Well, well, well… After the recent slump, TWD finally gave us an episode that had little to whine about, and plenty of moments that either satisfied hard-core fans, set up future plot points or just plain made us say hell yeah. As a bonus, they actually showed us three separate locations this week, which was so damn refreshing.
First things first though: I was SO wrong about Daryl being the shadowy figure with the crossbow last week, which actually makes me doubly happy. For one, throwing a known hothead into the mix with Sasha already inside the Sanctuary and Rosita angry and upset would only lead to more trouble for our group. For another, Dwight’s going over to the good side, which was heavily foreshadowed and anticipated all season long, paid off much sooner than I thought it might.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here are some random thoughts about the episode:
- I enjoyed the different tone of the cold open, because it actually managed to cram a lot of stuff into a few very short scenes: we got a perfectly plausible conversation between Rick and Tara about Oceanside as a voice over, we saw our group getting into position and plan the attack on the beachside colony (which was actually well thought-out and organized, for a change) and we also saw a few cool zombies with barnacles growing all over their rotten faces, which was a fun departure from the usual water-logged walkers we’ve come to expect.
- Minor gripe #1: I get that they needed everyone they could get to stage their attack on Oceanside, so I was super happy to see Jesus in the ranks, but was Enid really necessary? Why not leave at least one of their own with Maggie at the Hilltop?
- Speaking of Jesus, I freakin’ love the guy. Leave it to him to tack on a polite ‘please’ when he orders someone to kneel and put their hands behind their head.
- However, the whole “I should have tried harder to stop Sasha and Rosita” line was ridiculous. You didn’t try at all, dude!
- We knew Natanya was pretty awful, but man was she infuriating this week. Good on her granddaughter with the horribly spelled name (seriously, Cyndie? Jeez.) for taking charge and knocking that old crow out.
- Minor gripe #2: Is it really necessary to keep portraying Tara as this awkward baffoon? Really, writers: it’s not charming or endearing. Whatever quirky attributes you’re trying to give her character just come across as annoying. I don’t know if it’s the writing, the actress* or both, but knock it off already.
- Having said that, I did enjoy how she flipped the bird at Rachel (again).
- As far as the actual gun-collecting mission goes: is it me, or did this entire operation pan out far better than any other plan our group has concocted before? No one died, they dispatched several walkers and *almost* recruited the Oceanside women to their cause. Even Michonne actually got a great shot in, and we all remember that she’s no sharpshooter. Plus, they got ALL THE GUNS. It all went so smoothly it verges on too unrealistic, even for this show, but I’m not mad at things going well for a change.
- The Hilltop scenes were far less exciting but they were more-or-less mercifully short. Maggie is getting her farmer girl groove on, Gregory continues to act like the craven douche that he is, his people are openly sneering at him, which nicely sets up his next move, i.e. taking Simon up on his offer to pay the Saviors a visit.
- While we’re on the subject of Gregory: I wasn’t surprised that Maggie saved his life, nor that he was too much of a coward to try and hurt her. I’m not even shocked that he’d never killed a walker before, although it’s insane that someone would go through the apocalypse without ever having killed one. Nope, my very minor gripe (#3) is this: we knew he’s basically a drunk who’s full of himself, but for some reason it doesn’t jibe that he’s really vain – at least not vain enough to keep a mirror on his desk. What does he do all day, drink tequila and pull stupid faces in the mirror? (also, he needs a chauffeur to get him to the Sanctuary? Ugh.)
- At the Sanctuary, Sasha is holed up in a cell, much like Daryl before her. That entire scene with Dave the rapist was a decent enough plot device to show Negan’s “fair” side, but I could take it or leave it. Nothing will convince Sasha that Negan isn’t a monster after having watched him bash Abraham’s brains in, but hey, at least Negan isn’t as trusting – and hell, almost gullible – as he was with Dwight and Eugene in previous episodes.
- Minor grip #4: all we hear about Sasha’s suicide mission is that she caused “quite a ruckus”? Come on, writers, at least give us a body count!
- Eugene appears fully immersed in his newfound sanctuary (pun intended), but I’m still not entirely convinced he has turned full Negan. He did try to help Sasha, after all, instead of ratting her out to the baseball-wielding, self-absorbed leader of the Saviors.
- Speaking of Negan: was his line about the tables being turned a throwaway, or actual foreshadowing? If the show intends to follow what happens in the comics, I’ll definitely be looking forward to a callback to this scene.
- For the time being, it’s perfectly acceptable foreshadowing for the episode’s closing scene: Morgan’s cell finally comes in handy, and Rosita, after dodging the questions about Sasha (ugh, gripe #5 I guess), leads the group to Dwight, who apparently wants to join their cause. I loved how Daryl was ready to jump on him, because of course he would, and loved even more when Rick pulled his gun and ordered D to his knees.
A few questions remain as we head into The Walking Dead season finale:
- Was this the last we’re gonna see of the Oceanside ladies before the big war? If I had to guess, I’d say probably not. A few of them, especially the short-haired one (whose name I will never remember), seemed pretty keen on joining Rick & Co, and I don’t think Cyndee will have a hard time turning the rest around, even if her awful grandmother remains opposed. If they do join our group, I’m curious to see how the writers will work that into the plot. As far as we know, the colony is quite far from Alexandria, and the ladies don’t even know where that is. They have no guns left, so I can’t imagine them showing up, deus-ex-machina style, to get our group out of a bind.
- So far, we’ve had one of Negan’s prisoners act as stubborn as possible and find himself in a dire situation (Daryl), and another one go all in and reap the benefits of his Negan status (Eugene). With Sasha’s plan temporarily foiled, I’m interested to see how prisoner #3 will fare at the Sanctuary. I mean, come on, writers, anyone with half a brain would just act like Negan, stay alive and wait for her chance to strike, especially now that the group already have a plan of attack in motion!
- Who was the ‘little bird’ who told Negan about Rick’s plan? The timeline doesn’t suggest that Gregory has already met with Simon, so do we have a traitor in our midst? Is Eugene that traitor?
- Further to that last point: if we do have a traitor, then is it possible that Dwight isn’t really on Rick’s side right now?
The fact that there are so many what ifs this week is a major plus in my book, because each and every point is actually relevant to the plot and could tip the scales either way moving forward, which is a lot more than I can say about the previous couple of episodes. So well done, TWD, keep it up and give us a phenomenal finale!
I hate to be coming back to this, but could Alanna Masterson BE more annoying? (said in my best Chandler impression). She obviously not only thinks of herself as one of the core group of protagonists, but apparently believes she could “mentor” this Cyndie person, much like Glenn and Maggie did for her when they first teamed up? Seriously? Ugh. Every time I see her on Talking Dead she just says some idiotic thing to piss me off. And she needs to lay off the heavy make up – she was so bronzed she looked as orange as Trump. Less red lipstick, more eyebrow plucking, Alanna.