When are the people of Alexandria going to learn that unscheduled supply runs are always a bad idea? For Carl’s sake, there hasn’t been an impromptu supply run that’s done anything but kill ancillary characters, while making our main foils all sweaty and angsty. “Twice As Far” is as familiar as an episode of The Walking Dead can get, layering inexplicable emotional turn with each conveniently timed plot point to engineer a narrative that’s not only unsatisfying, but completely plays The Walking Dead‘s hand in where it’s headed in the final two episodes of season six.
That direction, of course, is pure and absolute misery: Denise’s sudden development – and completely predictable departure; back stories and self-acknowledgments of “progress” never go well – as a character all but ensured her exit by the end of the hour, reinforcing the idea that no matter how well any mission goes, everybody always loses and the world is the absolute worst. She doesn’t even get to finish her noble speech about her own evolution before she’s laying dead on the ground, and the idiots Negan’s surrounded himself with end up on the losing end of another shootout with Rick’s B-squad of characters (sorry Daryl, but boy has The Walking Dead left you in the shadows lately). Aren’t these encouraging signs for what’s going to happen next? Eugene finally asserts himself as a creature of change – and then gets upstaged by an armored freaking Nazi, before saving the day by biting a man’s genitals. Even the characters who get to live in “Twice As Far” get to be humiliated: if not Eugene with his unconventional biting skills, then Denise and her attempts to define herself as a character, or Sasha’s attempts at conveying any sort of emotion when Abraham exposes the raw emotional depths of his recently-tortured soul.
The moral of the story? Well, don’t try to enjoy anything – and if you do, don’t ever talk about your skills with it, or the pleasure it may bring you, because that sh*t will be dead before you can even get the words out of your mouth. For the slowest episodes of what’s been a particularly exciting, kinetic batch of episodes to this point, perhaps “Twice As Far” feels so flat because of how it retreads over the same themes of seasons’ past at snail speed: throw in the fact we’ve got Carol making random decisions to be/not be part of the group, a lot of this episode feels mired in a past version of The Walking Dead, one that constantly felt the need to remind us how fragile and dangerous the power of clarity can be. Better to be mired in the mud and bloodshed than pause to reflect on it for a moment; thus is the ugly underbelly of The Walking Dead, and “Twice As Far” makes no bones about exploring it in the most perfunctory of fashion.
If anything, “Twice As Far” is effective if only because of how much I already miss Merritt Weaver: as clumsily as they built up her relationship with Tara (which of course, is the last thing she ever talks about), Denise’s character was one of the stronger arcs of season six, the only real character of Alexandria The Walking Dead let grow into someone tangible and unique. “Twice” offers us other examples of how season six’s new characters have fared: Spencer and Tobin’s brief, pointless appearances to create some sexual tension only reinforced how refreshing Denise’s presence was through some of the season’s lesser points. Of course we’d lose her right after she finds her place in the world, though: again, if you’re not blessed at the Altar of Rick, your prospects for survival are never good.
I suppose there are some significant moments in the season’s larger picture (like “You don’t spit game; you are game”): if only for a brief moment, “Twice” is a nice return for Daryl, who has been lost at sea amongst the many other story lines season six has shoved into its 14 episodes (remember when Rick had a girlfriend? Or when the Alexandrians got slaughtered?). Like every appearance of his this season, his character gets lost in service of the larger plot his character is advancing – but it’s at least nice to see him at the forefront of a story again, if only to serve as a recognizable face to have next to some C-listed characters, interjecting brief moments of Abraham or Carol to stretch out an already thin, familiar story.
Unfortunately, Denise’s death represents a changing of the tide for these final two episodes; with Carol gone and Alexandria about to be exposed by whoever makes the dumb decision to find her, the increasingly effective assaults on Rick’s people (remember, last week they actually kidnapped Carol and Maggie) are bound to lead to disastrous results. We can already see The Walking Dead laying out the tracks for the group to be horrifically exposed when Negan’s other shoe finally lands: watching those wheels get put in motion by Daryl’s sad face as Denise crumples to the ground is certainly an evocative moment, the familiarity of its thematic undercurrents – and its formulaic disposal of characters not on the “main cast”- doesn’t exactly set an intriguing course for the final two episodes to follow (it doesn’t help knowing the timing of Carol’s inexplicable departure in the arc of the season). “Twice As Far” is certainly an episode full of ‘signature’ The Walking Dead moments, but they’re not exactly the most unexpected, or promising, the show’s ever had to offer.
The tide begins to turn on The Walking Dead as another supply run ends in tragedy.