“The Walking Dead” recap (6.14): Another One Bites the Dust

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It was easy to feel cozy about Tara and Denise. The Walking Dead is so good at baiting us with nail-biting episodes where each and every character we love just makes it out alive. Then, a heavy episode will slow down the pace just long enough to give us deep insight into a core characters—like Carol and Maggie kicking ass and taking names in last week’s darker episode. So, maybe things seemed almost too snug at the start of last night’s “Twice as Far,” where we see the town and its people at peace, the days blending together. Quiet episodes of The Walking Dead should scare you, though. By the end of it, you’ll see why you were led this way.

It’s assumed by now Tara’s left for her two-weeker with Heath. Denise is hanging back because she’s still reluctant to venture into the wild and perhaps fears she doesn’t have the ability to keep up with Tara and the others. Denise’s growing confidence in her abilities to be a kick ass town doctor means she can keep busy and be readily available. She’s heard of an apothecary and hopes Daryl and Rosita will find it on their run. A place like this would be a jackpot. 

But somehow Denise decides she’ll go along with them—that she’ll be helpful in finding the place. And on a personal level, maybe she wants to prove something to herself—that she can handle a run, that she can do this without Tara, that she can do this because of Tara. So she goes with.

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Inside the apothecary, Denise isn’t sure where she’s needed, so she keeps propping the flashlight up while Daryl and Rosita fill up their bags with supplies. Denise hears a banging on the other side of a door and wanders in alone to seek it out. She sees a crib and a walker chained down to the floor wearing a leg cast. Her reaction says it all: She isn’t used to the horrors that exist outside of the Alexandria walls. She had no idea so much despair has been left to rot and wait for nothing out here. She hurries outside, picking up one of those key chains with your name on it before she leaves. Sitting out there on the curb, Denise looks like a teen girl waiting for a ride outside the convenient store. She fights back tears as she looks down at her name. I almost wonder if she’s about to throw it—because what does any of this matter anymore, right? Instead, she holds onto it, and when Daryl and Rosita come out, they can see her emotions bubbling and tell her she wasn’t ready.

But in Denise’s mind, she was ready for this run. She was so ready. As they walk the railroad tracks back—a “quicker” way, so says Daryl, Denise spots a cooler in a car and stops for it. Daryl and Rosita keep things simple: We got what we came for, no reason to stop and complicate the mission. But Denise’s eyes are big. She opens the passenger door, and a walker launches at her. The both topple to the ground. Denise has her knife in her hand and yells for Daryl and Rosita to stop before they come to her aid. She manages to pull herself up onto and kill the sucker. Then she pukes on her glasses. It’s a decided moment for Denise—a choice she made for herself. Rosita says she must be stupid. All Denise found in the cooler was a six-pack of soda. Denise grabs just one of the sodas—her one soda pop. Is it for Tara? Totally.

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She stops in her tracks (literally) and starts telling them about her brother. He was brave but angry. “Sounds like we had the same brother,” Daryl says. Then Denise tells Rosita, “No. I’m not stupid. Are you stupid? Really, are you?” Her point is clear: Daryl and Rosita are brave and smart, but they don’t take chances. They’re so focused; they miss the bigger point. Hey, maybe Denise was too focused and missed her big picture, too. Maybe that’s why Tara was aching to tell Denise she loved her before she went away.

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Ah, Denise sees that now. “I could’ve gone with Tara. I could’ve told Tara I love her,” she says. It’s not Denise’s fault that she’s finally coming into some legit confidence—it’s okay to realize a regret in a moment of great triumph. Denise didn’t come on this run with them because she needs their validation and respect. She didn’t come for practice so she can be up to par with Tara upon her return. Denise isn’t ego—she’s all pride, maybe for the first real time. Remember when she worked on Carl after he was shot in the eye and he lived? Hmm… 

“Don’t you get what this was for me?” She wins in this moment. “And if you don’t wake up, you’re just gonna…” Just then, an arrow goes straight through Denise’s skull and pierces through her eye. She’s still finishing off the last few words of her momentous speech—about waking up and grabbing life by the horns.

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It’s a shocking second no one saw coming. Frankly, it’s the moment I thought would happen a hundred times during one of Rick’s motivational speeches. She dies on the tracks just as a group of killers emerge from the woods. They have Eugene, another weary-headed character who felt he needed to prove himself for so long. Eugene lives—by biting into the crotch of the guy who’s pointing a gun at him. Can’t say I saw that coming either. The worst part: The guy who killed Denise shot her with the same crossbow that once belonged to Daryl. Ugh.

Okay, we all know that’s not the worst part, but how can we even go there? The most tragic part about all of this is that another lesbian character dies on a TV show.

Maybe it was all part of the plan from the beginning, as Merritt Weaver (Denise) told the Daily Beast. Sure, the build-up between Tara and Denise’s “I love you” moment meant something terrible could happen—but were we so wrong to hold out hope when fan-favorites like Glenn get spared under a dumpster? 

“I think in the comic book Denise is with a man. I think they specifically wanted to build a relationship with Tara. But that said, I understand that viewers watching the show really identified with the character or like seeing themselves or some part of the world that they know is real and true and valid and prevalent represented,” Merritt said. In her full interview, she actually talks quite a bit about Denise and Tara’s relationship and the show’s decision to kill her off. It won’t be the same without glasses-wearing Denise in her baseball T-shirts, slung-over-the-shoulder messenger bag and so-hesitant-its-endearing manner.

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Next matter of business: How will the show break the news to Tara? Will we see that moment happen? Since Tara’s out on her own dangerous mission, will the next episode detail any of her adventures? And because we’ve seen it time and time again, the hardest question to ask, is: What if Tara gets into trouble on her mission and never has the chance to find out what happened to her girlfriend, Denise? Oh, man.

Tune in next Sunday for a new episode of The Walking Dead (only two left!) and follow me on Twitter @the_hoff. Although we’ve come to the end of the road, #DeniseAndTaraForever

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