Head’s Up Plot:
With walkers slowly building against the walls, The Alexandrians are starting to get restless. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) must think of a new plan quickly, or else the community risks falling apart. Meanwhile, Enid (Katelyn Nacon) runs into an unexpected face.
It’s hard to believe that we’re now at the mid-season finale. These past few episodes have only spanned about a day chronologically and it’s been a fairly disorienting process. Once the walker drive went to hell and everyone was split up, we kept jumping to different characters as a way of checking in. Obviously the main threat of this first half is the herd, but it quickly became clear that the writers wanted to keep this danger covered until next week. That meant every episode we’ve seen so far has essentially been delaying this climactic moment. Some of the diversions were great, like learning what happened to Morgan (Lennie James) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) coming face to face with the next major threat. Others, however, were not, which was mostly when our characters decided the best course of action was to wait. Yep, not only did the writers want the viewers to wait for what we all wanted to see, the characters pretty much said it too. A few big questions popped up too and the thought that all answers would be saved until the finale was a frustrating one. Fortunately “Heads Up” resolved one major issue.
Glenn (Steve Yeun) is alive! Those walkers were devouring Nicholas’s body after all. It’s tough to temper the excitement surrounding this. Glenn is one of the most undeniably good characters on this program and to watch him die in such an anticlimactic manner was terrible. It almost felt like the show was giving viewers a big middle finger if “being a good person” ever crossed their mind. Glenn didn’t kill Nicholas before and then died because of him? With that type of outcome, why should anyone ever be good to others. That can’t happen because if these characters stop caring about each other, viewers would stop caring about them. Glenn being back basically erased a fan favorite character from being remembered as the one who died in the dumbest and most frustrating way possible. Also, how he survived was actually plausible.
Of course, I don’t if The Walking Dead will ever pull a stunt like this again. Glenn’s survival was clearly supposed to be some major and unexpected event. People die on this show all the time, so seeing someone die but then finding out they’re alive would have been an incredibly shocking moment. The whole scene was definitely filmed to make it look like Glenn was being eaten too. We live in a world where everyone is connected though, and within minutes of the episode’s end, people already theorized how Glenn made it out of an apparent life-ending situation. Then you have Talking Dead not including Glenn on their In Memoriam, all those set pictures of Glenn interacting with a future major character, and the obvious desire to not directly say that he was dead. So instead of this being the biggest surprise all series, it became The Walking Dead’s most questionable decision. The past few episodes were less, “Is Glenn really alive?!” and more, “Can he just come back already?” Should they try something like this again, and I highly doubt they will, it needs to be structured much better.
Enid being the one to find Glenn makes sense narratively. The show is definitely setting herself up as an important character, and when it was revealed that she just vanished after the wolf attack, you knew she would return at some point. It looks like she just came upon Glenn by total chance too. Enid’s doing her best to run away, but Glenn’s extremely persistent on bringing her home. She quickly relents and what follows is a re-hash of material we’ve seen before. This show is filled with examples of characters forcing others to go along with them despite their wishes. There’s also nothing new to learn here. Enid believes in survival for yourself, and Glenn thinks it’s best to live for the group. We’ve known this for quite a while now. This knowledge basically rendered all their discussions pointless as they just pushed points the other person will definitely disagree with. But hey! They’re back at Alexandria.
Speaking of Alexandria, everything there continued as the calm before the massive storm. Rick and Tobin (Jason Douglas) are fortifying the wall, Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) has an idea for the community’s expansion, and Morgan needs Denise’s (Merritt Wever) help with a private issue. A lot of this was ultimately moot with the episode’s ending, but there’s still a solid amount to unpack. Take, for example, the revelation that Morgan is trying to help the injured Wolf. Carol’s (Melissa McBride) trust in him is at an all-time low and this will not help things. To make matters worse, Rick knows Morgan is the one who let those other Wolves go. It’s great that Morgan wants to be a pacifist, but as Rick so expertly put it, you can’t live without blood on your hands. Helping people can be okay but sometimes that’s not even an option. Morgan revealed he doesn’t know how to balance both options and isn’t sure if he can keep going without finally taking someone’s life. This will definitely be a discussion for future episodes.
Two characters were especially stupid during the episode: Spencer (Austin Nichols) and Ron (Austin Abrams). The former tried to be helpful without asking Rick first, and it gave us the episode’s most intense scene as several people try to save Spencer from an dumb plan. They’re successful and it prompts Rick to yell at both Spencer and Tara (Alanna Masterson). He apparently takes umbrage against constantly saving the Alexandrians from their own moronic decisions. Tara, the boss that she is, flips rick off, and it was glorious. As for Ron, he was well on his way to not being a total piece of shit, and then he just ruins that by stealing bullets and apparently wanting to kill Carl (Chandler Riggs). Why does he want to kill Carl? It’s never said, but probably has to do with something as pointless as Enid’s affections.
As the next-to-last episode before the winter break, “Heads Up” suffered from the common problem most penultimate episodes have. Very little about it ends with a suitable conclusion. Glenn and Enid are back, but there are too many walkers so they raise balloons up as a signal. Carol knows Morgan is hiding something, but they don’t hash it out quite yet. Ron was about to shoot Carl and the watchtower collapses. There’s just a whole lot of setup and the writers casually saying, “Come back next week to see what happens!” At least that tower collapsing was a very exciting way to end the hour.
“Heads Up” didn’t answer every question presented this season, but it did clear up one major mystery. Glenn, in all his glory, still fights on thanks to some sly moves with a dumpster. While the show handled this in the worst way possible, the fact that he’s still around is cause for happiness. Everything in Alexandria continued the calming atmosphere too. Rick is making plans with Michonne (Danai Gurira), people are taking weapons training from Rosita (Christian Serratos), and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is trying to make a prayer circle. Yet some people are getting overly anxious with Spencer and Ron as the best examples. Of course, very little beyond Glenn living was resolved here. Everything new was clearly set up to lead into the finale. Hopefully we can head into the break on strong footing.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. Every Saturday afternoon you can read his video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.