This week’s aptly named episode places great significance on the number two. The plot diverges into two seemingly unrelated scavenging parties: Abraham and Eugene; and Rosita, Daryl, and Denise. At one point, Daryl and company must decide between the convenient yet exposed path by the railroad or the safer woodland path that is “twice” as long.
This lethargic reintroduction into the Alexandria lifestyle emphasizes its monotony and cyclical nature. Parallel, redundant scenes of characters repeating the same routines of guard shifts and kitchen inventory depict the slow passage of time. Now that these characters have set into a normal routine, the episode is neither soulful nor sickening, only dull. For the first half of “Twice as Far,” viewers explore side characters they never knew were capable of depth. It is not until the episode’s jarring midpoint twist that the preceding mundane events begin to make sense. Like many of its predecessors, this episode disarmingly transforms into a parable of regret and the consequences of inaction. Daryl ruminates on his decision not to kill Dwight, who stole his crossbow and bike last season in spite of Daryl’s kindness. Every decision, whether good or bad, is followed by an unforeseen consequence.
This week’s significant character arcs are reserved for Eugene and Denise. Eugene continually attempts to assert his confidence and skills as a survivor in light of his past reliance on others. Unable to forgive Eugene’s past transgressions, Abraham emasculates him while Eugene mocks Abraham’s obsolescence as a killing machine: a classic clash of male egos. An insecure Abraham, feeling capable only of killing and having sex, hopes to address this deficiency by connecting to Sasha.
Meanwhile, Denise leads Rosita and Daryl on a hunt for pharmaceutical drugs and, eventually, Orange Crush. Frustratingly, she places herself into danger in order to prove to herself that she can make a difference. We learn that she regrets not connecting more with her brother, Dennis, and that she does not want to lose Tara as well. After deciding to take the short railroad path back home, she expresses the importance of action in a motivational speech. It is as predictably touching and hamfisted as any other lesson “The Walking Dead” might preach...until an arrow flies through her right eye.
Dwight and the Saviors return in this jarringly sick midpoint turn, rescuing the audience from what would have been another heavy-handed morality tale episode. A magnificent jolt in the viewing experience, Denise’s sudden death evokes incredulity because no one could have seen it coming. The Saviors bring Eugene as a prisoner, converging the episode’s parallel plot lines. From this point forward, the showdown spirals downward into the season’s recurring savagery, as a captive Eugene literally munches on Dwight’s gonads to create a diversion. Miscellaneous bad guys die while Dwight escapes, and all that is left is Denise’s corpse with an arrow in her eye. This redemptive sequence shifts the episode from its previously drab, stuffy tone into one of both urgency and exasperation. The Saviors turn Denise into a martyr: Of all the characters to die, it had to be the pure, undeserving, and unassuming doctor who finally found the courage to take action. The death itself might have been more affecting were it not drowned out by the exceedingly dreary “Chapel” by Nicole Dollanganger, which might have worked better in “The Hunger Games.” Fittingly, Denise is buried with the “Dennis” keychain she found at the pharmacy, touchingly laying both her and her past to rest.
At the end of the episode, the parallel scenes of monotony in Alexandria repeat, now altered. The marked absence of major characters such as Carol signals a break in the cycle incited by Denise’s death. These characters, stuck in a rut of inaction at the beginning, now understand that merely waiting around in Alexandria is no way to live or get the plot moving. Instead of giving regret time to sink in, they commit to living by disruption—one of the show’s stylistic trademarks. Carol’s departure, likely as a consequence of witnessing the internally destructive nature of Daryl’s regret, may finally take viewers to Negan in the season’s final two episodes. So far, however, our promised villain has been all bark and little bite.
—Staff writer Richard Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.