The Walking Dead: ‘JSS’ Review (S06E02)

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Ah, the second episode… it’s normally at this stage the excitement of premieres past start to fade away and the long slog of fifteen episodes commence. Well, that slog has at least been delayed this time around, it seems this year they are doing things right. Because of the unresolved nature of last week’s events, episode two entitled ‘JSS’ continued from the previous momentum gained, showing to us what was happening back at Alexandria while Rick and the rest of the A team were off herding zombies. This was a powerful episode, powerful with spots of ‘meh’ but powerful none the less.

With the way last week played out, and more importantly the way it finished, one might have expected things to pick up here with a bang right from the start, but we were treated to something quite the opposite, and it was pretty cool. We found the likes of Carol, Maggie, Jessie and Carl all going about their business in the confines of Alexandria’s walls, all dealing with their own personal issues and baggage. It was so mellow in fact; that one could have been tricked into thinking this was a flashback to a bygone time, a time where things were still good in the world.

The assumption that ‘JSS’ would be a rip roaring thrill ride right from the start wouldn’t have been a foolish one, but the slower start to things this week was really always on the cards. Pacing is so important, especially to a show like this one, which tends to gas out before very long, so this was a clever move. It allowed the story and excitement to cover more ground and ensured it didn’t die out too soon. Things may have been relatively peaceful in Alexandria, but there was a menace underneath most of what we saw, a looming threat both real and imagined, but on the whole everything that was tangible was good, until it suddenly wasn’t.

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After Carol had finished passive aggressively scolding her neighbours, a result of the tedious confines she finds herself in, she saw from her window one of the community suddenly and violently hacked down in the street by a man with a machete. Chaos soon followed, but not the chaos we were expecting from last week. No, the walkers hadn’t finally grasped the concept of tools, these were people that were now rampaging through the streets. Humans — The Wolves — had infiltrated the town and began to massacre all that they found.

Fighting soon broke out, those that were able began to fight back, and it was pretty glorious. The highlight was no doubt seeing Carol break from her shell, casting aside her shackles of community etiquette and displaying the skills we have grown to love her for. It was a treat to see her ruthlessly and efficiently putting down the invading psychos, she was really a sight to behold. It almost begs belief that she was once such a timid creature.

Connecting events to last week, once the battle was in full flow, and the bodies were falling, it was soon made known what caused the walkers to divert from their path in episode one. It turned out to be a result of The Wolves invasion. In all the commotion, a truck is crashed into the town’s fences, causing a horn to perpetually sound. This was a nice link and an even timelier reminder that the madness that had enveloped the town was only the start of things, that there would be further horrors on the way.

Luckily the cavalry soon arrived, well just Morgan really, where the heck Rick was during all of this is a mystery, but one has to assume this will be revealed to us in due course. Morgan’s entry into proceedings not only signified the turn of the tide but also the start of this week’s major theme: the virtue of a proportionate response. Morgan sees it as vastly un-virtuous, refusing to kill The Wolves and instead disarming, scaring, or at the most knocking them unconscious with his fabulous stick.

Carol on the other hand is the stark opposite; she’s the Shane to season two’s Rick, she’s the Rick to… well, most people he has come across since that time. For her, killing these intruders, these psychotic marauders, is the appropriate response. An eye for an eye. Kill or be killed. This would be an extreme response in any rational world — like ours for instance — but the world of TWD isn’t rational, and Carol’s response is, on the surface, the one that makes most sense. Morgan didn’t agree with this however, and we see the two of them clash heads and ideals throughout the battle.

I get Morgan’s desire not to kill, he is a man capable of doing the things that need to be done, but he also wants a way where death doesn’t have to come to every adversary. But as we know, this line of thinking is dangerous and you can’t help but think this will be his downfall. It’s cynical but true. It didn’t hurt him in this episode, the tide turned towards our hero’s quick enough, and actually it seemed Morgan was questioning his own morals by the episodes end. He was faced with a foe who pushed him to the edge, who forced him to use deadly force. So perhaps this will be a rather morose changing point for him, or perhaps we will see him suffer further down the road. Morgan can get away with choosing non lethal force, he has the skills, but you can’t help but think this unforgiving world will punish him for the humanity he clings too.

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There were some things I didn’t like about this episode, some dialogue was clunky, some acting was awkward (Carl), but given that the premiere was really all about Rick and Morgan, it was nice and quite frankly fair to see the other characters have some moments to shine early on this season. Jessie is one I am particularly enjoying, a rare new addition I am keen to see more of. She is turning into a very strong character and a personality that is proving easy to root for. I hope she sticks around, which of course means she will be disembowelled by episode six.

Once again, the resolution of these events were left for another time, and once again I found myself not caring. The Wolves may have been defeated for now, but that massive herd of zombies from last week? You remember them. Well they didn’t even make an appearance this time around. So the fact that we will be onto the third episode before this issue is resolved is pretty awesome, and further illustrates that the writers are figuring this whole TV thing out, figuring out that throwing everything at the wall all at once is not the best way to go. Normally TWD starts with a bang and then goes into fits and starts for the rest of the season, before picking up again at the end. So it’s fantastic to see two wonderful episodes kick off proceedings this time.

Whatever problems I have with THE WALKING DEAD, there is no denying that I like this show. I like it a lot. But I could like it more, and it only has itself to blame. TWD does things that can easily be avoided. This season however — at least so far — it seems to be righting some of those wrongs. We really couldn’t have asked for more from these early moments and I know it’s too soon to get excited, but heck, they are really nailing it so far in season six. Let’s hope they can keep this up for fourteen more instalments… gulp.

Samuel Brace

Film and TV Journalist

Follow:@SamuelBraceFollow: @filmandtvnow
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Author: Samuel Brace

Film and TV Journalist Follow: @SamuelBrace Follow: @filmandtvnow Read More