Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers.
If you'd thought the show would be ramping up to an all-action clash with the Saviors after last week's tense slow-burner, you'd be very wrong... At least until Twice As Far flips the script near the end.
We start with an oddity that feels like the creative team playing with time again: Rashomon-style different views of a peaceful Alexandria, with people going about their daily routines. Guard patrols are walking the walls, Carol and Tobin are exchanging a kiss as she heads out for a stroll and Morgan... is building a cell block. Er, why? Would be our response almost as much as Rick's, but Morgan only replies that he wants to give them "choices" in the future, clearly still committed to the idea that they don't always have to kill.
Daryl is cleaning his bike when Carol appears, ready to share a cigarette and talk about the necessity of killing and how they've changed as people. She leaves the cigarette pack behind her as she moves on. It seems strange, but we don't see her again until much later in the episode.
Eugene and Abraham are headed out of the community as Denise watches from the walls. Then, she's apparently at home (a somewhat abrupt time jump) as Rosita and Spencer arrive, having spent the night together. He's clearly looking for more than just a few quick hookups, but she's noncommittal. As for Denise, she's a woman with a mission. Instead of her usual training session with Rosita, she wants to head out with her and Daryl and find an apothecary she noticed nearby when she was on her way to Alexandra initially. Though both Rosita and Daryl express big concerns about an inexperienced member of the gang venturing outside, even with an escort, she's insistent.
So the three drive out in a rickety old truck. They have to stop when they come across a down tree blocking the road. A cautious Rosita and Daryl investigate, but only find a trapped walker, which Rosita dispatches. The tree can't be moved, so the trio goes off on foot, with Rosita taking train tracks and Daryl (who has had bad experiences with such tracks leading to Terminus) choosing the road. Denise tags along with Daryl and when they reunite with a perfectly intact Rosita, she's annoyed at Denise. Less so for choosing to go with Daryl and more that she was so insistent on the mission.
Abraham and Eugene, meanwhile, are walking through silent streets as Eugene discusses how, like someone figuring out their character in a role-playing game, he's finally adapting to his environment. Abe isn't convinced.
Daryl, Denise and Rosita have reached the Edison Apothecary and carefully start to break in, which is where we cut to Abe and Eugene making their own entrance into what looks like a factory. Eugene, you see, has a plan: he wants to make bullets here, which Abraham thinks is a fine idea. But he's less thrilled when Eugene insists on killing a walker that stumbles into the room. It won't be easy to dispatch, because it has clearly been in contact with molten metal and has a hard shell on its noggin. Eugene puts his life in danger to engage it, but Abraham steps in. Annoyed that he didn't trust him, Eugene tells him that his services are no longer required. Fine, huffs Abraham, and storms off.
In the apothecary, Rosita and Daryl have left Denise behind in the store as they raid the pharmacy section that proved her initial theory of drugs being left behind. A thudding sound attracts her attention and she makes her way to an atmospheric, tragic site that was clearly once a child's room. Now it contains a rotting cot, an even more rotting walker with a cast on its leg and a sink filled with... Something. Oh, and a child's shoe. A horrified Denise stumbles outside, retching.
On the walk back towards Alexandria, Daryl and Denise get to talking about family in a way that makes us seriously worry about Denise's future. She talks about her older (by six whole minutes) brother Dennis, who was both brave and angry. Sounds like someone Daryl used to know...
Upon reaching the tracks – Daryl seems to have no trouble this time – the pair start walking them/unofficially recreating Stand By Me until Denise spots a cooler in a car. She braves a walker, wrestling it for the plastic box until it ends up nearly atop her, threatening to bite. Despite Daryl and Rosita offering to help, she manages to turn the tables and kill the zombie, angry at her companions that they didn't think she was up to it. She starts in on a little speech about how she wants to chance to get stronger but is rudely interrupted by an arrow to the head that ends up poking from her eye. As she falls down dead, Daryl and Rosita are surrounded by men with guns.
They're led by Dwight (Austin Amelio), whom Daryl met in Always Accountable from the first half of the season last November when Dwight was last seen stealing his bike. He's clearly back with the Saviors (after all, the bike was with them a couple of episodes ago), and has Eugene as his hostage. He demands the Daryl and Rosita take his group back to Alexandria, where they'll take anything – and anyone – they want. Eugene, seemingly still angry at Abraham, points out that the redheaded soldier has been lurking undercover of some nearby oil barrels. Yet it's a trick to distract Dwight, and once his attention is elsewhere, Eugene chomps down on his groin area and clings on like a dog with... well... a bone.
Abraham opens fire on Dwight's men, killing a couple and the ensuing mayhem, helped by a group of walkers attracted by the shots, helps Daryl and Rosita fight off the attackers. Dwight calls for them to fall back and, clutching his injured pride, makes good his escape. No doubt we'll see him again, and maybe he'll be singing soprano.
Daryl and Rosita hoist up an injured Eugene, who was clipped by a bullet in the crossfire and carry him in slow motion past the body of Denise.
Back at Alexandria, Eugene is recuperating, and gets a visit from Abraham, who apologises for questioning his skills. At least, he tells him, "You know how to bite a dick, Eugene. I mean that with the utmost of respect", which might be the funniest line in an otherwise sad episode.
Abe then goes to see Sasha, asking again for her to consider him, and she invites him inside. Elsewhere, Daryl and Carol are burying Denise, and Carol starts talking about their earlier chat. It segues into a Dear John letter from her that initially seems to be for Tobin, but is actually addressed to all of Alexandria. She's leaving, because she can't kill anymore. In her words, "I can't love anyone because I can't kill for anyone..."
What a strange, disjointed episode. Twice As Far wants to do a multitude of things within a deceptively quiet story in the early going, but is only partly successful. It really lays on the parallels between Eugene and Denise (two of the community's least experienced fighters who nevertheless have other capabilities) and dangles them both out there, daring us to wonder whether one or both will make it back alive. Sadly, it's Denise for the chop, and the show says goodbye to Merritt Wever, who has done so much to make her likable and human. Though it's refreshing to lose a character who truly means something this season, we do wish it hadn't been Wever, one of the better actors on the show. And did she really deserve that clunky old "exposition character dump before sudden death" cliché?
The Eugene side of things is played a little more for laughs, but it's handled well by both Josh McDermitt (who manages to make the character less annoying than usual) and Michael Cudlitz as Abe. Poor old Rosita (Christian Serratos), gets a vague waft of new information but otherwise still comes across as a stock character they're using in the main cast. On the Carol front, while we can see the buildup that was happening in the previous (excellent) episode, her decision still seems a little mystifying, and the whole Carol/Tobin story ends up as a blip.
And the less said about that weird, repetitive opening the better, one of the least successful experiments with visuals and timeline the show has attempted. Still, there were some effective moments of atmosphere (the apothecary sequence in particular) and it's good the show is keeping its foot off the accelerator before the inevitable showdown with the Saviours.
In the UK, The Walking Dead airs Mondays at 9pm on Fox.