It was a bold move for showrunner Scott M. Gimple to make the first half of season six into a single day, following a bunch of different characters both at Rick’s doomed Zombie Fun Run and back at Alexandria, which suffered its first major attack. I’d say it’s been mostly successful, but “Always Accountable” is the first episode that made me anxious for TWD to get the group back together and get on with it.
Part of it is, of course, that this is episode six of the group being split up, following all the characters as they each have their own special Very Bad Days, and it’s losing its novelty. A bigger part of it is that this episode focuses Daryl, Sasha and Abraham, and while yes, everyone loves Daryl, it’s hard to get too excited about an episode half-devoted to the show’s most suicidal character and its formerly most suicidal character.
Anyways, the episode begins when Daryl, Sasha and Abraham have finally led the zombie herd the deemed-safe 20 miles away, and then immediately speed off to return to Alexandria. However, they almost immediately drive into an ambush of armed jerks; Daryl takes a nasty spill on his bike, and Sasha and Abraham are forced to leave him behind. Obviously, a mere group of armed gunmen isn’t an insurmountable problem for Daryl, who escapes with his bike into what looks like a badly burned portion of forest full of skeletons and mostly melted zombies.
As he’s walking his bike through this charred forest (so the engine noise doesn’t give away his position) he encounters two young women and a young man, the latter of whom knocks him out and takes him prisoner. This trio is running from some unnamed other group, who they believe Daryl to be one of. There’s lots of “We should never have trusted you people!” and “Their rules were batshit!”–type accusations flying around, and Daryl is as confused as we are. Eventually we figure out that the older two are taking the youngest girl somewhere in hopes of reuniting her with someone named Patty, and that they’re very worried this group is going to come after them. I know this is all very vague, but this is how TWD has chosen to present it. I mean, we never even get two of the characters names.)
This is, of course, where things start to go badly for our new acquaintances. They drag Daryl to where Patty was staying—some kind of fuel plant—and find it crawling zombies, meaning Patty is undoubtedly a goner. Daryl uses this sad moment to run after grabbing a duffel bag containing his crossbow; once he’s safe, he gets himself loose from his ropes, opens the bag and sees a cooler marked “insulin”—the youngest girl, Tina, has diabetes. So Daryl, being one of the good guys of the zombie apocalypse, returns it to them… right as the trio’s former group tracks them down. Daryl helps the three hide further back in the woods, even managing to lure one of their pursuers to walk past a pinned zombie, get bitten, and force his pals to cut off his arm. At this point, these guys decide enough is enough, and head back.
It is when their violent pursuers leave that things take a turn for the worse. See, they’re the ones who set the forest on fire (I’m completely unclear what went down, which was either still intentionally vague or means I’m a dummy. Cast your votes below! All I know is that the point of the fire was to kill a bunch of zombies, which was apparently successful. However…) As they wander though it, they come across a burned-out husk of a tent, where two boys that Tina used to babysit has once stayed in. The trio had heard the boys had gone north before they set the fire… except there are two small corpses, covered in the glass-like, melted plastic of the tent tarp, there on the ground. They killed these children inadvertently, and Tina is so devastated that she breaks down sobbing by their cocooned corpses, which is of course more than enough to wake the zombie kids up. They burst out of their crunchy candy shells and eat Tina, and Daryl and the others are forced to take care of them all.
Seeing that these are basically good kids—they looked after their friend, who needed insulin, which in the world of The Walking Dead qualifies them for sainthood—Daryl asks them the question that Aaron originally asked the group to see if they were worth of coming to Alexandria: How many walkers have you killed, and how many people? The young man has the right answer: Lots and none, respectively, and Daryl invites them to join Alexandria, a place of safety and air conditioning! And after he recovers his bike and begins leading them home, he hears the man’s gun cock.
The two no longer think he’s part of their original group, and maybe they even think he’s a good guy for helping them out. But upon seeing the bike, the two take their chances with the devil they know—they hold Daryl up, take his motorcycle and his crossbow, and drive off, back to the group they escaped from, hoping the bike and crossbow with be enough to make up for what they “took” by escaping. (This group of people seems to be all about taking/using only what you’ve earned, but I’m sure we’ll see more of them later.) The young man and woman leave only a “We’re sorry” behind them. “You will be,” mutters Daryl.
Suffice to say his first recruitment for Alexandria has not gone well. On the plus side, he almost instantly finds a fuel tanker that still works. Assuming there’s actually some fuel in there, this could be quite the asset for the Alexandrians.
As for Sasha and Abraham, their half basically boils down to Abraham taking foolish risks out of anger and survivor’s guilt, and Sasha, just recently having gone through the exact same thing, telling him to knock it off. I wish I could tell you for certain that Sasha manages to get through to Abe, that she engineers an emotional resurrection for her fellow group member, but I’m pretty sure the thing that really cheers Abraham up is when he finds an abandoned military truck with a rocket launcher and ammo in it (all this scene was missing was some kind of “power-up!” sound effect when Abe grabbed the launcher). He also finds some sweet cigars, and when he returns to the building he’s holed up in with Sasha, he explains that he’s suddenly realized that while he’s always known he was going to die, it only just now dawned on his that he’s actually going to be living a while first. It sounds like a simple truth—possibly almost fundamental—but if you’ve experienced depression you know what a monumental, powerful change this can be. To look at the future and not just see a battle you are doomed to lose sooner or later.
Unfortunately, none of this is conveyed particularly well by Abraham or this episode. The emotions seem real, but they don’t connect because Abraham has been one of The Walking Dead’s least-developed characters, and watching him have a screaming match with a trapped, impaled zombie who used to be a soldier (not a subtle visual metaphor, but effective) doesn’t really justify his emotional transformation. So when Abraham returns and tells Sasha he’s feeling better and wants to get in her pants, it’s comes off as more creepy to me than a man with a new lease on life.
This is pretty much when Daryl arrives in his new fuel truck to pick them up (thank Sasha for that, who realizes the best way to track a tracker is to stay in one place, writers Dixon on a door in the nearest town, and simply waits). As they drive back, they hear a single word on the walkie-talkie: “Help.” (Most people are already certain the voice is Glenn’s, but personally I can’t tell at all. Speculate away in the comments.)
In terms of setting up future storylines and conflicts, “Always Accountable” gets an A+. It introduces an entirely new group of survivors that are definitely not the Wolves but definitely have some issues going on, and it also gives our group of survivors a few key assets that will very likely come into play before the season finale (you do not give a character like Abraham a goddamned rocket launcher if you’re not also going to give him something to fire it at).
But that means virtually none of this episode pays off now, and after Morgan’s origin story and the Alexandria post-Wolf attack recovery, it’s getting aggravating. It’s been three full weeks since we’ve gotten movement on the Wolves, the other zombies that didn’t make it through Rick’s Zombie Fun Run and, most of all, the mystery of what the hell happened—or what didn’t happen—to Glenn.
On the plus side, I think we’ve dawdled about all the dawdle we can dawdle here, folks. Next week characters will have to start coming together again and things will start being resolved (or at least addressed). Unless we’re getting a full episode of Enid’s origin story, in which case she better have a goddamned rocket launcher, too.
• Daryl seemed weirdly dumb this episode. Somehow after escaping the ambush he manages to fall down right net to a zombie—an incapacitated one, but still. He lets the dumb-dumbs gets the drop on him not once but twice. More astoundingly, there’s the scene where a zombie is approaching and he can’t get his crossbow out of a bag. Daryl. You’ve done this a million times. Get a rock or stick. Run a few feet away, buy yourself some time. This is not hard, Daryl.
• I was half-thinking the show might explain this by explaining he got a concussion after falling off his bike, but no. That may be canon in my head, though.
• So if the episode basically boils down to Team Rick losing one crossbow and motorcycle, but gaining a rocket launcher… I gotta think they’ve come out ahead, right? Daryl can find another motorcycle.
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