If AMC’s The Walking Dead has taught us anything over the years (while not teaching the same to the actual characters in the show, apparently), it’s that there’s always a rotted corpse waiting to crawl out of the septic ooze under the freaking fallen ladder, people!
That rotted corpse is Season 6, Episode 5, “Now,” and, like Maggie and Aaron, we should have smelled it coming. Really, we’d been walking through this dark and strangely convenient sewer in relative safety long enough. Things have been going so well for Season 6 so far. Gone are most of the pacing problems that have plagued the show in seasons past, and, more refreshingly, the consistency of storytelling from one episode to the next has been at a series high. Even last week’s somewhat distracting character episode, "Here’s Not Here," was still excellently produced and acted and made for a great night of television.
But “Now” feels a lot more like then, with the then in question being some crappy Season Two soap-opera episode back when the show had no money for action. Only at least Season Two was about characters whose names we knew. “Now” is just a series of vignettes, almost all featuring the faceless people of Alexandria. People will point out that without the sometimes less action-packed episodes devoted to character development, the audience wouldn’t care about the characters when they are in the throes of heart-stopping action. And of course that’s true, but “Now” doesn’t really forward the storylines of any of the people of Alexandria in any meaningful way. Most of these people are at best red shirts, and we all know it.
Deanna has a decent turn as she realizes, for the fifth or sixth consecutive episode, that her reign is at and end, but are we really to believe after all of this time that she doesn’t know you have to stab a walker in the head?
The minor cliffhanger from “Thank You,” Rick being surrounded by half of the super-horde in a busted RV, is resolved by – well, basically by completely ignoring that it ever happened and just having Rick sprint up to the gates of Alexandria. Weak. Sauce.
The interesting setup of Morgan’s chained Wolf hostage? Ignored completely.
The lingering question of whether Enid is a she-wolf? Also ignored.
The stunning reveal (to Alexandria’s citizenry, at least) that homemaker-Carol is actual badass-warrior-Carol? You got it.
In fact, half of Rick’s Alexandria-based crew is completely MIA for the entire episode for no plausible reason other than poor writing.
Instead we get Dr. Denise moping about for an hour, then kissing Tara – because no time, not even the end-of-the-world, is a bad time for reminding backwards viewers that all aspects of human sexuality are equally beautiful and can thrive in warzones…
We also get several day-players fighting over some canned beans, and a little boy who won’t come downstairs for cookies after watching half of his community be murdered in cold blood.
Jessie does give a great speech that may be the most conservative of the series. “I used to not want to see the way things are. It’s not that I couldn’t. It’s that I – I didn’t want to. But this is what life looks like…” JESSIE/CRUZ 2016!
Oh, then she makes out with Rick, which seems okay at first since the show has stretched the storyline over several weeks from the viewers point-of-view, but upon reflection seems creepy once you realize the entire season has taken place in one day for the characters and it can’t be more than a couple of weeks at most since Rick murdered her husband…
Speaking of which, Jessie’s kid is totally going to try to kill either Rick or Carl, right?
Really, the only thing of significance that happens in the episode is the revelation that Maggie is pregnant, which, apart from being clichéd, only serves to further frustrate since the biggest cliffhanger of the season is now two episodes behind us with zero resolution. The best line of the night will only remain so if Glenn remains permanently dead, which after this episode actually seems too brave a choice for the show to live up to: “I don’t get to know what happened [to Glenn]. I don’t get to know why it happened.”
If the producers can let that line stand, Season 6 could still go down as the best of the series, even with this complete dud of an episode. Let’s hope they didn't spend all of their bullets on episodes 1-4...