‘The Walking Dead’ Recap: ‘Not Tomorrow Yet’ May Be The Darkest Episode to Date

walking dead recap 612
Courtesy of AMC

Spoiler alert: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “The Walking Dead” Season 6, Episode 12, titled “Not Tomorrow Yet.”

Last week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” may have suffered from a terminal case of telling instead of showing, but episode 612 confidently reversed that trend, recapturing the humor, energy and tension of “The Next World” as if “Knots Untie” was nothing but a pothole on the race towards the finale, and arguably upping the ante even further by taking our characters down a disturbing path from which there may be no return.

Why was the episode so “dark”? In large part because it dug deep into humanity’s less honorable impulses, forcing our characters to confront the thorny moral implications of just what each of them was prepared to do to protect their hard-won sanctuary. What transpired in this episode was murder, no two ways about it — the only question is whether murder can ever be justifiable, if it means securing safety for you and your loved ones. (We’re not even going to touch on Abraham, who basically unloaded a machine gun on Rosita’s heart just because he got distracted by a newer, even more damaged model — and if he’s destined for a meeting with Negan’s baseball bat, the show’s doing a good job of telling us why we shouldn’t be sad about it.)

The hour opened with a deceptively jaunty tone, illustrating just how enthusiastically Carol has embraced Alexandria’s domesticity after weeks (months?) of playing wolf in sheep’s clothing — to the point where she was actually exasperated over splattering zombie brains over her freshly laundered shirt while she was out collecting acorns. This week, she was no longer baking cookies for show, but because she actually likes her neighbors — one in particular, judging by her sweet, tentative flirtation with Tobin.

As our survivors have learned time and again, caring about something means that you have something to lose, and Carol seemed more cognizant of that than ever in this week’s installment; turns out she’s kept a running tally of all the humans she’s killed (18 in total, including Termites and Wolves — remember Ryan, Karen, David and Lizzie?), and despite her previous conflict with Morgan, she didn’t seem any more eager to sneak in and slaughter a camp full of sleeping Saviors than he did, electing to stay outside and keep watch with Maggie while the rest of the group went inside to clear out Negan’s men. Much like Rosita, Carol has never wanted to kill, or taken joy in it, and a part of her clearly wants to see things from Morgan’s perspective, no matter how unrealistic his expectations are given the world they live in.

“You’re supposed to be someone else,” she told Maggie, as her pregnant friend tried to rush inside and help their group. The Alexandrians might see Carol as a den mother (Tobin incisively notes that she’s one of the few people willing to make the tough choices), but it’s the next generation of mothers she’s striving to protect; she wants to preserve the new world that they’re building — a world that will be populated by people like Glenn and Maggie, who see hope and possibility even in dark places — in the hope that they won’t have to bury any more innocent children like Sam.

A number of characters struggled with the morality of their mission this week — that tension was best explored in the dynamic between Glenn and Heath (two characters who have both managed to avoid taking a human life thus far), given that Glenn has long been our group’s conscience, having somehow managed to keep his hands clean despite numerous human betrayals. While Rick and Daryl have grown accustomed to compartmentalizing the horrendous things they’re forced to do for the greater good, others aren’t so dispassionate, and the episode gave due deference to each survivor’s inner conflict, with Morgan reminding the group that “they come back when they’re dead, too — I don’t mean the walkers.” Taking a life, even for supposedly “just” reasons, should always take its toll, which was why, in the final moments, we saw Morgan tearfully building what looked like a cage — much like the one he spent so much time in, after giving in to his own dark impulses after his son died.

While some viewers may have found the scenes of our group mowing down Saviors with machine guns to be excessive (there were segments inside the Saviors’ camp that certainly felt more like an ’80s action movie or shoot-em-up video game than a cable drama), I chose to interpret those scenes as an apt reminder that while mankind now has the means to take lives in a way that seems easy and impersonal, thanks to weapons of unimaginable brutality, the aftermath is always more painful than the act itself.

Discovering that the Saviors kept Polaroid mementos of the victims they’d brutalized (with a baseball bat?) may have given Heath and Glenn the moral high ground, but it clearly didn’t lessen the horror of what Glenn had just done — killing sleeping men with nothing but a knife. And that was before both were forced to pick up guns and defend themselves, creating unimaginable carnage that will clearly haunt them long after the blood has dried. That was what made “Not Tomorrow Yet” so potent — not only did writer Seth Hoffman and director Greg Nicotero ratchet up the tension to almost unbearable levels when our group broke into the Saviors’ compound, they also posed questions to which there are no easy answers — is taking a life ever “right,” even in a world where your enemies are likely to kill you if you don’t kill them first? While their actions were in many ways informed by the Wolves’ brutal attack on Alexandria, how was what our group did to the Saviors any different from what the Wolves did to them?

Even if the word was never uttered aloud in the hour, the concept of sin hung heavy over the episode — from Rick standing at the pulpit espousing Old Testament retribution with a stained glass window limning him in the light of righteousness, to Tara making a quiet confession to Father Gabriel and Jesus (no subtlety there), about how much she’s always struggled with violence — it was refreshing to see our heroes wrestle with the essential human dilemmas of right and wrong, even in an episode that was one of the show’s bloodiest yet.

Taking a life comes with a cost, as Morgan tried to warn everyone — and in the episode’s closing moments, we discovered exactly what that cost could be: Carol and Maggie. Is one of them heading for a close encounter with Negan? It’ll be a long week until we find out.

“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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  1. mic says:

    Can we please drop the lesbian B/S! why is it every show has to have it! Its not apart of the main story!

  2. Can we PLEASE stop talking about who’s going to meet Negan’s bat. Seriously. So many other things to talk about that aren’t a month away. I’ve literally heard every single character speculated to die and for every single possible reason. ENOUGH.

    That said, thought this was a great episode. As one who loves the slaughter and carnage of Walking Dead I was surprised how disturbed I was with the murder of the Saviors. Excellent tension throughout and always great to see the whole cast together in an episode.

    And Father Gabriel, damn! *gunshot* Amen. Nice to see him developing into a worthwhile member of the group. One I’m starting to actually like quite a bit.

  3. Pam J. says:

    I honestly believe they threw in a hint in the episode. I think it’s going to be Gabriel. Supposedly Negan likes to kill someone with shock value, and you don’t kill priests. Rick asked why he was still wearing clerical apparel, and he went into the fight wearing his collar. That will be what Negan picks up on and targets him. Maybe.

  4. honest_Abe says:

    One of the Facebook spoilers said that Norman Reedus is still cast through season 7, which may mean he still dies, but the war with Negan will run all next season, I believe the logical (& horrifying) death in 6.16 is that Maggie’s baby is killed, in utero, but Maggie lives. Then another character, Carol, Sasha, Morgan) is also killed trying to exact revenge. Abraham will most likely die as depicted on the comic, while on patrol; with Eugene. Rumors abound that both Michael Cudlitz and Norman Reedus have new shows for next season, and it could be nothing, but Cudlitz’ publicity photo for Walker Stalker Con shows him clean-shaven…

  5. Chaim says:

    Actually Megan, the quality of the group’s healthcare is decidedly on the upswing. Glenn and Maggie even had a chance to see an ultrasound of the child in the last episode. I for one am glad they haven’t given up on humanity’s future.

    As for who meet’s Negan’s bat. I still suspect it will be Daryl. Someone either survived or was an eyewitness to Daryl’s deserved yet brutal assault on the Savior biker gang. Negan will learn his identity and single him out to set as an example. We’ve already had enough close calls with Glenn.

    • dmossman says:

      Please not Daryl. I cannot imagine watching without him! I have never read the comics, but I like bad ass Rick. I do not want him to turn into a Pacifist!

    • Vincent says:

      Don’t forget Abraham’s death from the comics as well. He was shot by Dwight in the head witb a crossbow. For some reason I always imagined Daryl going out that way, because his crossbow was stolen by Dwight (?) in S606, so we could see him again. I wouldn’t be surprised if all Daryl, Glenn and Abraham all die at the end of this season honestly.

    • Jared says:

      I’d bet a fair amount that it is in fact Morgan who meets the end of the bat, and that another major character, perhaps Abraham will also be killed at the Saviors hands before the end of the season. Morgan building the cage gives further evidence that he’ll be the one to go in such a brutal manner, his death will affect Rick’s character in massive ways going forward, comic readers might have some idea what I’m talking about.

      • Lexa563 says:

        Theoretically, it would explain Rick’s handling of Negan based on Morgan’s philosophy. But I’m not sure how that would work out. Because for now, Morgan is not with Rick’s group on their murderous trip and I think he won’t be joining by free will. So how will he end up in Negan’s hands 4 episodes from now? It is much more likely that it will meet Carol, Maggie, Glenn and / or Daryl. But if it meets Maggie, I will not watch the series on. Carols Cookies distribution campaign was like a farewell gift to the Alexandrians, plus the way she acted out on Maggie was a foreshadowing. She might as well be the one to meet Lucille. But, it is also possible that Daryl will take her place by revealing to have killed the biker gang to Negan.

  6. Well written, as usual. This site always has the best breakdown of TV drama episodes.

  7. Oh I wonder if Carol will get Negan’s bat instead of Glenn. I could see this happening. A brutal ending. Why else develop a romantic storyline for her now? To make us care more……bastard writers, I think it’s going to be Carol. We have several candidates, it’s supposed to be Glen, but it could be Abraham, who has nihilistic tendencies and is starting to think about ‘a future’ potentially with Sasha, it could be Rosita, Tara and Denise (Denise says’s she’ll say I love when she gets back, alarms anybody?)……..so we’ll find out soon.

    • Jared says:

      Nah.. and I don’t think it will be Glenn either. Glenn in the comic books is a totally different character, much much more badass in the TV show. In my opinion it will be Morgan replacing Glenn at the end of Lucille; his death will push Rick’s character towards his quasi pacifist destiny. It makes perfect sense especially considering Morgan is building the future jail cell. The idea that the writers would feel they need a romantic storyline in order for Carol getting killed to have more weight, quite frankly, is absurd. Viewers will be destroyed when/if Carol goes down on this show, period. The person who does get the bat will be someone close to Rick, who is a good person, and a character we’ve all known for many many seasons. Obviously it COULD be Carol, but her recent romantic storyline is irrelevant to that possibility.

  8. Confernal says:

    Rick’s group likes to play the “moral” card, but they have no social structure, and have no honour, as fully demonstrated in the recent episode. If the group goes anywhere besides entropic implosion, or full nihilistic sadists, it’ll be through the power of plot. Even the crudest barbarians followed these rules for survival… Rick’s group are not the exception.

  9. After reading this, I’m kind of glad I gave up on watching this last season. Another one, pregnant during this zombie apocalypse? Right, because that’s just SUCH a good idea. hey, world’s gone to hell, there’s little to no modern medicine or sanitation left and everything is trying to kill us…. I know! Let’s have a baby!
    (rolls eyes) Stupidest thing ever.

    • Jared says:

      You do realize you are saying human beings should just roll over and go extinct if we’re forced to return to a pre industrialized society, right?.. pretty pathetic on your part.

    • Oh, go hang out in Netmums and bleat there. If you’ve stopped watching, then why are you still reading and posting?

  10. Lora says:

    So Abraham should get the bat because he dumped Rosita? You have issues.

    • I think good point Lora, although of all the characters (apart from Eugene or Father Gabriel) I’m thinking he’s most likely to get the bat, cause in the writers eyes of the TV series – let’s not forget that they’ve had death threats over Glenn and Daryl. He would probably create the least fuss around to kill.

      • Also, folk need to set aside the comics now, as the writers have already taken a lot of alternative plot routes from there (would any of us want TV Andrea back for example, but she’s one of the longest running characters in the comics).

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