episode, other than the intense action, is the dynamic between Morgan and Carol. They have such a different outlook on survival in this world, but they are both clearly survivors. Is one of them in the right while the other is wrong? Is anything that simple in this world? I am interested to see how their relationship develops from here on out and if they end up changing one another’s perspective as the season continues.
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Jessie Steps Up
When the chaos erupts, Jessie tries to run outside to look for Ron, but she hears people approaching and decides to lock herself and Sam in the closet with the latch. Eventually, she hears Ron return home and sneaks out of the closet to try and protect him. She yells for him to stay outside moments before she is attacked by one of the Wolves.
Jessie and this woman engage in a brutal fight until Jessie is knocked out. But she does not stay down long and waits for an opening to ambush the woman. Jessie gets the upper hand and kills the woman by stabbing her multiple times, just as Ron walks into the house. So that probably will not help their already strained relationship, but I dislike Ron and love that Jessie sprung into action in such a major way.
Denise is Put to the Test
Early on in the fight, a badly injured Holly is brought into the clinic. I think this is the first time we have actually seen Holly, though she has been mentioned in several previous episodes. I assume she is meant to be the Holly from the comics, but since we do not know anything about her, I cannot say for sure. Holly has internal bleeding and Denise is ready to call it because Holly needs a surgeon and she does not think she is up to the task. But Tara and Eugene talk her into giving it a shot. Unfortunately, nothing Denise does is enough to save Holly, and Denise kicks everyone out after Holly dies. Will Holly’s death make it harder for Denise to step up in the future or will she be proud of herself for trying even if Holly still died?
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— Carol finds Olivia hiding in the armory and has to shed her helpless housewife disguise in order to help Olivia. She arms Olivia with a weapon, gives her a brief lesson on how to use the gun and tells her to lock herself inside and shoot anyone who comes through the door. Will Olivia let it slip that Carol is not who she is pretending to be or will she keep Carol’s secret? Did any of the other Alexandrians spot Warrior Carol running around town taking out attackers left and right?
— Deanna and Maggie are outside the walls when the Wolves arrive. Deanna decides to remain outside the walls because she does not have a gun and she thinks she would only get in the way if she tries to help. Maggie leaves Spencer to watch over her, as he refused to go inside too. I like Deanna, but if she is going to continue to lead this community, she needs to learn how to defend herself. And the Alexandrians really need to put someone other than Spencer on clock tower duty. I know Sasha is out on the mission with the others, but is Spencer really the only other person they can put up there?
— Aaron and Rosita also help in the fight against the Wolves, but at the end of it all, Aaron finds the bag he lost last season on one of the dead Wolves. He finds pictures of the community inside the bag and realizes this is how the Wolves found Alexandria. Oh, Aaron. I hope he does not blame himself too much.
— In one of the episode’s final scenes, we finally learn what ‘JSS’ stands for. When the attack first begins, Enid goes to Carl’s house to say goodbye, determined to leave because Alexandria is too big to protect. Carl convinces her to stay and help him protect Judith, but at the end of the episode, Carl realizes that Enid is gone. She did leave him a note, though: “Just Survive Somehow.” I doubt this is the last we will see of Enid, but if it is, I am glad we got to learn a bit more about her before her disappearance.
What did you think of this episode of The Walking Dead? Were you caught off guard by the Wolves’ attack? Did you suspect that they were behind the horn from the season premiere? Was Morgan wrong to let some of the Wolves live? Are they going to come back and attack Alexandria again? What do you think of Denise? Were you pleased with Enid’s backstory? Can we all agree that Melissa McBride owned this episode as Carol broke out of her housewife ruse to defend the place she has come to call home at any cost? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9pm on AMC.
(Image courtesy of AMC)