Look, I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate some good ol’ character development on The Walking Dead. On a show that features so few scenes of characters actually opening up and talking about their feelings, a good heart-to-heart is always welcome, right?
Well, almost always. With a couple of episodes to go until the season finale, I would have preferred those honest, emotional moments to have taken place some other time. Like, you know, sometime during the slow, uneven first half of the season…?
Lately most of the choices that happen in the writers room genuinely baffle me. We did get a few good moments throughout the season, notably in the second half, but between the slow pace, the scattered groups and stand-alone episodes visiting one location at a time, slowing down the action even more just so we could get a couple of scenes that may or may not pull at our heart strings feels like a bit too little, too late.
Add to that the fact that so many of the characters’ story arcs don’t even make sense any more, and TWD is largely becoming one big mess that doesn’t have nearly enough time to sort itself out before the season finale. From the looks of it, we’re headed towards one more “cliffhanger”; even if they condense the action and extend the final episodes, not nearly enough pieces are in place for the big showdown we’ve all been waiting for, so we’ll probably have to wait a few more months for it to come to fruition.
But let’s talk about this week’s episode.
First of all, I don’t see why it had to be a Hilltop/Rosita/Sasha-only episode. We know that Rick is wondering where Rosita is. It’s also safe to assume that he’s already making plans for the expedition to Oceanside. Why couldn’t we just visit Alexandria a little bit, instead of watching Rosita being a bitch half the episode? You could leave half the scenes from tonight’s episode on the editing floor and still not really miss out on anything that happened: Eugene’s overly stylized monologue over the radio, Sasha and Rosita’s quest for a car they could jump-start, Gregory’s sniveling, weasely ways we’ve already witnessed plenty of times before, not to mention the very heavy-handed training montage in the opening scenes.
Granted, some of the more intimate scenes between several characters had been well overdue – Daryl and Maggie’s conversation in particular, but then again, although probably the most poignant, it was also mercifully short. He feels responsible for Glenn’s death, Maggie doesn’t blame him, the end. Sasha and Rosita’s story arc also needed some kind of resolution, but did we really get much of a payoff when we already spent half the episode (not to mention several weeks) finding Rosita absolutely insufferable? Basically it comes down to this: when you set up a storyline that requires further exploration and then take forever to revisit, more often than not its importance diminishes over time, and instead of a resolution, the end result feels more like filler.
Having said that, I appreciated the insight into Jesus’ back story more so than Rosita’s. We got a short-and-sweet coming out (I wonder how many people are going to start shipping him and Daryl now) and established that Maggie is someone he feels he can trust, which became even more evident in contrast with his confrontation with Gregory and the not-so-veiled threat that douchebag made. I’m not even going to go into how lame that is, considering Gregory has ZERO pull in the community at this point, hence is at no position to make threats.
My problem with this story arc is one that a lot of people, especially non-comic book readers, seem to have: when – and HOW – exactly did we establish that Maggie is the “future” of the Hilltop? Yes, Gregory is an utter scumbag and even Enid would make a better leader, but what leadership skills has Maggie actually displayed so far, other than her farmer girl tractor prowess during that walker attack? More to the point, why would she leave her friends (her family) behind and remain at the Hilltop once the Negan problem is taken care of and she has her baby? Her doctor isn’t even there any more.
While we’re on the subject of the Hilltop: we all expected the Saviors to show up and take Dr. Carson back to the Sanctuary, right? We weren’t really concerned about the good doctor; the only suspenseful element to this plot line was keeping Maggie and Daryl hidden from Simon and his men. And yet nothing about the scenes with the Savior in the cellar/pantry felt suspenseful in the least. Instead of genuinely making us fear for Daryl and Maggie’s lives, all it did was set up the conversation that followed. That, and it wasted valuable time: between Simon’s quipping about cardamom gelato and his newfound love for tequila, and Gregory’s awkward ass-kissing (again, nothing we haven’t seen before), at no point did we actually think Gregory was about to rat his guests out, and we saw nothing new aside from the biggest supply of aspirin in the apocalypse.
As far as the Sasha/Rosita expedition goes, I have so many problems with that I don’t even know where to begin. Why is it so urgent that they take out Negan RIGHT NOW? Why does Jesus basically just say “I don’t agree with what you’re about to do, but sure, go ahead” and not even think about relaying the information to the Alexandrians? Why does Rosita get to imply that Sasha, the group’s sharpshooter, can’t make the shot, when Rosita was standing three feet away from Negan and MISSED? Why do they simply abandon the sniper shot plan right away and not just wait for Negan to come back outside until they can get a clean shot? Gaaah.
Even the way the episode ended was a big WTF for me. Rosita has been rubbing me the wrong way for a while, so if anyone should go on a suicide mission, it should be her, not Sasha. Both have lost their man, but Rosita has been a part of the group longer than Sasha was, and with Eugene ostensibly having crossed over to the other side (which I also think is bullshit), fewer people will miss her as opposed to Sasha. Sure, disarming bombs is a useful skill, but so is taking impossible shots, so I don’t see how Rosita is more valuable to the group than Sasha is. Either way, making us care about the two characters right before one (or both) of them gets killed off is really getting old.
Also: was anyone really surprised that Eugene basically shit his pants when the girls tried to sneak him out of the Sanctuary – or that he balked and decided to stay where he was? Sure, this could set up a semi-interesting plot line as Sasha makes her way into the compound in search of Negan, but so far it’s just so damn predictable it almost becomes boring.
Finally, are we really debating over who exactly shows up outside the Sanctuary in the final scene? Apparently it could be Daryl, but it could also be Dwight. I don’t know you guys, but it looks like Daryl to me. For one, Dwight is much skinnier; for another, what’s the point in showing Daryl ask Jesus where the Rosita and Sasha went if that’s not him? And why would Dwight be outside the Sanctuary in the middle of the night?
Even more frustrating that the actual TWD was watching Christian Serratos and Steven Ogg on Talking Dead gushing over their friendships on set and defending the crapfest that was this episode, culminating in an infuriating preview clip for next week showing… not the group heading towards Oceanside, or even the Kingdom preparing to fight, but, once again, weasely Gregory standing over Maggie. Holding a knife. Oooh, will he stab her? *eyeroll*
Seriously, writers, get it together.