No show likes to troll its audience quite like The Walking Dead. Game of Thrones may kill off people you love, and Homeland may test your patience by getting rid of almost everyone, but there’s something unique about The Walking Dead’s ability to get you invested, hold your hand through long stretches of near-boredom, and then blow it all to hell. It’s enough to make you wonder why you’re watching in the first place, so during this season of The Walking Dead, we’re going to track our reactions to each and every episode as they happen, to see whether the show has given us enough to keep going, or whether it’s time to leave the zombie apocalypse behind altogether.
Nothing’s fun without a good metric, and for The Walking Dead Quitter’s Club we’re using Quitting Likelihood. The QL score starts at zero — that’s when we’re all-in and there’s no way we’d give up — and scales all the way up to 100. That’s when it’s time to just go watch some old episodes of Scandal.
Warning: There will be spoilers.
Last season on The Walking Dead
Bryan Bishop: When the first half of the show’s sixth season ended last year, it had been a bumpy ride. The first few episodes were actually pretty satisfying: an epic zombie threat to start things off, some interesting dynamics as Rick tried to deal with the folks at the Alexandria Safe-Zone, and his burgeoning relationship with Alexandra Breckenridge's Jessie. But then there was The Glenn Headfake of 2015, and if you watched TWD last year, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It was hard to escape the feeling that the show was messing with audiences just for fun.
It felt like the show was messing with the audience just for fun
Nick Statt: Unless you’re in the top one percentile of diehard TWD fandom, you’re probably in the same boat as Bryan and me. You’ve stayed aboard because you’ve invested so much time into the show and its characters, but you’re occasionally disappointed by TWD’s offbeat pacing, wild swings in quality, and tendency to mess with viewers on purpose. Where’s it all going, anyway? The show often feels like a steady march toward major character deaths — except when those characters crawl under dumpsters — and that approach doesn’t have unlimited mileage.
Last year's Glenn fiasco was a signature TWD moment taken to its logical, marketing-friendly extreme. I can see how some people may have legitimately enjoyed all the fuss, but I found it a bit absurd that showrunner Scott Gimple and AMC pulled a multi-episode stunt to whip up a social media frenzy. So it’s safe to assume the back half of this season has to deliver to keep viewers like me around. On a good note, things are looking up in Alexandria — and by looking up I mean everyone is in a horrifying and dangerous situation. That should make for some nail-biting television.
Our baseline Quitting Likelihood for The Walking Dead, season 6.5:
And now, let’s dive into the biggest, best, and most obnoxious moments of last night’s episode, "No Way Out."
Daryl gets a multi-kill
Nick: The mid-season finale left Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha in a particularly sticky situation. Negan’s gang of motorcycle-riding bar bouncers had the trio at gunpoint and it was unclear what the group’s chatty but soft-spoken leader was going to do. Of course, he sends one of his lackeys to the back of the truck with Daryl while viewers spend the next two minutes wondering whether TWD will really kill off a major character in the first scene of the premiere. Neither Sasha nor Abraham would be too sorely missed. It would also set up the inevitably violent rivalry between Rick and the so-called Saviors.
Then out of nowhere, Negan’s gang explodes by way of a Daryl-fired RPG. It was yet another instance of the show’s tendency to swing between blockbuster action movie nonsense and gritty, anyone-can-die realism. But it was a badass Daryl moment, and it almost redeems him for having lost his bike and crossbow to the official worst zombie apocalypse survivors.
QL Score: -5
The Carl incident
Bryan: One of my favorite parts of last half-season was Rick and Jessie's relationship. Rick found himself capable of loving again! He’d earned it after losing his wife back in season 3 — not to mention everything else he’s had to deal with. So, of course, halfway through last night’s episode Jessie’s young son freaked out while walking through a pack of zombies and was bitten. And then Jessie herself was bitten. Poor Rick. I should have seen it all coming; that’s the kind of thing The Walking Dead loves to do. And then Carl got shot in the freaking eye.
I don’t care if this happened in the comics or not, The Walking Dead. You just shot a poor, long-suffering kid with a dumb haircut and a dumber hat in the face and then had him turn around and talk to his dad like he was in a Tom Savini flick. Not cool. My QL — and blood pressure — just shot up.
QL Score: +15
The Alexandrians get bloodthirsty
Nick: I have to say, it was a real treat watching the seemingly hopeless members of Alexandria take up arms and follow their horror-stricken and mentally unhinged leader Rick into zombie battle.
A huge dose of much-needed "hell, yeah!" action
For a post-apocalyptic show with some of the dumbest and slowest undead in the genre, it’s always been frustrating when characters get bitten or overrun due to easily avoidable mistakes. So seeing Rick and crew straight slay hundreds of walkers in the streets using all manner of sharp objects was a huge dose of much-needed "hell, yeah!" action. Father Gabriel gave a rousing defense of the violence to his fellow church goers, and even Eugene slicked back his mullet and pulled out the machete.
Was it risky and unnecessary for Rick to make the stand while a handful of others try to treat the giant bullet hole in his son’s face? Sure. Was it impractical that nobody died? Probably. But it’s more important for the health of the plot that Rick builds up a crew of savage, clinical zombie killers. It means whatever Negan’s gang has in store for Alexandria will result in a nasty confrontation between two groups of experienced and bloodthirsty survivors.
QL Score: -5
Glenn’s Last Stand(ish)
Bryan: Finally making it back to Alexandria with Enid (Katelyn Nacon), Glenn rushed toward the city walls to save Maggie from the walkers that threatened to topple her from her tower. It was an amazing moment at first: Maggie did find out that Glenn was alive last year, but she hadn’t actually laid eyes on her husband until now. The look on Lauren Cohan’s face when Maggie first realizes that Glenn is the one drawing attention away from her was the show at its very best: a series of painfully slow burns culminating in moments of emotional catharsis.
A cheap moment made even cheaper
But then, for some inexplicable reason, Glenn started going a little nuts, and (apparently) decided to sacrifice himself even though he could have easily kept running. After all the nonsense last year, it looked like Glenn was going to die after all — just a huge, flaming middle finger to the audience. But THEN! In came Sacha and Abraham, miraculously saving Glenn with a hail of automatic weapons fire and a goofy one-liner. TWD managed to take an already cheap, eye-rolling moment and make it even cheaper.
There’s skillfully creating tension by putting beloved characters at risk, and then there’s whatever the writers are doing this season. You keep trolling, TWD.
QL Score: +5
Rick’s bedside epiphany
Bryan: After the zombies had been turned back, Rick sat by the newly eyeless Carl’s bed. He explained that he was wrong about the people of Alexandria; that he saw them fight and had realized what everyone can accomplish if they simply work together. Deanna was right after all, he said, and he just wanted to be able to create this new world and share it with Carl. And despite his dire condition, Carl squeezed his father’s hand.
Okay, I got chills a little bit. I admit it. This show has always been the story of Rick Grimes, and watching him come to this new revelation — almost confessing to his wounded son — was satisfying and beautiful after the journey he’s been on the last season and a half. Rick found his humanity again, and having that stir Carl to consciousness is the precise kind of emotional beat that keeps us watching week after week — no matter what happens.
QL Score: -5
The Scoring Dead
Bryan: Well, it was certainly an episode of The Walking Dead. I was reminded both of how manipulative the show can be (and how furious that makes me), as well as how good it is at making me care about these characters, even if they’re in a bizarro post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland.
Nick: It was a solid premiere, for sure, but it also felt like the writers were scrambling to wrap up every loose end from the whole zombie quarry saga in one exhilarating rush. In that sense, it felt more like a checklist of jaw-dropping moments than a naturally occurring sequence of events. Still, "No Way Out" gave TWD a sense of freshness it hasn’t enjoyed since the aftermath of the cannibals at Terminus.
We can't expect the writers to play fair
Bryan: On a visceral level, it was definitely satisfying. But the one thing I keep coming back to is how I reacted to the episode: I didn’t trust the writers to play fair. I expected them to cheat and play dirty, just to get a reaction. That’s direct fallout from last year’s Glenn fake-out, and while things will certainly keep chugging for the time being, how will it play long term, when new characters appear and new relationships start forming? How will it affect things when the new big bad finally appears?
Nick: I definitely agree — the show has morphed into more of a bag of tricks than TV with an actual plot viewers can care about. It’s bittersweet too, because TWD is so good at high-octane action scenes, but that’s just dressing up a fumbled narrative that’s gone off the rails over the years. It will be interesting to see how the Negan arrival is handled. The tension there is really what the show should be about — human relationships and conflicts in a lawless society. But I don’t have too much faith in the show’s ability to switch gears after so many of seasons spent just waiting for surprise deaths to happen.
Our Quitting Likelihood after "No Way Out":