The Walking Dead returns and delivers a nuanced story that justifies why fans stay loyal to the show. Before the introductory credits roll, viewers are taken to where Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha are held up at gunpoint by Negan’s slimy representative. The pleasure he takes from switching from threats to silly banter keeps the audience and characters on edge. Also, it makes the pleasure of watching him and his gang immolated by a rocket launcher a la Daryl all the more satisfying.
There was a collective sigh of relief and gratitude from fans that ran across America. The whoops and high fives were aplenty, especially since Daryl delivered that first blow to this group. He’s still got it. This is the first episode that starts off with Rick’s group walking away with a great win from the start. Yet, this is The Walking Dead. Before we can even entertain the possibility of things getting better, we are thrown into a world of agony.
In No way Out, we return to where Rick and his group are making their way through a horde of Walkers. They form a line behind Rick who is guiding them. Their only protection is the smeared Walker blood on their clothes. It seems to be working, but it’s a very tense moment.
Not so fast. Like all great horror shows, the characters have to contend with the dark. The tension starts to rise as night settles in over Alexandria. Sam panics from the sight of all those Walkers. He hears Carol’s voice in his mind. Walker after Walker passes by him as he hears Carol describe how it feels to be ripped apart by Walkers. He loses control and screams. That scream triggers of one of the most gruesome and heartbreaking scenes of this show.
The Walkers attack Sam and rip at his flesh. Susan watches in horror. That horror is accentuated by the fact that she is still holding onto Sam’s hand. She feels him die as he devoured by Walkers. Her helplessness is heard in her cries. Her body goes limp as she lets go of Sam’s hand. At that moment, her mind sees the fight to survive as an exercise in futility. Viewers are not given a chance to fully register Sam’s death. There is no time to mourn in the world of Walkers. Seconds after Sam’s death, Jessie is jumped by a group of Walkers. The camera moves from each gruesome death to focus on Andrew Lincoln’s face. His performance shows that he owns this character. The layers of pain that flash across his face communicate the misery and injustice of Rick’s existence.
In that brief moment, he relives the loss of Lori as he helplessly watches Jessie die. His mind flashes back to images of Jessie. Visions of her smile, kindness, and beauty flood his mind. He realizes that they were falling in love. The death of Jessie brought the death of what could have been; it’s the loss of something that was not given a fair chance to be. It’s an infuriating pain. He is about to fall into shock, but Carl’s screams bring him back. And he does what he has always been forced to do in this life: he takes the pain. He does it when he hacks at Jessie’s arm to free Carl of her death grip.
The universe has no mercy for Rick. As soon as he frees Carl, he is held at gunpoint by Ron, who is brought down by Michonne, but not before he fires a shot. Rick is spared, but not Carl. The camera pans to the back of Carl’s head. He quickly turns to look at his father. Rick is frozen by what he sees. Carl has been shot in the eye. In a child-like voice he calls out “Dad” before he falls unconscious to the ground. Rick falls to his knees. All he can do is pick up his son’s body. He begins to weep, but Michonne will not have any of that. Danai Gurira has come into her own as Michonne. She embodies kinetic energy in this episode. As soon as Rick falls, she takes over. She does not utter a word. She delivers what a true comrade offers in those unspeakable moments of despair. She leads him out of that place of sorrow. She strikes down Walker after Walker as Rick follows her to safety for Carl.
This scene is shot from a distance, so it emphasizes their vulnerability because they are just two people surrounded by death. Nonetheless, it also emphasizes their valor. They keep on striking away at death. As others watched them fight off Walkers, they found the courage to fight for their home. They all came out and fight Walker after Walker. The camera work does the story telling as it quickly runs through image after image of each character striking at a walker. The final image is that of Rick giving the final strike. The people are ready to stand with Rick to make a home. It’s not surprising that the episode ends with Rick. They restored Rick’s faith. It seems that the writers were determined to give Rick a break after all. But let’s be honest, we all know who is coming.