Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 609: No Way Out



Episode 609: No Way Out

Carl:  Dad? (Collapses to the ground.)

Couch Potato Prepper: Oh my!

Synopsis:  Daryl, Sasha and Abraham are stopped by biker bandits who proclaim all their possessions now belong to someone named "Negan" and threaten to shoot Abraham and Sasha.  Daryl is able to overcome one of the bikers and use their newly liberated RPG  to kill the whole gang by detonating the gas tanks on their bikes.  Back in Alexandria, Rick forms a new plan to get the walkers out of town, while Father Gabriel takes Judith to his church for safekeeping.  The Wolf tries to flee with Denise, but is bitten.  As they are trying to get to the infirmary, Carol shoots the wolf from a balcony and Denise makes it inside. Sam freaks out as Rick and company attempt to leave the town to retrieve their cars, and is eaten in front of his mom.  Jessie screams in agony, and gets eaten as well.  Rick is forced to stand there and watch, but has to act when Carl is unable to free himself from Jessie's grip.  This causes Ron to try to kill Rick, but Michonne stabs him from behind.  The gun goes off, striking Carl in the face.  He is rushed to the infirmary, where his life hangs in the balance.  Meanwhile, Enid and Glenn formulate a plan to rescue Maggie, while Rick loses control and begins attacking the herd outside, Michonne rushes to join him, and soon a mixed group of Alexandrians and Team Rick are fighting a running hand-to-hand battle with over a thousand walkers.  Glenn is about to be overcome by walkers when Sasha and Abraham scale the wall and open fire, killing the herd around him.   Daryl pulls the fuel truck up to the pond near the gate, dumps the fuel into the water, and ignites it with the RPG.  The balance of the herd is drawn to the light and noise and burns up in the flames.   The episode ends with Rick next to Carl's bedside explaining he now has hope, and Carl gently squeezes his hand.  All in all, this is probably the best episode of the year, if not the series, hampered only by some minor faults of logic and execution.

Negan's men accost our heroes.
 No Way Out begins just after the events of Episode 608Abraham, Sasha and Daryl are en route back to the settlement when they are stopped by a group of men on bikes who apparently work for someone named Negan.   The leader of the group confiscates their sidearms, and then explains they are going to take all the group's resources and then escort them back to Alexandria to see what they have back home.   Daryl is escorted to the back of the truck so that he can reveal all the resources aboard, while Sasha and Daryl try to find out more about who Negan is and why the men stopped them.  The leader threatens to shoot them both, but Daryl, who has killed his guard, uses the RPG they found previously to destroy the group by detonating the gas tanks on their bikes.

Rick is ready to play hatchet man.
Back in Alexandria, Rick's group is still moving through the walker herd.  Rick realizes that his original plan of using flares and guns to lure the zombies outside will not work;  the dead are too scattered, and they cannot hope to draw all of them off.  He can't wait for Daryl's group to deal with it, so they pause for a moment and discuss their options at a spot where there are few walkers.   Rick intends to go get all the cars from the quarry and use them to lure the herd out of Alexandria.  Everyone agrees, but Jessie says there is no way Judith can make that trip.   Gabriel volunteers to take Judith to his garage church and keep her safe.

Michonne asks if he can do it.  "I'm supposed to,"  he replies. Finally, the pastor steps up and does something useful.  This breakthrough is really one of the episode's highlights for me, and Seth Gilliam plays it with a resolute calmness of a man whose faith is fully restored.  As a person of faith, I am excited that we finally have a moral faith center in the group, which has been sorely lacking since the death of Herschel.  More on this later in the preparedness discussion.

Jessie wants Sam to go as well, but Sam insists that he can continue and does not want to leave his mother.  After a moment, Jessie agrees.  Rick is content to let her make the decision; after all, he does not know Sam all that well.   We, as viewers know, that Sam has been traumatized by the Wolf attack in his house, so much so that he will not even come down from his room to eat.  Also, Carol has been playing with his head since Team Rick arrived.    Gabriel takes Judith and heads to his church.

Tara, Eugene, and Rosita are caring for an unconscious Carol and Morgan in the aftermath of the Wolf's escape.  Tara wants to go find Denise, but Rosita insists that is a suicide mission.    They need to make sure Carol and Morgan are okay, then come up with a plan to rescue her.   Tara agrees reluctantly.  The two revive Carol and Morgan, who are woozy but okay, and Carol borrows, Rosita's gun to check the rest of the house.  I don't understand why she asked for the gun when she had one in a holster already.   I don't remember Carol firing her weapon in the previous episode, and expending her ammunition.  Maybe she just wanted all the guns for herself so Morgan couldn't get one. They later have a conversation where Carol tells him, "I should have killed you," and Morgan replies, "you didn't want to." 

The Wolf holds Denise in a sunken patio behind a fence.  They are safe for the moment, but Denise is scared.  He tells her not to be, and that it is actually safer outside Alexandria now.  He is going to show her how to survive the Wolf way, and that she will change.  Denise tells him to go to hell.  The Wolf tells them they are going to run to the guard tower across the street and use it to get over the wall.

Glenn saves people. That's what he does.
Glenn and Maggie are inside an actual church outside the wall, looking for something to help rescue Maggie, who is trapped on the lookout tower. Enid asks what he meant when he said if she runs, that's how you lose people even when they're gone.  He explains that as long as they are alive and working to try to save others and make things better, a part of the people they have lost are still there as well.  The talks about Herschel, Dale, Tyreese and his parents as the people he keeps with him (what, not love for T-Dog?) and asks who hers might be.  She opens up about losing her parents.

"They're still here because you're still here," he tells her.  Enid finds a gun stashed in a cigar box in the pulpit, and finds material to make a rope Maggie can climb down.  Glenn orders her to stay at the church, but she refuses and comes along on the rescue mission.

It is bad karma to love Rick Grimes.
Rick and his group are moving through the herd to the wall, but Sam freaks out when he sees a child who has turned. He panics and begins crying, and as the group tries to get him moving walkers descend on him and eat him in front of his mother and brother.  This is too much for Jessie, who screams at the sight of her son being ripped apart and is fallen upon by zombies as well.  Rick is forced to stand there and watch his newfound love be destroyed in the worst possible way.   He is jolted out of his sorrow by Carl;  he was holding hands with Jessie, and she will not let go, even as she is being eaten alive.   Rick pulls his hatchet and chops off her arm, freeing Carl from being eaten with her.  She is gone.

Ron snaps.  He picks up the gun Carl has dropped and takes aim at Rick, tears flowing from his face.  As he is about to pull the trigger, Michonne runs him through from behind with her sword, but the gun goes off.  As Ron drops to the ground, Carl turns;  the bullet hit him in the face, and his right eye is gone, along with a chunk of his cheek.  He says, "Dad?" and collapses.  Rick scoops him up and they race to the infirmary, with Michonne cutting a path through the herd.

The Wolf and Denise make their move to the guard tower, but when Denise is attacked by a walker the Wolfe gets bitten defending her.  They make it to another house, and the Wolf says he doesn't know why he did that; Denise said maybe he has changed, and if they can get to the infirmary he can save him by cutting off his arm.   The make a run up the alley, but Carol sees them and shoots the Wolf.  Denise makes it inside to the infirmary.

Inside, Heath, Spencer, and Aaron are maintaining a watch.  They see Rick and Michonne coming in with a wounded Carl.  Denise immediately begins treating him, but Rick, who has reached his breaking point, turns, heads outside, and starts clearing the town by himself, the same way he did in Season Three following Lori's death.   Michonne rushes outside to help after kissing Carl's forehead.

Heath, Spencer and Aaron run outside as well.  Other Alexandrians and members of Team Rick, including Eugene, the brilliant coward.  "No one get's to clock out today," he tells Rosita.  Father Gabriel also joins the battle with a machete, leaving Judith with a woman at the church and telling the people there that they have been praying for God to save their town, and He has, because He has given them the courage to save it themselves.

Philippians 4:13, folks.

Soon, a group of about 20 residents is fighting a running battle, hand-to-hand, with about a thousand walkers.   It's and epic scene of slashing and cutting, knifing and stabbing, a murderous bloodbath of people fighting for their very lives. They battle to the wall and arrange themselves in a semicircle, stacking up bodies around them in a Spartan-style stand against overwhelming odds.

While this is happening, Glenn and Enid make their move to rescue Maggie.  Enid climbs the wall to get to her while Glenn distracts the herd, but gets cornered and is about to be eaten in front of Maggie -- again, with the Glenn in danger -- when automatic weapons fire mows down the nearest walkers.  Sasha and Abraham are on the wall, firing down into the walkers, Abraham, who has never looked happier, asks Glenn to open the gate.   Daryl backs the tanker truck up to the pond nearby, fills it full of gas, and then ignites it with an RPG round.  The remaining walkers are drawn to the noise and light and are immolated in the burning fuel.

The next day, the town is a wreck.  Everyone who fought in the battle the night before is clustered around the infirmary, where Rick is talking to Carl.  He says he realized last night he was wrong about the town, and that with these people they could do anything.  He wants to build a life here, and he wants Carl to see it. He finally feels hope, which he hasn't felt since he woke up in his hospital bed at the beginning of the series.  Carl responds by weakly grasping his hand.

Preparedness Discussion

No Way Out is a standout example of a community coming together to survive in a crisis. The odds are insurmountable; the group is going to either survive together and die alone.  They are scattered and broken, without access to their armory and unable to communicate.  Rick Grimes, using his grief over the loss of Jessie and the dreadful shooting of Carl as a catalyst for actions, goes on the offense and provides the example the residents need to rise to the challenges that face them.

As preppers, we need to foster that sense of community, not just with other preppers, but with our neighbors as well.  Get to know the people who live around you.  What are their skill sets?  If you need some carpentry help, maybe someone in the neighborhood can help in exchange for some skill you have.  If you are leaving on vacation, ask a trusted neighbor to watch your house for any suspicious activity.  Offer to do the same if they need it.   Make sure you have current phone numbers for your neighbors.  The Home Owners Association (HOA) I belong to publishes a directory of the residents who live in our subdivision to promote neighbor-to-neighbor communication. Go to HOA meetings and find out who the movers and shakers are in the neighborhood.

More importantly, find out if anyone has skills that are directly useful in survival: medical skills, self defense skills, gardening experience, etc.   Make these folks your friends, and make sure you have something they value in either skills or goods you can use for barter.

When you have an RPG, everything looks like a tank.
Just as it is important to know what resources you have, it might be a good idea to think about how you are going to conserve those resources.   Abraham found the RPG launcher with four rounds in a Humvee.  Daryl has now fired two rounds.  How many rounds does Daryl have left? It's an easy math problem.  Why use an RPG to ignite the pond when a match would have sufficed?  Maybe they didn't have any, but I would have at least tried to find something before firing another RPG.  Those are rounds they cannot replace that would give them a real edge in any firefight with an organized group.  Sometimes, to keep the peace you have to be the meanest guy on the block.  One RPG ruined the Negan biker gang's whole day.  Imagine if they had possessed this weapon when the Governor had attacked the prison?

While we're at it, let's talk about ammunition expenditure.   Just because you have a weapon capable of selective fire doesn't meant you fire it on automatic all the time.   You gain much more accuracy using semi-automatic fire, and reduce the risk in hitting something or someone you value.   Sasha and Abraham should have used semi-automatic aimed fire to save Glen at the wall instead of spraying bursts of automatic fire.  Sure, it looks cool, but no one is making bullets anymore, and every single round counts.  How did they hit the walkers in front of Glenn without hitting him?

It's reminiscent of the Season Three episode with Michael Rooker, who plays Merle, using an assault rifle, with the flip up Magpul sights in the down  position.  How is he going to aim at anything?  In case you missed it, let's refresh your memory:

Both of these scenes can be chalked up to dramatic license and an unfamiliarity with firearms and ballistic effects, but they had been doing a really good job of cleaning up these types of things. There must be a writer's manual somewhere that says: "when writing an action scene with firearms, if the weapon is capable of automatic fire, you must write it that way.  Also, everyone has to fire from the hip or not aim at all."

It was interesting that the Alexandrians got to put their newfound knife and machete skills to the test.   This is an avenue of prepping so often ignored.  It's great to have all kinds of gear, but can you use any of it?  Skills trump gear every time.  All the guns are in the armory, so they have to improvise with blades and melee weapons.   If your first line of self-defense is a concealed handgun, what happens if you forget to wear it one day?  Further, what if it is a self-defense situation in which lethal force is not required in a clear-cut matter (legal standards on this vary, so check local laws)?  Learning other self-defense techniques (boxing, martial arts, carrying a non-lethal alternative like pepper spray) can be useful as well.

Finally, there is the emergence of Father Gabriel as not only a warrior, but a man of conviction and newfound faith.  This was an important step not just for him but for the community.   Everyone in the Walking Dead universe is basically walking around with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in one form or another.   The psychological community has learned a great deal from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars about the nature of PTSD and its effects on the human mind.   Here's a sample list of characters with possible PTSD or some other mental health issue:

  • Rick (had auditory and visual hallucinations, plus paranoia and bursts of rage)
  • Carl (becomes paranoid; popped that kid at the prison who was surrendering)
  • Michonne (disconnects from others; used ex-boyfriend and friend as walker camo)
  • Gabriel (let congregation get eaten and tried to commit suicide by walker)
  • Sasha (tried to commit suicide by walker after Bob and Tyreese died)
  • Abraham (was contemplating killing himself after wife and kids eaten)
  • Maggie (traumatized by Governor's sexual misogyny; devastated by loss of Beth)
  • Glenn (traumatized by Maggie's near sexual assault)
  • Bob (abused alcohol as coping mechanism)
  • Enid (lost ability to get close to anyone following death of parents)
  • Spencer (depressed following death of brother and father)
  • Nicholas (panic attacks and completed suicide after being confronted about his cowardice)
  • Morgan (possible psychotic break after death of his son)
  • Carol (traumatized by death of daughter;  traumatized by having to shoot Lizzie; murdered two innocent people in misguided effort to save prison community)
Get the picture? These folks are going to need someone to talk to for counseling and reassurance, and the rejuvenated Gabriel can be part of that solution.

Likewise, we can be a part of this solution in the prepping world.  While not everyone has time, resources, or the desire to become a licensed counselor, there are programs that give you some fundamental skills in dealing with a person you suspect is suffering from a mental health or drug issue.  One such internationally recognized program is Mental Health First Aid, which was originally designed in Australia and is now offered in the United States.  It contains a wealth of material and practical exercises that help participants become prepared to deal with such situations.  You won't be ready to diagnose and treat, but you will have some tools to help the person until more professional assistance arrives, and in the event of a survival situation, this could mean everything.

 Preparedness Lessons for Episode 609:

  • Become a part of your community and get to know like-minded preppers. Look for people with valuable skills in a survival situation and cultivate your own skills so you can barter with them.
  • Husband resources.  Treat every bullet, bean, and band-aid as your last.
  • Skills trump gear every time.
  • Develop or find someone who possesses mental health training to address the inevitable issues that will occur in a stressful crisis situation.   If you are the mental health person, remember to take care of yourself.

Next week:  Rick is counting on some good luck, and Michonne can't help Spencer.   Oh, and Daryl's revolver is unloaded, because you can't see rounds in the chambers.

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