“When The Walking Dead is good, it’s great. When The Walking Dead is bad, it’s so bad.” I’m not quoting anyone in particular, but when I enter a discussion with friends or acquaintances about the TWD, somehow a variation of that quote comes up.
While I’m not a proponent of the above quoted theory, sometimes I believe it’s not irrational. Excuse my confliction, but I believe the show has great ups, horrible downs, and decent stories that fit in the middle. “JSS,” the episode in question, is middling at best.
The episode began with harsh slowness. I thought each episode was supposed to be of “season finale” levels. I regret to inform everyone, “JSS” barely edges the notion.
“JSS” is a sister episode running parallel to the season six premiere, with the exception of an Enid centric introduction, showing her survive after her parents died. From that point forward, Enid wrote “JSS” wherever she survived.
The main issue with the sixty minute segment was its fat. The first half hour was spent on introductions and involved a character named Dr. Denise Cloyd, a psychologist, who barely deserves the title. She said it herself.
The problem with a show talking at you for so long results in audience fatigue. Denise is dangerously boring. Her random existence on the show was there to tell and explain who she was. The person I watched the show with fell asleep during her scenes, and I don’t blame them. My eyes got heavy during her scenes too, and I was caffeinated. That’s expected when dialogue is flimsy and drawn out.
Denise is begged to operate on a wounded person, even though she clearly states she’s not a medical doctor. The patient dies. There’s something there, and it’s that she’s an honest risk taker. She will have to cope with her inability to stitch flesh wounds, but there may be an opportunity to make her character interesting by having her self diagnose and repair through non-traditional methods. Dr. Denise is the first doctor on the show capable of treating mental health, rather than physical well being, making her a fair shakeup.
The horn heard at the end of the premiere luring hordes of walkers toward Alexandria proved a clever war tactic devised by a group of radicals called the Wolves. The Wolves drove a large truck into Alexandria’s gates, with a zombie at the driver’s seat to heat things up. That’s where the episode picks up.
As Alexandria enters slaughter by the ravaging Wolves, Carol and Morgan split up and take care of them in their own ways. Carol dresses herself up as a Wolf and eliminates the majority of the invaders with close quarter prowess and ranged firepower. Carol once again became a reckoning force. Anyone standing in her way was blown to smithereens. Her guerrilla tactics remind us she’s a valued member of Rick’s fellowship.
Morgan used another approach, using his stick to spank his enemies. Instead of killing them like Carol did, he gave his opponents another chance at life, explaining Alexandria has more guns than their mangy blades can handle. Morgan’s foes are allowed their lives, so long as they don’t return.
Toward the conclusion, Morgan is confronted with one more Wolf. As they duke it out, Morgan, without choice, shoves his weapon into the enemy. The frame was from below, signifying Morgan’s heroic moment. If going by sound effects alone, we’re led to believe Morgan gashed his challenger.
Carl shows he’s li’l Rick, taking charge by manning an assault rifle, carefully expelling bad guys from his territory. He effectively protected his young, albeit ungrateful friends. Chandler Riggs, the youngster portraying Carl Grimes, has come into his own. Finally, his character has a mind of his own and the actor has full control over the character. Every word puffed out exudes undiluted stability. After years of practice on television’s most popular drama, Chandler is synonymous with Carl. It’s a blast watching him kick butt.
I’m indifferent about the final moment of the episode. As the scrimmage nears end, marking what might be considered an Alexandrian victory, Carl picks up a note stating “Just survive somehow,” revealing Enid’s acronym. Enid left, leaving audiences to speculate that she is indeed a Wolf or some sort of spy.
I don’t think she’s a Wolf as of this episode, and choose to speculate no further on her allegiance. When she enters town for the first time, depicted at the start of the episode, she’s muddied from the days of sleeping near torpid corpses. I believe “JSS” is something she shares with people she trusts. She probably wants to avoid war at all costs, knowing that there is even less chance of survival in dystopian society.
We literally know what JSS means, but I argue there’s more depth. There’s an ounce of beauty to it, since it’s a philosophy previously unheard of in TWD universe until now. I want to see “JSS” remain a recurring theme for the rest of the reason. It deserves to be more than a one off piece and can certainly spell out the future.
“JSS” begins with a snore and ends with a long held sigh of relief. Characters like Carol, Morgan, and Carl reveal themselves as whirlwind forces, delivering fatal blows, offering second chances, and demonstrating exemplary leadership abilities. “JSS” barely matches its former heart pounding premiere, existing as a somewhat less fun sister story.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Gallery – Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC