Thursday, December 3, 2015

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 608: First to Last



Episode 608: First to Last

Carl (to Ron):  I get it. I do. My dad killed your dad.  But you have to know something, Ron.  Your dad was an asshole.

Synopsis: Sam is playing in his room, while outside, walkers invade Alexandria through the breech in the wall.  Everyone heads inside to hide out, hoping they can figure out how to lure the walkers away.  Deanna, Rick, Michonne, Gabriel, Ron, Jessie, and Carl hide out with Judith in Jessie's how, where they discover Deanna has been bitten by a walker outside.   Carol trips while running down the street and injures herself.  Morgan carries her the the jailhouse.  Maggie escapes to the watchtower, and Eugene is rescued by Tara and Rosita after radioing Daryl for help with Rick's radio.   Carl and Ron tussle after Ron tries to kill him, resulting in walkers breaching the house.  The group grabs two walkers, kills them, and smother themselves in guts to escape.  Deanna stays behind and empties her gun at the oncoming horde.  Carol has been faking her wound and goes to the jail, where Denise has treated the Wolf held captive.  Morgan and Carol argue, and Morgan subdues Carol only to be incapacitated by the Wolf, who takes Denise hostage, steals guns from Rosita and Tara, and leaves with Denise as a hostage.  Carl takes Ron's gun, but covers for his actions.  Glenn and Enid search for a way inside, and spot Maggie on the lookout tower.   The group in Jessie's house maker their way to the armory in their meat robes, and things are going well when Sam starts talking.
Sam is playing in his room and listening to music.  He brushes an ant away from him, and the camera pans to see a half-eaten cookie being swarmed by ants and eaten, in the most blatantly overt example of symbolism this series has seen in a while.
It's a walker-palooza!

Outside, the church has collapsed into the wall, throwing everyone nearby into a mad scramble to get out of the way.   Walkers surge into the gap, and Rick orders everyone back into their houses to hide out.   He draws the herd's interest by firing his gun and killing a few, and Deanna tries to help, but falls onto a saw and is injured and about to be eaten when Rick saves her.  Carl comes up with Michonne in support, along with Ron, and the group retreats to Jessie's house with Father Gabriel as well.

Meanwhile, Carol trips while running to assist and injures her head on the sidewalk.   Morgan scoops her up and they retreat to the half-finished jailhouse.   Maggie, who was heading to the watch tower and has the only long gun out of the armory,  shoots several walkers and retreats to the guard tower, losing her ladder on the way.  She is now marooned.  Eugene is frozen in fear against a wall as walkers flow around him, and hears Daryl's voice on Rick's radio, which he drops in the confusion.  He transmits a single word, "Help!" The walkers close in on him, but he is rescued by Tara and Rosita, who have already helped Tobin get away.  They retreat to the garage turned into a school.

Outside the walls, Glenn and Enid look on in shock and horror.  Enid wants to leave, but Glenn insists they can get inside at the wall opposite the breach, as the walkers will leave it and follow the rest of the herd inside.   Glenn confides that Maggie is pregnant, and he is not leaving her.  This shocks Enid into action.

Tobin lives to fight another day.
Inside Jessie's house, they move Deanna upstairs, where they discover a bite just below the saw wound.  She is on a ticking clock.  Sam watches fearfully, and Jessie tells him that he has to pretend to be brave.  Rick and Jessie come up with a plan to run to the armory and draw the walkers away from Alexandria with flares.  Michonne tells Deanna she believes in her vision for Alexandria and its expansion, but Deanna asks what Michonne wants for herself.  Michonne cannot answer.

In the jailhouse, on the main floor, Carol refuses Morgan's offer of medical aid, while downstairs, Denise treats the wounded Wolf.  She gives him IV fluids and treats him for the infected gash.

Back at Jessie's house, Carl and Ron go into the garage.  Ron locks the door behind them and pulls a gun on Carl, but the latter disarms him.  They fight, and Ron accidentally breaks a window on the side door with a shovel.  The walkers are immediately drawn to the noise and threaten to break down the door.  Rick and Jessie hear this and cannot get the door open, so Rick is forced to demolish the lock with a hatchet to get the pair of teens out.   Carl covers for Ron and says they accidentally knocked over a shelf, but a moment later, gets Ron alone and disarms him at gunpoint.  Ron apologizes for his actions, and Carl tells him he sympathizes with him, but that his father was an "asshole."

That moment may be the redeeming gem in an otherwise unsatisfying episode.  Carl has shown the most growth of any of the characters on this show except possibly Carol, and has become genuinely likable.  He is a young adult now, and he is capable of killing when he has too, but he has a cooler head than his father.  Rick is just as likely to kill someone as not, but Carl is still capable of managing a complex situation with Ron without resorting to extremes.   The Season Three Carl would have killed Ron immediately, but the that time spent deprogramming his killer instinct at the prison had reaped the desired effect.

Rick hears Judith upstairs and finds Deanna leaning into her crib.  He is about to kill her when whe screams, "it's still me!"  She is very weak now, and she gives him notes for Maggie and Spencer and asks Rick to care for Spencer like he would one of his own people, because, as she says, they are all his people now.  This has been the problem with Rick since he arrived at Alexandria. It has always been Team Rick versus The Alexandrians.  It's about time someone called him on it.  Rick is not always right.  He's good, he understands the world he now inhabits, but he makes mistakes. The writers need to acknowledge that more often.

Carol and Morgan sitting' in makeshift jail ...
Carol is pretending to rest, and Morgan turns his back on her to stair down at the makeshift jail below.  Carol being Carol, she pushes him out of the way and races downstairs to find the Wolf tied up with Denise. Carol draws her knife to kill the Wolf but Morgan intervenes.  Carol argues that he has to be killed, but Morgan won't allow it.  She never draws her gun, which signifies that she doesn't want to hurt Morgan, but she is going to do what she has to to protect the group.  Apparently, Morgan was never told about her actions at the prison.  She will do what it takes to safeguard the community.  Morgan disarms her and knocks her unconscious, but he is knocked out by the Wolf, who then frees himself.

At its core, this internal debate is the crux of The Walking Dead.   How much can you take of this world before ultimately you become less than human?  All life should be precious, but how does that ideal stand up in the face of murderous humans and the walkers?  When the veneer of civilized society is ripped away, ultimately what do you become.  At what point does all life not become precious?  Maybe it already has, and we just don't recognize it yet. 

The walkers make it inside Jessie's house, and the group retreats upstairs, blocking the stairs with a
couch to slow the herd down to allow them to buy time to escape.  They kill two walkers, and dismember the corpses to apply to sheets they will wear to mask their smell so they can move through the herd to the armory.   While they are making preparations, Michonne tells Deanna they are preparing to leave and offers to kill her before she turns.  Deanna promises to do it to herself when the time comes.  Gabriel, showing more spine that he's shone the whole series, tells Rick he can count on him now. 

Rosita, Tara and Eugene make it into the jailhouse from the school house garage, and are confronted by the Wolf, who holds Denise at knifepoint.   He forces them to surrender their weapons and leaves, taking Denise with him.  Tara has a shot, but the woman who could shoot walkers in the head from the top of the wall in the last episode seemingly doesn't want to risk it now.

Glenn and Enid find a tree and climb it to gain a look inside the perimeter and see Maggie on top of the lookout post.

They looked like they robbed a gut wagon.
Rick's group, with each member covered in guts, goes downstairs, and calmly walks into  the herd without the zombies taking notice.  Judith is with Carl under a gut poncho in a carrier, and they hold hands to stay together.  The zombies do not notice them.  Upstairs, Deanna hears walkers in the hall, and instead of killing herself, empties her gun into the crowd, sacrificing herself to draw them into her room and away from the escaping group.

Rick and his group are now on the front porch, looking out into the herd that has now filled the streets.   They are still holding hands, and getting away unscathed, when Sam starts calling out his mom's name, risking all of their lives.  The screen fades to black, leaving their fates unresolved in one of the most unsatisfying cliffhangers in recent memory, ranking right up with the "Is this really Uncle Fester?" conundrum of the first Addams Family movie.

In retrospect, it was going to be hard for this finale to satisfy anyone.  For those unfamiliar with the comics, something happens to Carl that changes the entire course of his character when the walls come down at Alexandria.  I will leave it the reader to discover the nature of the event, but the fact that it did not happen after the buildup with Ron last week pointed that way smacks of the writers toying with the viewer just for the sake of toying with the viewer. Coming so soon after the delayed reveal of Glenn's fate sapped any anticipation out of the audience, at least for me.

The whole cold open scene with Sam's cookie was goofy.  We know what is going to happen as the walkers pour inside.   You don't need to telegraph it with that scene.  Likewise, the death of Deanna, while dignified, cuts short another voice of reason in this insane world.  Anyone who opposes Rick's hard case mode of doing things has to die, apparently.  Deanna already was ready to turn over command of the settlement to him, and that character had so much more story left, but I guess the writers had to kill someone.  Frankly, Tovah Felshuh elevated every scene she was in, and the show will not be the same without her gravitas.

As it stands, First to Last is a muddled, unsatisfying mess of an episode that tries to be greater than the sum of its parts, but cannot make it over the hurdle.   The few little gems we get -- room-to-room fighting in Jessie's house, the gut smearing routine, Carl's coming out as a force to be reckoned with, and some really great lines -- are lost because there is no real unifying center to hold the episode together.

Preparedness Discussion

 Let's start with the security situation inside the walls.  No one has anything other than a sidearm except Maggie, who is swiftly overrun.  Not that more long guns would have made much difference against a herd this size, but it would have been nice to at least taken a few more down from a distance to trip the ones behind them and buy everyone some time.   Likewise, all the weapons and ammunition are still stored in one location in the armory, effectively putting the community's offensive weapon eggs in one basket.

This goes hat in hand with having no passive defenses inside the perimeter.  The houses are not prepped with barricaded windows.  If nothing else, a core area around the armory and infirmary should be fenced off and guarded by watch towers as a keep, or last resort holdout, for the community.  Everyone could have retreated to that location where the food, guns and medical supplies were located and held out for a while.  As it is, the members of the community are scattered all over the compound, hiding in houses that are easily breached.  I hope someone had the presence of mind to put some food and water up on that guard tower, or things are going to go south for Maggie quickly.

Finally, there comes the issue of the handling of the prisoner Wolf.  These people are dangerous, and there should have been a gun pointed at him the whole time.   The fact that Morgan couldn't trust anyone enough to tell them he held a prisoner shows that he has a long way to go to integrate into this community, and now once his secret is out, assuming they survive the walker incursion, how is anyone supposed to trust him?

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 608:

  • Never assume your perimeter is foolproof.   Have an internal security plan.  Replace flimsy hollow core doors with more sturdy wooden ones.  Make sure they can lock.  An internal deadbolt would be a good security measure to create a temporary safe room.
  • Practice securing the inside of the house if an intruder makes it inside.  Ensure each member of the family knows where to go and what to do.  If your plan includes using firearms for self defense, make sure you are properly trained and include use of that firearm when considering home defense plans.  For instance, plan for everyone to go to their bedrooms and lock the door, so that as you clear the house, you know where everyone is if you have to fire your weapon.
  • If you do have a home invasion or burglary, and you apprehend the perpetrator, have someone else call the authorities while you stand guard.  If you have some strong zip ties, bind their hands, even if they are wounded.   Remember, this person defined your relationship by invading your home.  Keep a constant watch on the person and make sure, if you can do so safely, that they are disarmed.  
  • Make sure your weapons are secured but easily accessible by you in case of an emergency. Consider taking advanced handgun tactical courses to increase your firearms proficiency.

During the hiatus:  I am going to write a first half retrospective in a couple of weeks.   Have a great winter break and keep following the blog for more preparedness information!


  1. Thanks Couch Potato - as usual very informative. Good points, especially about replacing hollow core doors with solid wood. I will be making changes in my home.