Thursday, April 7, 2016

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 614: Twice As Far

Episode 614: Twice As Far


Eugene:  Do you apologize for questioning my skills?
Abraham:  I apologize for questioning your skills.  You know how to bite a dick Eugene, and I mean that with the utmost respect.

Synopsis: The pantry shelves are getting filled with goods from The Hilltop, and two small groups go out on supply runs.   Abraham and Eugene leave on foot to check out a local metal shop, and Denise talks Rosita and Daryl into checking out an apothecary shop for needed medications.   Abraham and Eugene separate, and Eugene gets captured by D, the blond man who robbed Daryl in the burned forest, but who now appears to lead a gang of Saviors after suffering horrific burns to his face.   D and his group ambush the other party, and shoot Denise in the head with Daryl's crossbow.   Eugene bites D's crotch as a gunfight ensues, and the Saviors retreat after losing several men.  The group carries an injured Eugene back to the settlement, and later retrieve Denise's body for burial.    Daryl feels burdened by guilt over Denise's death, and Carol, having decided she cannot kill again, leaves Alexandria, seemingly for good.

Twice As Far begins with a series of tranquil set piece moments that seems to show Alexandria has reached an equilibrium of sorts:  food deliveries are arriving regularly from the Hilltop, guards, including Father Gabriel, make their rounds, and Eugene, whose mullet has been trimmed into a ponytail, is helping out guarding the front gate.   Carol smokes and fingers the rosary beads she found in the Savior safe house;  she and Tobin are now dating.

Rosita is taking the break-up with Abraham hard;  she is sleeping with Spencer, but it is clear she has regrets.  Later, when he approaches her about having dinner, she agrees, but is dismissive about it.

Morgan spends his days practicing Aikido while working to build a better jail cell with a metal door and cinder block walls int he basement of the brownstone.   He explains to an inquisitive Rick, "it'll give you choices next time."

Carol and Daryl have a discussion on the nature of the threat of the Saviors.  He has checked out his motorcycle and found the wooden figure D was carving when the met in the burned forest.  He tells Carol he should have killed him when he had the chance.   He asks Carol what the Saviors did to her and Maggie, to which she responds, "To us?  They didn't do anything.

These scenes are repeated several times showing that Alexandria is in a calm before the storm.  It's a rare moment of tedium for the survivors, one that will not last.

Denise, the surviving doctor, watches Abraham and Eugene leave on foot on a scavenging mission.   She is holding a page from a phone book and wants to go out on a mission of her own.   She asks Daryl and Rosita to take her to a nearby apothecary that might have antibiotics and other drugs they need.   They agree to go but tell her to stay behind; she tells them she is going to go, with or without them (this is simply ludicrous from a survival standpoint, but more on this later in the Preparedness Discussion).

The trio travel by truck until they are forced to move through on foot due to a downed tree.  Rosita suggests they take a short cut via railroad tracks, but Daryl insists on taking the road.   Denise and Daryl move off separately, while Rosita travels alone. This is not a good move.   There are so many dumb moves made by characters in this episode, in fact, that it seems what the group feared when they arrived at Alexandria has come to pass -- everyone has become complacent and careless.  They are noisy, separate into small groups that could be easily swarmed by walkers, and take the potential threat of the saviors less than seriously.   It leaves you shaking your head that the writers were this nonchalant with the characters and the plot.

The odd couple on the road.
Meanwhile, Abraham and Eugene walk into a local down and have a discussion on Eugene's new outlook.  It's more than a new haircut.  He has learned to use weapons, is pulling guard duty, and has been flirting with the women in the settlement.  Abraham isn't convinced he is ready for the world.

FYI, Eugene is my favorite character;  he's a big guy who's smart and knows how to use firearms.  He reminds me of a certain blog writer ...

Eugene and Abraham find a machine shop with a furnace, and Eugene proclaims he is looking for a
spot just like this to begin making lead bullets to help replace their dwindling stocks of ammunition. If they can cast the bullets, they can use spent shell casings, along with primers and gunpowder, to make new rounds of ammunition.  They are interrupted by a walker who was killed by molten metal poured on his head.  Eugene tries to kill it with a machete but cannot penetrate the now hardened metal (Game of Thrones Season One, anyone?), and Abraham is forced to intervene.  Eugene claims he didn't need assistance, and Abraham leaves, telling him to find his own way home.

Daryl, Rosita, and Denise find the apothecary shop, and Daryl pries the door open.  Denise
apologizes to Rosita for choosing Daryl over her and asks her who taught her how to use weapons. Rosita says it wasn’t Abraham. He was just one person in a long list of people who taught her a lot of things. They loot the shop of the drugs, and Denise retrieves a keychain with the name "Dennis" on it.  She investigates the backroom, and finds a badly decomposed walker in a leg cast.  An industrial sink filled with water and blood has a child's shoe protruding from it, and an empty play pen in the room suggests the walker, a parent, drowned her child in the sink in desperation to keep it from being eaten by walkers.  Denise flees outside, crying.

Their mission complete, they head back together on the tracks.   Daryl praises Denise for finding the apothecary shop, and the two discuss her brother Dennis and his brother Merle, noting similarities.

April Fool, Alexandria!
Denises insists on checking out a car with a walker inside because a cooler might contain something they can use.  She kills the walker and retrieves a can of orange soda from the cooler.  Daryl is angry she risked her life for a soda (but he is risking her life by having her outside the walls).  She replies that it was not about the soda, she was trying to help them.  She explains she had Daryl go with her because she reminded him of her brother and made her feel safe, and tells Rosita she wanted her to go to help her cope with being along for the first time in a long time.

“You’re strong, and you’re smart and you’re both really good people,” Denise urges, “and if you don’t wake up— “and just then a crossbow bolt from Daryl's old crossbow strikes Denise in the eye, killing her. D, the man who stole Daryl's bike, appears holding the weapon with a group of Saviors.  He is now horribly burned on one side of his face, and they have Eugene as a hostage.  They disarm the pair and order them to lead them to Alexandria.

He flew to close to the sun ...
Eugene claims they have a friend hiding behind some nearby oil barrels and they should kill him first; he uses the distraction to turn and bite D's crotch while Abraham begins killing Saviors.   Daryl and Rosita retrieve their weapons and return fire as well.  Several Saviors are down, and D, who has now freed himself from Eugene, orders a retreat.  Both sides leave to lick their wounds;  Eugene has been grazed by a round, and Denise is dead.

Afterwards, Rosita keeps watch over Eugene in the infirmary. Eugene wakes, and tells Abraham that he wasn’t trying to kill him earlier. Abraham apologizes for questioning his survival skills. Later, Abraham goes to Sasha's house and tells her he is ready for a relationship.  She lets him inside.

Daryl and Carol bury Denise. She watches Daryl pocket the Dennis keychain and take a drink of whiskey as he contemplates her death.

“You were right,” Carol says, referring to Daryl’s regret about letting the Saviors live.

Later, Tobin reads a note from Carol in which she writes that she’s leaving Alexandria. “I love you all here, I do, and I’d have to kill for you. And I can’t. I won’t,” she writes.

Another day dawns in Alexandria, and  Rosita guards the front gate instead of Eugene. Sasha glances at Rosita from her post on the platform.

Morgan looks at Carol’s porch. The swing is empty.

Preparedness Discussion

The notion that Denise should be allowed to go on a scavenging mission when the group knows that there are walkers and more Saviors out there is simply stupid.  It's a horrible plot device used to drive later actions; that is, plotting simply for plotting's sake.  It drives the action for the rest of the story, and not in a good way.  The reaction to this development, from preppers everywhere, should have been something like this:

Denise is the only doctor left in the settlement.  She should never be allowed outside the walls.  She has essential, irreplaceable knowledge that cannot be duplicated easily.   If fact, in the event of an attack or incursion, she should have her own close protection detail that locates her and keeps her safe until the crisis has passed.   Denise cannot be replaced.  Instead, we get this ad hoc scavenging mission that finds needed medical supplies but gets the one person best qualified to use them killed.

Likewise, Eugene has irreplaceable scientific knowledge.   He repaired the solar arrays powering Alexandria.  He is tacking the issue of replacing finite ammunition.  He is the smartest guy in the room, for lack of a better term.  While he doesn't possess the specialized knowledge of a doctor, he knows a great deal about a wide array of subjects.  He is an everyman, a jack of all trades, and needs to be protected as well.

It's about time the subject of reloading ammunition was broached in the series.  While the downfall of civilization occurred rapidly, and no doubt there are still supplies of ammunition lying undiscovered in smaller, out of the way gun shops, private homes, retail distribution warehouses, and even military bases, finding it takes time and travel via cars.  Further, while stores may be cleaned out of ammunition, the reloading supplies would probably be untouched.    Reloading is a skill that requires time and effort to learn. It's not something you do on the fly with zombies at the door.   If they can find or cast the bullets and either make or find supplies of powder and primers, the Alexandrians can make their own ammunition.  They sure have been running through a bunch of it lately.  For the record, complete "bullets" are called cartridges or rounds of ammunition.   The bullet is the hard pointy part at the front. 

This brings us to the next topic:  where are all the automatic AK-47s coming from?  Rick has one, and one of the Saviors have one.  Automatic weapons are heavily regulated in the United States -- as I understand it, any automatic weapon made after 1986 cannot be owned by a private citizen.  Those made before that date may be owned by collectors, but those weapons sell for as high as $30,000.  They are rare.  Again, I am not an expert, and I welcome clarification, but the notion that everyone has a fully automatic AK or AR variant sitting in their closet here is Hollywood fiction.

The ARs are more believable than the AKs; the AR platform is the primary weapon of the United States military, and parts are fairly interchangeable between models.   I built my own semi-automatic AR from parts I ordered online and the help of a family friend a few months ago.  Conceivably, you can switch a mil-spec AR upper receiver to a military issue M-4 or M-16 lower capable of automatic fire retrieved from a military outpost and have a fully automatic weapon.  This would give the ability to use different uppers, with say Magpul forward furniture like Rosita's with a fully automatic lower. Abraham's weapon, a Vietnam-era M-16A1, is possibly a collector's item someone scavenged.

Finally, there is the issue of the Saviors.  They are working themselves closer to Alexandria, patrolling in an attempt to recon the community before pressing home an attack with their superior numbers.  This is where Alexandria's lack of hardened defenses becomes a glaring problem.  More watch towers are only a start;  they need battlements so they can move along the top of the wall and respond to threats, and the firing positions need to be fortified with sandbags and other protection.  All the lookouts are as of now are sitting targets.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 614:

  • Make sure that personnel in your preparedness group with essential, critical skills are not on the front line or put into unnecessary danger.  Have a plan to protect the human assets.   Cross-train the group so that essential skills are learned by several members to build redundancy.
  • Reloading should be a consideration for any preparedness group for long-term survival.
  • Harden your bugout location against attack.  You can use physical barriers, security systems, sentries, and patrols to guard against attack.

Next week:  Carol's crisis of conscience leads her to make a decision that will affect the entire group;  Daryl goes out for revenge and finds a whole mess of trouble.

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