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Thursday, March 21, 2019

[RECAP] Season 9, Episode 14 of The Walking Dead, "Scars"

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It’s almost fitting that on the 5 year anniversary of the highly compelling episode “The Grove” The Walking Dead delivers one of its most haunting episode to date entitled “Scars”.  Based on the title alone, we knew that we would likely be getting clarification on what occurred to both Daryl and Michonne that caused them to have identical “X” scars.  What we didn’t realize however, was how dark and surprising that back story would be (although there were obviously many insinuations both on the show and off).

We start off the episode with a sepia-toned scene which we soon realize is how the producers decide to distinguish what is a flashback and what is occurring in present day.  This scene then is a flashback and we see Michonne strolling by the river in search for what we realize is Rick’s body.  With each visit to the river, we see Michonne’s growing belly and based on this imagery, we realize that months upon months are passing and yet she is still out there searching.  Daryl is out there as well, doing the same search and he states to her that he’s been all along the river, to the ocean, and still hasn’t found any sign of him.  He chastises her for being out there while pregnant but she says that she can’t sleep anyway so what else is she going to do?  Michonne tells him that Judith misses him and asks about him but he’s not ready to go back to Alexandria yet.  He doesn’t mind being alone, which is not a shock (it is Daryl after all).  At the end of the day, Michonne doesn’t find Rick’s body but she does find his signature pistol, which of course she keeps and has it a safe box to this day.

And speaking of present day, as she reflects on this while looking at Rick’s gun, she realizes that there are visitors at the gate.  The visitors turn out to be Daryl, Connie, Henry and Lydia with of course, Dog in tow.  Daryl explains that Henry is hurt and he needs assistance before they continue on their way.  Aaron is wary but Michonne trusts Daryl and indicates to her crew to open the gate.  We instantly get a flashback at this point showing a similar situation but with a pregnant Michonne summoning for the gate to be opened to someone who was found that was hurt.  The woman is similar in age to Michonne and seems disorientated.  Michonne instantly recognizes her and calls her by her name (Jocelyn), with a shocked smile.  The show clearly is trying to show us the parallels of how Michonne’s openness to the kindness of strangers in the past has directly affected how she approaches strangers in the present day and how that mindset was forever changed after this experience.

Flashing back to present day, we see Siddiq tending to Henry’s wound by stitching up his left leg with assumingly no anesthesia.  OUCH.  As someone who has quite a few scars myself and has been sewn up in similar fashion (with AND without anesthesia), just watching that was painful.  But I digress.  Connie is thankful for Michonne’s hospitality and Aaron informs her that it doesn’t appear that they were followed.  At this point, we go back into the past and see Jocelyn running away from Siddiq’s medical facilities almost in a seemingly delirious state.  She informs them that she has been tending to a group of children and they are in a building all alone and need help.  Based on her direction, Michonne, Eugene and a group from Alexandria arrive at said building and as they go through the dark corridors, they find directions on how to hunt, hang and skin animals…and from the shadows emerge numerous children ranging in age from probably about 6 or 7 all the way up to likely 14-16 years old. 

Back in the present, Henry is all stitched up but fairly self-conscious of the potential scar that this wound will leave.  Lydia is not bothered by it (of course, because, duh, chicks dig scars) and reassures him that he shouldn’t pay any mind to that.  Michonne approaches them and wants a moment with Lydia.  Before Henry departs, he thanks Michonne for allowing Alexandria to attend the Kingdom’s fair but she states that if she would’ve known they were coming she would’ve never allowed it.  YIKES.  She then asks for a moment alone with Lydia so Henry walks away and lets them be.  It’s at this point that Michonne has a little “heart to heart” with Lydia and essentially tries to convince her that if she truly cares about Henry, she should consider doing the right thing: Leave & disappear, taking all the danger and risk with her.  SAVAGE.

At the same, it appears that Daryl and Judith are having some time together in a truly awe inducing moment.  The two of them sit in the same position, by the watermills, having a frank little chat.  Judith wants Daryl and his traveling companions to stay there at Alexandria but he insists they need to keep going in order to ensure that all remains safe here for her and RJ (who we’ve established indeed exists).  Judith continues to push and say that she KNOWS of all the stories between the communities and the Saviors and how they won and how they could win again.  Daryl gravely informs her that she hasn’t heard ALL the stories and leaves it at that.  Judith then asks the ultimate question, “What would my dad do”.  At this, Daryl is silent.  Judith’s response?  That’s what I thought.

Here again, we flash back to the past and see all of Jocelyn’s children (a sizable group) around the campfire at Alexandria, regaling the Alexandria children with games, stories and even providing FOOD for the community.  Jocelyn and Michonne are in the kitchen, mostly reminiscing about their years in college together, but also remarking on how amazing the children are at hunting, since they were able to provide a full feast of deer to Alexandria.  It’s during this moment that Michonne is wistful of the fact that Rick isn’t physically present to see this community spirit but she encouraged by her friend Jocelyn to continue to search for him (she’s going to continue to do that anyway).  Michonne thanks her for the advice and she says that she’s so happy that she’s here with her.
We return to the present and it’s nightfall.  Daryl and crew are being walked to the gate by Aaron and Michonne, since now that Henry has been tended to, they will continue on their way.  There is a moment of warm comradely between Aaron and Daryl, with Aaron even reminding Daryl that he always said he would make a good father (only he got lucky enough to avoid the exploding diaper stage…lucky dog).  Daryl and Michonne hug and they see Judith watching in the distance.  Daryl waves his goodbye to her as well and asks Michonne why she is upset.  She informs him that she’s upset that she’s letting him and the gang leave and keep going without allowing them to stay or allow her and Alexandria to go help the cause.  Daryl tells her that perhaps Michonne should consider telling her what happened, way back when, as a cautionary tale.  She understands this but says that she’s not even sure if SHE’S ready to talk about it.  Regardless, they leave Alexandria and Michonne looks back and her eyes land on the sewer which immediately triggers another flashback.
This time we see a content and pregnant Michonne walking down the street, on her way with other Alexandrians to pick up their kids from Jocelyn’s quarters where apparently sleepovers have been happening.  They knock on the door and get no response and when they enter the household is vacant of Jocelyn and all the children.  Upon further furious, frantic searching, they find a dead watchman and the entire Alexandria pantry CLEANED OUT.  Michonne then notices a trail of little footprints, children’s bloody footprints, leading up to the sewer.

In present day, Michonne has dinner with Judith and RJ (who’s already looking like a big boy!) and Judith is quite distant (but still polite, important to add).  Judith has lost her appetite and asks to be excused.  Later on, we see Michonne cannot sleep and is tossing and turning.  The next morning, she goes to Judith’s room to explain herself from behind her door.  When she doesn’t get a response, she opens up the door to her room to find that Judith is gone and so is Rick’s gun.  She ends up going down to meet with Negan, to essentially have a little interrogation session.  Michonne knows the extent of Judith’s relationship with Negan and she tries to tap him for information on not only where she is but where her MIND could be.  Negan tells her that they talk about Rick, Carl and stories of events that have come and gone.  He tells her about how bad ass her brother Carl was when he snuck into the Sanctuary and shot up a bunch of his men and how her bad ass father Rick slashed him in the jugular, ending the war.  Michonne is not impressed and asks him if he’s told her about he did to Abraham and Glenn…and she’s surprised to learn that yes, indeed he’s even been honest with Judith about their fates as well (and his role in that).  She eventually blows up at him and exclaims that Judith is HER daughter to which he completely agrees.  To that end, Negan tells her that if she is anything like her mother, she likely weighed the current situation and made her OWN judgment call on what needs to be done.  Michonne then runs back to Judith room and finds a note that effectively says that her friends need help and she’s going to go off and help them.

We then go back to the past and see a pregnant Michonne and Daryl in the woods frantically searching for Jocelyn and the children.  Eventually, they take a break and both sit on a swing set in the playground of an apparent school.  In a truly poignant moment, Michonne breaks down in tears, angry at herself for letting her guard down with her old friend, but she truly trusted her.  Daryl comforts her by saying that she shouldn’t blame herself because she couldn’t have predicted this.  He assures her that they’ll find them and she’ll pay for this. 

They continue to search and they all of a sudden see one of the children by one of the entrances to the school house, carrying a knife.  They immediately run into the building after him and then both Michonne and Daryl find themselves in a dark corridor with all the children at the end of it, fully armed with weapons.  The children demand that they drop their weapons.  When they hesitate one of them shoots at arrow into Daryl’s shoulder, knocking him to the floor in pain.  Then one of the other children (Linus) lands an emphatic blow to Michonne, knocking her out.

When Michonne comes to, she realizes both her and Daryl have been gagged and are being hung by their wrists from a pipe in one of the classrooms.  We see Jocelyn sitting in the corner of the room (this whole scene had a very “American Horror Story” vibe to me, did it not?) with a sort of burning trash can on the other side of the room. She informs them that only the strong survive and thrive and children are so mold-able and capable of so much, unlike their older parents who supposedly “broke”.  She instructs one of the children Linus to use the now heated brander on Daryl.  To all our horror, the child brands Daryl with an X, causing him to scream and groan in what one can only imagine as unbearable pain.  Jocelyn then turns her attention to Michonne, and not caring that this was once her good friend who is now very pregnant, she instructs another young girl named Winnie to control the brander (don’t let it control you) and she proceeds to brand poor Michonne who screams horrifyingly in pain, simultaneous staring at her once good friend.  There have been many a painful moment to watch on this show but seeing these two strong characters maimed in such an unnecessary, sadist way was as excruciating to watch as fans/viewers of these beloved characters.

At the same time, we see that in present day, Michonne is on a horse on an urgent mission to find the runaway Judith.  She finds her bicycle discarded and she immediately jumps off her horse and into fair sized group of walkers that she begins to make quick work of, while at the same time yelling for Judith.

At this point, we return to the past and see that Daryl was able to get himself out of his ropes and choke out the individual that was left on watch.  He has freed Michonne and they are off to find Judith.  Michonne comes across a group of children in the hallway that she tries to convince to let her through to get Judith. These children however have been trained as essentially “child soldiers” of Jocelyn and they immediately showcase their weapons and attempt to incapacitate/kill Michonne, one going as far as slashing her pregnant belly which made this mom INCREDIBLY nervous.  Michonne still tries to avoid killing any of these children as much as possible, keeping her eye on the prize which is get to Judith and the Alexandria children.  She eventually manages to get her katana from one of the children and get out of the building…but only to be clubbed repeatedly by Jocelyn who was waiting outside with a two-by-four.  UGH.  Again, painful to watch.  Thankfully Michonne manages to get to her sword in time and plunges it into Jocelyn’s torso.  She then finishes her off fully, eyes now fully set on finding her children. 

She looks up and sees that the children are being held in a trailer, surrounded by Jocelyn’s child soldiers all holding knives.  Michonne tearfully tries to negotiate with the children and tell them that it doesn’t have to end this way and that they can all go back to Alexandria together.  Her plea falls on deaf ears and one of the children persistently keeps trying to slash her with his knife, Michonne barely being able to keep him at arm’s length.  Finally, she realizes they’re too far gone and she’s left with no other recourse other than to kill each of Jocelyn’s child soldiers.  It should be noted that we do not see ANY of the imagery of Michonne actually killing these children, as these scenes are spliced between the moment when she kills a child, to the present day when she’s killing walkers in a field (in both cases, in her urgent mission to find Judith).  She finally kills all but one of the children, Winnie, who decides to drop her weapon and run away.  Michonne then calls for Judith…and eventually, she slowly walks to the trailer door.  They both stare at each other silently for a moment which is finally broken when Judith exclaims, “Mommy!” and runs into Michonne’s open arms.  Daryl also comes out of the school, his own knives bloody, and is visibly shook himself.  He walks over and embraces Michonne, Judith and the other saved Alexandria children.  They deliver them back to Alexandria safe and sound.  The ordeal is over.

In present day, Michonne is in the field taking down walkers and she turns and notices that she’s not alone: Judith is there, taking down walkers in similar fashion to her mother.  She shows that she can handle herself just fine…until a random walker almost gets the best of her.  It’s at this point that she exclaims a familiar “Mommy!” and Michonne is right there to save her.  The two embrace and eventually sit to have a chat. Michonne proceeds to try to explain her rationale and WHY she is as protective and guarded as she is but she finds out, shockingly enough, that Judith REMEMBERS everything that happened with Jocelyn.  I mean, let’s face it: You’re not going to forget seeing your mother covered in blood standing on top of a bunch of child corpses right?  Based on this revelation, Michonne still doesn’t understand why Judith would want to be out here trying to get to Daryl.  She then tells her that even with that incident, that hasn’t made her stop loving her Uncle Daryl or Aunt Carol or the King, or anyone else in their family.  Eventually, Judith’s words (and likely the confronting of this dark past) allows some healing on Michonne’s part.  They eventually take a minivan with the top cut off, led by horses (how fun was that?) into the woods and pick up Daryl and crew along the way, offering them a lift to the fair.

Everyone is all smiles…until we get to the end of the episode and see that two whisperers have come across the gates of the Kingdom and see the arrival of visitors to the fair.  They state that they must go tell Alpha.  Uh oh.  Looks like the Whisperers will be crashing this joyous occasion very soon.


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