“East” begins with moments of quiet connection, but ends with a bang. After Carol’s showdown on the road, we see scenes of Rick and Morgan tracking Carol through the fields intercut with the story of Daryl’s conflict with Dwight. The Walking Dead builds the suspense for the Season 6 finale by putting several characters in jeopardy while leaving Alexandria at risk for attack.
The “East” Experience
“East” benefits from being directed and written by experienced members of The Walking Dead team. “East” was the third Season 6 episode directed by Michael E. Satrazemis. The director gives us intimate moments between characters that reinforce their connectivity, while highlighting the suspense created by the actions outside of the gates. Rick and Morgan are tracking Carol across the grassy fields, while Glenn and Michonne, and then Daryl and Rosita, become encircled in the confining woods. Satrazemis frames the final shot in “East” with Daryl’s blood.
“East” was also the third episode of Season 6 for writers Scott Gimple and Channing Powell. The story sets up the finale by leaving the audience wondering if several important characters will survive. In order to create the necessary suspense, characters make foolish decisions that don’t fit what we would expect from them. The dialogue in “East” is sometimes jumpy and weak, though it fits the sparse style of The Walking Dead. The scenes with little or no conversation provide the most meaningful communication about the characters, while the extended dialogue scenes were hit or miss in “East.”
Carol leaves Alexandria in the hopes of ending her killing streak, but it’s not to be. The Saviors are practically at the gates of Alexandria and she must play the wolf in sheep’s clothing once more. As Morgan and Rick follow Carol, it becomes clear that Morgan understands more about what Carol is experiencing than Rick does.
Morgan tries to get Rick to think about how the choices he has made in the past allowed for people to change, even exiling Carol, whereas his policy of taking no chances closes the door to possibility. Morgan tells Rick the story of the Wolf he captured, along with the part about the Wolf saving Denise, who then saved Carl. Morgan tells Rick, “It’s all a circle. Everything gets a return.”
Rick and Morgan aren’t the only ones chasing someone down. Daryl has left Alexandria to hunt down Dwight. Glenn, Michonne, and Rosita all follow after him, without consulting Rick, Maggie, or anyone else in Alexandria. Daryl acts uncharacteristically impulsive, leading to his friends doing the same as they immediately follow him. When they do find Daryl, Glenn tries to talk some sense into him, saying, “We need to go back there and figure this out from home. It’s going to go wrong out here.” Glenn, always the voice of common sense and restraint, can’t convince the vengeful Daryl. In fact, Rosita joins Daryl on his vendetta because she’s also feeling guilty and angry about Denise’s death. Glenn’s words foreshadow his own fate, when he and Michonne are later captured by Dwight and his men.
The final scene ends with Dwight shooting Daryl before he can turn and attack. Dwight’s words, “You’ll be all right,” seem to be meant to provide the audience with some assurance that Daryl is still alive, but one can’t say for certain when it comes to The Walking Dead.
The Future of Alexandria
Early in “East,” Glenn comforts Maggie in the shower, providing a private moment and showing us that the couple has created their own world, a bubble they can return to when needed, amongst the rubble of the existing apocalyse. At the end of “East,” Glenn has been captured and Maggie could be losing the baby. Having lost two doctors in Alexandria, Maggie is at that much more at risk. Next week will we see even more characters abandon Alexandria in it’s most dire hour to get Maggie medical help from the Hilltop?
Though the Saviors have been billed as tough customers, the Alexandrians have been beating them pretty handily until now. Though he sounds like someone who is bound to be put in his place, we can see why Rick is so confident right now when he tells Michonne, “The world’s ours and we know how to take it.” We love seeing the Alexandrians win, even if it’s unrealistic. It seems that Dwight will be billed as top villain until his boss makes an appearance. The conflict between Daryl and Dwight serves as the focus for the last few episodes of Season 6, while leaving the door open to face the greatest villain of them all, Negan, next season.
Despite the character inconsistencies and problematic dialogue, “East” leaves us intrigued. It’s also easy to forgive a series that’s so beautifully filmed. The Walking Dead has had a blockbuster season, and we suspect the 90-minute Season 6 finale will leave us forgetting any complaints we had in “East.”