This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.
The Walking Dead has been building up momentum the last few weeks, with the group meeting the survivors at Hilltop, the attack on the Saviours and the kidnap of Carol and Maggie. So when 'Twice As Far' began with a sequence that showed the routine that had set in around Alexandria, of people going about their day to day business again and again, it felt like the episode might have been a downshift. For the most part it was, with much of the episode taking the time to explore two of the smaller, often overlooked characters, but events in the last ten minutes proved to both the characters and the audience that you should never lower your guard.
The main bulk of the episode followed two groups of survivors outside the safety of Alexandria, Eugene and Abraham, who were searching for a workshop where Eugene believes that he can produce bullets, and Denise, Rosita and Daryl, who were searching for a stash of medication.
Whilst both of these groups had some of the resident bad arses of the group present, they also had two of what could be considered the cowardly characters in the shape of Eugene and Denise. Whilst some would argue that Denise has been growing as a character over the course of this season Eugene is definitely a man who has relied on others to protect him in the past, even overtly manipulating people to ensure his own survival.
Giving both of these characters the time to shine and prove that they are capable outside of the walls of Alexandria might have been a slight failure for them, Eugene was unable to kill the metal headed walker and Denise almost got herself killed over a can of soda, the facility where they can make bullets and the extra medical supplies were all earned by them using their brains to find a solution other members of the group wouldn't have.
Both characters are given a lot of room for growth in this episode. Eugene believes that he's adapted and is in 'stage two' of being a survivor, that he's not just using his brain to survive anymore, but is just as capable as physical action to save himself just as much as any of the other members of the group. At first he's proven wrong when he attempts to kill a walker that's had molten metal poured over it's head in the past and now essentially has a big metal skull.
Abraham is forced to jump in and save Eugene when he's unable to dispatch the walker (but to be fair, he would have done it quite easily if not for the metal skull), which leads to a division between the two men. Their relationship has been quite strained since Abraham found out Eugene lied to him when they first met, and Abraham's recent changes have left his a little more 'delicate', so when Eugene tells him his protection is no longer needed Abraham takes it incredibly personally, leaving Eugene to find his own way home.
Denise, and her journey in this episode, is a very different animal to Eugene. Where Eugene has hidden away from danger and relied on others by choice Denise seems to be the character who has had others protecting her whether she wanted them to or not. She was sheltered in Alexandria, Carol saved her from the wolf, and as the town's only medic they've kept her clear of the front lines to keep her alive.
In this week's episode we get a sense that Denise wants to be in more dangerous situations, that she wants to prove that she isn't someone who needs the protection of others, more for herself than anyone else. I got the sense that she had grown sick of being sheltered from what was beyond the walls of Alexandria, and that the trip for medical supplies was her way of proving to herself that she had more to offer than just being a doctor, and that she was stronger.
Sadly this is The Walking Dead, and people are often robbed of their chance to grow or find any kind of happiness, so when Denise finally proves to herself that she can protect herself (and also finds the can of soda she's been trying to get for Tara for weeks) she's killed in the middle of a passionate speech.
The moment comes out of nowhere, and (for me at least) scares the shit out of the audience. One minute she's talking, the next there's an arrow sticking out of her face. It's also a sad moment, because Denise was one of those smaller characters that had just started coming into the foreground, and was very likable. Her relationship with Tara was genuine and sweet, and it makes her death even more devastating knowing that Tara left on her supply mission unsure about telling Denise if she loved her or not.
The death was also a surprise for fans of the comic, as in the book this scene took place with another member of the group taking the shot to the head, Abraham. In the books Abraham is killed by Dwight with a crossbow after he breaks up with Rosita. What with Abraham getting a lot of focus lately, with his mental stability being a little 'shaken' all season, and him having finally ended his relationship with Rosita I believed that he would be the next member of the group. Instead the show writers chose to dispatch Denise in order to shock those fans with a knowledge of the source material.
The fact that a death happened the same way, but the person killed changed is sure to add to fan speculation that Negan might not be making the exact same entrance that he does in the books, and that any one of the cast might be lost in the season finale.
The audience and the characters are given little time to mourn Denise though, as Daryl and Rosita are ambushed by a dozen members of the Saviours, who have a captured Eugene in tow. The saviours admit that they know where Alexandria is, and try to get their prisoners to take them there and let them inside the walls. Thankfully Abraham is close at hand to turn the tables though.
In a moment where we're led to believe that Eugene is trying to save his own skin yet again, he tells the Saviours that Abraham is hiding behind a pile of old barrels, giving Abraham the chance to attack them from a different direction. In the ensuing fight Eugene proves that he has indeed stepped up to stage two, as while tied up and on his knees he bites Dwight in the crotch and seriously wounds him.
It's a little surprising that three members of our group, and a tied up Eugene with a mouth full of dick (not being crass, he really does have a mouth full of dick) actually manage to turn the tables on the Saviours and either kill them or drive them off. If it wasn't for the death of Denise the threat of the group would be seriously questionable. Unfortunately we lost one of the most likable characters on the show to prove that they can be a danger to our heroes.
The episode ends with Daryl doubting and blaming himself for what happened, believing even more that he should have killed Dwight in the burnt woods when he had the chance (way back in the first half of the season for those struggling to remember). It's possible that in the next episode we might see both Eugene and Abraham blaming themselves too, as both of them are in a way responsible for Eugene's capture by the Saviours, but I think the show will move on from Denise until Tara returns to the community.
The episode ends with Carol leaving a note for Tobin telling him that she's had enough of the killing, that she doesn't want to be the person that kills people anymore. Unfortunately she knows that she will kill to protect the people she loves (the whole of Alexandria) and feels the only way to save herself from being a killer is to not love anyone, and as such leaves.
I really, really hope that this isn't going to be the last we see of Carol, and I hope that she doesn't end up in the hands of the Saviours to be killed. We'll have to wait until next week to find out what happens next, though I can't see Daryl letting her go without a good try at bringing her home.