'The Walking Dead' delivered its scariest episode to date in the form of a mini horror movie. It's incredible it's taken 11 seasons to get a sincerely skin-crawling episode on a show about the dead.
- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for "The Walking Dead" season 11, episode six, "On the Inside."
- Director Greg Nicotero delivered a brilliant mini horror movie for Lauren Ridloff's return.
- Outside of the Whisperers, "TWD" has never dared to be this creepy. It should lean into horror more.
There's a moment on Sunday's "The Walking Dead" where Connie (Lauren Ridloff) is suddenly separated in a creepy old house from Virgil (Kevin Carroll) when a wall abruptly closes between them.
Virgil yells out her name. The camera cuts to Connie, a deaf character on the apocalyptic series, and the sound cuts out.
Suddenly, you're experiencing the episode through Connie's point of view. She soundlessly bangs on the barrier before begrudgingly accepting she needs to navigate a corridor solo, uncertain with each step if mysterious inhabitants are lurking nearby, preparing to pounce on their prey, or if they're simply a figment of her imagination, conjured by sleep deprivation.
Over the next minute, as Connie slowly moves down the hall, the viewer is right alongside her, searching the screen while wondering if something's about to pop out at the fan-favorite. A quick glimpse of something scurrying by, that only the audience sees, gives us an unfortunate answer.
As Connie feels a slight rumbling through the wall, a sign that footsteps are descending upon her, the vibrations get louder until they reach a crescendo. The episode's sound returns to reveal a creature chasing her on all fours. Connie, terrified, runs for her life.
Showrunner Angela Kang previously told Insider they were planning a "big episode" for Ridloff's return to "The Walking Dead" after she briefly left to film Marvel's "Eternals" last season. She wasn't lying.
Written by Kevin Deiboldt and directed by series' executive producer, Greg Nicotero, Sunday's episode of "The Walking Dead," "On the Inside," is its creepiest and scariest to date. For more than 24 minutes, over half of the episode's length, "TWD" is a full-on mini horror movie, something the show has never executed in its 11th seasons.
Connie and Virgil, who we last saw on season 10, episode 16, have been going it alone, trying to get Connie back to her family at Alexandria. Instead, Sunday's episode plops them into a horror film, complete with nods to horror classics, including "Night of the Living Dead" and horror tropes: Portraits with eyes cut out, a basement lined with human remains, a creepy bathroom, and a secret hallway with holes in the walls to spy on visitors.
If the dead weren't enough of a threat, the two also have to fight off a group of survivors who are so far gone that they've become feral.
Ridloff made a small suggestion that amped the episode's horror up another notch
While navigating the house solo, Ridloff suggested she lean up and move along the wall instead of walk through the middle of the hallway in order to feel the vibrations of the episode's creatures, the Ferals, running down the hall towards her. The result is a pulse-pounding effect which thrusts you into the claustrophobic situation Connie's trying so desperately to escape.
Moments like this happen throughout Sunday's episode. The sound cuts in and out throughout the episode depending on the point of view we're focused on.
The creative decision not only allowed viewers to experience a moment of sheer terror from Connie's POV, but lends itself to the horror element of the episode brilliantly. When a creature comes chasing after Connie late in the episode in the basement, it's even scarier, amplified by the fact there's little sound.
Once you get past the scares of Sunday's episode, it's worth a revisit.
There's something to be said for the amount of scrutiny Connie and Virgil's actions receive upon entering the home through secret hallways and openings in walls. It brings up questions about surveillance and those who may be keeping an eye on us when we're none the wiser. That's a larger theme which may or may not come into play for the rest of the season with the mysterious Commonwealth community where Eugene, Princess, Ezekiel, and Yumiko currently reside.
The episode also delivered a reunion fans have been waiting to see for over a year
Sunday's mini horror movie culminated in a sibling reunion between Connie and Kelly (Angel Theory) and more members of the Alexandria group. Connie disappeared on "TWD" last February during a cave-in. Since then, Kelly and the others have wondered her fate.
The reunion is more emotional when you know it was also the first time Ridloff and Angel Theory were seeing each other since before the pandemic. Ridloff told Insider she suggested the two not see one another until filming their reunion.
On seasons past, the Connie and Virgil horror house story likely would've played as a singular standalone episode without any B-story for the week (more on that shortly). It would have worked, but I'm not so sure we would've been rewarded with a reunion at the episode's end.
For a time, "TWD" became so predictable that something like a Connie and Kelly family reunion probably would've been saved for a mid-season finale. Whether or not that was always the plan or if the pandemic-induced final season helped speed things along is up for debate.
Regardless, it made for better storytelling to have it all in one episode. (Plus, it's so rare to receive some sort of happy ending on "TWD." We feared we may get another Daryl/Merle situation where just as the siblings were reunited, one of them would get killed.)
The show's final 11th season has seemingly forced the show to be sharper and tighter in its writing. As a result, it's delivering more in each episode
This week's B-story, though not as compelling as a mini horror movie, shows Daryl (Norman Reedus) forced to torture a friend in a tough-to-watch scene, proving his loyalty to Leah and Pope's Reaper group.
At the same time, he has to juggle protecting his own group, led by Maggie (Lauren Cohan). By the episode's end, it's unclear whether or not Pope may be on to the fact that Daryl's playing both sides. (We're sure Daryl has it covered. He has that spin-off plot armor.)
The main takeaway here is that the show's final season schedule, which caught many of the cast by surprise, seems to have forced the writers to put multiple stories together each week even more than normal to really make the most of these 24 episodes.
Honestly? It's not only working, but it's when "TWD" is at its best.
These past few episodes (and as some fans are probably already surmising from watching next week's episode early on AMC+) have felt more like "TWD's" strong first season, a true ensemble show, in which so much information and so much would occur on each of the series episodes, that it was must-watch
No one is slogging around anymore. Frankly, they don't have time to. There's clearly a lot of story left to tell so each episode needs to count to move the story along. Hopefully, the show continues in this direction as we move into the next set of eight episodes and beyond.
How has it taken this long to get a truly creepy and scary 'TWD' episode?
When you think of a show called "TWD," featuring the undead, you'd probably think that would be a scary show. But "TWD" has never really been scary. First and foremost, it's been a show about the survival of a group of strangers who, against all odds, became family.
Since Angela Kang took over as showrunner on season nine, we've gotten a few tastes of horror and had the creep factor on the show turned up. Maybe she finally realized they weren't using the show to its full potential. Jesus' death offered up one of the show's first really creepy moments when the Whisperers entered the scene.
Then the Whisperers brought a whole new vibe to the show. With their introduction on season nine, you didn't know if a member of the dead was going to suddenly become animated and draw out a weapon to slash at one of our heroes.
During this year's two-part season premiere, Maggie shared a cryptic survival story fitting for a horror narrative. But it wasn't until Sunday's episode that the show went full horror movie with creatures that Guillermo del Toro would relish that we really saw how the series could excel in the genre.
Bring on more horror. This is what the show should lean into more during its final season. It's clearly where Nicotero and many of those involved in the show are at home.
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