“Just look at the flowers, like you’re supposed to.”
I’ve been saying it for years now. Negan will become a good guy, we’ll all love him, and we’ll all forgive the fact that he once bashed in the heads of two fan-favourite characters. In the absence of Rick Grimes, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan has become more and more important to the group. In this episode, we get a glimpse at the Daryl/Negan buddy show that The Walking Dead could be, and frankly I’m ready for that. The pair have real chemistry, even if that chemistry is Negan annoying Daryl and Daryl hating every second of it. But I’m hoping killing Alpha is enough for the rest of Alexandria to forgive. I don’t think anyone wants to see him back in the cage for another seven years.
After killing Alpha for Carol, Negan is left in the lurch when Carol wanders off. If she doesn’t tell people what he did, then they’ll just throw him back in prison. And even when they find out he killed Alpha, people are not happy that he took as long as he did to complete the task – as Daryl says when he finds Negan. They lost Hilltop, in part thanks to Negan’s Saviour strategies. The kids nearly died in the siege, the gang suffered losses in the cave; both things that could have been avoided if Negan had perhaps acted quicker. But luckily he gets a chance to prove himself to Daryl, when three Whisperers come across the pair. Negan takes them out and saves Daryl’s life, when it would have been all too easy to go back with them as their leader. If there’s one thing Negan likes, it’s being worshipped. And to give all that up for the people at Alexandria, well I think it proves whose side he’s on.
Carol is on another one of her deep journeys into her shattered psyche this week, which takes the form of hallucinations of Alpha taunting and goading her. It says a lot that even after her “win”, Carol is still haunted by Alpha. Maybe killing someone as revenge doesn’t make you fell all that better, who knows? But Carol is having a tough time of it, struggling to choose between returning to her family or disappearing into the woods. To be fair, out of everyone on the show, Carol has the longest track record of getting her loved ones killed. Basically every child she’s cared for has died in a horrible way, and the adults she’s cared about haven’t fared much better. She’s a shit magnet. And if she goes back, well big Daryl might be next.
Carol also has a difficult reputation to juggle. She’s a badass, perhaps the coolest character on the show. We’ve seen her take out legions of enemies in a cold, ruthless way. But she’s also extremely fragile, as we saw when we first met her way back in the first season. She’s caring and maternal, but is often forced into this role where she’s expected to be nasty and brutal. This is expected of her by her friends and family, the enemies they face, as well as the fanbase in the real world. She probably has the most emotional baggage out of all the characters on the show, and that’s referenced wonderfully in this episode through all the callbacks and references that ghost-Alpha drops into the conversation. By the end of the episode she’s back with Daryl at Alexandria. Hopefully she’ll have the chance for peace. Personally, I can’t wait to see how she handles The Commonwealth.
Beta had a choice, upon learning of Alpha’s death. He could have gone off on his own path, or he could snap completely and become the new Alpha. He goes completely off the deep end and chooses the latter after a trip down memory lane. He ends up at a hotel that looks like something from the Westworld set, like an Old-West saloon with a lever action rifle inside just to cement that Western feel. Beta discovers some old country records, including one of himself before the fall of civilisation. Turns out, he’s a former country singer named Half Moon – a vast improvement on his basketball player backstory in the comics (in fact, Beta has been greatly improved over his comic counterpart). He plays one of his old records and stands on the balcony, harking back to his days on stage, the walkers now taking the place of his audience. There’s something eerily supernatural about the way Beta handles the walkers, the way they all follow him at the end of the episode. He’s got a half-Beta/half-Alpha mask stitched over his snarling face now, and he’s going full force for Alexandria.
It’s time for Eugene’s date. But first he has to tell everyone about his new friend. Some people are annoyed that he’s kept it to himself, but Ezekiel speaks up and says he trusts Eugene’s instincts, proving himself once again to be the true king. Zeke and Yumiko accompany Eugene on his trip, which makes for a fun trio. Not that Ezekiel is having a great time, what with the cancer ravaging his body and making it increasingly difficult to dispatch walkers. He even loses his horse (including a teary Red Dead Redemption 2-style goodbye), suggesting that just maybe he’s not cut out for this particular journey. Ezekiel is one of those characters who has got zero plot armour left to protect him. His arcs are complete, he’s outlived his comic book counterpart, and he’s dying of terminal cancer for pete’s sake. He practically has a target on his back.
Things get weirder when they reach an abandoned city. First, I love it whenever the show takes a detour into the big city. Don’t get me wrong, the woodland, rural, farmland they usually inhabit is quintessential Walking Dead – it’s just a nice change of pace to see them in a different environment. But things are very off in this city. A bunch of walkers have been arranged in weird ways; a woman outside a shop, a walker on a mobility scooter, two walkers having a tea party (with top hats), and a walker cop giving an undead driver a ticket. It all feels very much like Will Smith and his mannequins in I Am Legend – the sign of an extremely bored individual. And it doesn’t take long for us to meet her, as Ezekiel’s laughter at one of the displays draws her out. Audaciously dressed, carrying a huge light machine gun, and smiling from ear to ear, she greets the group. I won’t give too much away because it’ll spoil it, but I really like this character in the comics. She adds a bit of colour to a very grey world. And it looks like they’re keeping her very accurate to the comics.
This episode gives us a few different plot threads and plenty of great character moments. I love where this show has got to over the past two seasons and I’m pretty devastated that the finale is getting delayed. Because the show is on course to deliver a real whopper of an ending to this season.