[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 6, “On the Inside.”]
“On the Inside” arrived about a month too early.
Had it aired in late October, this horror-infused installment of The Walking Dead would be the perfect Halloween watch. As it is, it’s still an extremely intense tale of survival for fan-favorite and at-last-returned Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and Virgil (Kevin Carroll), who find themselves very much not alone in a seemingly abandoned house. Some viewers might find the big reveal of who’s hunting them more silly than scary, but there’s no denying that the soundless scenes meant to convey Connie’s view of the world are utterly frightening. Meanwhile, Daryl (Norman Reedus) makes new enemies as he adjusts to life as a Reaper.
The core of the Connie-Virgil story boils down to a dilapidated house in the middle of the forest — and isn’t that how all of the best horror stories start? On the run from a horde of walkers, they take shelter in an eerie mansion. Virgil urges Connie to sleep, but she refuses, and instead wanders away to the bathroom… where she sees a yellowed eye peering at her from the other side of the wall. Yikes! Virgil blames this on Connie’s exhaustion, but he says they can both check the house again. During that search, a false wall slides between them and separates them from each other.
What unfolds then is the closest The Walking Dead has come to true horror since the foggy graveyard scene where Jesus (Tom Payne) was killed. Sound fades in and out as a terrified Connie makes her way through the cobweb-filled halls and claustrophobic vents, trying to escape a feral man intent on killing her. (There are at least four feral people in the house, who, based on the basement feeding area Connie stumbles into, have eaten animals as well as humans). Eventually, she reunites with Virgil on the opposite side of the bathroom wall where she once saw the eye, but since she can only slam her hands against the wood, Virgil doesn’t know it’s her… and she can do nothing but watch as another feral man crawls up on Virgil from behind. They grapple, and Virgil wounds him, sending him slinking away into the vents.
In the aftermath, Virgil realizes it’s Connie on the other side of the wall and pulls her out. They have a heart-to-heart discussion about how they’re getting out of the house of horrors. He tells her she needs to keep going, “no matter what happens” to him, and it’s clear his insistence is based on his guilt over what he’d done to the people on his island and even possibly to Michonne (Danai Gurira). Connie refuses, telling him they’ll escape together. In the end, it’s Connie’s quick thinking that saves them; as the feral people corner them in the entryway, she covers herself in the guts of a walker she killed earlier, stands in front of badly wounded Virgil to mask his scent, and throws open the door to allow the dead in. The walkers kill a few of the feral people and distract the others long enough for the duo to flee into the night.
Meanwhile, Daryl’s not enjoying Reaper life. The other member of Maggie’s group that they captured eventually caves after hours of torture, revealing their team should be hiding in a yellow house. As such, Pope (Ritchie Coster) sends a group consisting of Daryl, Leah (Lynn Collins), and two other Reapers to check it out. Predictably, Daryl doesn’t get along with the other guys, and the tension hits a high as they arrive at the house and Daryl realizes his friends are still there — hiding beneath a trap door.
When it seems Daryl is about to come to blows with the other Reaper, Leah steps in, convincing her friend that Daryl is right and that there’s no one in the house. But eventually, the guy realizes Daryl was concealing the trap door. He throws it open, and… Maggie and her group are already gone, having gone out a back exit. The Reapers move on, and Team Maggie does, too. But when they get back to their compound, Pope has killed the man they were torturing and let him turn, and he says he’s gotten some interesting new information. Could he know that Daryl’s not really on their side?
The emotional high point of the episode arrives within its final minutes as Connie and Virgil stumble out of the house, pursued by two of the ferals. All hope seems lost, and then someone — Kelly (Angel Theory) — takes them out with a slingshot. Kelly has been looking for Connie throughout the episode, along with Carol (Melissa McBride), Magna (Nadia Hilker), and Rosita (Christian Serratos). Crying, the sisters embrace, and Connie’s horrifying ordeal ends on a really happy note.
- At first, the feral people’s story was neat, but the more you think about it, the less sense it makes. At this point, we’re about 10 years into the apocalypse. It doesn’t quite make sense for adults to be so far gone that they’re walking on all fours. It’s possible the feral people started as children whose parents were killed in the initial fall, but then how did they build such elaborate traps? And why did they all stay together?
- That said, I give the show points for being unique in this episode, as well as genuinely creepy. Connie’s scenes, especially, were the scariest this show has been for quite some time. And those portraits with the eyes scratched out? Chilling.
- Connie and Kelly’s reunion was quite moving. And how great is it that the sisters both survived long enough to be reunited?! On this show, that’s never a guarantee… poor Maggie and Beth (Emily Kinney).
- I’ll be interested to see what role Virgil plays in the show moving forward, assuming he survives his wounds. He can possibly reveal what really happened to Michonne, but where does he go from there? I’m not sure the show has time for a “finding Michonne” storyline when it’s already balancing the Commonwealth and the Reapers.
- On the subject of the Reapers, though, I doubt they’ll last beyond the 11A finale. Whether Leah survives is even less clear.
- Rating: 3.5/5. Part of me wishes this whole episode had been devoted to the Connie and Virgil story rather than also including the ho-hum Daryl plot because Connie and Virgil’s struggle for survival was so much more interesting. Still, it’s an overall solid installment in what has been an overall solid third of the final season.
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC