Airing in the UK on FOX, Mondays at 9pm
Writer: Channing Powell & Matthew Negrete
Director: Greg Nicotero
Essential Plot Points:
- Ezekiel and Carol lead his squad of troops into battle, intercut with Ezekiel telling them just how righteous their cause is.
- A group of Saviors rock up and capture Ezekiel and his men.
- BUT NOT ALL OF THEM.
- Carol and Jerry lead the other half of the forces in a brutally effective ambush,
- Meanwhile back at Rick’s plot, Morales has him at gun point. As far as Morales is concerned, Rick’s a monster. He also tells Rick that he’s on the no kill list along with ‘The Widow’ and ‘The King’. Morales interrogates him and Rick clams up.
- At the front, the Saviors are pulled away and the Coalition charge into the buildings. Aaron takes Eric to a safe spot and finds that the bullet has gone through. That’s a good thing. But Eric is still in bad shape. A tearful Aaron apologizes and Eric replies ‘Were you the one that shot me?’. Eric sends him away to help the others and it plays an awful lot like a goodbye. Aaron, sobbing, kisses him and Eric sends him on his way.
- Tara , Morgan and Jesus’ team are taking their PoWs home. Tara and Morgan still want the Saviors dead. Jesus still maintains that their actions matter less than the fact they’re people.
- Still at gunpoint, Rick asks if Morales’ family are there. He tells him that they never made it. Rick sympathizes, name checking Laurie, Shane, Andrea and Glenn as people he lost along the way. He tells Morales about Glenn’s murder and it brings him up short. Morales doubles down, tells Rick that the Saviors saw something worthwhile in him and that he too is Negan.
- Rick tries to convince Morales he wouldn’t kill him if their roles were reversed. Morales isn’t having it and tells Rick as far as he’s concerned both he and ‘Officer Friendly’ died somewhere along the way.
- And then Daryl shoots Morales in the neck with his crossbow. He doesn’t care who he used to be. He asks Rick about the guns, Rick warns him the Saviors are inbound and then it all goes sideways. The Saviors have arrived.
- At the convoy, Jared goads Morgan into trying to kill him by spotting that he’s wearing Benjamin’s armor. Morgan is just about to take him down when a Walker pack swarms over the hill. It’s a massacre and Jared takes it as a chance to lead his chain of prisoners away.
- Morgan chases them down and executes one. He’s all set to kill them all when Jesus disarms him. Morgan is murderously furious and when Jesus tells him Maggie will find a way he cooks off. As far as he’s concerned, they’re as bad as the Saviors. Jesus holds his ground, tells him that they’re going to have to live with these people after. He almost gets through to him and then…
- Morgan attacks him.
- Back at Ezekiel’s unit, things are going disturbingly well. They’re using classic infantry tactics; keep moving, fight smart, fight dirty and don’t stop.
- Daryl and Rick are in BIG trouble, the Saviors swarming the building.
- Back in the forest, the two best martial artists left alive are pounding on one another. It’s a surprisingly even fight too; Morgan’s near psychotic break driving him to fight way nastier than he normally would.
- Rick and Daryl are in WORSE trouble. The Saviors are feet away and Daryl’s out of ammo. Rick shoots a fire extinguisher for cover and they charge their attackers, disarming them. They take them down, and Coalition reinforcements arrive.
- In the forest, Jesus has had enough. He disarms Morgan and asks him, politely, ‘Is it over?’ When Morgan drives his staff to within an inch of his throat, he repeats the question. Morgan’s entire demeanor changes, and, calmer but still devastated, he tells them he can’t be a part of this. He leaves.
- At Hilltop, Enid is on watch when Gregory returns ‘home’. Maggie meets him at the gate. She is beyond not happy, Gregory is just a colossal asshole, implying Maggie is blinded by her need for vengeance. He begs her, she lets him in and he swears he’s changed.
- Literally 10 seconds later the others rock up with the PoWs and Gregory tries to take control of the situation. Maggie shuts him down. She is far from happy about the prisoners but Jesus is adamant they can’t just kill them.
- Back at the front, Rick and the others clean up, ending the Walkers left standing. Rick takes polaroids of the dead and writes a note that we don’t see.
- Aaron returns to where he left Eric. The tree is soaked with blood and his gun has been left behind. He sees a Walker in the middle distance that he recognizes. Sobbing, Aaron goes after him to bring him some peace but is taken away by a friend, who tells Aaron ‘That’s not him.’ Yep. They went there. AGAIN.
- Rick brings the baby out and Aaron volunteers to take her to the Hilltop. Rick asks if he’s sure and Aaron insists.
- Rick and Daryl are heading out, Rick with the polaroids on the passenger seat of his jeep when they take fire. They take cover and Rick lays it out for the hidden shooter; they’re alone, they’re outgunned and there’s a herd coming. Rick offers them amnesty if they drop their gun and tells them what they want to know.
- The lone Savior agrees and steps out. Rick asks about the guns and he’s told they got sent to Gavin’s outpost to the west. He asks if he’s free to go and Daryl executes him.
- Ezekiel’s team are at Gavin’s compound.
- In open territory.
- Ezekiel sees something, the .50 cal opens up and six of his knights jump on him as his team get chewed up…
Well, this one takes a bit of a run up.
There’s a ton of really good stuff here. Almost all of it is in the Tara/Jesus/Morgan plot and the consequences of Jesus’ fundamental compassion. The show is always at it’s best when exploring the cost of being a good person in a bad world and this plot is just great TV. Tom Payne, Alana Masterson and Lennie James all do excellent work and all successfully communicate their own viewpoints. So much so in fact that you agree with all of them.
Tara and Morgan are right. The Saviors are monsters who’ve run loose across this part of the world and ended lives simply because they can.
Jesus is right. There’s a difference between killing and executing.
Morgan’s right. He’s broken.
This all combines to give three characters who’ve been under utilized for a while some really fun moments and to give Maggie her first real test as leader of Hilltop. We have no idea how well this is going to go. We do know it’s going to be fun seeing it play out.
Elsewhere the episode varies from interesting to actively bad. The Rick and Daryl plot feels a little perfunctory this week. There’s some potentially interesting stuff with Morales and Rick that’s ended by Daryl, a slightly muddy action scene and that’s about it. This is the price you pay for serialized storytelling and the show’s got very good at ‘slow set up, big payoff’ so something’s obviously on the way here.
Outside those two plots is where things take a turn downwards. It’s great seeing Maggie again but Gregory’s arrival at Hilltop is played for laughs and doesn’t work on any level. Likewise, we spend so much time with Ezekiel and his unit having an easy time of it that the inevitable horrible payoff is telegraphed about halfway through the episode.
And then there’s Eric.
We go into detail on this below, but the simple truth is that the show embraces one of the worst tropes in modern fiction this week. And it’s not the first time it’s done it either. For Eric to get more screen time than he’s had in an entire season, just in time to be killed, is bad. For it to be the second time the show has killed a gay character as a drama generation technique is worse. Yes he gets a lovely final scene with Aaron. But this is old, tired, toxic ground and the chance of the show getting anywhere interesting crossing it is not high. As it stands, it’s the sourest note in an episode that over reaches itself and, ultimately, serves very few of it’s characters well. Hopefully next week that will start to change.
- Khary Peyton is just a delight. He does such an amazing job of showing both sides of Ezekiel at once. The obvious one is the Shakespearean post-apocalyptic monarch. The less obvious, and more interesting, one is the self aware amateur dramatist who buys into his own hype at the same time as being aware it IS hype. It’s pretty much a perfect piece of casting and he lifts every single scene he’s in.
- Ross Marquand and Jordan Woods-Robinson are absolutely brilliant this episode. We just wish they didn’t have to be brilliant with this scene.
- Tom Payne finally gets some meaty stuff to do this episode and it’s great. The Walking Dead catches a lot of heat for being a libertarian power fantasy from some quarters but characters like Jesus put the lie to that. The fact that Payne is able to make this principled, decent man both an antagonist and a sympathetic lead is a real testimony to just how good he is.
- Lennie James too is just phenomenal here. We’ve talked before about how Morgan is not quite either of the characters he’s been before and he acknowledges that this episode. The end of the fight with Jesus, where you can see him return to full awareness, is just heartbreaking. He’s a good man pushed way too far and absenting himself from the conflict makes a lot of sense.
- The ‘WHAT THE HELL?!’ moment with Cal and Gregory is way funnier than you’d expect it to be. Or the entire Gregory scene deserves to be, frankly.
- ‘I lost my family. I lost my mind,’
- ‘That doesn’t make me any worse, Rick. It just makes me luckier.’
- ‘That was-‘
‘I know who that was. Don’t matter. Not one little bit.’
- ‘Okay, you’re having a little trouble..’
- ‘I’m not right. But that don’t make me wrong.’
- This is possibly the only time we’ve ever seen Xander Berkeley do bad work. He’s normally massively reliable but he acts like a panto villain this time and it’s actively dull.
- Hi Morales! Bye Morales!
- KILL JERRY AND WE RIOT.
- Here we go again.First off, yes, this is a post apocalyptic series drama series. People die. A lot. That, in the case of The Walking Dead, is the literal premise of the show. But we’ve now had two prominent gay couples on the show. Both of them separated by tragic murder. Only one of them actually got to BE a couple before that happened.
This is bad for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the vast disparity between the amount of gay characters on TV and the amount that get killed. Tara in Buffy, Lexa in The 100, Victoria Hand and Elizabeth Hartley in Agents of SHIELD, Denise on The Walking Dead. The list is endless, the statistics are profoundly depressing and all this episode does is add to them. Yes there will be consequences. Yes this is probably Aaron’s plot for the season and it’s at least being given more prominence than Denise’s off hand murder almost two full seasons ago. But this is another dead gay character in a genre which, bluntly, is littered with them. It’s not been a week since Ivy’s murder on American Horror Story and here we are again, just without the context that made that instance work. These characters deserve better. These people deserve better. So does this audience.
And The Random:
- It makes a ton of sense of the three settlement leaders to be on the No Kill list. It also says a lot about Gregory’s relevance that he is NOT on the No-Kill List.
- What’s Rick using those polaroids for? It’s implied he’s taking them to the Scavengers. But why?
- Greg Nicotero’s back in the director’s chair this week. Which is presumably why the herd attack on the PoW convoy is both so well done and crammed full of so many gooey walkers.
- Like last week’s episode, this week’s is written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell
Review by Alasdair Stuart