The Walking Dead: Season 6, Episode 12 – Not Tomorrow Yet Review

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★★★★

Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers.

There will be blood. It's perhaps not that surprising on The Walking Dead, a show that periodically descends into violence, but this week's it's of a more personal kind... Meted out by Rick and the rest of the gang.

After last week's visit to the Hilltop community, Rick, Daryl and the rest return to Alexandria, where we open on the seemingly bucolic scene of Carol baking her famous acorn and beetroot cookies. With a song playing over her finding ingredients and then baking – briefly interrupted by a stumbling zombie that she quickly dispatches – it almost feels like a different show for a couple of sweet minutes. Especially as she starts passing out cookies to the residents and stops to talk to Tobin (Jason Douglas), with whom you sense once again she has a spark.

But the moment is interrupted by Rick and co. arriving home, with Rick announcing he needs to see everyone in the church to discuss the plan of attack against the Saviours. Carol asks what's up and he replies, "we fight. Gonna have to." As he departs, she notices storm clouds on the horizon, which isn't exactly the subtlest of metaphors, but it allows Greg Nicotero and his team to have some beautiful sky footage. After a brief, tense chat with Morgan about their actions back when he stopped them killing the Wolf who got away, the camera switches to show that she'd been laying a cookie on the grave of the late Sam Anderson. Consequences, folks. It's all about consequences this week.

Rick addresses the group – those who attend, at least – and gives a speech about how they have to take the fight to Negan and his group. They can't expect the Hilltop lot to trade with them without making the Saviours a thing of the past. Somewhat naturally, only Morgan speaks up to offer any dissent, arguing that they have a choice to let the Saviours live and that to kill them might haunt our heroes. Rick argues back that if they don't start it, they run the risk of being unprepared when the eventual confrontation does come. No one else weighs in, so Rick heads out to inform those on guard duty or who didn't come to the church.

Sunset falls and night finds Carol restless, forgoing sleep and eventually going for a moonlit wander and a cigarette. She finds herself at Tobin's porch, and he's similarly still up. They talk for a moment about whether she's worried about what's ahead and how he thinks she'll be up to the challenge. She's a mother figure to the Alexandrians. And moms do what needs to be done. And to Tobin? It's something else, as they kiss. "It's not tomorrow yet," says Carol, winning the prize for saying the episode title. This week, it's a cuddly toy!

Abraham, meanwhile, is packing, and when Rosita wonders why he's getting ready this early, he reveals that he's leaving... But only her. Heartbreakingly, he explains that he used to think she was the only woman on the Earth. Not any more... Harsh. A tearful Rosita turns down an offer of consoling cookies from Eugene.

As Rick, Carol, Daryl and some of the others pick Hilltop resident and Negan encounter survivor Andy's (Jeremy Palko) brain about the layout and defenses of Negan's compound, Tara and Denise share a quiet moment. There are several of these little heart-to-hearts before Team Alexandria leaves for their assault, leading us to think there is tragedy on the way on a big scale.

Our heroes head out in the camper and a couple of cars and go looking for walkers. Negan wants Gregory, the Hilltop leader's head, and Rick intends to give it to him... In a roundabout way. Glenn and Heath (Corey Hawkins) track down walkers that look enough like Gregory and start cutting heads off. Father Gabriel approaches Rick and offers to help, with Rick wondering why he's still with them. Gabriel replies that Rick trained him how to use guns and he wants to help out. Carol has lit up another cigarette, but stubs it out when she sees the pregnant Maggie is along for the attack.

Once Rick has chosen the likely walker head to pose as Gregory's noggin (and argued with Carol about Maggie's presence on the team,) it's time to put the plan into action. As Andy comments, the Saviours are scary, but they have nothing on Rick and the rest. The choices they make will be weighing heavily on them in the future.

Andy drives to the front of the compound festooned with giant red lights that give it a hellish appearance. He convinces the guards (one of whom sounds something out of a Kevin Smith film the way he swears and insults Andy) that he's brought Gregory's head to trade for their Hilltop hostage, and, when one of the guards goes in to fetch him, Daryl slits the chatty guard's throat. The other guard returns with the hostage, and gets Michonne's sword through his chest for his troubles. Do NOT invite these people to a dinner party.

From here, the episode is largely devoted to an extremely effective action sequence as Rick and the gang go all commando on the base. Even Glenn notches up his first human kill, suffering terribly for his action, but going so far as to stop Heath killing another man and doing it himself. Even the evidence that the men were multiple killers in their own right doesn't make him feel better. Abraham and Sasha, meanwhile, are attacked as they try to open a locked door they think might be the armory, and while they deal with their assailant, he's able to trip the alarm.

After we've briefly cut away to Tara and Father Gabriel talking in the car, with Tara asking Jesus to take the Hilltop hostage home so their deal is still on (he decides to help Rick fight, so Andy drives off instead), we also see Carol and Maggie at odds about charging into the compound. Carol, concerned for her unborn baby, tells her to stay put.

Nicotero, his stunt team and the cast shoot the hell out of the attack on the compound, with emotional and character beats scattered in between the violence. Glenn and Heath end up reaching the armory and have to shoot through the door at the men who were pursuing them. Walking out, they find that one was still alive.... will he shoot Glenn? Of course not! Glenn's far too lucky, and Jesus is there to save them. But with a bullet. So not much like his namesake.

With the battle mostly over, Rick and the team have found their way to the Saviours' car park, thinking that they've taken out the threat. But which one was Negan? Suddenly, a very familiar bike bursts from the door they came out of and Daryl takes the driver out, annoyed that it's his bike, stolen a while ago by the Saviours. A walkie talkie crackles to life with a woman's voice and Rick answers, only to be told that the Saviours have Carol and Maggie as hostages. Credits!

Nicotero's second directorial outing of this latter chunk of season 6 (he'll be back for the finale) is a superb hour of The Walking Dead. It may not have the same spectacle as the mid-season premiere, but the slow cook character beats before the attack on the Saviours' place makes the ensuing carnage that much more affecting. And the stakes are even higher, because our characters’ ethics are on the line, not just their lives. Morgan, in his own way, was right: the choices they make here truly are going to haunt them. The likes of Rick and Daryl might be fine with killing for the greater good (the greater good!) but what of Glenn? And Heath? And even Aaron, who gets a kill in here.

Plus, just when you think it's a win for our lot (albeit a tainted one that leaves them with blood on their hands), there's that final twist of the knife with the reveal that not only did they not take out the whole group, but now Carol and Maggie are at risk.

True, there's the minor annoyance of another Glenn near-death moment, but that's small enough not to impede the enjoyment of this episode. It's tougher to watch the people wee want to believe in as heroes having to take this sort of action, even if it is against a very dangerous group. And things are clearly going to get much worse from here. Bet they wish they'd just stayed at home and eaten cookies.

Fans of The Walking Dead will enjoy our Podcast chat with Rick himself, Andrew Lincoln, who talks about the current season. Find that here.

In the UK, The Walking Dead airs Mondays at 9pm on Fox.

Who the hell is Negan, anyway? Read our definitive guide to the character in the comics.