Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Not Tomorrow Yet”:

It probably wasn’t an accident that’s last week’s Oscar-overshadowedKnots Untie” kept things reasonably quiet, to lay out some of the exposition and settings that will pull focus over the next season or so, rather than kick off any major conflict just yet. Not only that, but the second half of Season 6 has increasingly built on a more livened sensibility than fans are used to, whether emphasizing the old-timey distinction of the Hilltop, or adding a bit more colorful music choices and black humor, something “Not Tomorrow Yet” definitely ran with as well.

The initial emphasis on Carol felt like a strong choice after her absence in the last two hours, similar to the manner in which last week framed some of the story through Abraham’s perspective, even if neither hour ever fully commit to those viewpoints. In fact, you could probably point to number of character beats within “Not Tomorrow Yet” that seemed to lack a proper home, from Tara’s guilt with Denise, to Abraham and Rosita’s breakup and more.

With Carol at least, there’s very much a “History of Violence” to play with as we see the happy homemaker scrounging together cookies from acorns and beets, begrudgingly ruining the imagery with a spray of walker blood, then swinging back and forth to the neighborhood mom that delivers treats, including a heavy-hearted one for Sam’s grave. Carol’s overdue for a bit of personal happiness, having acted as the group’s dark horse for so long, even if tonight’s romance with Tobin felt a tad out of the blue. If nothing else just yet, their conversation at least helped frame her motherly vibe as someone with fiercely protective instincts, regardless of any actual children to offer a maternal influence, or  her overall sunny, care-taking disposition.

Richonne +1, Caryl 0.

It’s an interesting contrast with Maggie’s treatment through the hour, as Carol observes that the Hilltop dealmaker isn’t safeguarding her child’s well-being as best she could, though not one the hour really found enough time to explore. Both ended up captured offscreen anyway, depriving us of an immediate resolution to that cheery opener, as well as their stand-off at the RV. I’m not certain what we were intended to make of Carol’s notebook either, perhaps a forlorn tally of her kills to coincide with the hour’s emphasis on taking human lives, but there’s always hope for some clarification next week.

The infiltration of the Savior facility in particular was well-staged, almost Winter Soldier-y in the precision Rick’s team utilized to get past the initial guards. It also helped distinguish the Saviors a bit more as a force to be reckoned with, first competent enough to install floodlights around their base, and second deranged enough to make light of the walker facsimile of Gregory’s head, itself somewhat overshadowing that Rick and the others elected to massacre soldiers who’d yet to discover* their existence. The action itself got a bit confusing once everyone started opening fire, and no one on the home team appeared to suffer any major injuries, but it’s at least nice to be reminded of some degrees of tension the series can communicate visually, that the comics can’t.

As opposed to believable wig-work.

*It’s more than worth noting that so many agreed to brutally murder strangers without so much as attempting to open a line of communication with Negan or his men, but the episode itself seemed to take that more at face-value than Morgan’s objection to it.

We’ve still four hours left in the season after Maggie and Carol end up hostages of another band of Saviors, that there’s plenty of room for back and forth between all-out war and some sharper focus to those lost character beats as well. It worked well enough to emphasize Gabriel, Heath or Glenn’s first human kills as the group being remade in Rick’s image, but it still feels as if The Walking Dead isn’t sure how to balance that development individually with the season’s overarching threat.

Abraham walking out on Rosita felt particularly lost in the shuffle as well, even undercut by Eugene’s comedic attire, and Tara’s conflict with Denise wasn’t made particularly clear, considering she and Heath are off a few weeks anyway. The early focus on Carol shows how effective The Walking Dead can be with individual perspectives; it’s the shambling focus between so many characters to service that keeps violent conflicts like tonight’s infiltration less resonant than they could be.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • There are going to be beet and acorn cookie recipes all over the internet tomorrow, and I will try none of them.
  • “Just put it in your mouth, jerk.” Phrasing, Carol.
  • Yeah, Morgan made a mistake keeping the Wolf, but the unnamed captive didn’t actually kill anyone, or cause any additional deaths, right?
  • Definitely could have lived without the obnoxious shots of Rick framed by the stained-glass crucifix.
  • Considering last week spent time trying to soften Abraham, the hasty, and cruel exit from Rosita very much undid that, when it wasn’t busy undercutting the mood with questions like “Why are dingleberries brown?” Just a very weirdly-handled scene.
  • Rick punching the zombie “Gregory”s nose made for a good sight gag, but did they really find three in that exact look? Did they perhaps put fake hair on otherwise fresh heads?
  • Surely stabbing someone in the head must cause some kind of flail/momentary awareness, right?
  • Also, get it? Glenn found photos full of bashed-in heads? Subtlety!
  • I thought for sure Glenn and Heath would have accidentally shot one of their own through the door.
  • What exactly was Morgan welding?
  • Daryl straddle-punched the lone surviving Savior, and I will never not notice this now.

The Walking Dead will return on March 13, airing at 9:00 P.M. on AMC.

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