Does it feel like the honeymoon is over? For me, the shine on the blood-encrusted gold rings AvED slipped on fans’ fingers dulled. Why? The formula. The movies series used the formula well—Ash arrives, evil, death, and chaos follow. In the end, our main man walks away, dirty, tired, possibly maimed, and alone. Though they negated the alone part physically, Ash is mentally alone on this trip. Breaking the formula down to fit the series means each episode is pretty predictable. We can only have so much fun watching Kelly and Pablo take two gallons of blood to the face for five minutes in each twenty-something minute episode. While they do tend to mix up the fights and gross-out gags, it’s not enough to make us sit up and go, “Oh.”
When did horror television become about maintaining the same instead of breaking boundaries? This franchise, most of all, was the last I expected to play it safe. Showing Bruce Campbell’s butt in the first episode is not living dangerously.
When we left the gang, they’d killed deadites in a restaurant and left with a bonus team member—Amanda. We catch up with them in the middle of a misty forest, discussing the merits of Ash allowing the others to join him, though he’s still hesitant considering the formula and everyone except Ash dying as a result. Now would the show really kill off Pablo, Kelly, and Amanda? I want to say no, to give it something more to hold over the films—and also give them a solid base for the future considering season two was green-lit before episode 101 aired.
But here we are. Again. With Ash doubting his team even as he leads them to meet with his old pal Lem’s militia group in order to gear up for the final battle with evil. Before they even make it into the camp, they find a gutted corpse, an injured man babbling about an attack, and masked militants who shoot first, ask later. Luckily, it only applies to the injured man, who they think is, “…one of those things,” and their leader makes his head the consistency of oatmeal.
Ash talks his way into an actual meeting with the armed brain trust—that’s sarcasm if you can’t tell. Before they get to haggling for the good guns, evil arrives in the form of DeadLem, who’s mostly naked and possessed. The militia think he’s been gassed by Big Brother. If that’s a demon’s name, then they’re so on point. Unfortunately, these goons are slow on the uptake. Don’t get attached. Most end up dead. The others survive, but only to run away once they realize they’re way out of their element.
Lem’s attack, times with the team’s arrival, make the militia nervous. Ash and Amanda are handcuffed together, then dumped in another section of the compound. Why not, say, a jail cell? It’d be easier to keep captives captive if they’re not left to wander through endless tunnels, one of which surely leads outside. It does give them time to discuss Ruby, who isn’t dead, but rises from the ashes and reclaims her car. No worries, DeadLem somehow finds his way into the labyrinth to stalk the handcuffed—and flirting—duo. I’d hoped they would forego forcing one of the women on the team into Ash’s bed, but there it is, Ashmanda. DeadLem makes several attempts to blow up the pair. At last Amanda gets one over on the deadite. Ash thanks her by almost kissing her, until they’re interrupted by the cavalry.
Kelly and Pablo escape captivity after DeadLem’s meeting-time attack. The militia spread out to find them, though they manage to hide pretty much in plain sight alongside the dirt road leading to the compound. The big plan? Steal a gun, a gas mask, and take over the compound with Pablo posing as a militia member. The plan works, up until they miscalculate the number they’re against and get nabbed mid-theft. They’re dumped in a truck, but the vehicle goes nowhere. A deadite wipes out the guys holding them. Pablo takes out the deadite with the militia’s truck. Kelly makes sure it’s really dead after testing the new-to-her semi-automatic rifle. She unloads the gun into the deadite. Pablo is covered in blood. Off they go to save the day and interrupt a kiss which I believe should never happen if they wish to maintain the integrity of Amanda’s character.
The team catches—and releases when they leave—the militia, then pilfers whatever they may need for the fight at the cabin. Ash gives a rousing speech about how much he appreciates everyone.
Then Ash ditches the team. Because, formula. Or he was abducted. But my guess is he ran to save them. Annoying since it’s been his stance since the get go and they negated actual character growth by perpetuating his distrust. “But he’s protecting them!” A group who a minute before he leaves calmly pumps a deadite full of bullets. No hesitation. No worrying about the human it once was. They put the deadite down, saved the militia, and helped Ash secure weapons. They’ve earned trust, but the show’s writers are stuck on the notion that Ash’s appeal is his swagger and lone wolf routine. His appeal is the ability to adapt to any situation, even if that situation requires competent backup.
Is there something in Alexandria’s water? Not only are main characters losing their marbles—Maggie, Carol—but there’s another rash of B characters doing half thought out things and ending up taking tea with Death. Once again, we’re stuck waiting for the main plot to reach something resembling a conclusion while stalled with side stories writing off characters who make the show messy. Why else would they put an arrow through Denise’s eye? She’s the other half of the show’s only currently visible homosexual couple. Yes, we have Aaron and his husband, but their shock value wore off, so they introduced the lesbians. It’s like that thing they keep doing where there’s only Michonne, Glenn, and one other person of color in the main crew. Never mind them stumbling across minorities known to live in the areas they’ve visited and lived. Having visible LGBT couples is morally compromising. Bringing in Negan, Captain Inappropriate from everything we’ve been promised, means pushing boundaries which are already pretty stretched by their half-handed attempt to embrace diversity. This is where the show loses this game of chicken with the fans. They push, push, push, and when fans don’t flinch or react the way they want, they change course and drop the idea in a convenient way. Commit to something other than fanservice. We want a coherent story, not to catch them sweeping things under the rug to make room for something I’m starting to lose faith in.
We start with another poorly handled time jump, this interval expressed as a few Groundhog Day like montages featuring the town guards changing shifts, Gabriel on patrol in the fence, and Carol smoking while obsessing over the crucifix from the last episode. Morgan finishes the jail cell, telling Rick it’ll give them more options next time. He’s not wrong. This is the only time we see Rick, by the way.
After the opening credits, it’s pretty much just characters which haven’t had much screen time or character growth. Which makes one wonder why anyone would put the penultimate episode for the season in the hands of characters no one cares about anymore. “But, Daryl!” He hasn’t had a meaningful part in the plot other than playing Terminator since the season began. His part in this episode is basically to escort Denise to her poor life choices. Rosita is in the same boat, her story only complicated by falling in bed with Spencer and planning dinner with him. Denise leads Daryl and Rosita to a fully-stocked apothecary. They score the loot, but Denise plays snoop, scaring herself after finding a walker and what may have been a drowned child. No one is hurt. All they have to do is walk back to the truck and drive home. Then Denise continues to self-sabotage in the guise of self-help, breaking into a walker-protected car to raid an ice chest for soda. Daryl is pissed. Rosita is dumbstruck. Denise suddenly starts yelling a bunch of stuff which really doesn’t make sense, but the gist is she doesn’t feel brave and stupidly almost getting eaten to steal soda means she’s brave enough to openly love Tara. She only took Daryl and Rosita to encourage them and feel safe.
Safe until Dwight—the guy Daryl failed to kill when he stole his motorcycle—shoots her in the eye.
While the trio were shopping, Abraham took Eugene to a warehouse where the Brainiac wants to produce ammunition. It’s a great plan. Then Eugene gets a bug up his backside about his bravery as well, calling dibs on a walker he so cannot kill. He and Abraham fight after the big man steps in to help. It ends with Abraham just leaves his buddy after Eugene fires him from protection duty. This is all so Eugene can get captured by Dwight and his many companions and used as leverage against Daryl and Rosita. Abraham hangs around, somehow accidentally finds them, and helps send the bad guys back wherever they came from. In the process, Eugene is shot. They carry him back home to patch the wound—just a graze.
After Daryl and Carol bury Denise, Carol leaves a note for Tobin stating she should’ve never come back and she’s leaving again. For good. Don’t try to find her. Because, when they can’t figure out how to salvage a character, it’s easier to have them just walk off into the sunset. I honestly don’t think she’s gone. Carol will either end up dead at Negan’s feet in the finale, or forced to kill and save them all. They can’t spend the entire season messing with her only to have her leave a Dear John letter like a coward. Then again, character integrity seems to be the hardest continuity issue for this show to maintain.
Ruby also has a weird connection to the deadites, one which is teased yet again after Ruby and Amanda arrive at Brujo’s farm, only to find the funeral pyre burning as well as the idols. The remaining idols inside the house react to Ruby with similar curses to when they faced Eligos. Hell, even Brujo has something to say when he jumps from the pyre as a deadite to attack Ruby. How is she a double crosser? Did Ruby make a pact with the deadites? Is she the real reason why the book was at the cabin? We may not find out. Ruby and DeadBrujo fell into the fire. Amanda didn’t bother sticking around to see if her new friend survived. The second Amanda realized Ash’s POS rustbucket backfired on a nearby road, she steals Ruby’s car—minus Ash’s hand, which wandered off—and follows.
Unconcerned with potential pursuit, the gang stops for a bite. Ash attempts to dump his baggage early, telling Pablo and Kelly they can’t go to the cabin. They call BS, no amount of danger will keep them from seeing this through now they’ve been dragged in. Kelly lost her family; and Pablo has no one left aside from his awkward feelings about Kelly and a half-hearted friendship with Ash—neither have anything left to lose. Pablo proves his mettle by telling Ash, “If I were a deadite, it’d be an honor for you to cut my head off.”
It’s an honor they all may experience soon if Ash doesn’t stop finding danger in the most mundane spots.
We already know Ash isn’t the most stellar guy. After he offers to pay for the gang’s food, he tries to back out. Pablo and Kelly call him on it and he moves on to hitting on the waitress, promising her the best sex of her life to work off the bill. He’s not even concerned when Nancy points out her menacing husband working in the kitchen. Ash just wanders to the bathroom to await his next easy conquest.
The woman who walks in isn’t the woman he wants to see. Amanda and Ash fight again, with her still assuming he has a direct hand in the deadites and the deaths they cause, not that he’s a doorknob with his libido doing the thinking ninety percent of the time. It isn’t until the other State Police officer she calls in is killed and transformed into a deadite that Amanda suddenly realizes, nothing the doorknob does actually makes these things; the monsters just show up, kill people, and make a mess. The man she wants to hold accountable is actually the only one with the skill to kill them.
After Amanda sees Team Badass in action, she wants in. Of course she wants into their oh-so exclusive club. Who wouldn’t? Oh, say, anyone who wants to live to see old age? Ash doesn’t have a good track record for keeping companions alive.
There may be a snag in the plan to reach the cabin. At the restaurant, Ash runs into an old pal, Lem. Lem has joined forces with the local militia. When the deadites hit the fan, Lem bolted into the forest behind the restaurant. He’s put in a call for backup. Hope there’s extra bunks at the cabin, looks like the gang will have company. The other snag? Kelly may not be ready to say goodbye to revenge killing. After everything, she lives for the confrontation with evil. During the main fight for this episode, she uses a meat slicer to carve away DeadNancy’s face. She’s seriously into the kill. If they bury the Necronomicon, all her anger will have nowhere to go.
I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Kelly’s possession by evil. Eligos may be gone, but the weakness her revenge creates will make her an ideal target to become the Big Bad come the season’s end.
Someone messed with the screws holding up a window-mounted A/C unit in the apartment above Leslie’s coffee shop, Positivity, and when she went outside to check out the chalk art her daughter mentions, the A/C unit drops on her head. There’s the usual suspects dragged into the fray thanks to Liv’s dead-end visions. We meet Pam, the loud-mouth inmate from Liv’s short stay in jail, as she’s holed up in the bathroom of the apartment puffing on a vape pen with cannabis oil. Leslie’s ex husband, Stan, is likewise waved as a red herring. As is Gilbert, boyfriend to Leslie’s daughter, Cher. Gilbert swears he’s this ultra deep French guy, but really he’s the son to a real estate agent. An agent with access to the apartment above Positivity. Gilbert would do anything to make Cher happy, even let her talk him into taking the fall for the murder after one stolen kiss in the police station. Cher gets away. Liv gets the jitters from her caffeine habit.
While Liv and Clive catch one half of the murderous duo, Ravi works on the cure now that they finally secured the tainted Utopium samples. Major hovers a lot of this episode—his only other bit to add to the episode involves finally outing Rita/Gilda to Liv as a spy, prompting Liv to hit Rita and kick her out. Hovering won’t make the cure happen any faster. Matter of fact, not much will at this rate. The replica of the cure which worked on Major and Blaine turns a test rat into a Romero zombie. They’re going to need that cure sooner than later if they plan to save everyone attached to Team Z.
Turns out, Boss isn’t the only bright cookie in his organization. His debt collector remembers Blaine from his days as a street level dealer nicknamed Chinatown. Not because he worked that district, but because he took the district by force. Seeing the potential for Blaine to be the one behind the new drug ring, Boss orders a hit. Blaine is kidnapped, half nude, from his funeral home. They drive him to the woods, slit his throat, and bury him alive. The next day, Blaine wakes looking like he needs to drink every drop of coffee in Positivity and stumbles away from his grave behind a Girl Scout troop. Guess trauma like that will negate the cure. How long until Blaine either croaks or stops being so picky about his meals?
The longer we deal with Drake, the more I want to not like this random man they’ve shoved in Liv’s bed for sake of giving her a male shoulder to cry on after bombing her previous relationship with the dreaded sexually transmitted disease dead horse. Thing is, they’re finding ways to make Drake vital to the overall plot, which happens to be the confrontation with Boss this season. Drake isn’t just Blaine’s spy in Boss’ camp, he’s a vice detective in deep cover spying on everyone even claiming to push Utopium. His handlers rough him up after dragging him in in front of Boss’ guys, then they gather his intel and urge him to drop Liv.
Dating someone associated with the police isn’t just a bad idea, it’s a surefire way to get dead. Which, given the way this show goes, will happen. Major only escaped death because of Liv’s scratch and then the cure. There’s no cure for a dead zombie.
I’m tired of the camera gags they use more and more often on the show to prove, “Hey, it’s from a comic book. We do comic book like things! Aren’t we cool? Don’t we do awesome, obviously cartoony things like that Dead-whatever guy?” First, they use CGI to put blood on the camera lens. In this episode, there’s more of that nonsense, plus binocular POV shots and a jump gag from Maggie’s POV shot like it was meant to be in a 3D film, not on standard cable television. We’re talking one of those monster in your face, then suddenly a knife through their head almost into the POV character, moments. They even turned the walker with the knife to give that slow dimensional pull back. Why the hell would they put in a shot which, aside from a cheap scare, doesn’t fully translate to a standard definition viewing experience? It seems like they’re toying with an idea for something down the road—maybe 3D versions on Blu-ray for season 6—and we’re catching glimpses of the man behind the curtain. It’s not my bag. None of it. 3D hurts my head. Watching them refine the process for the show’s home release is like watching water boil around food I’m allergic to.
Whoops! Watch out! Man, that was close. An episode spoiler nearly got you. They wait below.
Honestly? They could’ve skipped to the last two minutes of this episode. The whole ordeal with Carol and Maggie held captive in the meat processing plant is here to stall for time. Even the characters are stalling in the episode where they stall so they don’t blow the Negan reveal with anything considered speed or fan service. Fans have asked for Negan by name and loudly since TERMINUS was teased. Producers used it to their advantage, thinking if they keep trolling out line after setting their Negan-shaped lure, fans will gladly stay put and watch the shiny thing. Fish get bored. People get bored just as quick. They should’ve snatched that line tight ages ago and reeled everyone in for what I’m sure will be a stellar performance at least from Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Keeping us in the lurch doesn’t mean we’re eager to see what they’re withholding. It means by the time we get to Negan, who cares? There’s only so much self-inflated hype about a character people will tolerate. How many times have we all seen headlines promising a gruesome finale and Negan’s mug on our screen? Personally, if I had a dollar for each, I could afford to do makeup on my own army of undead and produce a short movie.
The plot is straight-forward: The Saviors refuse to trade Maggie and Carol for their guy Primo right away. The ladies, their three women captors, and one injured man, head to the slaughterhouse the Saviors use as a safe house. Carol plays meek. Maggie is outed as being pregnant and questioned, which leads to a lot of nothing revealed on either side. Paula, the woman taking charge, picks on Carol for being weak, does the same to Maggie for having the gall to breed given the apocalypse and all. Paula pretty much is an avatar for Strong Woman Who Needs No Man. That’s all you need to know about her. Molly is a dying smoker. I don’t know if the other woman ever gets a name. Donny bleeds out from the wound Carol gave him before they were captured after being KOed by Paula for attacking their captives to get revenge. Eventually they kill enough time to jam in a bunch of killing after the last commercial break. Carol is left alone when the Saviors, minus Donny, gear up for the trade they will turn into an ambush with their incoming backup. She gets free, using a random rosary which just happens to fall out of a walker’s pocket. Carol frees Maggie. They argue, again, about whether or not they should finish the plan or run. Carol wants to run. She’s done risking Maggie’s life. Maggie is bloodthirsty and irrational—they’ll blame her pregnancy for the a-typical character behavior, no doubt. In the end, they kill their captors, lure the backup to the slaughterhouse, and burn them. The ladies save themselves, but the menfolk and other backup are right at the door as they exit. Because in a boring as hell episode, we’ll make it all about women’s empowerment and not plot progression.
“But that whole ‘We are all Negan’ thing! It’s important!”
You’re a sheep. We know there’s A Negan. We know he’s probably not coming until the finale. Going from experience with this show, either the episode will be so much Negan, we grow tired quick or he’ll be a thirty second tease at the episode’s climactic cliffhanger ending. The Savior’s dialog is meant to be a red herring for the characters. Not us. Not in the day and age where social media ensures we know everything coming up for shows and movies. Even people who avoid as many teasers and trailers as possible are still overwhelmed with this information. There are few surprises in entertainment anymore. Negan is perhaps the worst kept considering how often people drag out interviews with the show’s actors relaying the harrowing days on set filming the finale. I’m not buying it. I can’t. They’ve talked a big game a lot lately, but cannot deliver anything nearly as solid as the prison attack story line. It’s just fluff. No substance.
I’m not sure one can write spoilers for an episode so utterly predictable, the only parts which surprised me were the few glistening moments where we saw some actual character development. Nevertheless, that’s why we’re here, to pick apart the show, find more tidbits to feed our need for decent entertainment. So many fans lay their hope for TWD’s future on the Negan storyline. This is it, the chance for the show to realign with the chaos within the comics. Producers have promised fans they’d get what they want from this whole thing. If a nap was their ultimate goal, they succeeded.
(Watch out! Spoilers lurk below!)
Maybe that’s not entirely fair. There are stellar moments in the fight at the end which made the skin on my neck tense. But, honestly, maybe five minutes of quality writing are buried deep in cliché dialog, phoned-in emotions, and Rick being Rick. Some of my favorite scenes are with Glenn and Heath.
The original survivor, Glenn, is not keen to kill again. Heath hyped himself up the moment he heard Rick’s plan at the town hall meeting—exactly the reaction their leader wanted from his little pep talk spouting how they need to “get them before they get us.” It became Glenn’s job to talk sense into the young man. A position Glenn found himself in a lot during season one. Remember the car with the alarm? Yeah, a great impulse idea, but the aftermath cost many lives and their camp. Heath may think it’s the right thing to go into the raid ready to kill, but how would he feel the day after? How about a week down the road when he remembers the way his knife wouldn’t quite go into the skull right? Killing haunts the survivors who’ve been in the wild for long. Glenn’s fault is he wants to spare Heath, retain the young man’s innocence. When it comes time for them to do some of the most intimate killing scenes on the show—attacking Saviors in their bed and dispatching them with a single knife thrust trough the eye socket—Glenn takes the kill guilt upon himself. Being no coward, Heath still gets a few kills to notch on his belt when he and Glenn hold the line to guard the enemy’s armory. But even though his kills weren’t up close and personal, Heath still flees in the morning, more than ready to go on the two-week trip with Tara for supplies.
Where Glenn grows as a character, Carol is undermined at every turn. On top of her unfounded refusal to trust Morgan—up until they created a reason with him holding the Wolf in the cell—they’re now making her the “bad boy” to ease fans into the reality of Negan’s notorious potty mouth, plus reintroducing tobacco products to the show since Daryl’s smoking has petered off. In stark contrast, she’s been acting like the town’s mother, something Tobin calls her out on during a random romantic encounter after sunset. During a day full of doubts, concerns, and knowing death is near again, Carol gathered friggen acorns to make cookies for everyone. Even Sam. It’s been a while since the show side-swiped me with emotions, but I teared up seeing the lone cookie on his grave. Then I got angry—Sam gets more care after his death than before.
Carol’s mom-ness spreads to Maggie’s welfare after the pregnant woman insists she go on the raid. Glenn gave up that fight before it started. Rick is told rather bluntly what Carol thinks, but she never spells out why Maggie shouldn’t be there. It’s more of the same when Carol and Maggie, who were left to guard the perimeter and RV, hear the alarm triggered by a Savior—Sasha kills him, but not in time—and rush to help. Carol stops in her tracks, refusing to let Maggie move. Her hesitation because Maggie will also become a mother is why the episode ended in such a convenient manner. Carol, of all the fighters they have, should understand why Maggie is at the raid. Maggie laid out the terms for Gregory. She dug this hole for Alexandria, now either she helps fill it in or it becomes their graves. In Maggie’s shoes, would Carol honestly sit at home baking? Not this Carol. Even weeks out from her last kill, this Carol wouldn’t let others take full responsibility for something she set in motion.
Short note: Abraham is an a-hole. Rosita should shoot him in the foot.
The raid itself is pretty straight-forward. The group sends Eddy to offer Gregory’s head to the Saviors. Don’t fret, it’s a walker they disguised to resemble the injured Hilltop leader. The guards take too long to examine the head, not in terms of creating tension, but it just felt like, “Oh, they’re going to be d-bags and make Eddy sweat.” After one guard fetches the kidnapped Hilltop member, the gang dispatches both guards without a sound. The Hilltop people retreat to a standby vehicle with Jesus, Tara, and Gabriel. Rick, Michonne, Abraham, Sasha, Glenn, Heath, Rosita, and Daryl enter the compound. They pair up, searching each room they pass. If the room is occupied, they kill the Savior inside. If the door is locked, they pry it open. Why the random searching? They know nothing about they layout, only a vague idea of where the armory is and the location for the pantry. The locked rooms turn up a supply closet, a marijuana growing operation, and the armory Glenn and Heath defended.
Things run smoothly until Sasha and Abraham are caught breaking into a room. After the alarm is pulled, the gang mows through the stragglers—who aren’t unarmed, but have aim like Stormtroopers. Jesus, Tara, and Gabriel join the fight. Jesus saves Glenn and Heath from the lone survivor outside the armory. The other Hilltop men take the car and head toward home. Gabriel shows his backbone, praying for a Savior before putting a bullet in his head.
At sunrise, everyone from Alexandria and Hilltop are still alive. Heath scouts the Saviors’ cars and picks one to take on the trip. He and Tara roll out without much fanfare. Michonne wants to know which dead guy is Negan. None of them, duh? Plus, not everyone died. One guy on a motorcycle makes a run for it. He’s shot down. Rick and company surround him, making demands. A woman’s voice over the radio makes her own demands. When they fail to comply, she informs them that her people have Maggie and Carol.
Of course they do. I knew the second Maggie and Carol were left on the outskirts alone that they’d become a bargaining chip. It’s easier to kidnap the women, despite Carol’s ferocity, than the men on the mission—except maybe Heath. This is how they’ll likely force the face-to-face with Negan. A kidnapping. It’s so uninspired.
So naked Rick and Michonne don’t turn Jesus into swiss cheese.
Matter of fact, once the cavalry arrives to restrain Jesus again, they somehow end up listening to what he has to say. They’re totally onboard with sending the town’s ruling council and the majority of their top-tier fighters with this stranger, as well, even after hearing he’d taken full stock of their supplies and people before essentially turning himself in to Rick. They were more suspicious of Morgan, the man who may be the sole reason Rick saw more than a week outside the hospital after his coma. Yes, Morgan snapped his Slim Jim after his son passed, but he is fully not crazy now and Carol still watches the man like he’s about the club them all to death and make sachets from their skin.
With no real concern whatsoever, Rick, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl, Abe, and Jesus climb into an RV—there’s always one which just happens to be nearby—and take off toward an undisclosed location with only their vague threats to keep Jesus from driving them into a trap.
Which exactly what it looks like not long after we rejoin the gang on the road. A car, one Jesus swears belongs to his people, crashed on the roadside moments before they drove past. Now, not only are the fighters separated from the group, they’re being put directly in harm’s way for people who may still turn around and put bullets in their brain pans. There’s an urgent rescue. One of the guys, Dr. Carson, thanks Maggie and Glenn by being probably the only OB left alive in the state and offering to care for their baby. How’s that for luck?
During the entire episode, Jesus is essentially Google—feeding Rick and Maggie exactly what they need to manipulate Gregory, Hilltop’s chicken-livered and misogynistic leader. It’s all too easy, this plot. Somehow we end up at the right place at the right time for these unfortunate people to demonstrate the kind of antics keeping Negan top dog in the county. But with all the bad Negan has done—namely, his men murdering a sixteen year old boy upon The Saviors’ first meeting with Hilltop—Jesus seems not concerned at all about being in the room with two men confessing to blowing up quite a few of the boogeyman’s goons. If that were me, I’d wash my hands of Alexandria, not matter how badly we needed another trading post.
Hilltop itself is designed to resemble a walled medieval estate during wartime, with all the folk from the farms and homes under care of the lord encamped within the walls. It’s so blatant, Gregory turning out to be a world class jerk doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s even less surprising that one of his own men would then stab him, hoping Gregory’s death would secure the release of a man Negan took captive. Why did he take this guy and kill another Hilltop citizen? Gregory sent his people to deliver their usual payoff knowing it wouldn’t be enough. It’s never enough. Negan will demand more and more. Though Gregory survives, this hasn’t done a thing to teach him to grow a pair and take on the man running their lives from afar.
In comes Rick and his band of killers.
Seriously? This is where the story goes? They veer from attempting to set up a functioning ecosystem in Alexandria to hired mercenaries who’ll just kill and take what they want. These are the people Rick wants to kill, usually. But when it suits them, murder is on the table. They wouldn’t need to kill Negan so soon if they’d stopped to do the boring things like clear fields. But they need food now. Hilltop has a functioning system in place which produces enough food to send half to Negan without forcing strict rationing in Hilltop. If Negan doesn’t need that food being dead and all, Alexandria will take it. Now. Half of whatever is on-hand is cheaper than the cumulative price to keep Negan at bay via bribes.
But again, this is all too easy to follow to the conclusions the writers want. They’re trying to make fans guess who’s going to die. Is it Glenn? Negan and Glenn’s comic book story is well known, spread by every reviewer trying to make the show into something it’ll never be—an accurate reflection of the comics. They drive more nails into Glenn’s coffin during this episode, finally giving us a glimpse at his and Maggie’s child in an ultrasound. Every happy character dies on this show. It’s no surprise. Abraham seems a tad happy himself after some soul searching and a near-death experience, but he’s mostly in the story now to fire large weapons and make us question Glenn’s fate going into the season’s end. Some say golden boy Dixon will bite the big one. It makes sense, seeing as he did blow up Negan’s people.
It’s all so boring, this weird dead pool going on in the fandom. I never watched the show to see who would die. I kept watching because the characters made rational decisions in an interesting setting and the story pace never lagged so much, I wanted to wander off for a snack ten minutes into an episode. They’ve killed the Negan story line before it begins.
If you aren’t an adult, this show isn’t for you; neither is this review. Also, show spoilers everywhere.
As far as plans go, it isn’t a bad one. Brujo tells Eligos to take a hike, they get back to sorting out Ash’s mental mojo, then the newly awakened El Jefe cruises to the cabin to bury the friggen book. Easy as Ash getting laid.
Except they still have the wrong person hog-tied and awaiting whatever exorcism ritual requires a knife and chicken carcass. Going out on a limb, here, but I assume the Catholic Church did not approve this method. Despite the gag in his mouth, Ash tells everyone exactly what he thinks of them, the plan, and Keligos’ taunts when Brujo and Pablo can’t see. They brush his anger off as the demon talking. Compiled with Keligos’ compelling performance as a helpless victim, Ash is about to learn first-hand what a blood ritual looks like.
Annoyed by the request, but still fulfilling it, Pablo fetches the ritual supplies and gets out of Brujo’s hair. For a guy who spent a good chuck of his life avoiding the dark and spooky family business, Pablo sure wants to be in the thick of the mess a lot. Keligos has other plans to kill time. Her original plan is to get drunk. Failing to locate the booze, they decide on plan b—Ash’s grass stash. They just need a pipe. Pablo is off to play gopher once again. At some point he has to grow more of a spine. It feels a tad imbalanced—Kelly loses her parents and is possessed, Pablo gets brains and blood splattered over his face and a hot girl practically begging to get him in bed, but she’s the emotionally stronger character. Why pick on Kelly?
If anything positive can be said about the possessed woman, she’s resourceful. Bored with waiting for Pablo and a pipe, she uses the boom stick’s barrel to smoke.
Things get super awkward when Keligos seduces Pablo. Really, she just wants him to quit paying attention so she can blow his head off. Not exactly the method Pablo has in mind, either. He hesitates. Kelios loses her patience for the second time and attacks Pablo. The creature design for the hybrid Kelly and Eligos creature is elegant almost. They didn’t take her so far from human, she looked like a deadite, but made sure to bring Eligos’ distinctive grin onto her face. The effect is startling when it first happens.
Things aren’t going right in the Brujo’s shack, either. Ash isn’t reacting the way he should when approached with blessed items. While Brujo prepares the blood sacrifice, Ash dismisses with the gag, telling Brujo the truth—Eligos is in Kelly and probably about to kill Pablo. Shots fired in the trailer.
Ash and Brujo rush to the trailer. Pablo has Keligos cornered, boom stick aimed at her head. He can’t pull the trigger. They all scuffle over the shotgun. There’s yet another hole in Ash’s trainer, but Brujo subdues Keligos without any human injuries.
Take two on the exorcism. Eligos doesn’t react to any mojo spell, totem, or blessed item. The only time it reacts to a ritual component, it’s to vomit leeches fat with Brujo’s blood near Ash’s feet. They’re getting nowhere fast. Eligos takes to beating Kelly to make the men react.
Pablo and Brujo chat outside. Pablo tells his uncle he’s sorry for leaving so long ago and hiding from the mystical side of their family. While they’re out of the way, Kelly begs Ash to put her out of her misery before Eligos kills her. She even asks him to make sure there’s a cross on her grave. Tisk, tisk, Eligos. Wrong religion.
Things heat up when Pablo struts into the shed and demands Eligos take possession of him instead. Not one to ignore such a ripe morsel, Eligos reaches through Kelly’s mouth to grab Pablo. Unlike other mouth-exiting gags, they didn’t feel the need to waste time making Kelly’s mouth do weird things. Most of the shot following Eligos as it emerges is straight-forward.
The demon claims one last victim—Brujo, startled by how quickly Eligos jumps to and fro, is impaled through the chest when he dodges an attack. His death is not unavenged. Ash uses the not-so-wise words he told himself in the vision quest to finally find the right timing to blow Eligos’ blue-goo filled head to smithereens.
Kelly wakes from the ordeal with another headache and a gap in her memory from the time they reached the ranch. Ash fills in some of the blanks after ensuring she has ice for her head. They burn Brujo’s body on a funeral pyre. Pablo makes a lot of promises to the dead guy. In return, Brujo’s spirit flings a red-hot necklace at Pablo’s feet.
For the first time in the history of history, Ash apologizes for his part in the whole raising the ultimate evil fiasco. Pablo tries to brush the apology under the rug. Kelly tells him not to, Ash owes humanity an apology, not just the people stuck in the fight with him. They can’t walk into the final stage of the battle—the trip to the cabin—without all hands on deck. The hand Pablo started for Ash magically finished itself at some point. Trying it on, the first thing Ash does is high-five his team, then flip them the bird.
Keep it classy, Ash. And keep your backside in gear. Ruby and Amanda haven’t given up the hunt. Their method to navigate just takes a little longer than Amanda likes or has the patience for. The slow-moving hand GPS isn’t her only problem. Ruby is actively dodging Amanda’s questions, and not even that well, to be honest. What isn’t the deadite slayer telling her new buddy?
We finally, finally get the time jump we’ve waited at least six episodes for and the events following are so dull, I bet half the audience couldn’t tell me how many vehicles Rick and Daryl drove throughout the episode—hint, it’s more than two. Two things of note happen in this episode. One is such a bone-headed move by the writing and production crew, I cannot believe they think it’s going to work. Or that fans want this thing to happen in the first place. The second is a ham-handed attempt to make this show feel like it was once a comic book.
And now, the spoiler-filled portion of the review. You’ve been warned.
Let’s just get it over with: They killed Jessie and her children to put Michonne in Rick’s bed. At last. They’ve been dancing around this doomed ‘ship for a while, usually pushing back the inevitable hookup with Rick making questionable decisions, irritating Michonne, and putting them back in their friendship box. We were happy with them in that box. At what point did fans honestly ask them to change Rick’s relationship status to, “Grieving, but banging my number one fighter,” because that makes sense? Yes, it’s been a few weeks their time, but it’s been one week for us. Fans are still reeling from losing Jessie, Sam, and Ron. Wait. Who am I kidding? The writers never gave those characters a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming three-dimensional, relatable characters. Seeing how easily they wrote them off, Jessie and Rick was a red herring for the possible relationship established at the end of this episode. Which sucks. Rick and Michonne had a nice, normal moment together. They’re laughing. Relaxed, despite their hectic days. The kids are safe. No one from town was injured, killed, or has the sniffles. It’s a side of these two we rarely see honestly portrayed on screen. Then the moment is ruined by an awkward make-out session and the producers making it perfectly clear they slept together. Like having two leads in bed together is a vital part of this show. There hasn’t been a serious romance-driven story line since Lori and Shane scrambled to figure out their future with Rick awake. We saw how well that story line ended. It was meant to end that way, though. Shane’s mental illness and inability to let Rick “win” carried the relationship drama with the plot. Michonne and Rick hooking up makes no sense, unless you look at it from the POV of a producer scrounging for viral gossip on social media. They wanted this moment to wag jaws online. Instead, people are rolling their eyes.
The second issue I had actually involves the episode plot—which is essentially just Rick and Daryl attempting to go on a supply run and failing spectacularly, but they have help failing from a new guy. What, another new guy? Yeah. He’s an odd duck, and has more than a few tricks up his sleeve. After Rick and Daryl follow Eugene’s advice and hit up a barn on a sorghum farm, they find a truck with supplies. Taking the truck, they move down the road, stopping at a gas station so Daryl can find a can of pop for Denise to give to Tara. The new guy—Paul, but friends call him Jesus—manages to steal the truck, blow a tire on it down the road, gets the truck taken back, and hitches a ride on top of said coveted vehicle. Rick brakes suddenly, flinging Jesus onto the ground. The guy still has enough left in his system to run around the truck, dodging Daryl’s attempts to snag him. The fight only ends after Jesus puts down a stray walker that’s sneaking up on Daryl and Daryl thanks him by tackling him in the truck’s cab. They hit the gear shift and the supplies, plus their new wheels, sink into a pond. The whole thing is downright cartoony. I half expected Jesus to pull a large carrot from his coat and call Daryl, “Doc.” While a “day in the life” episode can be fun, this took a comic character’s introduction and gave it no real thought in how to ground this guy in the reality they’ve established. Daryl and Rick aren’t this moronic. They wouldn’t have their keys pick-pocketed. They would be on-guard, still. Daryl knows there’s more guys like the bikers he blew up out there. Rick is too gung-ho to add a thieving stranger to their ranks—an action simply brushed off by Rick telling Daryl he was right to recruit after Pete killed Reg, back when Rick wanted to close ranks and keep out strangers. But there’s never a real reason given as to why Rick changes his mind after Jesus cost them easily a week’s worth of household odds and ends for Alexandria. It’s convenient for him to change his mind because the story needs Jesus down the road. Just to be safe, after Denise tends to the head wound which knocks Jesus out after the truck fight, they lock him in the prison room. Jesus escapes in time to catch Michonne and Rick nude in bed together.
Another tidbit they added which doesn’t make much sense is Deanna’s walker in the woods. Carl and Enid see her first in the episode. Though Deanna’s face is hidden until later, they give the game away by showing her bandaged leg wound. Later, Spencer and Michonne end up wandering aimlessly until Spencer finally opens up a little about feeling like an outsider with his family dead. Right on cue, Carl leads Deanna’s walker past the adults. Spencer finally tells Michonne that killing his mother again is why he keeps sneaking off. Luckily he found her that time, otherwise the scenes would’ve been completely useless. Oh, wait, they already are. The writers are trying to salvage a character they’ve repeatedly made too cowardly or too stupid to live. It’s too late for character development. Spencer has been on the show for too long to make us care now. It just means they plan to kill him horrifically down the road. If this show is anything, it’s predictable when it comes to secondary character deaths.
This episode could’ve been fun. It did have its moments, especially the friendly moments where Rick wasn’t the Rick they’ve written for the last three seasons. There were some cute jokes, and few laughs, but for the most part it’s a skippable episode. All the momentum they built with the townsfolk banding together for that epic fight scene is lost one episode later. They’re going to drag this plot down to snoozeville, then catch us off guard with Negan’s brutality. Only, it’s not a surprise if we see it coming episodes away.
This episode is not for the weak-hearted. Matter of fact, I highly regretted filling my coffee mug just one more time before settling in to watch. Twenty minutes into the episode, I paused and took a five-minute break to watch puppy videos. Otherwise my heart would’ve exploded.
Warning! Walking Dead Spoilers ahead, as well as graphic descriptions of violence.
Now, I’m not doing a complete 180* flip on my stance on the show using easy outs. There were simply too many deaths in this episode which in the end tied up a loose thread in the plot. Sure, they were somewhat spectacular deaths, but that then comes down to a simple A-B reasoning for offing the character. A, the character over complicates the plot—yet Father Gabriel, who has done nothing but get people killed, remains safe; heck, he’s mentally recovering from his sins far better than anyone left alive on the show. The B reason for these producer-targeted deaths then shifts to making them so astounding visually, fans will confuse a visceral reaction to the death with a genuine connection to the woefully two-dimensional character.
There’s no ride with these people. No thrills, lulls, love, empathy to make them matter. They’re cannon fodder tossed on the field to make the generals look like they have the numbers to win the battle. Sad thing is, they’re right. The producers gave us cannon fodder and we, the coveted item in the television ratings war, bought into their bluff. “We can change,” they promise. “It’ll be just like the comic books.”
Apparently that translates to adult language, mass slaughter of plot-hampering B-list characters, and the icky kind of tension. The tension a woman gets walking in the dark by herself and heavy boot steps follow half a breath behind her. It’s the wrong tone for where I think they want to take the show heading into the season finale. You can’t run head-first into the terror about to come. This was their toe-dip to warn us. Hopefully this unwanted tension tone shifts. I mean, the primary perpetrator was blown to about six-billion pieces. By Daryl, no less. With an assist from the time-wasting and convenient rocket launcher.
The walker footage for this episode is beautiful. If there’s one thing Nicotero does well in his episodes, you see the FX love up front and center. Good thing, too. Most of the Rick-centric scenes happened mid-herd. The few times there aren’t walkers in-frame, we’re lead to believe they somehow found a corner within the tiny community to hide where one of five thousand walkers couldn’t find them. These moments are when Rick passes Judith, his last tie to his deceased wife aside from his son, to Gabriel. The Father will shelter her in the church until Rick and the others draw the walkers away with the cars they left at the quarry. Jessie tells Sam to go with them. He refuses, stating he can make it.
You know where this is going, right? They’ve intentionally mishandled Sam’s PTSD, hauling us by the nose to the moment when his mental disorder takes the forefront, driving back rational thought and costing the boy his life. Jessie, frozen by grief, is swarmed and eaten, as well. Sorry, Rick. But, wait, why aren’t you moving, Rick? He hesitates just long enough for the walkers to almost get Carl, who can’t move because Jessie has him gripped tight in her death throes. There’s a weird fascination with cutting off hands in genre pieces. Jessie loses hers to save Carl. Father and son recover just in time for Ron to be a moron. Grief-numbed Ron rightly blames Rick for his family’s death. In the following struggle, Michonne impales Ron and Ron accidentally shoots Carl in the eye.
Well, heck. By this point we’ll assume literally everyone is on the chopping block this season. Which is exactly how we’re supposed to feel. They want us so concerned for everyone, it means they don’t have to rely on character growth to keep us on their emotional journey. The only two who knocked it out of the park growth wise this episode are Denise—kidnapped by the lone Wolf until he saves her as they attempt to escape Alexandria, taking a bite in the process—and Eugene, who finally joins the fight without reservations. Characters like Aaron and Heath are only on screen as proof of life and extra bodies in the epic fight montage at the episode’s climax
After Carl is shot, things move quickly. Denise jumps to action, having slipped the Wolf when Carol killed him, but not before Denise had promised to save his life. Michonne helps Denis stabilize Carl. Rick, without saying a word to anyone, grabs a machete and heads outside to, well, collect some heads. He becomes a zombie mowing machine. After some debate, others join him, even Michonne after ensuring Denise had things in hand.
While they fight, Glenn and Enid hatch a plan to save Maggie from the rickety guard platform. The plan is beyond dumb. Glenn will stand at ground level and shoot walkers. Enid climbs the platform. Maggie freaks out, refuses to climb down the wall with the improvised rope, and uses her last bullet. Right at the last second, Abraham and Sasha magically mount the wall and mow down the walkers, all without injuring Glenn. Daryl waits in the truck and Glenn joins him. What will they do? Daryl has a plan. This may be a first, to be honest.
Flaming zombie pond! That’s Daryl’s big plan. Honestly, it’s effective. The nearby walkers shamble into the flaming pond without reservation. When the herd shifts direction, Rick and company mow them down. Though I don’t one-hundred percent believe all the walkers would simply ignore yelling, grunting, sweating live bodies in favor of one big fireball. They win the battle, though. There’s no more casualties. Even Father Gabriel got in on the action before it ended. Okay, so three characters had some emotional growth.
The episode ends with what’s supposed to be a touching monologue with Rick at Carl’s bedside. The kid is alive, but unconscious and honestly doesn’t look too good with a third of his face bandaged. Where this scene went wrong is language choice. Rick doesn’t go into his feelings for his possibly dying son, oh no. Instead he crows over being able to unite the townsfolk for this oh-so important cause. He then goes on to talk about making the town bigger, badder. There’s the hint of emotion, but Rick never gives it a proper label, just that he hasn’t felt it since before he awoke from the coma. The scene has no punch until Rick begs Carl to let him show him the new world. Our hope for Carl is in a single moment, his fingers closing around Rick’s hand.
Obviously, we’re not done with Negan despite blowing up a chuck of his goon squad. How soon he’ll arrive at the gate is a variable no one in Alexandria can account for with any surety. They’re knocking on war’s door while licking their wounds again. Will this too-similar setup have similar endings to Woodbury and the prison? *shakes Magic 8 Ball* Most likely