the walking dead, season 6, recap, 613, the same boat, carolTonight's installment of "The Walking Dead" picked up just moments before last week's left off, focusing on the capture of Maggie and Carol by a band of Savior stragglers outside the group's compound. Viewers likely guessed that the formidable women would eventually evade their captors, but this slog of an episode made what's become a routine trope more painful than usual.

The law of averages (Rick's new favorite phrase) inferred that the show's recent run of excellent installments had to end sometime, but man, this week's bottle episode was such a buzzkill (until its final minutes, anyway; more on that in a minute). It made sense to spend some quality time with Maggie and Carol, since both women have been underused and underserved this season; what was confusing, though, was why Carol seems to suddenly be wrestling with her admittedly murky morality, as if her brief foray back into domesticity in Alexandria has made her long for her former boring, beaten-down life. Perhaps she blames herself for Sam's descent into madness – and ultimate death – as her gift of a cookie on his gravesite last week suggests. And her losing sleep over the number of people she's killed obviously points to some remorse about what she's had to do to survive. But it seems like such an odd 180 for the woman who single-handedly blew up an entire cannibal camp back in the season five premiere to just now be questioning how far she's come (and didn't this already happen way back when she shot Lizzie?).

This random identity crisis certainly wasn't helped by the fact that Carol spent most of the episode interacting with Paula, the head of the Savior gang that takes the women hostage. In addition to Paula's Acting-with-a-gigantic-A antics, the show has once again decided that in order to illustrate just how menacing the Saviors are, its members must use profanity at every opportunity. To be clear, this isn't me clutching my pearls; I f—king love some good cussing. But I don't love how it's employed here, seemingly purely for shock value's sake – and seriously, it's not shocking at all. Like the cartoonishly foul-mouthed guards at the Savior gate last week, Paula and her henchmen throw around junior high favorites like "prick," "bitch," and "balls," because they're totally tough and intimidating, you see. Excuse me while I roll my eyes forever.

Paula spends most of her time monologuing about how she's the baddest of them all, how she doesn't care that her boyfriend beats her (congratulations?), how she decided to kill her boss way back when the apocalypse started because he probably would have gotten her killed first. It was a giant mess, written and delivered so gratingly and unconvincingly that I wanted her to just go ahead and shoot me, too, to put me out of my misery. That didn't happen, but thankfully, Paula eventually stopped talking long enough to get herself simultaneously impaled and eaten alive before episode's end, so I suppose that's a win.

Her fellow henchmen don't fare much better. The aforementioned a-hole boyfriend eventually bleeds out after Carol shoots him in the episode's opening minutes; his reanimated corpse is later used to trap Molly, the woman who can't stop coughing up blood (a cancer-induced parlor trick that was probably bound to attract hungry walkers at some point anyway). Maggie finishes her off by beating her to death with the butt of a handgun, the best way to let out some aggression in the apocalypse. Spare Savior Chelle also gets taken out after she tussles with Maggie, slashing the pregnant woman's stomach; witnessing this bit of brutality, Carol quickly shoots Chelle in the head, though she later feels super bad about it, because...reasons.

It remains to be seen just how severe Maggie's wound is (she seems fine for now), and if/how that will affect her unborn child, who was the clear target. Chelle's pointed attack came after she and Maggie spent a long time chatting (is that the right word when one of them is tied up and held at gunpoint?) about Ms. Greene's pregnancy. The Savior tries to suss out where Maggie and Carol came from, guessing that they must have a comfortable settlement since Maggie has "nice clothes" and "time to make babies." Chelle infers that she was once pregnant, too, but lost the baby; she also lost her boyfriend (who she calls "a d—k" – there seems to be a lot of d—kishness going around among the Savior men) after he got "blown up," a clear reference to the gang that cornered Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham in the midseason premiere. It's disappointing that one of those disgusting guys could pull someone as attractive as Chelle, but I guess a girl's gotta take what she can get in the apocalypse.

Speaking of things going boom, I thought Carol had completely blown up the Alexandrians' spot when she let it slip to Paula that her group was the one who sent those bikers sky high. But since all the Saviors in that abandoned slaughterhouse ended up like the cattle that previously entered its doors, the inherent drama in such a seemingly dangerous revelation was completely nullified. And now that every Savior that Rick's group has encountered has been killed – including the lone holdout they discovered last week, who was dispatched tonight – do the rest of the Saviors even know that so many of their members are dead? By the time they realize what's happened, Rick and co. will presumably be long gone.

I know that this conflict is bound to resurface, since the season finale is looming, but tonight's plot points – save for the incendiary finale – all fell completely flat for me. Carol may have mirrored her season five glory by flicking her cigarette onto that gasoline-drenched kill floor and torching those Savior search party guys, but not even that satisfying moment can mask the fact that she's starting to fade into a shadow of her former self. I'm nervous that this back half of season six will follow suit.

Other thoughts:

- At one point, Molly tells Carol, "We are all Negan." Carol asks her what that means, but we never actually get an answer. Later, Rick asks his prisoner if Negan was at the compound or at the slaughterhouse, and the guy claims to be Negan himself. Is this an "I'm Spartacus" situation, or are these Saviors simply so indoctrinated that they've come to think of themselves and their notorious leader as one? An intriguing tidbit that I hope we revisit soon.

- Was there ever any doubt that Carol would use that crucifix to saw her way out of that tape? I understand that her clutching the rosary was meant to tie in to her current identity crisis (and remind viewers of her previous religious conviction), but c'mon – even the Saviors should have seen that one coming.

- I still don't understand why no one ever says the word "zombie" on this show (surely there are still some "Dawn of the Dead" fans out there in the apocalypse), but we now have yet another, Savior-approved synonym for the undead: Growlers.

- Carol and Paula scold Molly's cigarette habit, and Molly calls them "evangelical second graders," an oddly specific yet utterly nonsensical insult.

- Paula dismissively tells Carol she's pathetic. Carol tells Paula, "You will die." Only one of them is right.

- Despite my dislike of this particular red-headed Paula, I assure you that there are other, awesome ones out there.

- The Saviors apparently cut off their members' fingers when they've committed a transgression. I wonder what they did to Dwight and Honey, the twosome who escaped, captured Daryl, then returned to the Savior camp back in episode six.

- Speaking of Dwight and Honey, they don't appear to be among those killed by Rick and co. at the Savior compound. Paula and her henchmen kept insisting that the Alexandrians murdered all of their people and destroyed their home, but they must be lying, right? Or, like Dwight and Honey, are Paula and her gang also unsure of just how large the Saviors's ranks truly are?

- Loved Carol's dead-on impression of Paula's vocal tics when she impersonated the woman over the walkie.

- Also loved Daryl embracing Carol after their reunion, knowing that she's clearly quite shaken. I was on board with last week's burgeoning Carol-Tobin 'ship, but I think my allegiance may be veering back toward the U.S.S. Caryl.

- The Saviors' appendage-severing discipline tactics reminded me of the Wolves' penchant for chopping off people's limbs, while the slaughterhouse brought back memories of Terminus. Not sure if these were intentional callbacks, though they certainly add to the foreboding feeling of doom lurking around the corner.

Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead
AMCTVMA2010
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