Ah, here we go again. You know you’re watching The Walking Dead when an episode manages to both infuriate you throughout its runtime AND placate you with its conclusion.

To sum it up: while I appreciate the intention of showing us how we got the three previously reluctant bystanders to finally side with Rick & co and join the fray, the journey that took us there, despite having its moments, was just one big mess of bad decisions – by the characters, and, ultimately, the writers.

First of all, Richard: I actually liked the guy. Yeah, he wanted to sacrifice Carol to get the ball rolling a couple of episodes back, but at least his reasons were sound. If anything, he was the only person in the Kingdom who wanted to fight back. However, how does sabotaging the drop make any sense here? He couldn’t have been *certain* he’d be the one to pay the price just because they were short a cantaloupe (by the way, are melons the only thing the Kingdom produces?). He could just as well have started mouthing off to that long-haired asshole Savior and ensured he’d be the target of his rage rather than poor Benjamin.

Still, I’ll buy the logic behind his plan. I also appreciate the shopping cart arrow formation. And even the Saviors retaliating by picking a different target makes sense – we’ve seen it before, after all (R.I.P. Glenn). What annoys me to no end is when we watch our group of people get shot, stabbed – hell, even bitten by walkers and have their legs CHOPPED OFF – and nobody dies (well, not from the missing leg thing anyway – R.I.P. Hershell). But poor Benjamin gets a bullet in the leg and bleeds out in a matter of minutes? And yeah, I’m sure it’s medically possible and a severed femoral artery is no laughing matter but surviving a bullet wound to the leg would be VERY low on the list of unrealistic things we’ve seen on this show. Obviously Benjamin was a red shirt the minute we saw his connection with Ezekiel and Morgan took a liking to the kid, so what did this subplot accomplish? Why not just give him the hero death outright? Did anyone expect Benjamin to actually survive? Meh.

Even more aggravating: Carol. She knows Rick and the rest showed up at the Kingdom with Jesus. She’s no dummy, she knows something’s going on. When she asks Morgan, he’s being cagey, basically admitting that Daryl lied to her and telling her to talk to him if she wants to know the truth. He even offers to go back to Alexandria with her to see for herself. Does she go? No, she stays in her little cottage, because apparently whatever happened (and is still happening) to her friends her freaking FAMILY, doesn’t warrant a day trip back home. What’s even more frustrating, is that we’ll never actually know what she would have done had Daryl told her the truth when he visited, because the actual catalyst this week was Benjamin’s death, not just the news about her friends, which feels like it diminishes the importance of the horrible deaths looming over the group all season long.

Which brings me to Morgan: What. The. Actual. Fuck.

Seriously, am I the only one royally pissed about Morgan’s character arc this week? And yeah, I get it, he hadn’t allowed himself to get close to anyone up until this point and taking Benjamin under his wing reminded him of his son and yadda yadda yadda, but after all the carnage courtesy of the Saviors, it took one (admittedly sad) minor character’s death to finally get him to snap? We’ve been sick and tired of his ‘all life is sacred’ spiel for two seasons now and suddenly he goes apeshit and kills ONE OF HIS OWN PEOPLE with his bare hands?

Granted, this actually worked in terms of storytelling and pushing the plot forward with regard to gaining the Saviors’ trust (just like Richard had proposed), but to think he went to great pains to save that Wolf’s life back in Alexandria, driving everyone nuts with his philosophy, refusing to get blood on his hands no matter what… to finally turn around and kill one of the good guys? Is this supposed to be some kind of irony? Because it just pisses me off.

And it pisses me off even more, given that he was immovable when Glenn and Abraham and the rest we killed, when his friends were basically enslaved by Negan, but the death of a kid who probably wouldn’t have survived the apocalypse anyway suddenly propelled him into Morgan circa ‘Clear‘ mode.

Even more infuriating: after all the no-violence sermons, Lennie James and Scott M. Gimple basically tried to deny what we’ve all known for two seasons and asserted that he never said he wasn’t going to kill again, but just wanted to exhaust all other options before resorting to violence. I’m sorry, WHAT? Do these guys think we have the memory of a goldfish? Boo.

Finally, Ezekiel: he knew what the Saviors were capable of, and honored his deal with them despite multiple warnings from Richard, Rick and the rest. One death and boom, he’s ready to fight. I’m not complaining about the outcome, just the way they arrived there. Had it been an unpredictable incident, it would at least have the element of surprise going for it. But we all saw it coming, and most of us called it several episodes ago, so this whole episode felt like time wasted on a foregone conclusion.

So where does it leave us, moving forward? It looks like most of the pieces have now fallen into place, but there are several loose ends the show will undoubtedly want to tie up before the big showdown, and I’m worried that, the way they are pacing these episodes, we’re looking at a big cliffhanger rather than a spectacular resolution to the Negan storyline in the season finale.

With three episodes to go, we still have to:

  • take a look at the Hilltop, where Daryl is headed. It’s probably also where Simon is off to next, to steal away the other dr. Carson. A lot could go wrong, which it hopefully won’t take a full episode to explore.
  • revisit Oceanside. Tara was ready to spill the beans last week, and if Rick wants to keep his end of the bargain with the garbage people, he needs to get those guns. It could go either way: they could negotiate theirway into some kind of agreement, or go to all-out war with the tough ladies at the colony. If it does, and the writers decide to make THAT the season finale, I’ll be one cranky viewer.
  • check in with Negan, Dwight and Eugene at the Sanctuary. This plotline is as open-ended as any, with Eugene’s ambiguous behavior and Dwight’s obvious malcontent with his situation offering plenty of possibilities. In the short preview clip on Talking Dead, it looks like Sasha and Rosita are trying to sneak into the compound, so that will definitely complicate the situation. (They also announced that Rosita will be a guest on Talking Dead next week, which may or may not mean she’ll be biting the dust in episode 14).

Since it looks like they’re speeding things along this second half of the season, there’s still hope we’ll see some kind of conflict before the big finale. But it’s The Walking Dead so… yeah, I’m not holding my breath.