The Walking Dead review: Disturbing flashbacks foreshadow deaths


The Walking Dead uses flashbacks to connect some conflict in the present and future. While the flashbacks serve to foreshadow the comic arc at the fair, they give us some helpful context in the past.

Don’t let The Walking Dead‘s episode this week deceive you. Though it might seem like another addition to the pre-fair arc this season, the primary focus of this week’s episode is to test how absorbent our tissues are, because “Scars” was a multi-faceted emotional journey. The series finally interjected the series with perturbing obstacles, but the disturbing drama in “Scars” also featured some often forgotten, but always welcomed, family themes that help break up the tension itself. However, we know better. The cheerful aftertaste from this week’s episode is fleeting.

We finally got an episode focused on Michonne, but at what cost? The touching scenes between Michonne and Judith where they learn more about themselves to build an even stronger Grimes family unit naturally distracted us from the overarching tragic themes in the episode. However, its clear drama defines this week’s episode.

This season alone, we’ve watched grim decapitation scenes, lengthy death scenes, and a zombie being skinned. The Walking Dead has never been averse to gruesome scenes, but the series doesn’t just rely on decaying flesh, blood, and guts for its gore. It siphons emotional elements into its torturous stories, and the flashbacks of Michonne’s pregnancy play into gruesome motifs that remind us of the raw carnage when we were still new to this walker-run world.

“Scars” uses Judith’s past run-in with Jocelyn to show why Judith’s present-day disappearance adds layers of strain to Michonne’s mission to find her daughter. It raises the risks and escalates the lengths Michonne will go to save her family, and it bolsters her bond with her family. We already knew there’s nothing that she won’t do to protect them — Grimes family, Alexandria, and the allied communities included.

This reminder gives us a harrowing, but also a strangely uplifting, reminder of why Michonne is such a strong and empowering character — even if that comes at the price of her swift decisions and painful sacrifices. A prime example of this: when she has to defend her family and her people by killing cultist children and her best friend from before the walkers changed the dichotomy of humanity itself. Her character portrayals in both her past and present, as she fights to find and save Judith, also emphasize how far she’s developed as a character throughout the seasons.

Back when she befriended Andrea, Michonne’s solitude was her defense mechanism to keep her from creating a family. Even in her flashbacks, she embraces every aspect of her family, both with her kids and her familial relationship with Alexandria and company. The episode pays homage to how far she’s grown as a character beyond just her fighting techniques and grieving her past traumas. With her most recent loss with Rick, she doesn’t revert back to her isolation to cope anymore. Now, she runs toward her family instead of away from them.

Family is the focal point of the episode. Despite the torture, the pain, and the grief, “Scars” is about the Grimes family, especially Michonne and Judith as they continue to strengthen their communication skills and their relationship as mother and daughter. The parallelism in the episode serves to show us that, though Judith might outwardly act like Rick both in her personality and in her role in the Whisperers arc, she is just like her mother. More importantly, she acts like Michonne because she wants to resemble her mother’s strength. Their mother-daughter moment in the wake of some freshly slaughtered walkers illustrates the empathetic attributes Judith picked up from Michonne over the years.

Beyond highlighting the likeness between Michonne’s confrontation with Jocelyn to the current dilemma with Lydia, the transitions in the episode are especially strong. Particularly with the transition from the flashback scene when Judith and Michonne hug after her mom saves her and the other kids and the present-day scene where Michonne locates Judith and saves her from a clingy zombie, The Walking Dead executes its nonlinear timeline hops seamlessly.

Although The Walking Dead is a gruesome show well beyond the abundant hungry walkers and hordes or villainous survivors, Michonne’s past traumas in the episode almost seem excessively traumatic at times. When she isn’t being tied up and tortured while she was pregnant with R.J., she had to defend herself and ultimately kill her childhood friend and several kids who were victims of Jocelyn’s cult. It read as a cruel televised venture whittled down to shock value at times, at the expense of a main woman character in the series.

Amid all the traumatic memories, simple parts of the flashback-heavy episode remind us of Alexandria’s humanity well beyond the polarizing differences between our favorite survivors and all of their enemies from the past and present. One such example is when Judith calls her mom, well, mom.

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Judith’s guidance throughout this season implicitly hints that the leadership on The Walking Dead will undergo a lot of changes. Alpha’s impending cutthroat tactics or similar defeats might shift the leadership hierarchy at Alexandria and surrounding communities. Regardless, it’s clear the next generation of post-apocalyptic communities is at ease as long as Judith is around, even if the episode reminds us again that the death toll will soon rise.