Last week on The Walking Dead, we got a thrilling ride through the Saviors compound, as Rick and crew abandoned all pretense of humanity, or at least humanity towards a group of others, and massacred a gaggle of people in their sleep. It was an episode that was clearly meant to show how the line between good and evil has blurred, thanks to the needs of the apocalypse. It also served to be a bit uncomfortable for certain portions of the audience, because, well, the people you’ve been rooting for (or, in my case, playfully mocking), tipped over the edge from being survivors looking to keep their own safe, to mercenaries willingly killing others at the word of someone they’d just met. True, they need the food from Hilltop to keep themselves fed, but there had to be a different way.
After last week’s bloodbath, this week could have set us up with a slower, more introspective episode. Truth be told, they kind of did, at least on the slower angle. Instead of introspection, though, we were confronted with watching Maggie and Carol deal with being taken captive by a group of Negan’s Saviors. In case we needed to be reminded, the episode tried to point out how brutal and cruel Negan’s crew were, and how necessary Rick’s actions were. However, even though they had taken Maggie and Carol captive, they didn’t simply kill them. Instead, they kept them hostage, both to glean information about Alexandria, and to use as leverage to get their man back. Even when it was confirmed that not only did Rick’s people kill everyone in the compound, but also the group that accosted Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham on the road, Paula kept them alive, despite a clear desire to exact revenge. Clearly, Negan is going to have to step up the game to convince us that he’s a bigger villain than Rick. Maybe, when you break it all down, they’re all just in The Same Boat.
This week was a more contained episode, when it comes to the cast. Thankfully, even a smaller cast gives us plenty of head-scratching moments, so let’s run down the list.
Look, I get it. Donny had been shot, and was regularly getting his views shut down by Paula. He was the only guy in the group, and his wound desperately needed a doctor to treat it. The problem there, of course, is that Rick happens to have their doctor, and Paula isn’t going to make the trade happen easily (instead, she’s clearly planning an ambush for Rick’s group, or at least reinforcements to even the numbers in case Rick randomly went on a killing spree, like, oh, the night before). But then Donny, after getting his argument shot down again, decided to last out and strike Paula. Sure, this may be the way that asserting dominance is done in the zombie apocalypse, but maybe make sure that someone else has your back. Besides, Donny, you were outnumbered 5 to 1 by the women. Sure, two of them were bound, but there was no way that you were going to get out without having to pay at least a little.
For most of this episode, we only experienced Rick as a voice on the other end of a radio. He does seem to have learned how to actually have a conversation via radio over the run of the show, so that’s something to appreciate. It is the end of the episode before we really see Rick on screen again, as his crew have arrived to rescue Maggie and Carol, albeit a little too late to do any actual rescuing. Rick, of course, has Primo with him, who they’ve been dragging along to the slaughterhouse, lending some credence to Carol’s insistence that Rick was actually planning on making the trade. However, when Rick finds out that Carol and Maggie have freed themselves, he asks a cursory question of Primo, apparently decides that he isn’t going to get any actual information, and just ends the Savior’s life without batting an eye. Look, Rick, you may be sure that he’s trying to keep you from getting any information, especially with the whole “we’re all Negan” thing running through the episode, but maybe keeping your hostage alive to try and get some more information would have been a better plan than leaving yet another body in your wake, and giving the Saviors even more reason to want revenge (although, let’s be honest, any chance of them NOT wanting to exact a blood debt is long gone).
3. Reinforcement Saviors
Hey, guys, welcome to the show! Just step right this way. Okay, first you’ll be involved in conversations over the radio, which will be your excuse to get to the slaughterhouse. Just keep listening to that radio, and maybe talking once in a while. Oh, hey, that voice you hear coming through the radio? The one that sounds different from any of the people in your group? Yeah, just ignore that nagging thought at the back of your mind, and follow the instructions of the voice blindly. What’s that? You smell the clear aroma of gasoline? And you’re heading into the room with only one access point, where the gasoline smell is coming from? All because a voice you don’t know told you to meet there? Maybe you guys don’t deserve to get a second episode.
I don’t fault Carol for looking at taking a more humanistic route through the entire mission. Sure, it does call into question a little bit of her motivation for going along in the first place, but I think it’s become clear that she only went because Maggie insisted on going, and Carol wants to watch over her. While we don’t know for certain, thanks to the time skip, it seems logical that Carol is embracing at least some of Morgan’s views, and probably largely because of the death of Sam (a death that she is sort of responsible, in a roundabout way). But Carol isn’t the greatest at reading others, especially while dealing with some serious issue within her own head. She kept believing that Paula had a softer view than she actually did, and every time she attempted to exploit that to ensure Maggie’s protection, she actually ended up making it worse. But the worst part? After spending two episodes insisting that Maggie should have stayed in Alexandria, and that the two should focus on escape more than attacking, Carol let Maggie take point. She feels that Maggie shouldn’t be hurling herself in the line of fire, but apparently it’s fine to let her lead the charge.
Speaking of Maggie, this is a woman who definitely shouldn’t be on this mission, and Carol is completely right that she should be someone else right now. Unfortunately for Carol, Maggie isn’t presently interested in being someone else. She’s interested in following through with Rick’s plans, which means that, instead of taking opportunities to get away, Maggie dives towards the danger. The initial capture by Paula’s group could have possibly been avoided if Maggie hadn’t insisted on moving in to finish Donny off, and both Carol and Maggie almost found themselves on the short end of the living stick, because, instead of escaping, Maggie wanted to eliminate the Saviors. This is a woman who’s a mother-to-be, the main negotiator for Alexandria, and a probable beacon of hope for the community, and she’s throwing herself headlong into danger, and doing so with seemingly little regard for her personal well-being. We saw hints of this while Glenn was still missing, but you’d think that maybe having him returned to her would have grounded her a little bit. Instead, she’s continuing to push herself unnecessarily into combat situations. She’s especially lucky that the Saviors didn’t have longer knives.
That does it for this week. We’ve only got three more episodes left in this season. But that doesn’t mean there’s only three more posts. After all, Fear the Walking Dead is coming back, and that entire gaggle of people has proven to be lacking in brain power. See you next week for Twice As Far.