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The Walking Dead Review: "No Way Out"

Episode 2.09

TV Reviews The Walking Dead
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<i>The Walking Dead</i> Review: "No Way Out"

Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters. This week, Josh is out of reach, so Shane will be writing letters to himself.

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Shane,

First off, how bummed are you that you’ll be writing these letters to yourself this week since Josh is up in the mountains with shoddy Internet access?

—Shane

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Shane,

So bummed. And not just because writing letters to myself is the first sign of my inevitable collapse into derangement. In fact, that’s a really, really small part of my sadness. Mostly, I’m just bummed because this was one of the greatest Walking Dead episodes ever, and I know Josh would have loved it. RIP old friend.

—Shane

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Shane,

You know Josh isn’t dead, right? He’s just on vacation. He’ll be back next week.

—Shane

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Shane,

He’s dead to me for missing this episode.

—Shane

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Shane,

Fair enough. And I agree with you—this was spectacular. This was peak Walking Dead, and I’m not even sure that’s saying enough. It actually may have transcended peak Walking Dead, and pushed our expectations to new heights. It may have been so good, quite honestly, that the rest of the season will have one hell of a time living up to a new, absurdly high standard.

And it’s a good thing, too, because between Josh and I, I’m usually the more pessimistic one when it comes to this show. I’m never quite sure if it’s legitimately great TV, or just a really well-made guilty pleasure. What I do know is that the quality tends to vary quite a lot over the course of a single season, and sometimes even in the same episode. But last night, in “No Way Out,” we witnessed something almost flawless. It was dark, and inspiring, and it never resorted to cliches. The entire spectacle was choreographed to perfection, and I mean that from both a plot and action perspective.

We’ll start with the darkness. As Rick and his group escaped from the house, draped in zombie guts, the armory plan changed because of the sheer number of zombies, and they had to make one last trek to the quarry. Night fell (pretty quickly, actually), and it’s at this point that young Sam lost his mind, aided by the memory of that creepy Carol cookie monologue from season five. When we saw him call for his mom at the end of the midseason finale three months ago, just after they’d left the house, that mistake was apparently not fatal. But when the darkness came, and the nerves got to him, things went to hell in a handbasket really, really fast.

I want to take this moment to go back to our last review, when I wrote a fake beginning to this episode. Here’s what I envisioned:

Jessie: “Sam, honey…remember how we said no talking during this part where we walk through the zombies? I’m going to have to insist, sweetheart.”

Sam: MOM.

Jessie: Sam, honey—

Sam: MOM.

Gunshot as Carl shoots Sam, second gunshot as Ron shoots Carl, third gunshot as Rick shoots Ron, and then Morgan shows up and cries.

Pretty close, right?!

But the truth is, I did not see this show engaging in the kind of brutal, psychologically vicious series of deaths that actually went down. Sam got attacked, Jessie couldn’t let go or stop crying and went next, Ron shot Carl, Michonne killed Ron. There have already been rumblings around the Internet that the show went too far by killing Sam, and I’ll admit that it was a disturbing death to watch. But I adamantly disagree with the idea that he should have been off-limits. By and large, this is not a feel-good show. It’s about the zombie apocalypse, and even though it’s still sort of family-friendly, somehow, the source material of the comics is emphatically not. We often joke about how the core group of stars never seem to die, even if it takes escaping beneath a dumpster, but without a dose of realism now and again, the show risks losing all credibility.

This was realism. This is what would happen if a kid cried out in the middle of a pack of zombies. If it’s something you don’t want to see, that’s fine—watch a different show. But don’t pretend that a show rife with death and heartbreak somehow “went too far” because a kid died.

That death sparked a desperate escape, and one of the most incredible battle sequences I’ve seen on television, period. But I want to toss it back to Shane first, because I have a feeling we’re getting ahead of myself.

—Shane

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Shane,

We are indeed. First, I want to thank you for pointing out how quickly night came. Second, I just realized that when you see zombie hordes, there are never any child zombies. I’d love to know the thinking behind that decision. Too disturbing to consider, even in this world? Also, there really aren’t many old people. The actor’s union should sue for age discrimination.

Regardless, I want to step back and talk about Daryl NUKING A BUNCH OF MOTORCYCLE DUDES WITH A ROCKET LAUNCHER. Those were some creepy-as-hell guys, and the ringleader was the worst. Who has ready-made advice about eating shit? What kind of person is prepared to dispense that kind of wisdom at a moment’s notice? Right?! Screw that guy.

Now, about that battle. When Rick went out that door, I thought he was just in a rage-filled fugue state after Carl got winged by Ron’s bullet. And I think he was, kinda. But holy shit, when everyone else had his back in a heartbeat, including the Alexandrians, I got goosebumps.

“Rick’s making a stand!”

No joke, I had to stand up and watch that sequence while pacing in front of the TV, I was so pumped. Everything about it was glorious—the music, the overhead shots, the gritty, grimy darkness. Father Gabriel rushing out of the church as the hammer of God, Rick’s samurai badassery, and sweet f*$%$#ing Eugene with the classic “no one gets to clock out today” line. Hell, I even enjoyed watching Dr. Oatmeal take command of the infirmary.

Let me repeat that: I even liked Dr. Oatmeal.

And I haven’t even scratched the surface! We had Glenn and a rejuvenated Enid rescuing Maggie, Abraham and Sasha saving Glenn from certain death with some seriously precise machine-gunning that annihilated everything in a 30-foot radius except Glenn himself. And then Daryl, of course, lighting up the lake of fire with a rocket launcher and saving the whole group.

I’m having flashback sweats even now, as I re-live this. The way everything came together in the midst of the chaos just did it for me. And you know what it was? They were all becoming actualized. The Alexandrians, the cowards, the lunatics, the disloyal—all of them overcame their flaws in this one crucial moment, and they absolutely kicked ass, building to a thrilling crescendo with the quick cuts to each character bringing knives and machetes down onto the soft craniums of a dozen hopeless zombies.

The history books will tell us that the zombies were distracted by the fire, but I like to think that for the first time ever, the sons of bitches retreated.

I need to pace. I need to pace.

—Shane

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Shane,

You nailed it. And the brilliance of that battle made Rick’s speech to Carl at the end poignant instead of lachrymose. I always cringe a little when a Walking Dead character prepares to deliver the dramatic soliloquy, and it’s usually terrible. But this time, I knew they were going to nail it—everything we’d seen before led up to this moment, and it felt earned. It was also one of Andrew Lincoln’s best acting moments of the entire series, in my book.

There’s nothing more to say. This episode was raw and visceral and f***ing fantastic. At times like these, I think of Josh, and how much he would have loved this episode. I better stop before I start crying.

—Shane

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Shane,

Dude. Dude. Listen to me. Josh. Is. Not. Dead.

Please don’t die, Josh Jackson,

—Shane

Follow Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson on Twitter.

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