Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead saw the return of Connie along with Daryl’s position in the Reapers becoming much more precarious. This week, we check back in the Commonwealth group while also seeing if Maggie and Negan can cooperate long enough to attempt a suicide mission into Meridian.
As always, the recap portion of this review will contain plenty of spoilers. The sequence of events has also been streamlined for the sake of clarity.
The episode opens with Maggie & Co. escaping into the woods from the Reapers. After taking a moment to rest, she announces that they’re getting close to Meridian.
Negan once again points out that she’s leading them toward certain death. This time, however, his argument is buttressed by the fact that Daryl subtly let them know how well guarded/fortified the area is. Maggie not only refuses to back down, but is backed up by Gabriel, as well.
Negan then points out that they’ll need him to have even a snowball’s chance in hell of pulling this off…and the only way he’ll stay is if she promises to officially consider them even (or at least promise not to kill him). Seconds after Maggie reluctantly agrees, she puts down a walker who happens to be the zombified best friend of Elijah‘s sister.
As more walkers shamble toward them, she gets an idea and suggests they try looking for more of the undead nearby.
Later, we see the group having a funeral for the best friend of Elijah’s sister as walkers tied to trees growl in their direction. Maggie promises Elijah that they’ll take down every last one of Reapers. Elijah replies that “the one” belongs to him. After he walks away, Maggie sends Gabriel to scout the Reapers at Meridian, instructing him to kill any Reaper scouts he finds that are alone and/or at a disadvantage.
Once Gabriel leaves, Maggie tells Negan to help her find and skin four walkers (who were not people she previously knew) to make skin masks for their group. Negan replies that he’ll only need three since he kept his old mask for “practical and sentimental reasons.” Maggie chastises Negan for being flippant/gross, which he predictably responds to by telling her to lighten up before they disembark on their mission.
When we next see her, she’s wearing a skin mask and being coached by him on how to herd and lead walkers. Negan cuts one loose from the tree, which follows Maggie just fine until she trips over a rock. This also causes the oversized mask to slip over her head, resulting in Elijah and Negan having to grab the disillusioned walker and tie it back down.
The Walking Dead (AMC)
Maggie is ready to give up, but resolves to try again after Negan gives her a pep talk (ugh). Sure enough, she’s able to successfully herd a group of walkers into a pin while Negan cooks dinner and smiles over her progress.
Later, Elijah asks Maggie if she thinks Negan has changed. Instead of declaring that he can’t, she hints at an evolving/grudging respect for her husband’s murder, replying that “you can’t know that.” She also states that he’s been extremely helpful, but that’s likely due to the fact that his cooperation means she won’t try to kill him anymore.
It’s a promise she hopes to be able to keep.
Breaking the Ninth Commandment
Gabriel looks through binoculars (with one eye) at Meridian and keys in on the weird priest dude (Mancea), who is heading off by himself to a cemetery. Not one to pass up such a thematically perfect setup, Gabriel follows the priest, who immediately becomes aware of his presence.
Instead of killing him, however, Mancea says a prayer asking for God’s guidance. Then then looks directly at Gabriel, says “Thank you, Father,” and leaves.
Following that bit of weirdness, Gabriel returns to his group and reveals what he saw. When Maggie asks if he ran into anyone, Gabriel curiously tells her that he didn’t.
Over in the Commonwealth, Eugene and “Stephanie” are are on walker clearing duty near the outskirts of town as punishment for trying to contact Alexandria. Despite the less than ideal conditions, the pair appear to be getting along extremely well. During a break, Stephanie assures Eugene that Deputy Governor Lance Hornsby can be trusted. He’ll also make sure they aren’t sentenced to walker clearing duty indefinitely.
Meanwhile, Princess and Ezekiel (who are being punished in the same way) are struggling a bit–primarily due to Ezekiel’s cancer affecting him. When they meet up with Eugene and Stephanie, Princess insists they find a way to get Ezekiel to a hospital. Stephanie pledges to see what she can do and leaves to speak with Hornsby.
As Stephanie departs, they notice Mercer and a bunch of armed guards escorting a 20-something guy (Sebastian) and his girlfriend somewhere. In case you didn’t pick up that Sebastian is supposed to be an entitled d-bag, he complains to Mercer about the smell as they walk past.
Elsewhere, Yumiko meets in a posh office with a Commonwealth official (Marcus Calvin). He reveals that the city’s recruiters were extremely impressed with her credentials and that Governor Pamela Milton is a fellow Harvard graduate. Those two factors should ensure that Yumiko is provided with an excellent employment position.
Yumiko responds that she’s more than happy to work in exchange for aid, but she has no plans on staying. Calvin says that she’ll likely reconsider that position after meeting Governor Milton.
Upon hearing this, Yumiko says she’d rather see her friends and demands to be taken to them. Calvin explains that since they broke the law, they’re currently working toward their release by clearing walkers from areas that have been marked for future development. In the meantime, Yumiko is expected to provide legal services to Governor Milton and her cabinet.
Yumiko responds by demanding to speak to Governor Milton immediately.
Her request for immediacy must not have been granted, because we next see her meeting with Tomi at a train station (?) during one of his breaks. Yumiko once again tries to convince her brother to resume being a surgeon. Tomi once again rejects the idea, insisting that he doesn’t want to go back to such a high stress, all consuming career. He also asks her (again) to promise she won’t tell anyone about his medical past. She isn’t happy about it, but agrees (again).
Yumiko then reveals that she has a meeting with Governor Milton later that day. Tomi responds that it might be nice for her since someone like him would never get to meet the governor. When Yumiko asks why, Tomi responds that you “have to know your place.”
As if on cue, a group of Commonwealth troopers surround her brother and take him into custody. Tomi insists he’s done nothing wrong while Yumiko futilely demands he be released while identifying herself as his attorney. When that fails to do anything, she storms down to the town outskirts (where her friends are still clearing zombies) and finds Hornsby, who just happens to be taking a stroll through the area.
When Yumiko asks where her brother is, Hornsby assures her that Tomi is fine. He then chastises her for setting up an appointment with Governor Milton after he promised her friends would be taken care of, which (according to him) “screwed everything up.”
Yumiko responds by pointing out that the Commonwealth essentially kidnapped her brother off the street. Hornsby admits that’s a fair point and promises he’ll be home by evening. He also says that they only needed Tomi for a little while, which doesn’t do much to assuage Yumiko’s concerns.
When she asks why they needed Tomi, Hornsby instead points out that getting her friends out of trouble for breaking the law is a big ask — something he can deliver if she allows him to do it. Perplexed at his motivations, Yumiko asks what’s in it for him. Hornsby responds that he looks at her as someone who will be in a high governmental position who could one day be inclined to return the favor.
*Side Note: I’m a bit confused as to how the Commonwealth’s #2 government official could think that a person they barely know could be in a position to help him.
Despite her misgivings, Yumiko agrees to sit tight for a few more hours while her brother is unjustly imprisoned.
Sugar and Spice
Princess must have won the argument about getting Ezekiel to a hospital, because we next see him returning to his friends (with Hornsby in tow) looking significantly better. In addition to antibiotics and pain killers, they also gave him lollipops, which he happily shares.
Ezekiel thanks Hornsby, who says he’s more than happy to help. The deputy governor then asks the group if they’re ready for new assignments. When they say they are, he sends Stephanie and Eugene to clear a new area and asks Princess and Ezekiel to follow him.
We end up following Stephanie/Eugene, who find Sebastian and his girlfriend making out under a covered picnic area that’s about to be swarmed by zombies. The pair spring into action and save the couple only for Sebastian to berate them for interrupting his date. As far as he’s concerned, his private security detail is the one who should have dealt with the issue.
While Eugene tries to tell the man what an insufferable prick he is, another zombie begins sneaking up on Sebastian’s girlfriend. Stephanie manages to save her, but sprays the woman with zombie guts in the process.
This causes Sebastian to call Stephanie a bitch, which causes Eugene to punch him square in the nose.
Stephanie begins to profusely apologizing as Hornsby and Mercer run up to see what happened. Sebastian falsely accuses Eugene and Stephanie of attacking him unprovoked while shoving a finger in Mercer’s chest and faulting him for the entire situation.
As more guards surround them, Mercer asks Eugene if it’s true that he hit Sebastian. When Eugene confirms he did, Hornsby incredulously asks if he knows who Sebastian is.
While all this is going down, Yumiko walks into an office for her meeting with Governor Milton. After the receptionist (“Max“) thanks her for being on time and offers a variety of beverages, Yumiko sits down in the waiting area.
*Side Note: In case you haven’t figured it out yet, “Max” is not that woman’s name nor who she really is.
As Yumiko begins looking through an Italian travel book, Max begins to ask about her friends and how they’re settling into the Commonwealth…like, with way more interest than she should…because again, she isn’t “Max.”
The awkward conversation is mercifully interrupted when Governor Milton calls to reschedule her appointment on account of someone attacking her son (who you’ve likely figured out is Sebastian).
Eugene is locked in cell and visited by Hornsby, who tells him that he could have been a hero for saving the governor’s son if he just hadn’t punched Sebastian in the face. He then says that the cost to obtain his freedom will be much higher: The name of his town and how to get there. When Eugene refuses, Hornsby informs him that the cell he’s sitting in will now be his permanent home.
As the deputy governor is about to leave, Eugene asks what assurances he can give that his community would be safe if he reveals their coordinates. Hornsby responds that the Commonwealth’s structure and the way Eugene & Co. have been treated should be all the proof he needs that they’re on the up and up.
Eugene still isn’t convinced, but decides to give up Alexandria’s location to Hornsby, anyway.
Over in Meridian, Daryl (accompanied by Dog) sees Powell locking up the food storage unit and asks if he needs any help. When Powell says he doesn’t, Daryl offers him a cigarette instead. As the pair bond over their shared love of nicotine, they hear the most recent patrol return and go meet them.
Washington and Deaver report that they still have’t found the Alexandria group, which Pope assumes to be “dozens” due to Daryl’s subterfuge. This causes him to become enraged and chastise his people for their failure to find them. Leah steps in and sternly explains that since the troops were following her search parameters, his ire should be directed squarely at her.
In maybe one of my favorite moments in the series, Pope tells Leah to stop trying to be noble or get the others to like her more. He then commands her to take Daryl and find his enemies.
As the pair begin their search, Daryl tells Leah that he’s sure the other Reapers appreciate her sticking up for them. This leads to a conversation about the Reaper’s history and how they ended up in Meridian. Leah succinctly explains it as them needing a place, finding one, and taking it over.
Daryl asks why they keep hunting for Warden stragglers if they already got what they needed. Leah replies that the Reapers have to make sure no one comes back to try and retake it. She also defends Pope’s behavior as him being riled up over dealing with a puzzle he can’t solve. A large group of people who don’t have the Reaper’s extensive military training shouldn’t be this hard to find.
Daryl then asks if Pope will go back to being a “good guy” once the Reapers have hunted down and killed their enemies. Leah once again defends her leader, this time claiming he’s a father figure who’s also the person who made her strong. Daryl responds that he doubts she ever needed anyone else to do that.
Later, the pair come across a man who seems completely ill-equipped to survive the zombie apocalypse despite still being alive at this point. He also managed to somehow avoid the Reaper patrols while allegedly gathering food/supplies to help care for his sick wife.
Daryl instructs the man to show them that he actually does have a family if he wants to avoid being killed. As he begins leading them to his home, Leah radios into Pope, tells him the situation, and asks what they should do. Pope responds that they should kill the man and anyone he’s with immediately.
Instead of obeying Pope’s order, she and Daryl allow the man to lead them to his home. Sure enough, the dude has a wife who’s not in very good shape along with a son. Unfortunately, the ailment afflicting the woman appears to be a lethal wound across her stomach.
Leah tells the father and son to leave and never look back, which they do after a tearful goodbye. Once they’re gone, the woman thanks them, both for getting the rest of her family to leave an unsafe situation and for putting her out of her misery. When the time comes for the latter, however, Leah is unable to pull the trigger.
Daryl steps in and shoots the woman with his crossbow. Afterwards, he asks what she’s going to tell Pope. Leah replies that she’ll tell him Daryl killed the whole family, which will be an easy lie to maintain and help earn him some brownie points.
Daryl tries to confess something to Leah, but is interrupted by a call on the radio telling them to return to Meridian.
Back at Whisperer Training Camp, Negan tells Maggie he genuinely feels for her and everything she’s going through. It’s bad enough having to see your friends turned into walkers, but she’s also trying leading a mission into a place she helped build that was taken over.
Negan follows that up by saying that he knows what it’s like to be “on the other side of a massacre,” which is predictably not well received. To his credit, he manages to humanize the Saviors while also owning all the pain and suffering he caused. He also explains that things are different now. With fewer people and resources in the world, what’s worth fighting for has completely changed.
Maggie then asks if he would have done things differently. When Negan says he would, it appears to be a moment of contrition…until he follows that sentiment up by declaring that he would’ve killed all of them that night they were lined up in front of him. Not out of spite or anger, but because leaders have to do whatever’s necessary for their people — just like what they’re doing now. Unimpressed with his explanation, Maggie asks why he would say such a thing to her. Negan replies that if they’re going to continue working together, they need to be completely honest with each other.
Later, we see Maggie, Negan, and Elijah amassing a giant horde of walkers and herding them toward Meridian. On the way there, a skin-masked Elijah sees that his sister has been turned into a walker a begins to cry. Maggie subtly takes his hand to comfort him as they lurch toward their former home.
There were a lot of good moments in this episode, but one in particular gave me hope that this season of The Walking Dead might send the struggling series off with a bang.
When Leah tried to focus Pope’s ire on her instead of the other Reapers, I full expected a lame/predictable reaction — either Pope giving her a begrudging nod of respect or a bunch of bro slaps on the back from the other Reapers. Instead, Pope absolutely rips into her for trying to be a martyr.
It’s not much, but it’s part of a trend from this season, which has shown a propensity for going against our cynical expectations. There are still moments that make our eyes roll, like Maggie somehow surviving the subway car attack. But there have been significantly more moments we don’t expect, like Negan refusing to help her get to safety.
In this episode, we saw two characters who have proven themselves to be redeemed heroes stumble: Eugene breaking on Alexandria and Gabriel refusing to disclose his odd encounter with Mancea. Those two plotlines alone are enough to keep me interested in watching next week.
One of the main knocks against The Walking Dead has been how recycled everything feels. While that’s still true in some cases (like the Reapers being the new Group of Psychos), we’re seeing far more fresh ideas than we have in a long time. Sometimes it’s just for one episode, like the ferals from last week. Other times it’s entire story arcs, like the rebuilt civilization (and all the problems that comes with that) inside the Commonwealth.
And then we have Sebastian, who’s giving off some serious Joffrey Baratheon vibes. If they keep going with that characterization (which is how he was in the comic), then it’ll give us an entirely different villain to hate. Rather than the usual tortured soul who’s also an evil mastermind, we’ll get a petulant man child with enough power to be all types of dangerous.
I will say, however, that they overdid the douche factor on his entrance to the point of absurdity. I’m glad to get a new type of villain, but his entrance in the comics made a heck of a lot more sense. A narcissist like him wouldn’t just keep making out with a girl while zombies are approaching.
I’m also getting a little tired of the fake Stephanie plot. Whether it’s “fair” to the show’s writers or not, we’ve known for a while about the imposter thanks to casting announcements made well in advance of this season. Maybe they’ll end up doing something interesting with this narrative, but for now it’s just distracting.
I’m also not sure what to think about Leah allowing the father and son to leave and not being able to shoot the mother. Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad she did, both for the obvious reasons and because it gives Daryl some badly needed leverage. But I liked the tension that surrounded her character a lot more when it appeared she was just as ruthless as her Reaper brethren.
On the flip side of that argument, I’m enjoying the Maggie/Negan dynamic a lot more than expected. If you put aside some of the contrived sets ups we had to get them together, the pair’s interactions have felt much more organic over the last few episodes–especially this one.
Also, that walker horde shot juxtaposed with Maggie comforting Elijah was fantastic.
So am I ready to declare that I love The Walking Dead again? Probably not. There are still a lot of bad episodes we had to suffer through after the show’s sharp downturn in quality some years back. Before then, it was considered prestige television on par with the best stuff HBO was putting out.
But where HBO completely screwed the pooch with the final season of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead‘s final season might serve as an unexpected return to form and/or redemption.
And yes, this isn’t the first time I’ve made this same declaration. Keep in mind, however, that we’re in the end game now. Instead of finding ways to draw out AMC’s most popular/profitable series, the narrative is working toward a potentially explosive and satisfying conclusion (if you don’t count the spinoffs).
Whatever the case, this is the first time in years that I’ve wanted to watch The Walking Dead for a reason other than it being my review assignment. If they keep making episodes like this one and the last two, then the series’ final impression might be just good enough to tinge my overall perception more positively than I ever thought possible.
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