Oh TWD, you can’t just capitalize on whatever momentum you had going, can you? Not that they’ve given us stellar episodes so far, but at least they’ve tried to show us some semblance of frenetic action a day and a half into All Out War. Maybe it’s just the reappearance of the awful trash people that tainted this entire episode for me, but I can’t say I was too impressed with this week’s offering.

The cold open gave us yet another one of those epic-style montages, with letters delivered to all three communities discussing the progress of the war thus far in voice-over. Rick tells everyone about their winning streak, Maggie lets them know about the prisoners of war, the King doesn’t even bother and Carol acts like the Kingdom’s spokesperson instead, informing Rick and Maggie of their tremendous loss. It’s not a bad scene, but it feels like it can’t decide between being mournful or victorious.

Most frustratingly, we hear Rick let everyone know that their plan is working and that they’re sticking to it, but still no mention of the actual plan. I can’t imagine the whole plan is to try and get those damn trash people on their side again – there’s GOT to be more to it, right? Hopefully so, or I’ll be very disappointed.

On the upside, this episode follows a linear narrative this week, and we finally get to see a few characters we’d been missing since the season opener. As promised by the title name, we follow The King, Maggie and Rick as they regroup before the next stage of the war:

Rick & the Trash People

(I refuse to call them ‘Heapsters’ – the moniker is just as dumb as Jadis and every single dump-dwelling idiot she hangs out with).

Jadis is working on another wire sculpture, and apparently rocking an apron with nothing else on is considered proper attire for the job. Okay then, so far so good. Rick shows up, tells them that they bet on the wrong horse and does a little show and tell, so we finally know what those polaroids were for. And then Jadis starts talking. “Why back after?“. Ugh, I had forgotten the retarded way these awful people communicate (and for good reason), but here we go again, a repeat of last season’s debacle.

Was this part of the plan all along, or is Rick just getting desperate now that the Kingdom has lost all its fighters and their numbers are dwindling? I can’t imagine why the original plan would involve the trash people, other than just killing every last one of them once the fight with the Saviors was over. And why would Rick trust these assholes again after they double-crossed him? This plotline will never make sense to me. Nor will Jadis’s insistence on bringing up the fact that she shot Rick (no, she GRAZED him).

Either way, the trash people decline Rick’s offer, dismiss his threats and promptly take him inside the dump proper as their captive, but not before Jadis delivers the first and only funny line she’s had since she shows up: “talks too much” ahahaha!

We later find Rick sitting on the floor in a dark container, buck naked for whatever reason (please God don’t let them have Jadis use him as a sex slave!). Jadis walks towards the container and we get a weird closeup of her VERY worn boots. I don’t have a problem with her boots looking like they’re about to fall off her feet – these people do live among heaps of trash after all – but all this does is remind us that in a world where 90-odd per cent of the population is dead, our protagonists have trouble finding new shoes and clothes. Rick’s been wearing the same boots since season 1, and everyone’s always dressed in ratty old shirts when they should just be treating garments as completely disposable. I mean, God knows they can get more any time they want!

But I digress. Jadis marks the container with the letter ‘A’, and I still don’t get the show’s bizarre obsession with it: first it was the box car at Terminus, then it was little Sam’s stamp, now it’s the trash people. It would have worked as a callback had they at least made an effort to explain some of it, but no.

Luckily, that’s all we see of the trash people in this week’s episode (which means we will be seeing more of them in upcoming weeks, so I can’t be too happy about that), but I’m still baffled as to what the hell is going on here. If this was Rick’s plan all along, why show up alone? Why not post snipers around the junkyard or simply load up on guns and force the filthy mofos to cooperate? Shouldn’t he have at least brought backup? For all he knows, his trip to the dump is the furthest thing from his people’s minds, which is exactly what’s going on in this episode. Unless Daryl & co suddenly shifted their focus from the Saviors to the trash people, they’re all off doing their own thing while Rick is locked inside that container sweating his naked butt off.

Maggie & the Hilltop

Jesus is standing guard over the Savior prisoners outside the Hilltop gates and passing around… turnips? Well there was a reason the Saviors left a whole bunch of those in the cellar, and Jared is not having any. Go ahead and starve yourself, you long-haired douche, see if I care. Maggie isn’t happy. She’s still undecided about what to do with the prisoners, and Gegory not-so-helpfully shows up and starts acting like he’s still in charge.

Back inside his old office, Gregory finally talks some sense as he tries to advise Maggie on what to do: “you can’t have wolves wandering around amongst the sheep“. No shit, Sherlock; you’re gonna wish you kept your mouth shut soon enough. Meanwhile, one of the Saviors is trying to chum up to Jesus, but to no avail. He seems like the least menacing of the bunch, so good casting call there, TWD. Maggie finally decides to bring the prisoners inside the gates and into the makeshift prison the Hilltoppers had been working on all night. She lets them know that she “will feed them and won’t mistreat them, but won’t stand for anything less than total cooperation“. She also decides to take Gregory’s advice and throws him in along with the Saviors.

Diane is there for some reason (why would they keep their kickass archer lady behind and not have her join the battle is beyond me, but at least she didn’t die along with the other Kingdom folk) and knocks Gregory’s head against a post when he tries to resist going in, which makes me so happy. Jared tries to attack Diane as she’s locking up the jail, so Maggie roughs him up a little bit for good measure. Douchey Jared still won’t give up though – he tries to cut himself free using a sharp rock, which good guy Savior knocks out of his hands. Gregory is in a heap in the corner, looking like he wishes the earth would open up and swallow him, but it’s not too long before he tries to suck up to the Saviors.

Back inside the house, Aaron tries to articulate his feelings over the loss of Eric, but Maggie knows it all too well. She tells him it doesn’t get easier, but it helps to do something about it. Jesus thanks her for doing the right thing, but Maggie’s not the bleeding heart she used to be any more: she might need the prisoners as bargaining chips down the road; if she doesn’t, they can’t let them live.

Later, Aaron and Enid decide to take off so they can ‘end this’, whatever the hell that means. It might take a while, so Aaron tells Enid to bring food, and off they go to God knows where.

I can’t complain about the Hilltop plotline too much; Gregory and Jared getting knocked upside the head is always a good thing, and I like that at least one Savior seems to be less of an asshole. It might be an act, or he might be a genuinely good guy, maybe one of the workers who secretly despised being treated like crap, but it’s definitely realistic to throw in at least a few decent guys along with the douchebags, and opens up several possibilities in terms of the dynamic that will develop inside the Hilltop prison.

Carol, Ezekiel & the Kingdom

Saying that Ezekiel isn’t taking the loss of his men all that well would be an understatement. He’s cooped up inside the theater, probably sulking, while Jerry’s still in full garb, standing guard despite having been dismissed by his king. Ezekiel won’t respond to Carol’s calls, so she just does what everyone else is doing this week and takes off, but not before Ben’s little brother Henry tries to go with her, and she just snaps at him. Carol being mean to yet another kid is no surprise, but it’s getting really old by now.

Henry disregards her orders and gets in trouble with a couple of walkers, but Carol ex machina saves the day and scolds him for following her with a brilliant callback to Sophia: “Do you know what happens to kids when they wander around in the woods? They never get seen again, and if they do, they’re monsters.” Henry won’t back down, however: he wants to avenge the death of his brother, and Carol gives him a gun and lets him tag along.

And then, instead of heading off to wherever it is everyone’s going this week – I assume they also want to go to the Sanctuary – Carol is back at the Kingdom and ready to shoot down the door to the auditorium when Jerry tells her it’s not locked. She finds Ezekiel still sulking, tries to convince him to go back out and inspire his people again, but he’s pretty adamant that he never was a king; he just played a part and now he wants to be left alone.

Carol starts to turn around and leave, then comes back and the conversation takes a bit of a weird turn: she wants to know why he kept visiting her back at the cottage, and his response is that she ‘made him feel real’. I was half-expecting a declaration of love at this point, but Ezekiel is too stricken by grief to be in a romantic mood, and I guess this is as close to a romance between those two as we’re gonna get at this point – Carol’s not exactly a sap, after all. She is, however, deeply moved by Ezekiel’s inner turmoil and tries to make him help his people grieve, move on and end this war. Ezekiel still won’t budge, so off she goes again.

I can’t tell whether the timeline of the Kingdom scenes got a bit jumbled in editing, or if Carol just doubled back before heading off again, but if she and Henry are indeed headed towards the Sanctuary, I like the bit of irony in that the guy responsible for Benjamin’s death is sitting nice and cosy at the Hilltop. Still, I’m sure Carol wants to annihilate every last Savior, so it’s not like she’d stop at Jared even if she did know.

Either way, I wasn’t too impressed with these scenes. I appreciate the fact that we need to see Ezekiel’s character arc reach its lowest point, and the death of Shiva and his men definitely warrants his reaction, but they’re still in the middle of a war here. Besides, we’ve seen plenty of characters go through a similar depressed state before – Sasha being a prime example, but let’s not forget Carol herself – so hopefully they won’t drag this out too long. I also hope they don’t kill off Henry, on top of Benjamin, to get Ezekiel’s fire going again, because that would be too on the nose, not to mention repetitious. Which leaves Carol, and that creates its own set of problems right there: we can’t have our ninja warrior become a liability, because that would negate her entire badass arc. Could Morgan be the deciding factor here? We touched base with most of the main characters while he was conspicuously absent this week, so I’m curious to see what he’s up to.

Michonne, Rositta, Daryl & Tara

We finally catch up with Michonne (and Rosita) this week, and I’m still trying to figure out why all the people in our main group of survivors are suddenly on the move and no one’s backing up Rick. Last time every single main character was outside the gates of Alexandria was the infamous season 6 finale, and we all know how well that turned out for our guys, so I hope this time around they score a win.

In any case, Michonne’s reasons for going outside the gates is flimsy at best: she wants to see the Sanctuary. Didn’t Rick come home before heading off to the junkyard? Didn’t he show her the polaroids? I get that she was frustrated not to be part of the battle and just stay on the sidelines with (also injured) Rosita, but come on.

Meanwhile, Tara tells Daryl he was right not to kill Dwight because they wouldn’t have gotten this far without his help, but just when you think they finally got some sense, they turn around and decide to be idiots once again: as soon as this is over, they’ll kill him. Together, because both have an axe to grind. I don’t much care about Tara either way, but are the writers really hell bent on turning fan fave Daryl into a murderous psychopath?

On their way to the Sanctuary, Michonne and Rosita hear classical music coming out of a building and decide to investigate. They find two Saviors inside, along with a truck rigged with massive speakers. They’ve used the same trick before to lure walkers into the Hilltop, so I guess it would work just as well to lure the herd away from the Sanctuary, so I don’t mind the lack of originality. What I do mind is their music preference: are all the Saviors really that cultured that the only kind of music they deem appropriate for such projects is highbrow classical stuff? Couldn’t they cause more of a ruckus by playing something louder, like, I dunno, death metal?

Regardless of their choice in music, Michonne and Rosita know they must be stopped. Their stealth attack goes awry when Michonne can’t freaking watch where she’s going and kicks a tennis ball across the room. Rosita does something even more stupid when she loses her gun as it’s inexplicably knocked out of her hand and under the shelving, but at least she makes up for it by shooting a goddamn rocket at the male Savior and blowing him to smithereens. Michonne’s injuries don’t allow her to fight in top form and the female Savior manages to get into the truck when the explosion momentarily distracts them (I mean come on, really, Michonne?) but not before Daryl ex machina T-bones her in his massive truck.

How/when/why did Daryl and Tara get there? What’s their plan to ‘end this thing right now’ and what’s this whole lot of work they still have to do? Is no one going to stick with Rick’s plan? Do they not know that he’s at the junkyard or do they just not care? I wish we’d gotten some answers, but I can’t hate on this scene too much; despite the stupidity of having two of the group’s best fighters almost lose to a couple of Saviors, it had been a while since we saw someone shoot a rocket (mid-season 6, if I’m not mistaken).

Carl and Sadiq

Not to be outdone by the rest of our Alexandrians, Carl disregards his dad’s orders and ventures outside once again. He’s been doing that since he was a wee lad in Season 1, so why stop now? He spots the guy from the gas station killing a walker and calls out to him to… apologize for his dad? Okay then. To be fair, the poor guy didn’t look all that menacing, but still.

After the requisite introductions, Carl offers Sadiq some water and asks him the three questions (how many walkers have you killed, how many people have you killed and why) and the two young men bond over their mothers when Carl brings up Lori (because we just have to squeeze in yet another earlier season callback) and Sadiq reveals his walker kill list runs in the hundreds. A very impressed Carl asks how he’s managed to rack up these number and Sadiq tells him that his mom believed killing walkers “frees their souls”.

Carl decides not to ‘honor’ his dad by inviting Sadiq to Alexandria (because “sometimes kids have to find their own way to show their parents the way“), but not before he humors Sadiq’s dead mom’s belief by stopping along the way to kill a few walkers munching on a dead deer. Jeez, TWD really does hate animals. The walkers start to multiply and soon enough what should have been routine becomes a bit of a struggle. As realistic as the director made this scene, I still have some trouble believing that after all this time, a couple of able-bodied young men wouldn’t be able to take down a few walkers without problems.

Still, I didn’t hate this scene. It’s going to be interesting to see how Sadiq is integrated in the group, plus he adds some much needed diversity to the main cast. Mostly though I just like good guy Carl, after that whole psycho-phase he went through back at the prison, especially now that we need someone to offset the crazy brought to us by Daryl.

This could have been a much better episode without the trash people plotline, but I sincerely hope they’re actually going somewhere with this and it won’t just be a delay tactic to fill some air time until something exciting happens in the mid-season finale.

My only real issue, aside from the obvious trash people problem, is that every single person in Rick’s group completely ignores his plan, whatever that is, and leaves him hanging while they wander off to pursue their own agendas. It was to be expected of Daryl, after last week’s scuffle, or even Rosita, who’s been blatantly disregarding Rick’s orders since last season, but now even Michonne can’t do as her man asks? And freaking Tara?

Again, I hope they’re going somewhere with this and it’s not just another plot device to keep the group separated, and this weaker, to give Negan and the Saviors back some of their edge and even the odds. With just one episode to go until the mid-season finale, I assume the pieces will start falling into place and we’ll finally get to see Rick’s plan laid out (again, assuming it’s more elaborate than the idiotic “let’s cut another deal with Jadis”).

Until next week!