Previously: Review: S11x05 Out of the Ashes
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Kevin Deiboldt
On The Inside... of the House of Horrors, and the world of the Reapers. Neither are somewhere you'd want to be at any time, especially not after dark or when there's no one to watch your back.
As for the former, Virgil said that he'd 'never seen people this far gone' - for sure, the scarcely human, Gollum-like creatures who herded him and Connie into their lair made the Whisperers look like debutantes enjoying afternoon tea at Fortnum's. So clever of the writers and everyone who has a hand in creating the story to envision this darkest of dark possibilities of a broken world, twelve or so years in—I'd love to see more about how they evolved.
The basic scenario has surely featured in most people's nightmares at some point: the house you can't find your way out of, and the fear that you're not alone.
Connie and Virgil's experience was as insanely terrifying as any Texas Chainsaw Massacre type film, and more so than most. That 'behind you' moment, where she was desperately trying to communicate with Virgil through the wall because she could see the Hungry creeping up behind him; the way he emerged from the shadows was a perfect horror moment.
... and the knife through the wall was pure The Shining, the background music reminiscent of Psycho.
The house itself would have been frightening enough in daylight, before the zombie apocalypse; it looked as though it hadn't been lived in by anyone who stands upright since being inhabited the people who looked out from those portraits on the wall (before their eyes were scratched out, that is). Kind of like a horror film version of Grey Gardens.
Immediately evident was that Connie was no longer the calm, pragmatic angel who helped Carol through her claustrophobia in 10x09 Squeeze, or who assured her frightened little sister that 'deaf' was their superpower—and that she had been through something very, very bad... gradually we saw hints of this; the memory flash of Walker faces as she looked through the slats on the window, the notebook that Kelly found.
...and if that wasn't bad enough, Connie had the feeling before they got to the house that they were being watched, then followed. It's that sixth sense of hers; remember when she felt the presence of what was probably the Whisperers, on the way to Hilltop?
If only Virgil hadn't chosen to go to the house signposted by the rusty old mailbox; only later did they understand that they'd been herded that way, while Connie discovered the evidence in the room with the bones. Hungry, hungry...
We're a long way from the Terminus mode of relatively civilised, early-in-the-apocalypse cannibalism; this made Gareth and Mary's 'welcome wagon' look like a vegan buffet.
A round of applause to whoever thought of emphasising every second of Connie's fear by showing us what it's like to live in a silent world. We got a taste of it when she rescued Baby Adam in 9x11 Bounty, but this was something else, as she tore down hall after hall in complete silence. Utter utter terror.
Near the end, when Virgil was telling Connie to go on alone, I wondered if he'd been bitten. When they first got to the house it looked like one of the Walkers was getting the dangerous sort of too friendly, and near the end of the episode his face assumed that washed out, red-eyed look that Carl's developed down in the sewer. And, of course, TWD folk tend to say cool philosophical things when they're on the way out. Stuff that makes you feel that the current struggle has not been wasted.
'... she gave me another chance. Michonne. She pointed me back to the road, and somehow that road led right to you. So I have to pass on that chance, or it all means nothing ... if you can find your family ... I need you to promise me that you will keep going, whatever happens.'
And she did find her family—because the Fab Four went out to look for her, and Kelly found their abandoned camp, including Connie's notebooks with mention of Michonne from Virgil—and our old friend the orange backpack, though it's unlikely to be the same one, after all this time
The reunion was a joy to see. And I'd just like to say that this is, indirectly, another 'Carol save'; she stopped Aaron killing Keith Whisperer, so he was alive to tell them about Connie. As Morgan always said, everything gets a return.
Meanwhile back in Reaperville, Daryl's desperately struggling to keep his head above water while trying to look like he's fully on board with his somewhat misguided ex-girlfriend, and psycho Pope.
Total respect for both him and Frost—Frost for enduring torture to save everyone else, and Daryl for doing the finger cutting off thing; the two of them must have known that if this didn't happen, they'd both be dead. Though it didn't seem like Pope was convinced, even then. Something about the way he was eager for them all to go off to the yellow house.
An observation - I loved the ageing up of the residential area. Every detail. Marvellous.
Daryl's on very, very dangerous ground, but his big advantage is that Leah is still in love with him, wants him with her, wants to believe in him. His big disadvantages are that Carver sees him as a surplus fox in a henhouse—he appears to want Leah for himself, or, if not, is very protective of her, and makes no bones about not trusting the newbie: 'We both know who he really is, deep down. I was there, remember? After.' I thought this also implied that Leah was in a bad way after Daryl left, despite her trying to act like the cool hard-ass when he's around.
The other disadvantage is, of course, Pope, who is a long way from trusting him, and also seems jealous of Leah's emotional attachment to him.
Read more at:
Daryl's quick thinking in signalling to the others was genius, as was the way he deflected the not-as-bright-as-he-thinks-he-is Carver from the safe house in time to let Maggie, Negan, Gabriel and Elijah escape.
At least those four now know about the situation Daryl has got himself into, and my guess is they're going to hang around to help him.
I wonder if Pope is actually tricking Daryl into letting something out, from fear; I think he's playing both him and Leah, and that the 'what did Frost tell him before he died' scare is a red herring, to make them scared. My guess is that this will end with Leah trying to save Daryl, and getting killed in the process. Then he can internalise that as his fault, too, as he has done with Hershel, Beth, Glenn etc. He's going to need some therapy before New Mexico!
The trailer for next week looks as though we're finally going to get somewhere with Maggie not being constantly at Negan's throat - three cheers for that! One of the fan-produced trailer predicts Gabriel's last episode—I'm going to ignore that for now. Can't cope! I wonder what the 'Promises Broken' will be? I'm thinking Daryl's to Leah, for a start. And maybe Maggie's promise to come back for Alden—are they too late? Is that him in the grave?