“You’re not saving the world Rick, you’re just getting it ready for me.”
The war is over, Rick and the gang won, but it’s as we all feared – The Saviors are far from done. This episode sees more of that classic Walking Dead feeling return as tensions run high and one character undergoes a painful bit of improvised surgery.
This season really loves the time skips, and there’s another one here – albeit a small one, roughly a month since the season premiere. Rick and Co. are rebuilding the bridge to help salvage the trade route. The gang are all working together again, even the Saviors – for now at least. This A plot is all told by Rick to another character, and no prizes for guessing who. Rick is proud that the communities are helping one another, that it’s human nature to come together. But it’s very hard to not agree with Negan when he warns Rick that inevitably, everything “will go to shit”. We get a glimpse of that shit here between Daryl and Justin, a bearded, angry Savior. He’s your classic TV douchebag. He beats up kids, fights Daryl, and fails to do his job (resulting in a lost appendage). Combine him with what we learn about Saviors walking off and leaving the camp, and it’s obvious that Rick has his work cut out for him.
Luckily for Rick, the Saviors that decided to abandon ship have all disappeared without a trace. I’m unsure what or who is doing this, but Justin recognised them so that means it must be a Savior, right? I would really like it to be Dwight, but I think that’s pretty unlikely (plus I can’t really see him doing this). Another option is the Whisperers, but the way Justin greeted his potential attacker rules them out. So my vote is that it’s one of the good guys, one of Team Grimes. A good theory is that it’s Cyndie, from Oceanside. At this point it’s as good a theory as any, and I like the idea that maybe that potato peeler line wasn’t as throwaway as it first seemed. But whoever it is doing it, it’s making things even harder for Rick. And with Andrew Lincoln’s exit looming, this could very well be what ends Rick Grimes.
Elsewhere, Maggie is dealing with the fallout of killing Gregory and locking up Earl. After two seasons of pretty grim war and character death, the show has gone back to dealing with weighty moral dilemmas. Earl tried kill Maggie, but was also grieving and drunk. The crops are failing without the new plough, and Earl is the only one who can fix it. It’s serious and it’s not easily fixed and it’s exactly what you need in post-apocalyptic fiction. There’s a great scene between Maggie and Earl in the prison, as Earl recounts his problems with alcohol. It’s reminiscent of Jere Burn’s monologue in Breaking Bad and it’s a nice callback to before the apocalypse.
There’s a moment of exceptional, classic TWD zombie gore in this episode. Whatever you think about the show, it always comes up with some fantastic ways of killing the undead. This episode saw Rick take down a dozen or so with a well-placed rifle shot, shooting a rope holding up a bunch of logs. It was a well done set piece, with some great walker kills all round. Put it had pretty disastrous consequences for poor Aaron, who lost an arm. With his new beard and Andrew Lincoln on the way out, it feels like they’re grooming him to be the next Rick Grimes. Shave his head and cripple his leg and he’d be Rick straight out of the comic.
Apart from the tension with the Saviors and Aaron’s adverse appendage accident, the episode was one of warmth, with plenty of quieter character moments and interactions. Gabriel and Anne (formerly Jadis the trash woman) hit it off over a series of sweet scenes that called back to Gabriel’s history, and offered some more depth to one of the shows oft-forgotten characters. Everyone’s favourite power coupling if Carol and Ezekiel had a quiet and surprisingly understated moment as Carol took the wedding ring. Mainly this episode reminded me what an excellent ensemble cast The Walking Dead has, and that maybe it can survive in a post-Rick Grimes world. There are a lot of really great characters here, and if the show plays its cards right, it’ll be fine.
Reviewed by Jack