Any criticism of The Walking Dead is largely aimed at its unrelentingly morbid content, something that reached a peak in the opening half of season seven. Recent reports suggested that the show had toned down its violence due to viewer complaints - something that was strenuously denied by Greg Nicotero, executive producer and director of this week's episode, 'Say Yes.' Intriguingly, however, these past few episodes have dished out a lighter tone spearheaded by the midseason premiere's climactic smile courtesy of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). 'Say Yes' - the zombie series' twelfth episode - continues in the same vein.
The episode is split into three parts, with the main crux following Rick and Michonne on the road together, trying to find guns for Jadis, the leader of their new allies in the war against Negan. It always feels like a big deal when these two characters are given major screen time and sure enough their scenes come alive due to the chemistry between actors Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira, a duo who clearly bring out the best in each other.
The episode's light relief comes from their assuredness in dispatching of walkers, and how their cockiness gets them into trouble. Their interplay sizzles while their reaction to rolling events around them convinces. If you didn't buy into their relationship before, you undoubtedly will by episode's end.
While these scenes may induce screams of filler, their purpose is hammered home in a brilliantly-executed moment where Michonne believes Rick to have been devoured by a horde of the undead. It's to the show's credit that you even believe them to have killed off Lincoln for even a split second, but this scene is all Gurira - for a solid minute, the camera remains fixed on her face as we see her truly believe she has lost the man she loves. It's a gigantic puzzle piece into a character that has always maintained an enigmatic air.
The most shocking Walking Dead moments
The most shocking Walking Dead moments
1/10 Sophie's a walker (season 2, episode 7)
Much of season two's opening half is spent looking for Sophia, the missing daughter of Carol (Melissa McBride). Turns out she was locked up in Hershel's barn as a zombie all along.
2/10 Shane reanimates without being bitten (season 2, episode 12)
When Carl (Chandler Riggs) guns down a deranged Shane (Jon Bernthal) to protect his father, the shock arrives when he manifests into a walker despite not being bitten; turns out everyone's infected with the virus and will turn whichever way they die.
3/10 Axel's bullet to the eye (season 3, episode 10)
A character introduced in the show's prison arc, Axel is a reformed prisoner who strikes up a friendship with Carol - until he's gunned down mid-sentence.
4/10 Carl kills Lori after she gives birth (season 3, episode 4)
Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) goes into labour at the very moment a zombie siege breaks out at the prison. Unfortunately, she doesn't make it through the procedure with her son Carl being the one to put a bullet to her head.
5/10 The Governor slays Hershel (season 4, episode 8)
The Governor makes his dramatic return for a showdown at the prison after he captures Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Hershel (Scott Wilson). Rick reaches out, attempting to reason with him - but The Governor starts a war when he proceeds to decapitate poor old Hershel instead.
6/10 "Look at the flowers" (season 4, episode 14)
In a standout episode from the show's fourth season, Carol is forced to take drastic measures when young teenager Lizzie murders her sister Mika in the belief that she'll live on as a zombie. Realising Lizzie's depraved mind would endanger those around her, Carol puts a gun to the young girl's head and, telling her to "look at the flowers," pulls the trigger, fighting back the tears.
7/10 Carl's bullet to the eye (season 6, episode 9)
Season six returned from its mid-season break in typically dramatic fashion when an iconic moment from the graphic novels came to life: Carl takes a bullet to the eye.
8/10 Beth is killed (season 5, episode 8)
Upon being kidnapped, Beth (Emily Kinney) is taken to Grady Memorial Hospital managed by Atlanta Law Enforcement. Forced to reside there against her will, the group - including Rick and Daryl (Norman Reedus) - eventually find her - only for her to be accidentally shot in the head by her captor. The worst thing? Her sister Maggie (Lauren Cohan) had just arrived outside.
9/10 Negan kills Abraham
Season seven opened in brutal form as we discovered it was Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) at the opposite end of Negan's baseball bat. "Suck my nuts," the soldier growls as the Saviours' leader brings Lucille raining down on his head until nothing remains but a pulpy mess.
10/10 Negan kills Glenn
Negan decides to punish the group once more after getting clocked round the face by Daryl. Without expectation, he thwacks Lucille round the head of poor Glenn. With his eyeball popping out of his head, he manages: "I'll find you, Maggie before Negan proceeds to finish the job ending the former pizza delivery boy's life.
Something The Walking Dead has managed to achieve with success this year is making characters that previously felt expendable feel an integral part of the story - a tough task with a cast comprised of 15. Tara (Alanna Masterson) is given meatier work to do this week, her most since she was handed a standalone episode earlier this season. In fact, the actor displays her greatest work yet in a scene where she expresses her turmoil over whether to tell Rick about Oceanside, the secret community she stumbled across and promised to keep a secret, to baby Judith. It's a tough scene to pull off, especially when one may not have as much investment in her story than others in the episode, but Masterson completes her task admirably.
It's Rosita who has perhaps benefited the most from this, however, the death of Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) giving her character a new lease of life. However, judging by the final scene, who knows how long this will last for? The closing moment sees her unveil a newly-acquired sniper rifle to Sasha (Sonequa Martin Green) at the Hilltop before the two partner up for a Thelma and Louise-style suicide mission to end Negan's life. While this plot twist is an exciting plot move - and it's great to see two strong female characters taking matters into their own hands - it's becoming increasingly tough to imagine a future with these characters alive in the series.
'Say Yes' may not move events along in drastic fashion, but manages to join the dots by aligning motivations in a way that will no doubt reverberate through the final four episodes.
The Walking Dead airs in the UK tonight (6 March) at 9pm on FOX. Watch the trailer for next week's high-octane Carol-centric episode here.Reuse content