Last week, The Whisperers continued to make their presence felt and Negan escaped custody. This week, we get to see what Negan has been up to out there in the world on his own…
…but first, a few subplots.
The episode opens with Kelly tracking a wild hog through the forest. Despite having some major equilibrium issues due to her worsening hearing loss, she still manages to successfully kill it. Unfortunately, Kelly does not hear the group of walkers sneaking up on her. She barely manages to escape, but eventually trips over something and hits her head, leaving her nearly unconscious as more walkers close in.
Back at the Hilltop, Earl continues to complain to anyone who will listen about the fact that they aren’t attacking the Whisperers because a tree fell recently. As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s also discovered that someone has been stealing supplies.
Yumiko goes to see her estranged girlfriend Magna, who was supposed to have been on watch that night. Yumiko politely implies that Magna should be more on top of things, which is predictably ignored via cold indifference and a loud record player.
Meanwhile, Connie realizes her sister is gone and freaks out. Daryl takes Dog and goes with Connie into the woods to find Kelly. During their search, he tells her a random story about Merle being mean to him after he’d saved his life, which was…uh…supposed to be supportive and funny, I guess? Anyway, they eventually come across Magna, who just happened to be looking for Kelly, too.
Dog soon picks up a scent and leads all three of them to an inexplicably unharmed and alive Kelly. I guess those walkers decided they were full from all that uncooked bacon they’d eaten a few hours earlier.
Daryl and Connie also discover that Magna and Kelly have been stealing/stockpiling supplies because they didn’t trust the Alexandria and Hilltop folks. This rightfully pisses Daryl off, but Connie pleads with him to say they just “found” the supplies in the woods, which he agrees to do.
That night, Connie and Daryl share a sweet moment saying goodbye to each other, which definitely has me shipping them big time. Meanwhile, Yumiko confronts Magna, saying she suspects her of stealing the supplies they “found.” Things get even testier and Yumiko brings up their history from when she represented Magna as her lawyer in a case where Magna was wrongly accused of murder…or so Yumiko thought. Magna admits that she totally killed the dude, but only because he’d killed (or hurt) her cousin and deserved it.
End of the Royal Line
Siddiq hears Ezekiel coughing and asks to check him out. Ezekiel initially refuses, but ends up revealing that he has a gigantic lump on his throat. It’s almost certainly thyroid cancer, which was extremely curable before the dead started rising. Now it’s a certain death sentence.
That night, Ezekiel tries to muster up the courage to speak to Carol on the ham radio, but turns it off just as she’s about to get on.
Out near the Whisperer border, Aaron is swinging a sword around like a bored 10-year old when he notices a Whisperer (Gamma) killing a walker and dumping its guts into the river.
You’d think this would be a plot to poison the good guy’s drinking water, right? But when Gamma returns to the Whisperer camp, we learn that it’s actually part of Alpha’s grand plan to build a dam of corpses.
As you might imagine, one of the Whisperers points out that these passive aggressive border attacks on the good guys seem kind of dumb, especially when they could just send in their giant walker horde and take everyone out. Alpha responds by killing him. She then sends Gamma back out to keep building a zombie dam.
During this trip to the river, Gamma experiences some PTS (bit of a theme this season) and accidentally cuts herself. Luckily, Aaron just happens to be there with a roll of bandages, which he tosses to her. He also tries to talk with Gamma, but she runs off.
After returning to the Whisperer camp, Gamma tells Alpha what happen. Alpha responds by saying that it might be time for Gamma to go under cover.
And now we finally get to the main event.
Negan is washing up in a river when someone sneaks up on him. It turns out to be Brandon, a random extra from this season who was also a kid back when the Saviors were defeated by Rick Grimes & Co. It also turns out that Brandon is the world’s biggest Negan fanboy and was the one who sprung him from his cell in Alexandria.
As the two walk through the woods, Brandon complains about how Rick killed his parents and made everyone leave the Sanctuary. He also says he heard Negan killed Carl. This pisses Negan off, mostly on account of the fact that he actually liked Carl quite a bit.
Later, Negan is attacked by a ninja zombie, who he kills in the most ridiculously complex way imaginable. Brandon doesn’t help, but only because he needed to dramatically reveal that he had made Negan a new Lucille baseball bat and managed to find his signature leather jacket.
Our odd couple eventually reaches the old Sanctuary site, where Brandon continues to make things weird by trying to rate walkers based on hotness. Before it can get any more gross/awkward, Negan hears someone screaming from inside one of the nearby abandoned buses. He rushes onboard and saves the occupants: A mother and her son. After the grateful pair go back outside, Brandon suggests that he and Negan follow and kill them to steal their supplies. Negan responds by telling Brandon that he sucks and never wants to see him again.
Later, Negan finds the kid (named Milo) and bonds with him over discussing about what it’s like to be a kid and how to execute the proper nut tapping technique (if you didn’t see the episode, then trust me when I say you don’t want to know).
This sweet (?) moment is ruined a few minutes later when Negan finds Brandon standing over the dead bodies of Milo and his mother. Brandon thought Negan telling him to get lost was actually just a test. Unfortunately for him, Negan really has changed…mostly. He still isn’t above brutally killing someone who’s pissed him off, which he does by beating Brandon to death with a rock.
That night, Negan puts on the jacket, gets Lucille 2, and walks into Whisperer territory. He is eventually overtaken by Beta, which appears to be exactly what he hoped would happen.
Despite being fairly predictable, Negan’s part of this episode was extremely enjoyable. Seeing Brandon’s feverish devotion (right down to him actually saying “We are Negan”) served as a stark reminder of not only how Negan was, but the dangerous behavior he inspired in his followers.
The nut tap conversation with the kid was pretty ridiculous (and waaaaay too long), but Negan’s reaction to seeing Milo and his mother being murdered was definitive proof that he is a completely different character than he was before. Yes, we all knew that already, but there’s no denying it helps to have some proof weighted with action and blood.
I also really like the potential subplot of Gamma infiltrating the good guys. It was a tad ridiculous to having Aaron show up and throw her a roll of bandages, but if that’s what we needed to get there, then I’ll take it.
Ezekiel’s cancer subplot is all types of tragic, which is really saying something in a show that has turned death into something that is more likely to inspire an eye roll than tears.
But speaking of eye rolls, the fact that Magna and Kelly got away with stealing supplies…and that Kelly didn’t die after being surrounded by zombies…should have made your eyes roll out of your head. Much as I love watching Daryl and Connie together, I don’t enjoy watching Daryl go completely against character like that. Add in the fact that Magna is about the most unlikable character imaginable, and this whole subplot was a big blemish on an otherwise very good episode.
Was the episode good enough to turn the season around? Not even close–but definitely a lumbering step in the right direction. And if you read the comics, then you know it will/should be pretty exciting to see what happens next with Negan and the Whisperers.