“There’s nothing left in this world that isn’t hidden.”
So here we go, an episode that was bound to divide opinion. A whole episode dedicated to Tara! To a lot of the audience this will probably just seem like the showrunners taking the mickey, especially after the recent episodes that turned attention away from the core group. And it seems this episode has predictably split opinion. But I think it was one of the best of the season so far.
Remember Tara and Heath? I do, but from what I’ve read online quite a few people were at a loss as to who these characters were or where we last saw them. Honestly if you’ve watched a show for this long and don’t remember back to just last season, I’d worry how much you were actually taking in. Tara and Heath went off on a fortnight-long scavenging mission right after the groups attack on the satellite facility. They still think they wiped out The Savior’s at that outpost, they don’t know that Negan retaliated and killed two of their own. Most importantly, Tara doesn’t know that her girlfriend is dead. We catch up with them at the end of this mission, unaware of any of the carnage they’ve missed back at Alexandria. Heath isn’t doing so well, after what the group did to the Saviors he has adopted a rather negative worldview. Tara, on the other hand, is as bubbly and optimistic as she always has been.
Seeing as this is a Tara-centric episode, your enjoyment of it will depend on your love of her as a character. I really like her, I have liked her since she was introduced back in season 4. She was interesting because she began her story as an unwitting accomplice to the villain, helping The Governor overthrow the prison before she realised what a complete bastard he actually was (“Some people are evil,” Tara says in this episode, referring back to everyone’s favourite eyepatch wearing nutcase.) Because of her beginnings, her place in the group has always felt strange and she perhaps hasn’t always fit in. So it makes sense that she’s getting her own episode. Also I think she’s enjoyable to watch. Her goofy way of interacting with people make her one of the funnier characters. It’s like getting an episode just about Eugene, which I can imagine would divide opinion about the same as this episode. Tara is interesting and her optimism makes a welcome change. So I like the fact that she is getting her own episode. It’s similar to Lost, how they shine a light on the less popular members of the group, they just have to be careful Heath and Tara don’t become the new Paulo and Nikki.
This episode introduces us to another community, one barely seen in the comics. We first see it when Tara is washed up on the beach nearby (feeling spookily like Lost again) and she follows one of the people from the community back to their home. It’s called Oceanside and it’s made up entirely of woman and children. Whilst this may sound like a feminist dream, there is actually a good reason for the lack of male survivors. As punishment for rebelling, Negan and the Savior’s gunned down every male over the age of ten. Now I agree with some of the fanbase that this seems a bit evil, even for Negan. After all he does have his own twisted sort of code. But I can believe that a group of Savior’s would do this on their own, and maybe someone got a hot iron to the face because of it. We’ll have to wait and see.
We don’t learn very much about the group at Oceanside, but we meet some key characters. Most important is Cyndie, who helps Tara escape. She is a young girl whose family has been murdered by the Saviors, so she has plenty of reason to be scared of outsiders. But she’s not, she’s reasonable and she keeps Tara alive multiple times throughout the episode. The people of Oceanside, because of past issues with other survivors, now shoot on sight and don’t ask questions. After tripping the alarm Tara is lucky to get out alive, but Cyndie steps in. From here we get to meet a few members of the Oceanside community. They are all suspicious and cynical and don’t want to change the way they’ve been doing things. It’s this that almost gets Tara killed. After agreeing to let her go back to her people and hopefully open up a dialogue between the two camps, they turn on her. This was really well done, you really thought the group had seen reason, or at least I did. But they have a legitimate reason for not wanting Tara to escape, she might lead Negan right back to them. They’re not evil, just scared and not willing to take chances. They have a way to deal with other survivors and walkers alike; a shed full to the brim with weaponry. No doubt it will be this vast array of guns that connects this group to Rick and the gang back in Alexandria. After all, they will inevitably need to fight Negan. No matter how many bullets Eugene can make, they’re going to need plenty of guns.
There is a really cool action sequence in this episode. Tara and Heath are crossing a bridge when they come across a pile of sand that’s been dumped as a blockade across the road. Soon the whole thing is tumbling own on top of them and cool, sand –covered walkers are crawling out. This is a really unique looking set-piece and shows even now, seven seasons in, they can still add something new to the well-trodden genre. Walkers are dispatched in clouds of sand and dirt and everything feels rough like they are actually struggling against these ones. Soon Tara is forced back off the bridge and she loses Heath. One silly thing the show does is have a fake-out on Heath’s disappearance. When Tara gets back to the bridge and is looking for Heath she sees a walker that looks just like him, dreads and everything. But it isn’t! It’s just a walker that looks like him! At this point I was left wondering, what exactly are the writers thinking when they write this into an episode? Surely they must know how the fanbase will react to being tricked again?
The episode ends with Tara getting back to Alexandria and learning about Denise’s death. Her journey back to the settlement is sweet, though her finding of a doctor bobblehead for Denise is heartbreaking. Eugene greets her and he looks like a shadow of the person she knew when she left, he’s beat up and in tears and then…she just sort of accepts it? Some people are saying she should have reacted stronger to the news of Denise’s death but I’m glad they didn’t go that route. She can still be hurting inside even if she’s not crying on the floor like Rick (doesn’t make him any less badass, just pointing out he cries a lot). It’s Rosita that consoles her, so now it looks like her rebellion against Negan might be picking up steam.
Saying that nothing important happened in this episode is ridiculous, this episode is not filler. We learn about a completely new community and learn that they’re stockpiling weapons. Just because Tara doesn’t tell anyone about the guns yet, doesn’t mean it won’t become vital later one. It’s really annoying to see that this episode split fans so strongly, I really enjoyed it. Perhaps the showrunners are starting to test their luck by breaking up the plot like this, but we should see the way things are going by the midseason finale. Luckily for the fans, there’s plenty of the main group next week.
Reviewed by Jack