Review for The Walking Dead 902
by R.C. Murphy
Yup. There’s spoilers in the following review. You’ve been warned.
For once, the main plot is pretty straight forward on this show. Okay, there’s been a few single group or subject episodes, but the Cool Thing for quite some time has been to pack in as much drama as possible, from as many sources as possible, to overwhelm viewers in order to make an episode feel like it meant something instead of letting interpersonal relationships in a smaller group do the same thing. When the writing team steps back and lets the characters push the tension again—instead of like during All Out War where we clearly saw where they meddled to make the plot work—it’s a slow-paced episode, yet still fully highlights how much drama there is left to milk from the Rick/Savior story line. Infighting from a small, encamped group brings us back to the good ol’ days of squirrel flinging. Who doesn’t like that?
In the episode, the communities have banded together to repair the storm-damaged bridge which detoured the group heading back from D.C. with supplies. They’re over a month in and from all outward appearances, it looks like the various groups are doing well in their makeshift camp beside the river. Everyone’s got someone to smile at in the morning—even Jerry! It doesn’t take long for the shiny veneer to wear thin once Eugene runs down his ever-growing list of problems.
Problem one: Food. Extra labor means extra calories needed to keep the workforce on their feet. Sanctuary still isn’t pulling edible vegetables from their fields. Alexandria has never really recovered from Negan’s last raids, so their pantry is more dust than anything fit for human consumption once they pulled food for the project. Oceanside can only provide so much. Which leaves Hilltop once again footing the bill to keep the masses fed. That may not happen unless they can find the missing fuel from Sanctuary, since all they’ve got other than the tractor is an imprisoned blacksmith and a broken plow. Water looks like another hard spot for the work crew. Keeping fresh, yet purified water on-hand in quantities fit for hard labor can’t be easy with the camp setup.
Problem two: Missing former Saviors. About half a dozen gone without a trace. Even before Alden makes it back with a report that Sanctuary hasn’t seen the men, nor have their families, I knew something smelled fishy. That last scene with Justin confirms what I thought—a serial killer is taking out the ex-Saviors one by one. Yeah, it’s a totally predictable thing to happen, but the intrigue it brings to the show will be great. The added pressure on the reformed baddies to socialize, plus exhaustion from labor, plus concern about their well-being leads to a series of fights throughout the episode, and one near-fatal communication error.
Problem three: Gravity waits for no man. The levee put in place to divert water for the bridge project is failing rapidly. According to Eugene, the only way to make sure they finish on time is to work nonstop. That means not waiting for the walker herds—named using a similar method to hurricanes, I believe—to pass on their own so they can detonate TNT and stay on schedule. Due to tensions with Sanctuary workers, and the incident which cost Aaron his arm, that schedule is pretty much useless. Yet Rick still brags to Negan about having hope at the end of the day. That’s gotta be the exhaustion talking.
Away from the worksite, Michonne takes it upon herself to source the food necessary to get the bridge built. The response is cold at first. Maggie is tired of bleeding supplies needed for her people and getting little to nothing in return. Not only that, but unless the ethanol magically shows up, she has to finally make a decision about Earl’s punishment for attempted homicide or they’ll have no way to get the next round of crops in the ground. It’s the perfect opportunity for Michonne to pitch the idea for standardized laws once again. This time Maggie is listening, not overwhelmed by her anger. But Michonne alone can’t get Earl out of jail. It takes a long, hard conversation about his drinking for Maggie to see that Earl, like her father Hershel, just needs the chance to show his good without the booze doing the talking for him. If Hershel hadn’t gotten another chance, many of the survivors we’ve come to love wouldn’t be with us anymore.
The episode is fashioned as a bragging session from Rick to Negan. It’s so, so tacky for Rick to keep going to this guy, using him like his personal diary. “Dear Negan, Today a guy’s arm was cut off because I somehow magically trusted a man, who got in a fist fight over a kid’s job, to keep some lumberjacks from being eaten alive.” If Negan does break out and kill everyone, Rick’s asked for it by continuously poking the bear when he should have dropped him in an oubliette and walked away.