The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 2, “JSS”
Written by Seth Hoffmann
Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Airs Sundays at 9pm (ET) on AMC
Ah, yet another massacre at a village that Rick and co. were too late to help with. “Vatos” déjà vu, anyone?
We now know that while Rick’s methods have been cruel in some respects, his way works, and works hard. I say that because while the Alexandrians are out planning to overthrow him, the Wolves invade and slaughter about twenty-five percent of the village. Let’s face it: they’re toast, and no one was ready to take on these savage knife-wielding maniacs. Meanwhile the folks that garnered courses in survival à la Rick Grimes manage to come out of the raid by the Wolves generally unscathed, most of all Carol.
Once upon a time she deemed Rick too harsh, and now she’s basically become the Rambo of the original Atlanta group. She’ll do whatever it takes to survive, she comes up with utterly ingenious methods of camouflage, and manages to dominate a group that’s brought down two or three safe havens so far. If I were Rick, if and when I came back, I’d put some heads of the Wolves on pikes outside the gates, and walk around yelling: “Told you so! Told you so! I definitely told YOU so!”
If and when the group comes back and wards off the walkers, Rick has to line the remaining Alexandrians up and give them a boot camp of a sorts, showing them how to really combat the elements, walkers, and worst of all, nomads. Because this village would have been yet another casualty were it not for Carol and the troops assembled by Rick to watch over the town.
“JSS” is centered on the backstory of Enid and how her philosophy has granted her a long life at the end of the world, but it generally applies to everyone in this episode, most of all Carol, who this episode truly belongs to. If “No Sanctuary” had fans considering Carol’s rescue was a fluke, “JSS” confirms that she’s really the caged dog of Alexandria, managing to rip apart at least a dozen Wolves as they pillage, plunder, and massacre the oblivious Alexandrians. Last week we watched as Rick and his group worked toward a grand goal of leading a massive tidal wave of the dead into a whole other direction, and now we have officially discovered who was honking that infernal horn.
We not only get an answer, it’s almost like the writers toss a grenade into our faces, full on. It’s not just someone honking the horn, it’s simultaneously an inadvertent signal that Alexandria is under the throes of chaos, even without the dead heading their way. Much like “No Sanctuary,” the episode is set during action of the previous installment, and when her friends are under duress, Carol quickly snaps into action, allowing a chance for her survival, as well as that of her friends. Enid’s mantra JSS, as we learn, is “Just Survive Somehow,” an insight into how everyone in the episode thinks in some form.
The Wolves are surviving in their own twisted form, the Alexandrians are surviving by hiding, Eugene, Denise, and Deanna survive by doing nothing, and Carol survives by taking out whomever she can, as quickly as she can. Morgan has gone the way of the pacifist, begging the question posed with Tyrese: Can you really be a pacifist at the end of the world? Morgan hasn’t dealt with the human ugliness that Rick has, so will his credo to avoid murder as much as possible come back to destroy him as it did Tyrese? Morgan doesn’t refuse to kill anything, as he’s quick to eliminate walkers, but his non-confrontational battles with the Wolves and efforts to talk them out of savagery feels like a powder keg that will eventually go off in his face.
Like Rick, Morgan is trying to find a balance between keeping his humanity and learning to survive, and the dam will burst. At this point we’re garnering keen looks in to the philosophy of Rick and Morgan, and how they plan to survive through the end of the world. Soon we have to see how this eventual clashing of ideas will unfold and divide the Alexandrians as well as the viewers themselves. Though “JSS” is mainly action-packed and revolves around Carol’s mission to protect the armory, there are some keen moments of development during the episode, including Denise trying her best to save a survivor, Tara playing cheerleader, Maggie basically insisting that the town has to move forward if they hope to survive (those canned goods won’t last forever), and Gabriel vainly attempting some form of redemption with this group.
My suspicion is this season is the final stretch for Tara, as her dizziness seems to signal something severely wrong with her brain. With no MRIs, it’s a crap shoot, and I think Tara is going to lose. That said, it’s reassuring to know that Carol isn’t a complete killing machine, as she seems genuinely broken by the death of Mrs. Neudermeyer. I just hope she takes that ball of fury and turns it into more of a reason to fight on, like she did after the death of Sophia. Melissa McBride’s performance and presence in the episode is immense, and she’s a continuously fascinating character to behold. I’m also wondering how far Aaron will go in blaming himself, since his pictures provided the guide for the town’s weak points, further emphasizing how utterly naïve Alexandria has been since the world ended.
The efforts to rebuild once again are going to be very tough, as so many people were lost, so many people are going to be blaming themselves, and the dead are on their way to take advantage of the broken town that is nearly in ruins. The fallout next week promises to be yet another utterly intense and emotional fight to maintain the sanctuary.