Season Six, Episode Two — “JSS”
By Jarrod Jones. Can you smell what the Wolves are cookin’? It’s Alexandria, felled by molotov cocktails and a brutal assault of its front gates. For a show that’s never shy on brutality, this was certainly one of its most harrowing installments. And the crazy part? Maybe five walkers in the entire episode.
It’s not enough that Alexandria is about to be overrun by an unbelievably large amount of hungry-ass walkers, the Wolves have finally come a ‘courtin’, and whoo — are they pissed. So that leaves everyone with little time and less options to get their collective asses in gear to protect their keep. And with Rick, Daryl and everyone else standing around with rather comical looks on their faces after that horn went a-blaring last week, time is working against the sleepy li’l hamlet.
WHAT WORKED: Making the episode two of this season Jennifer Lynch’s second stab (hyuk!) at directing The Walking Dead was a clever move for this series’ show-runners, especially after that boffo premiere last week (her first was Season Five’s fourteenth episode, “Spend”). Lynch’s experience with television, and having her famous father’s knack for brilliantly conveying the unnerving, made “JSS” a stupendous installment. How do you follow last week’s huge cliffhanger? By going quiet. Lynch’s meditative restraint at the beginning of this episode was an incredible feint, momentarily obscuring her true intent, which was to make one of the most violent episodes this show ever had.
Morgan may feel more comfortable being the show’s sole “survivor of peace”, but in a world where anyone can die due to a second’s hesitation, the man is really pushing it. And conversely, Carol’s proven before that she’s not adverse to letting her body count shoot through the roof in the name of keeping her cubs safe. But who’s in the moral right here? In a world like The Walking Dead, there’s no pleasant way to answer that, and thankfully the show doesn’t really try. Will Morgan cross the line he swore he never would, ever again? Will Carol learn to holster that inner-rage? Who knows. But that final shot indicates that these two are definitely not through with each other, not by a long shot. Conflict!
WHAT DIDN’T: Are you nuts? All the strings were pulled beautifully taut this week. And if you’re all “where’s Rick?” pay attention to the placement of that truck crash at the center of the episode. That horn blast was — yup — the one we heard luring the walker horde towards Alexandria last week. The show’s clever ability to overlap its events in the face of an ever-growing supporting cast is The Walking Dead‘s primary example of “divide and conquer”.
Oh, but Ron still sucks.
“You’d have to promise not to smoke in the house. It’s just a disgusting habit; and it kills you. If you ask me, there are too many things trying to do that already. Right?” – Carol.
“If they’re beyond the walls, they’re going to die. All of them.” – Carl.
BEST MOMENT: Enid’s genesis. As the Wolves’ assault on Alexandria took approximately 45 minutes (or: the amount of time it took for Carol’s casserole to properly bake), I can’t go ahead and say that the whole damn episode was its “Best Moment”. So let’s reach back to the very beginning. Jennifer Lynch’s thoughtful approach to Enid’s rapidly deteriorating innocence was The Walking Dead at its most artful; and the lack of a score only protracted its dread. (Also, let’s all pour one out for that tortoise. It never did no harm to no one.)
EPISODE’S MVP(s): Carol AND Morgan. That’s right; it’s a damn tie! As Alexandria quickly slips into the third layer of Hell, it’s the competing ideologies of Morgan and Carol that made this week that much more riveting. As Carol infiltrates the Wolves’ trust, masquerading in a burka and a hastily-scrawled ‘W’ on her forehead, Morgan takes the pacifist’s approach, sending a group of five shit-head Wolves packing without breaking a sweat. So tell me, who’s the bigger badass: the person with a bigger body count, or the person with their humanity still fully intact?
BRAY OF THE DEAD:
– You ate the turtle raw? Damn Enid, least you coulda done was poached it.
– Sounds like the wee Grimes has gone and wandered into the magical world of Puberty. Good luck with that, Coral.
– That’s twice now that that goddamned horn scared the mittens off our cats.
– That Spencer is a shit shot.
– Times blood splattered on screen this week: 1
– No Coral last week, no Rick this week. Are we playing ‘Musical Grimes’? Because I Googled it and that’s not what it looks like.
– And so we start the counter: People Dr. Denise’s fumbling let die: 1.
– Carol and Morgan, passing each other by on the crossroads of ideology. Heav-ee.