The Walking Dead 6.14 (written by Matt Negrete) focused on just a few of our survivors – namely Eugene and Denise, who decided it was time to move past their fears and join the zombie apocalypse. But while the episode had the interesting character beats this show does so well, it also had some scenes that felt completely forced, put in place only to drive other characters to certain places. In the end, “Twice as Far” got the job done – just not in a particularly unique way or compelling way.
After the Wolves and Zombie attack, Alexandria has returned to some sense of normalcy again. Food shelves are inventoried, posts are guarded, and hand to hand combat is practiced. Specifically, Morgan has finished The Safe Zone’s jail cell, telling an inquiring Rick, “It’ll give you some choices next time.” Carol sits on her porch, holding the rosary that now belongs to her. She’s fallen into an easy relationship with Tobin, but she seems displaced. She’s on the periphery of Alexandria now. She’s present, but she can no longer take part in the inevitable actions that will come.
But this episode belongs to Eugene and Denise, who have come to a crossroads in their post-apocalyptic lives. Eugene has tied back his signature mullet and now takes guard duty, but that’s not enough. He drags Abraham to an old machine shop and announces that he (Eugene) could make bullets there. He’s going to be of more use. Because that’s what survivors do – and he’s decided he’s a survivor. When a walker shambles into the shop, Eugene is ready to take it down. Only the zombie’s head is encompassed by a hardened metal, so Eugene is having trouble taking care of it. When Abraham rescues him by killing the walker, Eugene is indignant. Here he makes his stand, telling Abraham “You’re services are no longer required.”
It’s perfectly understandable that Eugene, who’s spent most of the zombie apocalypse hiding behind others doing the fighting, would reach this point. But his “I called dibs” and subsequent dismissal of Abraham was unnecessarily harsh. You don’t scold someone for just saving your life. Still, Eugene has never been one with the best social skills, so it’s in keeping with his character that he declared his newfound resourcefulness in this way.
Most of the rest of the installment is taken up with Denise, Daryl and Rosita’s journey to the apothecary, and Denise’s self-realizations about life, love and death. Then the episode had to veer sharply into “What the hell?” territory when Denise decided it was worth the risk to fight a walker for a small cooler. Normally, I can hand wave these eye roll moments away, but this scene was a big, important self-actualizing moment for Denise. After a struggle, she eventually kills the walker, but the whole thing was absurd on many levels.
First, though it’s understandable Denise might take the risk to make the trip to the apothecary (telling people where it is and having them risk their lives for medicine is not the same as being in the trenches with them and bringing it back yourself), it’s ludicrous she would take a much bigger and unnecessary chance for a tiny cooler. She is The Safe Zone’s doctor. She has an obligation to minimize the risks she takes in order to serve her community. It made Denise look stupid and self-indulgent for choosing to face her fears in that way. Second, Daryl and Rosita were walking so far ahead of Denise that she actually had the time to run back, open the car door and start fighting the walker. Those two have been out there all along, they know how quickly things happen. I find it impossible to believe that they wouldn’t have been keeping a closer watch on the town’s doctor, especially one who has no prior experience outside Alexandria’s walls. Third (yes, it was absurd on this many levels), Daryl and Rosita told her to leave the little cooler (what were the chances it contained something important anyway?), and she totally disregarded what two experienced survivors told her just so she could prove a point to herself. Again, how stupid were they trying to make Denise look? The whole sequence reeked of that infamous Walking Dead recipe: Put in a contrived scene where a character does something seemingly stupid, have said character learn something important about themselves through sheer act of stupidity, moments later kill said character.
In reality, this whole episode seemed like a set up for Eugene or Denise’s deaths. You knew it was coming, you just didn’t know when. I will say, after Denise killed that walker, it did seem like she would make it back to Alexandria, so the timing of her brutal death (as she gave her impassioned speech on the tracks) did have the element of surprise, so in that sense it was successful. But that whole train track scene was problematic for me as well. (Here we go) First, you never just stop moving when on a run in order to chat. Hello, walkers? Second, Denise was raising her voice, and it was hammered home all season long how the walkers are drawn in by noise, so experienced Daryl and Rosita should have told Denise to shut up and keep walking. Third, her “You’re both really good people” rubbed me the wrong way. This whole season has been about the choices people have to make in this landscape, and the slippery slope of losing one’s humanity in order to stay alive. It has been depicted in a fascinating way, too. But now, we’re supposed to believe Daryl, Rosita (and probably the rest of the gang) are so wonderful because a character in the throes of self-actualization says it? Nope, that doesn’t work.
Ultimately, just as Denise overcomes her physical and emotional fears, she gets an arrow through the eye. It comes courtesy of Dwight (the guy running from the Saviors who stole Daryl’s motorcycle and crossbow). He and some other Saviors (I guess Dwight went running back to them) have captured Eugene and want to be led to The Safe Zone. Eugene, however, decides to metaphorically and – quite literally – sink his teeth into the situation, and along with Abraham’s stealthiness, saves the day.
In the end, Daryl buries Denise, who’s newfound sense of self was all for nothing. Abraham and Eugene make up, and Carol, unable to ignore the ghosts of those she killed, flees The Safe Zone for life on her own.
The Walking Dead is famous for having minor characters achieve some sort of development, only to be killed in the very same episode. This was no different, but was carried out with less finesse than we saw in episodes like “Coda” with Beth or “Spend” with Noah. These deaths are often put in place to move other characters in some direction, and for, let’s face it – shock effect. The problem is, it’s now become one big cliché on this show. Denise, like many characters before her, had a lot of interesting story potential. It was a shame to lose her. But she won’t be the last. I’m sure we’re in for a “shocking” main character death by season’s end. It’s inevitable, but it’s getting tiresome. The show was really firing on all cylinders when it started having our survivors make questionable choices. The writers should continue to pursue that path instead of resorting to the old standby of having bad people do terrible things to the group so anything Rick and company does is morally justified.
Now we wait for what’s to come. I’m sure it will be exciting, action packed and tense. There will be memorable character moments. But for once, maybe we could take a detour from the usual Walking Dead road and keep our group members alive. Maybe this time one of them does something undeniably terrible. It might be risky, but it sure would be a breath of fresh air.