The Walking Dead season 11, episode 6 recap – “On the Inside”

September 27, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
AMC, Weekly TV
4

Summary

“On the Inside” is an episode of two halves. One is a mostly conventional outing. The other is the best the show has been in years.

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4

Summary

“On the Inside” is an episode of two halves. One is a mostly conventional outing. The other is the best the show has been in years.

This recap of The Walking Dead season 11, episode 6, “On the Inside”, contains spoilers.


To say The Walking Dead’s decade-plus run has been inconsistent would be the biggest understatement that anyone has ever made about anything. The same can be said of the spin-offs, too. And we’re not just talking about quality. Virtually every show ever made has episodes that are notably better or worse than most of the others. But The Walking Dead isn’t even consistent about its style, tone, or sometimes even genre. At this point, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style musical episode wouldn’t even shock me (and it’s telling that I just had to Google whether or not such a thing had already happened.)

The Walking Dead season 11, episode 6 recap

“On the Inside” is the best example of this in ages. Like last week’s episode, there’s a bit too much going on it for my liking, with two core storylines sharing the runtime but also slightly overlapping with two more. One of those core storylines is… just fine. But the other is dynamite. It’s the best – and the scariest – that The Walking Dead has been in years, and it absolutely comes out of nowhere. Even the underlying aspects of its construction are a level above what we usually get; it’s near-genius in its use of sound and builds a horrifying warren of dangers into what already looks like a haunted house from the outside. It’s impressively performed, shot, and edited. It almost feels like a sequence from a different show.

There are upsides and downsides to this – it’s mightily effective, but to such an extent that it makes Daryl’s undercover mission amongst the Reapers feel a bit more tedious than usual. That’s no fault of Daryl’s, even if his play-acted interrogator turn doesn’t suit him. It’s more a case that the Reapers as an overall entity are bland. There’s no comic book-y weirdness about them. Pope is nasty and dangerous, but so is everyone in the show these days, even the good guys. The only real hook for the audience is whether or not Daryl can save Leah, who we’re to believe is somehow the love of his life despite only having met her once before this season, in a single outing that kicked off the 10C bonus episodes. It’s okay, but it just doesn’t work on the level the show thinks it does.

The angle of the Reaper stuff in “On the Inside” is that Daryl has to prove his worth to Pope, first by torturing Frost, and then by leading Leah and Carver, her obviously-in-love-with-her bestie, to the location he spits out after Daryl removes one of his fingers. The Frost stuff is bizarre. He has intuited that Daryl is trying to play both sides, but he decides to hold out under torture for as long as he can and then give away the actual location of the house where Maggie, Negan, and Father Gabriel are hiding out. After, Pope kills him anyway (though, perhaps crucially, after interrogating him more off-screen and being visibly happy about what he learned). It was obvious to me and should have been to Frost, that he wasn’t going to survive this situation, so why he ratted out the group is anyone’s guess. This is a prime example of purely functional writing, the kind just trying to maneuver characters into place. The place – that yellow hideout house where Maggie and co., thanks to Daryl tipping them off, manage to hide in a cellar beneath a trap door hidden under a rug – allows for a tense sequence. But it’s disappointing how nakedly and artlessly we got there.

The sequence plays out thusly: Daryl spots the trap door and hides it, then tries to convince Leah and Carver to move on without being obvious about it, while Carver continuously confronts him about being suspicious and untrustworthy. The irony, obviously, is that Carver’s right, but since there wouldn’t be much drama in this plot if Daryl’s double-agent status wasn’t discovered eventually, it doesn’t really matter. Again, the hook is Daryl’s relationship with Leah; he even admits in this very conversation that he only cares about her, and not the group he has pledged allegiance to. I get where we’re going with this on a character level, but I’m not sure Leah is charismatic or likable enough for it to work. Her justifications for being so slavishly devoted to this group of clearly awful people don’t hold much water. And, as mentioned above, we barely know her.

Having said that, I can’t say we know Virgil all that well either, yet The Walking Dead season 11, episode 6 gets some real mileage out of him. Virgil, who I had to Google for a quick refresher, is the guy who took Michonne to Bloodsworth Island in the Season 10 episode “What We Become”, and he arrived at Oceanside in “A Certain Doom”, later finding a surviving Connie after the cave collapse. He’s still with her here, and they take shelter in an abandoned house, which is never a good idea but is only rarely this bad of one. Connie is exhausted from several days without sleep and a claustrophobic near-death encounter, and Virgil is frustrated because she won’t follow his advice to rest and he doesn’t understand ASL so can’t properly communicate with her outside of written notes. It’s these limitations, though, that wring some genuine terror out of what follows, especially once Connie becomes isolated and we’re plunged into her soundless perspective.

The terror in “On the Inside” comes from the feral survivors who live inside of the house’s walls, scurry around on all fours, and croak, “Hungry…” as they chase Connie and Virgil around the house. A room of picked-clean human bones suggests they’ve been feeding on people like them who inadvertently wander into the house but have long since exhausted their supply of flesh. The episode is cagey about introducing these creatures – for a while, it’s just yellowing eyes pressed against peepholes – until it can’t get enough of them. At least two sequences – the first introduction, as one chases Connie down a corridor, and a bit later when Connie watches one slink up behind Virgil, and he almost stabs her through the wall – rank among the most nerve-shredding the show has ever produced. There’s no real context or explanation for any of it, either. I’m not even entirely sure the ferals make logical sense. But it’s just so supremely well-constructed that none of this matters. Connie and Virgil have some nice character moments. Connie’s escape plan to cover them in zombie guts and open the house’s front doors so that the walkers stagger in and set about the creatures is genuinely smart and effective. And when they both make it outside and encounter Kelly and the rest of the Alexandria search party, the reunion between the sisters, despite the frankly ridiculous made-for-TV timing of it, is really touching.

It’s easy to wish The Walking Dead was this good all the time, but I suppose it wouldn’t be The Walking Dead if it was.

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