Zombies Aren't the Only Things That Bite People on The Walking Dead

Illustration for article titled Zombies Aren't the Only Things That Bite People on The Walking Dead

There’s very little I can say about last night’s wild episode of The Walking Dead without spoiling it. So let me just say that it managed to be shocking, boring, tragic, stupid, funny, clever, brutal, absurd and very, very strange.

“Twice as Far” was one of those Walking Dead eps where the first forty minutes lull you into a false sense of security. Not in terms of death—TWD has conditioned us all to get even more worried about a character dying when the episode seems quiet and low-key. But it’s rare that the show starts out so simply and quietly, then has such an epic, catastrophic final act.

And man does this episode start quietly—and, to be honest, stupidly as well. Really, most of the episode is focused solely on two small groups that leave Alexandria searching for things: Denise asks Daryl and Rosita for protection as she visits a small apothecary in a strip mall she thinks might have been overlooked; Abraham and Eugene treak out to a small metal foundry Eugene once spotted, where he thinks he can manufacture new bullets, a hot commodity, for obvious reasons.


These are both solid ideas for Alexandria, and a decent way in principle for The Walking Dead to fill time until Negan arrives in the season finale. I say in principle because it turns out both Denise and Eugene feel they have something to prove, and it makes them very stupid, which is always extra annoying on this show—there are plenty of other more interesting dangers than turning these guys into dumbasses.

Denise is the less awful of the two, because as a psychologist she at least knows what she’s doing when she needlessly takes on a zombie not once but twice. She feels like she’s not strong enough to truly help protect Alexandria, which is it catalyzed by her inability to tell Tara she loved her back a couple of episodes ago. This would be less annoying if her attempt to take a cooler from a car with a zombie in it didn’t somehow result in the zombie literally lying on top of her, but she does manage to kill the zombie all by herself in the end. (And then throws up on her glasses, which had fallen off the utterly unnecessary battle.)

Eugene also manages to nearly get himself killed, when he’s determined to singlehandledly fight a zombie who clearly had a lot of molten metal dumped on his head. (Perhaps a Viserys cosplayer?) When Abraham gets tired of watching Eugene get almost bitten repeatedly, he kills the zombies, and Eugene does something even stupider—he has a temper tantrum when Abraham won’t recognize that he is no longer a total coward and tells Abraham to go home without him. It’s a childish reaction that Abraham (seemingly) reacts just as childishly to; he storms out, leaving Eugene to get back to Alexandria on his own.

Look, I understand Eugene has issues relating to people, but he’s smart and practical. Even if he felt that his one-night zombie-killing spree had erased all three seasons of cowardice, even if he was infuriated to the core of his being, he—like anyone with half a brain—would know there’s always safety in numbers, especially when the other number is Abraham, who is still a damn sight more skilled at zombie elimination than Eugene. Also, even if Abraham was offended to his mortal soul, he wouldn’t abandon someone (especially Eugene) outside of Alexandria unless he was a monster. Abraham certainly has issues, but he’s not a monster.


So it’s all just weird and dumb and it seems like this episode is going to just be nothing but filler, especially when we have to watch Daryl, Rosita and Denise trek back from the apothecary, which is when Denise gets into the zombie/cooler/vomit/glasses situation. Daryl and Rosita are both furious, but again Denise explains herself so the fight seems like it was necessary for her emotionally. It actually gives us our best look at Alexandria’s new de facto doctor, beyond just her desire to help people and her relationship with Tara. She wants to be stronger. She wants to help even more. She doesn’t want to be afraid.

This is when a crossbow bolt bursts through Denise’s eye.

Illustration for article titled Zombies Aren't the Only Things That Bite People on The Walking Dead

Suddenly, a large group of armed men burst out of the woods, guns all trained on Daryl and Rosita. They’ve captured Eugene. And they’re lead by Dwight—the man that Daryl encountered earlier in season six, during Rick’s Zombie Fun Run and let live, only for Dwight (and his wife Honey) to steal his motorcycle and crossbow. Now the left half of his face is sporting a large, ugly burn. It’s the Saviors, and they want payback—big time.

Daryl is all guilt and fury—guilt that Denise is dead because he let Dwight live, and guilt that his crossbow was used to kill her. Dwight twists the metaphorical knife when he says that because he’s still learning how to use it, “She wasn’t even the one I was aiming for.”


It gets worse, of course; Dwight says he’ll kill them one by one if they don’t take them back to Alexandria and let them in to take want they want, which is of course everything. Eugene, having spied Abraham lurking near a helpful mound of barrels a little bit ago (he didn’t abandon Eugene after all!) tells Dwight he should kill Abraham first, giving away his location. A few of the Saviors break off to capture (or more likely kill) him.

And this is when Eugene bites Dwight in the dick.

Really, only Denise’s tragic, brutal death moments ago keeps this scene from completely breaking the episode. Watching Eugene lunge at Dwight’s crotch and clamp down like a bear trap is ridiculous, although it does allow Abraham, who’s circled away from the barrels, time to take out a few of the Saviors. Chaos (and a firefight) ensues, which allows Daryl and Rosita time to pick their weapons back up and start firing. Eventually, Dwight is forced to yell for the surviving Saviors to retreat. But Daryl and the others can’t follow, because Eugene was shot in the crossfire, and needs to be brought back to Alexandria immediately.


Eugene survives, thanks in part to the medicine that Denise led them to (it was fully stocked). He and Abraham make up when Abe delivers the following line:

I am sorry for questioning your skills. You knew how to bite a dick, Eugene. I mean that with the utmost of respect.


…which I assume will be the craziest fucking bit of dialogue this show ever offers. But at least this makes sense in terms of their story; the rest of the episode takes an even more bizarre turn when Carol, after burying Denise with Daryl and realizing that the Saviors are coming for them, decides she has to leave. Of course, Carol decides this through her twisted Carol logic—“I can’t love anyone because I can’t kill anyone” is something she literally says—and the rest of the episode is about her departure, as she narrates her goodbye letter, left for the dude she maybe had sex with that one time.

It’s a strange end to a strange episode. A sad episode—Denise was probably the nicest character on the show, so of course she’s the one to get murdered as the Saviors begin their revenge—but it was still sort of boring and occasionally dumb before that. I do think the show is trying to keep itself busy since they saved the next major event for the finale, but “Twice as Far” was also a prelude to the shitshorm that Rick and the gang have brought down on Alexandria. Denise is the first to fall. She certainly won’t be the last.

Illustration for article titled Zombies Aren't the Only Things That Bite People on The Walking Dead

Assorted Musings:

• Morgan shows Rick the jail cell he’s built and Rick looks at him like he sculpted the Leaning Tower of Pisa out of mashed potatoes and asks why he bothered. Morgan says, “It’ll leave you some choice next time,” although he clearly isn’t that hopeful about it. Nor should he be, because Rick literally scoffs at it before he walks off. For Rick, killing is the only solution now.


• I totally didn’t realize that the motorcycle Primo (a.k.a. Pablo, a.k.a. Paulo in my tortured memory) tried to escape from the Saviors’ compound with was Daryl’s. I didn’t recognize it at all! So on the plus side, Daryl finally has his bike and his crossbow back. Yay?

• In the apothecary, Denise stumbles into a back room which contains a room 1) walls with “HUSH” written all over them, 2) the grossest zombie the show has ever put on screen and 3) a blood-soaked changing table with a child’s shoe on it. It’s, uh, pretty horrible.


• Any knowledgeable people want to chime in with where the Alexandrians could possibly procure a large amount of lead to make bullets?

• It’s super-weird that Denise dies and Tara literally does not appear once in this episode.


• Also super-weird: whatever the hell that song was that played during the firefight in the woods.

• I still say Daryl and Carol are in the lead to die in the season finale. Since Carol left, it seems verrry likely that Negan will capture her offscreen and bring her with him when he arrives; he’ll save her to kill her in front of Rick and the others, as is the Saviors’ modus operandi. But Daryl also seems at the end of his rope, like he doesn’t even care about living much anymore.


• Ooh, what if my theory that two characters will die in the finale is right, and Negan kills both Carol and Daryl? It would be incredibly shocking, it would be as brutal as they’ve promised but it would also be thematically appropriate for them to die together because they’ve meant so much to each other and they both basically seem done.


Rob Bricken was the Editor of io9 from 2016-18, the creator of the poorly named but fan-favorite news site Topless Robot, and now writes nerd stuff for many places, because it's all he's good at.

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Ravenous Sophovore

Carol’s character development has been very jerky, for want of a better word. It feels like the writers know where they want the character to go, but they haven’t spent enough time building up how she got there. Her relationship with whats-his-name is a prime example - why should we care that their relationship is ending, when we barely know the guy and the two of them have had maybe 30 seconds of screentime together? Their relationship doesn’t feel anywhere near real or deep enough for Carol’s letter to seem believable, nor for it to have any impact on the audience. And then there’s her problem with killing, which doesn’t seem to have had a catalyst or a reason for it to go this far.

I pretty much knew Denise was going to die. For one thing, the show is not allowed to have a competent doctor. All doctors die. Anyone who is almost a medical doctor, like a veterinarian or a psychiatrist, will die as soon as they show that they’re competent at medicine. So as soon as she started getting character development, you knew she was a goner. It was just a matter of which threat was going to be it. It’s a shame, because her character made a nice contrast with the others. She was their polar opposite in most ways, and without her the show is going to be a lot more monochrome, characterization wise.

Denise, you’ve saved lives. At least two, IIRC. You’re contributing. You do not have to be a badass fighter to be useful. Someone should have mentioned this, or at least pointed out how stupid risking the community’s only remaining doctor was.

On that note, no surprise, this episode was full of people acting stupidly. Including the Saviors, who are really coming off as Snidely Whiplash level competence, threat level, and planning here.

Finally, Sasha and Rosita, you have terrible taste in men. You can both do so much better.