“Now” shows us the aftermath following the chaos of the first three episodes of Season 6 of The Walking Dead. We had a break in the non-stop action with last week’s Morgan-focused episode, “Here’s Not Here.” In “Now,” everyone is taking a moment to adjust to what’s happened and where they are now. In this world death is always imminent, and you have to go on even when those you love have died or disappeared. “Now” was directed by Avi Youabian and written by Corey Reed, both whom have a lot of experience with The Walking Dead franchise.
The Alexandrians Ron (Austin Abrams) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) became the voices of reason, but in different ways. Ron refused to let Carl (Chandler Riggs) go after Enid (Katelyn Nacon), pointing out that someone is going to die if he takes such action, whereas Aaron’s determination to find Glenn (Steven Yeun), despite the terrible risk it entails, helps Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to realize she needs to find the inner strength to not go after Glenn. Carl and Maggie’s desire to go outside the wall to find those they care about appears selfless initially, but then it becomes evident that such action would ultimately be selfish.
In “Now” we see various displays of leadership, sometimes unexpectedly. In the beginning of the episode Rick (Andrew Lincoln) takes charge upon his return, directing everyone to wait the walkers out. Rick’s speech doesn’t have the punch it normally does, but it gets the job done with some support from Aaron. Aaron tries to reassure the crowd so they will have faith in Rick’s ability to keep them safe. He takes public responsibility for the Wolves’ attack, driving him to insist on helping Maggie. Spencer (Austin Nichols) steps up in a big way at the supply pantry. It’s interesting to watch his drunken breakdown afterwards, indicating that he’s not so sure they’re going to survive after all. Someone may have their own internal doubts and concerns yet still effectively motivate others to take action—or in this case, to stop. He certainly inspired his mother in the moment, as Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) goes home to start plans for a new Alexandria. Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) shows the biggest turnaround as she tells her scared Alexandrian neighbors that they need to live in the now, that this is what life has become. Leadership doesn’t have to be public, as seen when Ron stands up to Carl. Despite his anger at the Grimes family, he can see that Carl’s plan to sneak out of Alexandria won’t be good for anyone. Despite the displays of leadership throughout the episode, it’s clear someone still needs to officially take the reigns as leader because Deanna has fallen apart,
Though the title “Now” sounds like a reference to the awesome CW network (“TV Now”), it’s really about how the characters must live in the present. Though some Alexandrians are quick to give up, others are coming along. Rick’s group is also beginning to adjust to their own here and now, by seeing themselves as part of the community. And everyone has to learn to survive in a world where danger and loss are constant companions.
Walkers at the Gate
It had appeared that Rick might not survive when the herd overtook his stalled RV in “JSS,” but at the end of “Here’s Not Here” we heard Rick yell to open the gate. “Now” starts with Rick running towards the gate followed by hundreds of walkers. Somehow Rick was able to fight his away through the walkers, though we don’t see how, and has made it to Alexandria. Rick is the ultimate survivor. Rick gets inside as a mass of walkers comes up against the gate and walls of Alexandria.
As people stand in terror, listening to the walkers on the other side of the wall, Rick addresses the crowd. He tells them that they’re safe for now. He says that the wall will hold together, and asks the crowd if they can. The plan is for Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl to lead the rest of the walkers away with their vehicles, once they actually return to Alexandria. He assures them that Nicholas and Glenn are going to walk through the front gate after that. Though we know Nicholas is gone, we’d also love a little reassurance that Glenn is going to return. It became increasingly clear that we weren’t going to get that in “Now.”
Rick wants to keep Alexandria as quiet as a graveyard. A woman notes, “This place is a graveyard.” Seeing the doubt in the crowd, Aaron speaks up:
“The quarry broke open and those walkers were heading this way. All of them. The plan that Rick put into place stopped that from happening. He got half of them away. I was out there recruiting with Daryl. I wanted to try to get into a cannery and scavenge, and Daryl wanted to keep looking for people. We did what I wanted … and we wound up in a trap set by those people. And I lost my pack. They must’ve followed our tracks. Those people who attacked us … they found their way back here because of me.”
After Aaron’s public confession, Rick says there’ll be more to talk about later, wanting to keep everyone focused on the current threat. Deanna wants no part of anything as she walks off, ignoring Tobin’s call after her.
Jessie is cleaning house. She wants to bury the Wolf she killed, but Rick tells her, “We don’t bury killers inside the walls.” He tells Jessie they need to wait.
Some of the Alexandrians are at the supply pantry, complaining that they want more food. It’s not clear when food suddenly became so scarce in Alexandria, but they are reacting to the crisis. They ignore Olivia, telling her there is no point rationing if they might die tomorrow. Deanna watches and says nothing, but Spencer steps in and tells them to stop. When Bruce criticizes him, Spencer points out that even though he left the gate open, he was also the one who stopped the truck. He tells the raiding crowd: “Doing this will start us down a road where nothing matters, where no one else matters. And then we’ll all look back at this moment right now as when we destroyed this place.” Spencer’s words reinforce the idea that what they choose to do now matters.
Won’t You Come On My Rescue?
Aaron watches as a memorial of the names of all those who have died is painted inside the wall. They’ve included Nicholas and Glenn in their memorial, which seems a bit premature. Aaron sees Maggie making plans and follows her. He realizes she’s going to try to go over the wall and find Glenn. Aaron points out the flaws in her plan, but Maggie tells him that he can’t stop her. Aaron insists that he’s going to help her, telling her that he knows a safer way out. Aaron is pretty awesome, especially for an Alexandrian.
Deanna has returned home, seemingly inspired by her son. She pulls out the architectural drawing for Alexandria and begins making plans for the future. She writes on the bottom, in Latin, “Someday this pain will be useful to you.” She hears a glass break and finds Spencer getting drunk, with liquor and food he took from the pantry. Deanna is upset when she sees he’s taken the food from the pantry, but he is quick to anger at his mother:
“You’re the reason we’re so screwed. You made us this way. We were never safe here. But you didn’t want to see that. You didn’t want us to see that. You just wanted to dream. What happened to Dad, to Aiden, that’s all you.”
Hey! Stop being a jerk to your mom, Spencer. She did her best. In fact, she was the one who brought in Rick and his group to help protect Alexandria despite the resistance of many people in the community.
Carl wants to go find Enid, and wants Ron’s help so he can sneak over the wall. Ron doesn’t have the warmest of feelings towards either Carl or Enid after the whole break-up thing. Ron had told Enid to stop sneaking out over the wall, that it’s dangerous out there. Carl smugly tells Ron that it’s not dangerous if you know what you’re doing. Being a jerk to Ron is a surefire way to get his help. Ron tells Carl he won’t let him go, and they get into a shoving match. Carl pushes Ron to the ground, but before he can leave, Ron tells him that he’s going to tell his dad, who will then go out looking for him; then others will join, and someone will die. He tells Carl, “You saved my life; now I’m saving yours.” You tell him, Ron!
Tara comes to check on Doctor Denise. Denise is still feeling sorry for herself. She complains about not knowing how to help the sick and being scared. Tara responds, “Yeah, being afraid sucks,” and leaves.
Jessie hears growling from a neighbor’s house and finds that Betsy has turned into a walker. The other neighbors stand around gasping and gawking as the walker growls on the other side of the window. Jessie, with her first kill already under her belt, opens the door just enough to stab the walker through the eye. Nice move. Maybe if they toughen up we will actually come to like Jessie and Ron as much as we like Sam. Jessie turns and speaks to the people standing in the street, echoing what Rick once said to her:
“I used to not want to see the way things are. It’s not that I couldn’t. It’s that I didn’t want to. But this is what life looks like now. We have to see it. We have to fight it. If we don’t fight, we die.”
Aaron shows Maggie how to access the sewer line that goes under the wall and hopefully past the walkers outside the gates. She wants to go on her own, but he insists he has to go with her.
Aaron: “I can’t watch more names go up on that wall.”
Maggie: “None of this is your fault. You don’t need to do this.”
Aaron: “People are dead and I was a part of that. And I have to live with it.”
Maggie and Aaron make their way through the sewer. They move a ladder, and two of the scariest walkers we’ve every seen attack them. Water is not kind to walkers. Maggie gets pinned, but Aaron manages to kill the creepy water walkers. Aaron has hit his head and Maggie thinks he needs stitches, but he refuses to leave her, pointing out that he just helped her. They walk on. It’s hard to believe more people in The Walking Dead don’t get scratches even if they don’t get bites.
Rick is up on the wall, watching the walkers. Seems like his presence would only entice them. Ron comes up and tells Rick about Enid being missing and Carl wanting to go and find her. Though he tells Rick that Carl was back at the house with Judith, he offers to stand watch for Rick. Before Rick can leave to check on Carl, Ron tells Rick that he does want to learn to shoot, so he can protect his mom and brother. Despite Jessie’s instructions to Rick in the “First Time Again” that she will be the one to teach her boys to shoot, Rick takes the bullets out of his gun and begins teaching Ron how to aim. Either Ron has some malevolent intent, or he really heard what Carl said—that it’s not dangerous to go beyond the wall if you know what you’re doing. Perhaps Ron is ready to live in the “Now.” Or maybe he’ll shoot Rick as soon as he has a chance.
After some inspiration from Jessie’s porch speech, Denise has found information to help her patient. He may live after all. After her success Denise comes to visit Tara, and kisses her. Denise explains her bravery:
Denise: “It’s the end of the world.”
Tara: “No it’s not.”
Denise: “Yeah, being afraid sucks.”
Maggie and Aaron have made it to the end of the sewer tunnel. They see the exit of the tunnel doesn’t go far enough to clear the herd of walkers. Aaron is ready to go, but it’s Maggie who is hesitant. Aaron is about to break the lock and go on his own when Maggie yells, “It’s over!” She realizes that they can’t go after Glenn:
“I burned his last picture of him because I said I wasn’t gonna need it anymore. Because I was never gonna be away from him again. I’m pregnant. He didn’t want me to go out there and I said yes. And if I would’ve gone … if I was with him, maybe I could’ve helped him. I don’t know if he’s alive. He would’ve shown me by now. That’s what Michonne said. I just want to see his face. I can’t. I don’t get to know what will happen. I won’t get to know why it happened, what I did right or wrong. Not now. I have to live with that. You do, too.”
Jessie has made cookies in an attempt to lure her son Sam downstairs. Since the Wolf invasion, which really wasn’t that long ago, he won’t come down. Who can blame Sam? Maybe she needs to invite Carol over since she’s the only one Sam feels safe around. Jessie ends up leaving the plate of cookies outside Sam’s door.
Deanna is bringing the food supplies that Spencer took back to the food pantry. As Deanna stands outside a house listening to the people inside argue, she’s suddenly attacked. The walker charges Deanna and she drops the basket of supplies in her hands, breaking a bottle. She takes the broken bottle and starts stabbing the walker in the chest. Because she is so much shorter than the tall walker, she isn’t getting any closer to killing it. We can’t help but wonder if her reaction goes beyond wanting to stay alive, because this walker looks a bit like a bearded Pete. Rick runs up and takes care of the walker. He tells her that Carol said she got one of the Wolves, but couldn’t find the body. One of them? Are they still trying to hide Carol’s true nature even after she single-handedly saved Alexandria? Wasn’t anyone looking out the windows during the attack? The attack seems to have awakened Deanna.
Deanna: “I wanna live. I want this place to stay standing.”
Rick: “You need to lead them.”
Deanna: “They don’t need me, Rick. What they need is you. What I wanted for this place, is that really just pie in the sky?
Maggie and Aaron stand guard at the wall, watching the herd. Maggie goes to the memory wall and begins scratching off Glenn’s name. Aaron comes to help her. Aaron tells Maggie, “When he gets back it’s worth mentioning that Aaron, Erin, works for a boy or a girl, depending on the spelling. Just saying.” With so much speculation about Maggie being pregnant, it’s nice to have it affirmed. The pregnancy seems meant to give us a sense of hope, which we’ll have as long as they continue living in Alexandria. Seeing another infant carried through the wilds might be a little much for viewers. Let’s hope this baby will be as quiet and easy-going as Baby Judith. Maybe at the end of the series we’ll have a flash-forward where Judith and Baby Rhee-Greene live happily ever after à la Harry Potter.
Later in the evening, Spencer comes to relieve Rosita on the wall. We can hear the herd of walkers outside the walls. Rosita tells Spencer that he did good taking out the driver of the truck. She points out that if it weren’t for him that the wall might not be standing. He tells her that he just got lucky. Rosita tells him, “Good or lucky, it doesn’t really matter. Just keep doing what you’re doing.” After she leaves, Spencer stands on the wall, eating the crackers he took from the pantry.
Jessie is doing some late night work in her garage and Rick comes by. He opens up about why he had wanted to wait on burying the bodies earlier:
“Those bodies by the graveyard … the reason I wanted to wait was … was Glenn. We don’t know if he’s still out there. And Daryl, Sasha, Abraham. I wanted them back by now. I wanted those things gone. I just wanted to wait.”
Jessie tells him that his friends could still be alive, but that, “right here in this moment … this is what it is.” Now Jessie is the one trying to get Rick to focus on what’s happening now. And what’s happening now is a kiss between Rick and Jessie. Let’s hope Ron doesn’t catch them.
Deanna watches the shadows of the walkers outside the gate and pounds on the fence in anger. As she walks past the wall, we see blood seeping through. It’s fun to imagine a drunken guardsman, covered in cracker crumbs, has fallen silently from his post. Yet it seems like the throng of walkers is starting to push so hard against the wall that their blood is seeping through. Whatever it is, walls dripping with blood is never a good sign.
In Season 6, The Walking Dead writers have turned things up to 11 by combining what most series could have written as two separate events: the shepherding of a massive herd of walkers and the Wolves’ attack of Alexandria. The combination of events has culminated in a series of stories much more suspenseful and action-packed than what would’ve occurred if they had been chronologically isolated.
“Now” focused more on the Alexandrians, or at least the ones we’re supposed to care about. Beyond the excitement of the first three episodes, one of the benefits of the attack and the herd split for the audience has been the thinning the population at Alexandria. Yet even in “Now” we still have too many people showing up that we don’t care about. Though many have died, other Alexandrians seem to be transitioning into survivors.
It’s always great to see Aaron get more screen time, and the biggest payoff of the episode was Maggie finally revealing that she’s pregnant. Maggie vocalized the audience’s burning questions: Is Glenn really dead? Will she ever get to find out what happened to him? Are we just expected to go on without any clear answers or closure?
The depiction of the Anderson family is becoming more interesting as Jessie and Ron toughen up and Sam retreats. Jessie’s walker kill was fast, but got the job done, just like her speech. Though many who dislike the teen narrative will disagree, Ron’s storyline was one of the more interesting ones in “Now.” The conflict between him and Carl made them finally seem like young men rather than tweens. Ron’s scene with Rick was intriguing and well done. It’s not clear if these changes are in spite of Pete’s death or because of it, but the Andersons seem to be adjusting to the new reality.
The Monroe family is also dealing with loss. Seeing Spencer try to find his footing as he moves between bravery and fear has been interesting in both “Now” and “JSS,’ despite the out-of-place verbal attack on his own mother. Besides the sudden panic over food, the weakest story in “Now” was about the Alexandrian character we already know the most—Deanna. Deanna’s haze of grief and fear is starting to feel stale, even if we do understand why the character would feel that way. After she wrote up some plans for the community, our hopes that she was moving forward were dashed when she told Rick he needed to be the leader. Rick can lead the troops, but it’s not clear he can inspire hope.
Season 6 of The Walking Dead continues to keep us anticipating what’s to come week after week. Though it didn’t give us what we wanted by giving us answers about Glenn, “Now” showed us the tensions that continue in the community. Just as Rick explained at the start of “Now,” the walls can protect the community from the external threat of the walkers, but can the people hold up against the pressure that exists inside the walls of Alexandria?