the walking dead, TWD, walking dead, season 6, 612, not tomorrow yet, carolFor a show focused so prominently death (it's right there in the title, after all), "The Walking Dead" does have a knack for sowing seeds of happiness. Whether or not all those seeds actually blossom is another matter, but for a few brief moments every season, all seems well. That was no doubt the point of the sunny opening montage of this week's installment, "Not Tomorrow Yet," which featured a glimpse into Carol's daily life in Alexandria, soundtracked by a jaunty folk tune (another cleverly-employed musical moment in a season swimming with them).

Followed by banjos and xylophones, Carol scours the pantry for cookie supplies (and those trusty water chestnuts), hunts for acorns in the woods, kills a walker, washes the blood off in the shower, raids her closet full of sensible floral button-downs and pastel cardigans, and crafts the best cookies she can, which she cheerfully passes out to the townsfolk. Children run past, gleefully clutching their Tupperware, as housewives smile in surprise and appreciation. Carol even gets some flirting in with Tobin, making the line "I foraged a lot of acorns" sound sexier than it has any right to be. (Though there's no question about the double-entendre in Carol then imploring Tobin to "just put it in your mouth, jerk" when he balks at the confection's pink color. Insert a beets/beats joke here.)

It's all so light and frothy and fun – and then Rick's crew rolls back into town from Hilltop, the music abruptly stops, and things get back to normal. Of course. This is "The Walking Dead," after all, and what is this show really about other than the slow, agonizing march toward yet another bitter battle for survival?

Unlike past showdowns, though, that battle immediately kicks into overdrive this week, as Rick presents his proposal to take on the Saviors, formulates a plan with Hilltop allies Andy and Jesus, and actually carries out said plan, all within a day's time. After the agonizing planning process to infiltrate the hospital back in season five, this week's accelerated action seemed too good to be true. And as Rick and co. soon realized, it most certainly was.

From the moment they rolled up to the Saviors' settlement – which appears to be housed inside an old television station, complete with giant satellite dishes and winding, windowless corridors – something seemed fishy. Only two nighttime guards for a group so large its own ranks don't know all their fellow members? And speaking of those sprawling ranks, why weren't they all inside? The body count from the Alexandrians' attack surely couldn't have numbered more than a few dozen; perhaps the rest of the Saviors were hiding in the secret underground Harley-Davidson dealership from which the group gets its never-ending supply of bikes?

We'll have to wait until next week to find out where everyone else is, though based on the sketchy details from the female voice on the other end of a fallen Savior's walkie, they aren't exactly eager to reveal themselves to the Alexandrians just yet. And since they're planning on using a captured Carol and Maggie as bargaining chips, they certainly have the upper hand in the negotiation process. Confrontation may be something that Rick can confidently brag about, as he did last week, but as we've seen before, his people skills could use some work. Zombies and being a hothead: Both things that can bite you in the ass in the apocalypse.

Speaking of Rick's penchant for terrible first impressions, he's already skating on thin ice with Hilltopper-turned-ally Andy. Last week, when they first met, he killed Andy's friend in front of him, while Daryl broke Andy's hand. This week, Rick suggests serving up Gregory's head to Negan as a way to gain access to the Saviors' compound. For a brief moment, I thought that meant that Rick was actually going to cut off Gregory's head, but alas, he decides to use a random walker as a decoy instead. As they're choosing between three bearded severed heads, Jesus and Andy note that the zombie's nose isn't quite right. Rick then dutifully picks up the selection and punches it a bit, telling Andy to claim that "Gregory" broke his hand, so he fought back, messing up the face. An appalled Andy just stares at Rick, prompting yet another impatient "What?" reaction from the constable. "The Saviors, they're scary," Andy replies. "But those pricks got nothing on you." Truth.

As for those "scary" Saviors: So far, I am not impressed. I've already explained how I found the group that ambushed Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham to be laughable. And this week, when we meet the duo guarding the Saviors' camp, their biggest scare tactic is using swear words to communicate that they're bad guys. Calling someone an a—hole, s—tbrain, and needle-d—k doesn't make you a menace; it makes you 14. And that bearded dude whistling "Happy Birthday" – what was that about? It wasn't creepy (as I'm sure was intended) so much as baffling. Surely the writers can't be serious with this. (And I'll call them Shirley whenever I want, thanks.) I hope the outdated royalties they paid for that song were worth it.

What was well-handled, however, was Glenn's turmoil over finally killing another human being. This was the first time he'd done so in the show's history, and much has been made about his holdout status over the years. It was used as an excuse for why he couldn't kill Nicholas, despite every sign strenuously pointing at him to do so, and why it was especially poignant that Nicholas was the person who got him "killed" (except LOL JK not really) earlier this season. So the fact that it actually happened tonight was big, and I'm glad he was able to discuss it beforehand with Heath, someone who'd also never taken another non-zombified life. They both said they were "lucky" to avoid it before, and I found it very in-character for Glenn to initially shoulder that burden for Heath when they're faced with two sleeping Saviors. Glenn weeps for what he's losing as he takes another's life; viewers must surely have felt some remorse, too, knowing that the last pure soul left on "The Walking Dead" has officially been tainted.

It's important, though, that Glenn and Heath quickly move past their devastation, and switch over to survival mode, finding the arsenal and mowing down the Saviors that surround the door. There's a time to grieve for your lost innocence, and a time to fight. This was the time to fight, and they chose wisely.

Again, it's hard to tell exactly what they were up against, since an unknown number of Saviors are still surrounding them. And what our group has found inside the compound is just as mysterious, too. Glenn and Heath discover a collage of Polaroids depicting gruesome head injuries, leaving faces mutilated beyond recognition. (A nod to spoiler-y things to come.) Aaron kills a guy who has pictures of motorcycles pinned up in his room, proving that this sect worships at the altar of bitchin' rides. And Abe busts open what appears to be a grow room full of weed. (Maybe that explains why they're so hungry for the Hilltoppers' food supply.)

Viewers have been promised that Negan and his followers are the biggest bads to ever grace "TWD," and for the sake of plot development, I'm hoping they prove themselves worthy foes in the weeks to come. But I'm fearing that the show, after four weeks of excellent episodes, is now running out of ways to stall introducing the allegedly horrifying aspects of these characters, and I'm starting to believe that everything I've heard about Negan so far is nothing more than what his henchmen have provided: a lot of hot air. For our survivors' sake, I suppose I hope I'm right. But for viewers' sake, I better be wrong. The happy montages are a fun diversion, but this show isn't called "The Walking Dead" for nothing.

Other thoughts:

- I loved the framing of the scene in the church where Rick is laying out his plan to kill the Saviors, looking every bit like a pastor preaching to his congregation in front of that stained glass window. I appreciated that he gave the Alexandrians an out, and was willing to listen to dissent. Of course, Morgan was the only one to speak up, urging Rick to reconsider because, "Where there's life, there's possibility." To his credit, Rick doesn't immediately tell Morgan to shut up, but says that he thinks it's a mistake to go to the Saviors first and simply ask them to back down. Rick also says he'll ask the rest of the Alexandrians for their input, because he wants it to be a group decision. Deanna would be proud. (Rick also implies that if Morgan can't live with that decision he's going to have to leave, but I suppose we'll deal with that unpleasantness later.)

- In the wake of the loss of her chain-smoking friend Shelly in the Wolf attack, Carol has taken up that unhealthy habit, nervously puffing away as she walks the streets of Alexandria alone at night. She meets up with fellow insomniac Tobin, who ends up confessing his feelings for Carol while complimenting her on the way she's been a mother to the Alexandrians, both through her Suzy Homemaker tendencies, but especially through her strength in the face of "the scary stuff." "You're something else to me," he admits, and they share a kiss. "It's not tomorrow yet," Carol says suggestively, implying that they're about to take a cue from Rick and Michonne's book and get it on while they still can. I am totally on boarding with this show becoming "The W-A-L-K-I-N-G K-I-S-S-I-N-G Dead."

- Someone who's no longing K-I-S-S-I-N-G: Abe and Rosita, who officially break up this week after Abe realized he's in love with Sasha. Of course, instead of explaining this to Rosita like a mature adult, he tries to pack his bags and run out undetected. Rosita walks in on him and demands an answer, and Abe delivers perhaps the coldest breakup line ever: "When I first met you, I thought you were the last woman on earth. You're not." Harsh, dude.

- That tension is immediately broken by an amazing sight gag: Eugene awkwardly standing outside the door, decked out in a "Virginia Is For Lovers" t-shirt and munching on one of Carol's cookies. "You try one of these?" he offers, before a sobbing Rosita slams the door in his face. "They're chewy."

- Jesus joins the fight inside the Saviors' complex, saving Glenn and Heath from the last survivor of the gunfight outside the armory. When he first walked up, I thought he was Maggie, until he pulled off his mask. I'm wondering if their resemblance from the nose up (and the confusion it causes) will come back into play later this season.

- After the attack, a puzzled Michonne asks Rick, "I wonder which one of them was Negan?" Apparently she doesn't read the trades.

- In the show's final moments, we get several scenes of Morgan back in Alexandria...welding something? Is this yet another skill he picked up from the cheesemaker? Or perhaps he's taken Jessie's place as Alexandria's resident metal sculpture artist? He also takes a break to sob, so apparently his project isn't going so well.

- The closing musical montage also featured a fitting, moody selection. Seriously, whoever is in charge of the soundtrack deserves a big raise.

Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead
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Based on 25 critics

Based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman, this gritty drama portrays life in the weeks and months following a zombie apocalypse. Led by police officer Ric... Read More