“The Walking Dead” gives Tara more to do in Season 6

*Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched last night’s midseason finale of The Walking Dead.*

As last night’s Walking Dead midseason finale came to a close, there was a glimmer of hope and a deep sense of dread. Shocking, right? On one hand, the writers haven’t killed off Tara (Alanna Masterson) or Doctor Denise (Merritt Wever), despite the shitty hostage situation Denise is in. That’s a big plus and ray of hope. Sure, Tara and Denise might not be U-Hauling into an Alexandria model home anytime soon, but now the real world is knocking and it’s hoards upon hoards of walkers invading the town like never before.

So, in order to give the audience a little taste of fear, why not shake things up for Tara like never before, right? Yeah, pretty bad timing indeed, considering Tara and Denise are supposed to be hashing out their feelings and kissing loads more, since their kiss in Episode Five. So how did we get into this mess?

Doctor Denise has learned a lot from Tara, like how to hold her chin up and believe in herself. That’s why when she’s called upon by Morgan to tend to some wounds, she’s up for the challenge—only they aren’t his. Morgan’s been holding a man in captivity—one of the Wolf dudes who savaged the town a few episodes back.

In last week’s episode, Tara’s attempts to find Denise were futile, even though Morgan was easily able to access her twice and convince her to go down into the pits where “all life is precious.” Someone else who values that right now in her own ways is Tara, who stood up to Rick in last week’s episode when she risked her life to save Spencer. Yes, this Thanksgiving, Rick was given the biggest bird of all—a middle finger from our girl Tara.

TWDTara1You thought wrong.

But the difference is Tara knows how to follow her gut now. She’s able to discern bullshit from truth. (She is friends with Eugene.) Also, Tara’s influence on the group is magnified now like never before. That little incident with Rick didn’t piss him off; it put him in his place. It allowed Tara to showcase her steadfastness, her loyalty and strength.

It isn’t a man’s world anymore in The Walking Dead. It can’t be. Maybe it’s too soon to label him Feminist Rick, but Tara’s relationship with him has grown into something respectful from both ends. He listens to her. People respond to Tara and trust her—she’s a clear shot and she can get most people to safety. Someone else who listens to Tara is Doctor Denise. But if Tara could tell her what to do now—it would be to get the fuck out of that cell. Tara can’t save everyone, though that’s likely a big part of her insecurity and a reason why she drives herself harder each time new shit hits the fan.

TWDTara2No man gets left behind.

When Tara finally finds Denise, it’s a dire situation—Morgan, Carol, Doctor Denise are all in the cell with the Wolf Dude in control. He’s got the Doc by knifepoint, and orders Tara, Rosita and Eugene to give him their guns. Tara’s expression says it all: She doesn’t know how to save Denise, but all she can do is follow orders so no one gets hurt. Tara’s pretty good at following orders from the worst of men: the Governor. As the Wolf leads Denise out of the cell onto the walker-ridden streets, they disappear and Tara and the gang stand in the door stunned. “You don’t need her,” Tara calls out. How can Tara possibly save Denise’s life?

So far this season, Tara has only continued to grow and create new bonds. We’ve seen her in split-decision moments before  where her instincts paid off (like when she saved Spencer), so who says she won’t be able to pull off the same kind of stunt again? It’s a storyline that deserves closure in the second half of Season 6, considering the Wolves have been a problematic little infection since the dawn of time (or so it feels like) in this series. Tara has numbers on her side, and she has the slow and steady advantage of not being a desperate mad man who is dragging a woman through a crowd of walkers. Besides, Tara needs to find Denise so that the town doesn’t bleed to death—we’ve only got one doctor!

TWDTara3And I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.

It’s been mentioned before on the Talking Dead (which airs after each TWD), but why not more romance in the storylines? If Tara is able to save Denise, it’ll be like that scene in Titanic when Rose un-handcuffs Jack from the pipe as the water’s rising. The next step seems pretty clear: dress up in walker guts like the rest of the gang, and get out there—away from Alexandria. It’s a bleak thought, considering everyone had all these picket-fenced dreams. But like so many previous times our group has been separated from each other, now once again, characters like Tara have to step up, take charge and lead everyone to safety—or at least away from danger.

What do you think will happen next for Tara? Do you think she’ll get to Denise in time? What has been your favorite moment for Tara so far? What do you want the writers to give her next?

Sound off in the comments or tweet me @the_hoff. Season 6 of The Walking Dead picks up again on February 14, 2016.