If one is feeling overly charitable, one could suggest that "No Way Out," tonight's midseason opener for THE WALKING DEAD, should have been November's midseason ender but TWD hasn't really done much to earn any charity, "No Way Out" didn't either and the truth is that this season has been so watered down that this, its 9th episode, could, in more competent hands, have been its 3rd or 4th with no loss of substance. The Mazzara era of TWD was notorious for this sort of terminal underwriting but this present season is, with regard to this, probably the worst TWD has ever been.
The ep began with a ludicrously implausible scene in which Daryl, Sasha and Abraham encounter a small group of armed thugs on motorcycles. Daryl is driving a gas tanker that could utterly grind to powder any motorcycle-mounted thugs looking to block his path but solely because the writers want to convey some information to us, he instead stops. The leader of the thugs does some screentime-consuming tough-guy posturing. After announcing his intention to take from our heroes everything they have, he disarms them by stepping, unarmed, between them and his own men. Daryl or any of the others could have simply trained their guns on him at that point and walked away with him as a hostage but the writers have something else in mind, so we get more talk, talk, talking, posturing and then a pretty funny, if somewhat expected, end to the scene.
Next, we're back in the Alexandrian safe zone which isn't safe anymore. It's been overrun by zombies and Rick and his group, employing the zombie-gut camouflage trick the writers sometimes allow them to remember, are walking among them. We get, in fact, an uninterrupted two minutes of just shots of Rick and co. walking among them. "It's going to be one of those," I thought with a sigh. And it was; we gets lots and lots more of those shots before the ep is through. Rick stops everyone for an impromptu strategy session right in the middle of a street filled with the walking dead. Many clichés are exchanged. The zombies, perhaps regular TWD viewers, are obviously used to it and pay it no mind. The mighty zombie-gut camouflage trick is impenetrable and watching this, one can't help but think of all the times our heroes could have used it but instead developed amnesia because the writers wanted the plot to go a different way.
And just when one is thinking such thoughts, the writers pull a switcheroo. Before the end of the first half of this season, Sam, Jessie's worthless younger brat, had been absolutely terrified of the zombies. He spent the previous ep hiding in his bedroom listening to Tiny Tim over and over again. Then when he had to be covered in stinking zombie goo and rub elbows with a few hundred of the creatures, he didn't seem to have much of a problem with it at all. During Rick's strategy session, he refuses to go with Father Gabriel and take refuge in the church. "I'm not leaving you," he says to his mother with as much steely-eyed determination as one can manage for such an awful, worn-out line. But as he continues to wander among the dead, fear randomly overtakes him and the dead suddenly and just as randomly develop the ability to see through that camouflage, jump him and eat him, starting a chain reaction that ends with Jessie and both her sons--all covered in zombie guts--being similarly eaten.
If one ignores the fact that, to accomplish this, the writers blatantly violated a rule that has run the entire length of the series and that they had reinforced only minutes earlier, these deaths occur without prior ceremony and given how unusual that is for TWD, I suppose that's worthy of some little bit of praise but the deaths also mean that all the running-time spent establishing these characters throughout this season joins almost everything else this season in the filler column. The death of the whole family feels like the writers just got tired of writing about them and, hey, TWD needs shocking deaths--why else would anyone watch?
The ep is full of the standard TWD speeches in place of dialogue. Glenn and Enid trade speeches. Carol and Morgan, whose conflict goes nowhere, trade speeches. Even Father Gabriel gets in on it at one point. We can do this. God will give us courage. Those you loved and lost live on through you. Blah, blah, blah--it's just garbage from every other soap or bad movie you've ever seen and it all just runs together.
Toward the end, Rick goes on a zombie-killing rampage and the other Alexandrians, inspired by his example, take to the streets to battle the dead, at which point the endless shots of zombies wandering around are replaced by endless shots of everyone killing zombies, folding, eventually, into an embarrassingly bad montage of zombie-killing--poorly-lit people in a studio in front of a bad green screen in close up quick cuts making silly, grunty battle faces as they whack away at the camera and are splattered with fake blood.
In the midst of this, Daryl, Sasha and Abraham show up with the gas tanker. At that point, all that is necessary to rid the safe zone of its zombie problem is for one of them to lay down on the horn for a moment then slowly drive away with the dead following along but Daryl comes up with a more visual solution. He pours the rare and precious gasoline in the truck into a storm drain and sets it ablaze. Worse, he's apparently short of matches or the lighter he has always carried and opts to ignite it with a rocket launcher. Daryl had just encountered a contingent of armed hostiles from a larger group of same.
That rocket may have come in handy if that group of hostiles had shown up at the safe zone gates the way GINO turned up at the prison in season 4 but no one on TWD ever learns anything and the writers have survivalist Daryle judge it more important to have a blazing explosion to cap off the midseason opener. And in another violation of the series' rules, the writers have the dead walk right into the blaze and be consumed by it. Though it doesn't make a lick of sense, fire has always attracted the zombies of TWD but they've never walked into it. If they'll do that, imagine how simple it would have been to resolve the zombies-in-the-quarry situation on which this season has been built. Or any situation in the entire run of the series involving large numbers of zombies. Or think on how in hell zombies who behave in this way would have ever overrun the world in the first place. Or, if you're a TWD fan, don't.
The ending sees Rick making another speech over the fallen Carl, who was earlier shot in the eye. Coral, you just gotta' live through this and see this peachy new world we're a' gonna' build, as his voice cracks and he tears up. Connoisseurs of bad melodrama know what's coming next; we get the slow camera pan down to Coral's limp hand as it slowly but surely begins to move and grip his father's hand. Cue the violin music.
Isn't that sweet?
No, it's just THE WALKING DEAD. Give it a shot of insulin.
 An end that, except for the "somewhat expected" part, is a brand of humor straight out of Z NATION and heretofore entirely unknown to TWD.