For those of you who were worried the Grimes Gang's extended stay in Alexandria would be Hershel's Farm redux... Yeah, if it wasn't put to rest during the season premiere, or the apocalyptic -- even for post-apocalypse -- "JSS," then it definitely was when "The Walking Dead" proceeded to shatter our hearts into one million tiny pieces, never to recover again with "Thank You."
We'll get to that big moment -- you know the one -- in a bit, but first let's recount all the abject horror and terror happening outside Alexandria during the episode.
"Get Back Safe"Gene Page/AMC
For all the insanity that goes down pretty much from minute one, "Thank You" is a pretty simple episode that breaks down to a few complimentary missions. We pick up seconds after the premiere, with what we now know is the horn from the truck that smashed into Alexandria blaring, and the rest of the herders headed back home as quickly as possible.
They're about 10-20 minutes ahead of the back half of the herd, which broke off as soon as the horn started blaring; while Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), along with Daryl (Norman Reedus) are still driving the front half of the herd to the clear zone, where the thousands of walkers will be safely away from Alexandria.
Since some of the Alexandrian Red Shirts are injured, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) decides to Running Man it out of there, but before he does he makes a terrible, terrible leadership decision: he tells Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) that not everyone is going to make it; and when they fall behind, leave them and get back home.
Problem is, he does it in earshot of Heath (Corey Hawkins), who proceeds to run the normal gamut of, "We have to be better than this!" before later getting slathered in blood, looking at his own reflection and realizing the world has changed.
Before that happens, though, Heath causes a fair amount of trouble, and continues to raise doubt to Michonne about Rick's leadership. And an interesting divide arises: Michonne explains to Heath that it doesn't matter what Rick says, she's going to get them back safe -- but when the chips are down, she'll also do what needs to be done.
"Rick said what he said, because sometimes we don’t have a choice," Michonne tells Heath.
That's the crux of it, right? The line that's hard to explain to those who haven't had to face Woodbury, Terminus, and bite off a man's neck. You're not abandoning people at the first sign of trouble, but Rick's way is that if you need to kill someone that's bit, or there's a chance of saving the many at the expense of the few, he'll take it. Heath, and everyone who argues otherwise, those who hold on to old world sentimentality, are likely dead.
And he doesn't show up this episode, but as we progress further into Morgan's (Lennie James) story line, it'll be interesting to see how he actually falls on this line.
Daryls Of AnarchyGene Page/AMC
Let's briefly talk about Daryl's arc, because he's someone who has been wrestling with Rick's leadership all season long, dropping snide comments and seeming like he'll soon be revolting. Realizing Alexandria is in trouble, he tells Abraham and Sasha he's going to break off from the herd.
"You want to go we can’t stop you," Sasha tells him. "But without you, they could stop us."
To which Daryl casually drops, "Nah. I got faith in ya," and he leaves.
And for most of the episode, he rides away, until he hears Rick explain why they need to keep moving forward over a walkie talkie.
"We keep going forward for them, we can't turn back because we're afraid..." Rick says. "Going back now before it's done, that would be for us."
And Daryl drives... We think at first to where Rick is, because Rick is in trouble (we'll get to that in a moment), but really it's to finish what they started. He goes back with Abraham and Sasha, for better or for worse -- and when Daryl finds out what happened, not just in Alexandria, but outside as well... How's he going to feel then?
Rick Of TimeGene Page/AMC
Did I mention Rick stars in an '80s style running montage? Because he does. Makes you wonder how Morgan got back to Alexandria so quickly (dude is a machine, I guess), but we get multiple shots of Rick running, before he gets back to the wall where they redirected the walkers in the premiere, gets in the RV, and drives, orange balloons hilariously flopping off the back.
Parking momentarily, Rick tries to contact everyone -- Daryl is the only one who answers, which is why Rick gives him the speech mentioned above. And when Rick puts down his walkie, he starts to shake. Probably from exhaustion, but also from -- I'd guess -- barely holding it together. Look, even for a guy like Rick, being 100% sure of yourself takes a toll on you. Happily, as the watchers of the TV program he's on, we get to see these private moments, when he doubts himself.
But of course, it's only a moment, as the Wolf who stole the gun in front of Morgan last episode breaks into the RV. Rick kills him, and then the rest of the Wolves, because Rick is a stone cold badass.
But then he makes a horrifying discovery. Last episode, fans speculated that Enid (Katelyn Nacon) may have taken Baby Judith. And what Rick discovers backs this up: one of the Wolf's bags contains baby food.
So, did they take Judith? And why? Regardless, Rick doesn't have a lot of time to think about it, because the RV won't start, and the herd starts to surround him. Yeah, things look bad for Rick Grimes, particularly as his old walkie talkie buddy -- from a similar situation way back in the first episode ever -- isn't around to save him this time.
Yeah, we're getting close my friends. Close to that moment.
Michonne To MoscowGene Page/AMC
Meanwhile, a bunch of s--t goes down with Michonne and Glenn's group. Basically, a series of Alexandria Red Shirts get offed, one by one. First a dude in the woods gets eaten. Then a man who tells a story about meeting his wife during the apocalypse gets bitten, and later ripped to shreds for what feels like thirty solid minutes while Michonne watches him through a chain link fence. And then a few more, until the only folks left are Michonne, Heath, and one additional guy I didn't bother to learn the name of because he hurt his leg and seems like he'll probably die next episode anyway.
But the whole time, Michonne is wrestling with the same things she's been dealing with since last season: can she get back some semblance of a life, or is it too late for her? Unlike Rick, she's not content to be a killing machine. She wants to feel something again, something more than rage.
Unfortunately, this just isn't the day for it. After finding an abandoned town that might as well be called "A Good Place To Die," the back half of the herd closes in, so Michonne and Co. hole up in a pet store. There, Glenn hatches a plan: he and Nicholas (Michael Traynor) will set a feed store not too far away -- Nicholas knows how to get there -- on fire, to draw the herd away.
Then they'll rendezvous back with the main group.
Michonne tells him not to go, but he leaves anyway... And then the herd comes officially for the pet store. The group inside come out of the pet store/the commercial break guns blazing like total badasses, they get caught at the aforementioned chain-link fence, a bunch of walkers grab at Michonne's legs... But ultimately she escapes.
That's pretty much it. Her arc is far more about Heath realizing he doesn't know as much as he thinks he does... But also whether Michonne can ever achieve happiness. Hopefully not, because we know what this show does to people who figure out how to be happy, right?
Here, I'll give you an example.
Glenn With The WindGene Page/AMC
This is torture -- absolute torture -- to even recount. But here we go.
All hour long, Nicholas has been having episodes. Phasing out for a second, losing track of what he's doing. Given his track record, and his current lack of mental faculties, it was already a bad idea that Glenn decided to put his full faith in the guy. But he does. Glenn wants to believe in him, and he wants Nicholas to believe in himself.
But even if he trusts Nicholas, before Glenn leaves the pet store, he goes one aisle over and takes out Hershel's watch, to look at it one last time.
So they leave, and when they get to the feed store... It's already been set on fire, and is burnt to kindling. That's when they get surrounded by walkers.
Forced in on all sides, Nicholas and Glenn are trapped in an alley-way, hundreds of walkers headed towards them. At the last second, they realize there's a dumpster behind them, so they jump up on it to evade being eaten.
Except they only have inches of room, if that. Staring into the face of the dead, Nicholas phases out again. Glenn shouts at him, brings him back to consciousness. You can see Nicholas pulling himself together. He seems settled. "Thank you," he says, totally earnestly, and shoots himself in the head.
The blood sprays on a shocked Glenn, who starts to scream. And then Nicholas falls over, taking Glenn down into the herd with him.
Glenn lies next to the dumpster as the walkers rip and tear, blood spurting everywhere. Glenn screams. They pull out intestines, going to town. Glenn screams some more. The camera pulls overhead, as the hands of the dead consume Glenn, blocking him from the frame.
Let me be the first to officially say this... Nicholas: you're so, so not welcome.
Was this the hardest scene to watch in the history of "The Walking Dead?" Did you grip your hands over your mouth the entire time, silently screaming just like I did?
And how long will it be until someone else discovers what happened? When Maggie (Lauren Cohan) discovers what happened? And will you still be watching the show when she does?
Fans always said that, "if Daryl dies, we riot."
For Glenn? Chances are, the streets are going to be burning tonight.