Trollgate reaches a fever pitch in “Now,” the wheel-spinning low point of an otherwise stellar season of The Walking Dead. By design, the perversity with which the audience continues to be baited with the possibility of Glenn having been chowed down to pieces still justifies itself. Slowly throughout the season, the show’s narrative has bloomed outward as if in rhythmic lockstep with the progression of the zombie horde Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his motley crew of survivors led away from Alexandria. One week inside, one week outside. “Now” returns us to the safe-zone, where we survey the grim aftermath of the Wolves’ attack alongside Rick, which means the series would be out of line, and in more ways than one, if in next week’s episode it doesn’t plop us alongside Glenn, no doubt cowering beneath a dumpster and covered in a dead man’s guts.
Until then, our fears are synched with Maggie’s own, but it’s only Lauren Cohan who makes sense of this symbiosis of feeling as her character, standing next to Aaron (Ross Marquand) inside a sewer, looks out at the zombie-ridden world and wonders if she could have saved Glenn from whatever horrors he stumbled across had she been by his side. Back in Alexandria, a group of survivors creates an “In Our Memory” tribute on a segment of the steel wall that surrounds the city. And in one of the cheapest emotional beats ever concocted by the series, a woman writes the name “Glenn” on the wall. By what series of presuppositions did these individuals arrive at the conclusion that Glenn and Nicholas, whose name also appears on the wall, are dead, but Michonne, who’s also still outside, is not—and why haven’t we been made privy to all of this reasoning?
Throughout, the episode seems almost hell-bent on having audiences eavesdrop on either the least necessary or redundant conversations imaginable. A tense scene inside the pantry has a group of survivors trying to ransack the place, until hunky Spencer Monroe (Austin Nichols) rolls in to give a speech about how, if they start acting as if no one else matters, they’ll remember this day as the beginning of the end of Alexandria. Two sequences later and Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh), distraught at the possibility of not being able to continue as her community’s leader, is no longer impressed by her son, but calling him out for being drunk and having stolen from the pantry himself. The Walking Dead has been down this road before, delivering little dissertations on how our leaders lie to us, and how conservative and liberal strategies vary in times of war. It’s so on point that one wishes for Rick to jump into frame and put Nichols’s Big-Bad-in-training out of his misery.
Inside the ammunition room, Aaron offers to help Maggie find Glenn. That she has doubts about his death is another reason to scoff at Glenn’s name being on the memorial wall, but at least Maggie and Aaron’s mission leads to a nervy encounter with a pair of zombies. Never has Maggie seemed so resigned in the face of death as one of the ghoulies lunges for her, and before Aaron plunges a knife through its head. That her desperation nearly costs them their lives leads to an artfully played moment of clarity for the character, who returns to Alexandria to erase Glenn’s name from the wall. The scene asks us to keep hope alive, but it also further confirms—as I suggested last week—that The Walking Dead is having us prematurely mourn Glenn. Because how sick would it be to have Maggie rewrite his name on the wall so soon after having erased it?
Or is it? After all, the rest of the episode is a mere series of table-setting maneuvers meant to telegraph both a future bloodbath and the lifelines of a few new characters, namely the increasingly empowered Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) and Denise Cloyd (Merritt Weaver), whose success in treating a patient leads her to successfully put the moves on Tara (Alanna Masterson). They’re going nowhere soon. And neither is Carl (Chandler Riggs) nor Ron (Austin Abrams), who share a great scene wherein they somewhat resolve their jealousies over the missing Enid through Ron’s show of trying to keep Carl from going outside to look for her. By the end, it’s unclear if he does, or, as recalled by Deanna’s killing of a walker, if the Wolf that Morgan (Lennie James) failed to kill in “JSS” is still within the safe-zone. As for the blood that mysteriously trickles down a portion of the wall that surrounds Alexandra, either from outside or from a watch tower above, your guess is as good as mine as to what it signals. But this much is clear: The memorial wall will need an expansion by the show’s mid-season finale.
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