Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Twice as Far”:

This was a dumb episode. I don’t say that to be crude, but rather that killing off Denise represents the latest in a long line of dumb decisions spelling out The Walking Dead’s increasing inability to kill off major characters, especially after #GlennGate. Sure, we’ve seen the “remix” approach granting comic deaths to different characters, and “Twice as Far” seemed to deliberately place Abraham and Eugene into a parallel mission comic fans knew to end with an arrow through the eye, but Denise’s death makes little-to-no sense from a storytelling perspective.

With Abraham at least, The Walking Dead has taken time to build up an idea that the former military man feels a bit adrift in their new suburban surroundings, lacking the purpose once forged in his mission to protect Eugene. Culling that uncertainty and the prospect of a happy life with Sasha into an unexpected death would have felt earned, whereas we’ve barely gotten to know anything about Denise. An actor like Merritt Wever brings much more pedigree than the character ever really wrought in books, and ascending to the town’s only doctor has been an endearing story to follow, now seemingly snuffed out for no reason.

Worse than that, “Twice as Far” works to fake us out with not one, but two foolish walker confrontations on Denise’s part, seemingly to emphasize her desire for self-reliance, only to dispatch her midway through expressing that with a random crossbow bolt intended for Daryl. Hell, we don’t even get to see Tara’s* reaction to the news, let alone pursue that relationship any further, even as insight into Denise’s past and family started to build up a presence not defined solely by a love story. Instead, we’re left with a meaningless casualty to punctuate another Savior conflict, ostensibly only to reintroduce Dwight.

*Understandably, Tara and Heath’s two-week mission likely owes to Alanna Masterson’s maternity leave and Corey Hawkins’ other commitments, but The Walking Dead is at its worst when the strings start to show. It’s also exceptionally poor timing, given that killing off LGBT characters was already a sorer spot than usual in recent weeks.

“I survive this crap storyline for WHAT?”

The same logic could similarly be applied to Carol’s exit, in that The Walking Dead couldn’t quite kill off such a beloved character, instead crafting another forced exit to build story for the next episode, rather than commit to a meaningful end. It’s especially odd that “Twice as Far” was book-ended by Carol’s stylized perspective on the mundanity of life in Alexandria, when the hour wasn’t really about her, or the renewed unwillingness to kill at all.

There didn’t seem to be much tie to Eugene and Abraham’s parallel thread either, even drawing connections between both Denise and Eugene’s insistence on fending for themselves. Abraham and Eugene have the built-in advantage, that we’ve followed that relationship long enough to invest in their fraying bond, and it at least opened up some intriguing new territory for Eugene to begin manufacturing ammo. That said, the dialogue between two such comic-cut figures might as well paint the two on an entirely different series, undercutting the sincerity of their bedside reconciliation later as well.

Did … did they beat the ponytail off his head?

A lot of pieces didn’t quite fit here, whether introducing a relationship between Spencer and Rosita, cementing one between Abraham and Rosita, or the quick exchange between Rick and Morgan over the newly-constructed prisoner cell. One imagines the final two episodes of Season 6 will flow into any potential endgame much more smoothly, it’s just a shame that “Twice as Far” had to suffer so much for it, killing off a character that in no way deserved an end, and whose exit seems entirely borne of circumstance.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • I’m at a loss: there wasn’t any significant passage of time implied, so why did we need the repeat montages of morning in Alexandria, or that bizarre transition effect punctuating multiple scenes?
  • What was Daryl’s issue with walking along the tracks? Too exposed, as the Savior confrontation would suggest?
  • I can understand Eugene wanting to take out a walker for himself, but given the Viserys Targaryen-style chrome dome, extenuating circumstances necessitated Abraham’s intervention.
  • Surely, there’s something to be said of Denise losing the same eye she’d helped Carl patch up.
  • AMC had more or less already spilled the beans pintos on Austin Amelio being the live-action incarnation of Dwight, though the character’s facial burns appear significantly scaled down. Practical yes, but much less striking at time when The Walking Dead needs that kind of flair.
  • I … have questions how effectively Eugene might find something to bite, through denim. This is not a matter to which one should ever give much thought.

The Walking Dead will return on March 27 with penultimate Season 6 outing “East”, airing at 9:00 P.M. on AMC.

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