Airing Mondays at 9pm in the UK on FOX
Director: Michael Slovis
Writers: David Leslie Johnson and Corey Reed
Essential Plot Points:
- Rick finally reads Carl’s letter. Michonne contemplates reading the one he left for Negan.
- Aaron is almost overcome by walkers as he gets weaker living in the woods near the Oceansiders’ camp.
- Negan’s return has grave consequences for Simon.
This episode picks up right where last week’s left off, as Rick finally gets to the point where his rage has subsided and he can read Carl’s letter. And it’s beautiful. Carl, the mad dreamer, remembers the world as it was even though he was a young child when things went bad, and he’s telling his dad that it can be like that again. Last week’s episode Still Gotta Mean Something raised the question of whether people do the right thing for their kids, and Carl seems to be telling Rick to make a better world for Judith. That kid had class, and smarts well beyond his years.
With so much human on human conflict recently, it’s nice to see some genuinely tense zombie action. These zombies are slow, and should pose little threat, aside from two things: they can swarm in numbers and be much harder to deal with; and you can be unprepared for their assault and fall victim that way. Aaron, living in the woods until he can speak to and convince the amazons to join the fight, is subject to both. His weakness from lack of food and water almost sees him killed, and wouldn’t have surprised us the way secondary characters are dropping, but is actually the impetus he needs to get his message across and a good plot device.
We’ll genuinely miss Simon. There are aren’t many in Negan’s inner circle that stand out as individual characters, but his scene with Gregory this episode – where he asserts his control over the weaker man – reminds us of the good old days between those two. The fight between Negan and Simon is everything you’d expect: from sucker punches to low blows. But there’s only ever one winner here.
It’s also a nice move to expose Dwight in the same episode, when many scripts might have let that rumble on for a while longer. Having served his purpose in laying Negan’s trap, by feeding Rick and the allies false info, he’s finally unmasked as a traitor. Given Negan’s words about no possibility of starting over, as Michonne relays Carl’s letter to him over the radio, we’re surprised Negan doesn’t snuff out two backstabbers in one fell swoop. Having already ironed one side of this guy’s face, what else is there you can do to him?
- It’s interesting to finally get confirmation on who was responsible for the masculine massacre that forced the female islanders into such an isolated and untrusting life. Given what happened at the trash dump, we’d been wondering if that was Simon’s trademark move.
- Dwight’s double-cross is actually a clever move, given that he was also marking a map that could see the Hilltop forces ambush and kill his returned leader. That plan only goes ahead if Negan is alive, because Simon’s option is to wipe everyone currently at the Hilltop off the face of the Earth, so it’s the smart play to dob Simon in and get even more of Negan’s trust before possibly delivering him up to the allies. He isn’t to know how that’s going to turn out.
- Zombie Simon, now guarding the Sanctuary fence, might be our fave ever zombie.
- It’s a surprise when Gregory isn’t mowed down as Negan takes out those assembled against him, because this show already has one spineless character (Eugene) who is only out to save his own skin (with even Father Gabriel seemingly heading back in that direction as his faith falters). We love Xander Berkeley’s portrayal of Gregory but his continued existence is starting to appear incredibly unlikely. Especially as Negan seems surprised Dwight used him to deliver the all-important message.
Negan referencing the time he burned Dwight’s face with an iron:
Negan giving Simon one last chance to carry out his mission, when he could just have the dissenter killed:
“To be the man you have to beat the man.”
Review by Matt Chapman