As always, before you read on, there are spoilers ahead for this week’s review of The Walking Dead. “On The Inside”, this week, returns our attention to Connie and Virgil, who last appeared in Season 10’s intended closer (before the pandemic), “A Certain Doom”. After escaping from Alpha’s horde of Whisperers in the cave systems, we catch up with Connie and Virgil sometime after, running from an unseen, invisible force sweeping menacingly through some long grass. Is it a bird, the smoke monster from Lost, or have our two lead characters completely lost their minds?
As the episode’s title suggests, this latest instalment to The Walking Dead prides itself on being self-contained, and at times, claustrophobic chapter, with the heart of the action taking place within a big old creepy house. Episode 6 executes themes of oppression and paranoia far more effectively than Season 10’s dismally boring “Splinter”, from back in the spring.
In truth, the episode takes a turn that nobody could have anticipated. All the tell-tale signs that Connie and Virgil are in danger are there, from the eyeless portraits on walls to shifting doorways and a basement full of skeleton bones. Of course, if that’s not bad enough, there’s a nerve-jangling moment in which Connie catches an eye glaring out at her from the inside of a bathroom wall. Soon enough, we’re introduced to the episode’s big bad, a group of feral humans who’ve turned to cannibalism and hunting other human beings.
The horror of these devolved hunters (whom of which crawl on their hands and feet) is best exemplified by Connie’s perspective as a deaf survivor. There are some long moments of utter silence that leave you uneasy, and it builds the tension tidily without feeling gimmicky or forced. Connie uses her other senses to detect the approach of one of the feral people, sensing their movement by resting a hand on the wall. Bear McCreary’s profoundly sinister soundtrack kicks in as Connie begins to run.
The music drums in at the most appropriate moment, and the use of silence, across the course of the episode, is an effective tool to sustain the suspense and terror, reminiscent of Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers, a film opting for the use of silence over screeching violins and crashing cymbals to instill fear. There’s a classic he’s behind you moment later in the episode, as Connie struggles to communicate with Virgil, from the inside of a wall, that one of the feral creatures has shuffled out of a crawlspace behind him.
It’s hugely unsettling to watch the scene unfold, and certainly not unlike anything we’ve seen before. Despite coming up against a group of lethal foes, Connie is by far the strongest character of the episode. You find yourself becoming invested in Lauren Ridloff’s performance, from her unwavering loyalty to her friends, refusing to leave Virgil behind despite his insistence to do so, and smartly defeating the feral group with help from the undead outside, slathering herself in zombie innards to protect both herself and Virgil in the process.
“On The Inside” is split down the middle by two central plots. We’ve covered Connie and Virgil, so let’s take a look at what’s going on with the Reapers. For the most part, not that much. The pacing, quite predictably at this stage of the season, slows down in preparation for the mid-season break two weeks away.
Frost, the last of Maggie’s short-lived group from Meridian (does anyone remember him?) is subjected to one of the most brutal torture scenes, as far as I can remember, ever seen on The Walking Dead. He’s beaten and strangled and later loses a finger, causing the best of us to wince and look away from the screen. As a secondary character with little plot armour and screen-time, it’s clear from the outset that Frost’s time is almost up, and sure enough, the final scene of the episode confirms his fate. To give him his due, he’s held out this long, and his loyalty to Maggie’s group is respectable.
The Reapers, with Daryl playing along rather convincingly, maintain their hunt for Maggie’s group, encouraging Daryl to torture Frost and prove his loyalty to Pope. Daryl will later admit that Pope scares him, and that’s not an admission many of us expected the archer to confess to, but understandably so considering the lengths Pope will go to for answers. There’s a particular look at the very end of the episode from Coster’s deranged leader that could suggest Pope is already aware of Daryl’s deception from the get-go but has instead played along. It’d be best then if Daryl stays away from any fires in the meantime.
But it’s not only Pope Daryl has to be concerned about. The archer remains under heavy scrutiny from Carver, a dead-eyed, right-hand man for Pope. You could put good money on Daryl taking out Carver when inevitably, the fight between the two groups comes to a head. One thing’s for certain, Carver will wise up to Daryl’s deception eventually. With Frost’s information, the Reapers discover the rendezvous point, but there’s no one inside. Maggie and the group have pulled the old Rick under the bed trick and hidden in the basement beneath the house. For a group of heavily armed, and highly skilled ex-military Afghan vets, the Reapers miss the most obvious trick in the book. No one considers that there could be a basement floor beneath the house, and fail to check the floors for hidden boards or a trap door. By the time they do, Maggie’s group has scarpered but for how long is anyone’s guess. Connie, first and foremost, shines the brightest in the otherwise dark and depressing landscape of the post-apocalyptic world.
Throughout she proves herself to be a true survivor regardless of any obstacles in her way. She’s smart, defiant against impossible odds, resilient, and refuses to leave an injured Virgil behind. Ritchie Coster’s performance as a deranged Pope is as ever, chilling, while Daryl’s admission of affection to Leah is heartwarming. I’m all for a happy ending, but it’s doubtful this relationship will survive in the long run. I give it half a season, maybe less.
As for the upcoming mid-season break (only two episodes away), the story threads are beginning, ever so slightly, to pull together, and things are not looking good for anyone, from the Commonwealth to Alexandria, Maggie’s mission to Meridian, and Daryl’s deception to his new Reaper friends. Eleven seasons in, “On The Inside” is an episode that does actually surprise and horrify. While it’s easy to preach of how stagnant and unappealing The Walking Dead has become, AMC’s horror drama often shines with some slivers of gold such as this one. If you’re all caught up with The Walking Dead, then make sure to take a look at last week’s review for“Out Of The Ashes”.
What do you think of the eleventh season of The Walking Dead so far? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!