Airing in the UK on FOX, Mondays at 9pm
Writers: Angela Kang & Corey Reed
Director: John Polson
Essential Plot Points:
- The war…pauses. Daryl heads home. Carol cleans her weapons as the Kingdom puts together a memorial for it’s dozens of fallen. All three leaders take delivery of letters. Carol, notably, is accepting the mail for Ezekiel. The letters explain how each section of the Coalition has fared and things are going well. Or as well as they can be.
- Rick’s letter makes it clear that in two days every force will meet at Sanctuary to end this once and for all.
- We see the Junkyard, where, slightly oddly, Jadis is making a metal sculpture while nude. There’s a knock on the gates and Rick appears.
- At Hilltop, Maggie stops Jesus from giving the Saviors their surplus food. Gregory flaps his terrible idea vortex and Maggie sends him inside. Maggie makes it clear that Gregory’s enthusiasm for murder is not off the table. Jesus is far from happy.
- At the Kingdom, Carol blows past Jerry to demand Ezekiel come out. Ezekiel ignores her and Carol storms off, followed by Ben’s younger brother, Henry.
- At the Junkyard, Jadis confronts Rick. He wants the same thing as before; a deal. She is unimpressed.
- Until, at last, Rick busts out the Polaroids he’s spent the first half of the season taking. He tells them the Saviors are done, that their choice is to die or surrender. He wants to give the Junkyard the same choice. Rick gives them a choice, yes or no. They choose no and lock Rick up.
- At Hilltop, Gregory pushes to ‘help’ Maggie out. She isn’t, quite, buying it.
- At Alexandria, Michonne heads out despite Rick’s orders and the fact she’s still healing. Rosita tries to reason with her and, when Michonne leaves anyway, insists on joining her.
- Daryl and Tara meet up. To Daryl’s surprise, Tara tells him he was right to not kill Dwight and without him they’d have never got this far. She then says she wants to kill him once the war is over. Daryl suggests they both kill him.
- Michonne and Rosita load up. Rosita asks why Michonne has to head out. She tells her she hasn’t been able to relax since the war started. Suddenly, they hear unearthly singing. They arm up, head out and investigate.
- Elsewhere, an impaled Walker reaches for a bag. Carl finds it, and also finds the man Rick and Daryl chased off at the top of the season. Carl does an infinitely better job of talking to the man than either of the grownups. Carl asks about the traps and Siddiq explains that his mom thought killing the Walkers would free their souls. He’s smart, traumatized and he and Carl connect instantly.
- Henry is fighting off two Walkers with a staff and doing surprisingly well. It doesn’t last and just as he’s about to be overwhelmed, Carol rescues him. She yells at him, he points out that her plan was stupid and…well…Carol gains a sidekick.
- The next morning at Hilltop, Enid visits the prisoners and tells Jesus to bring them in. There’s been the sound of hammering all night and the men walk in expecting gallows.
- Instead, there’s a cage. A rough, small one, but a cage nonetheless.
- Gregory looks FURIOUS. Maggie doesn’t care. When Gregory tells her they can’t let people they don’t trust live inside the walls, she agrees.
- And throws HIM in the cage too.
- Jared, the massively unpleasant Savior directly responsible for Benjamin’s death, makes a run for it. Maggie clubs him unconscious and the door is locked.
- Siddiq and Carl make their way through the forest. They hear the sound of feeding Walkers nearby, arm up and meet them. The fight gets bloodier and bloodier, Walkers swarming out of the woods until suddenly, it’s over. They’ve won. Soaked with gore, Carl stands up. Siddiq tells him he should have left and Carl replies that now Siddiq is his responsibility.
- Michonne and Rosita creep into the building the music was coming from. They overhear a group of Saviors talking about how the weapons they have could turn the tide of the war.
- The Saviors detect them and an ugly, rapid, gun fight breaks out. Pinned down, Rosita searches through the crates in the building for something to use as a weapon.
- Michonne engages one of the Saviors but she’s still badly hurt. The Savior she’s fighting yells at her colleague to run for the Sanctuary.
- Rosita finds a rocket launcher, confronts the remaining Savior and he brags that she won’t use it.
- He is VERY wrong.
- The ‘fat lady’, the weapon they’re guarding, is a mobile speaker truck. They don’t get to her in time, she drives off and…
- A truck smashes into the Fat Lady. Daryl steps out, followed by Tara, executes the driver and meets up with the others. It was too close, way too close, and they still have work to do.
- At the Kingdom, Carol confronts Ezekiel. He’s slumped by his throne, holding Shiva’s chain. Ezekiel is consumed with self loathing, convinced his arrogance has killed not just his friends but the Kingdom itself. Carol asks why he kept visiting her and he replies ‘You just…made me feel real.’ Openly weeping, Carol replies ‘You are real. To me. To the Kingdom.’
- She tells him if he can’t be the King, he has to act as the King. He insists he can’t.
- Jared is trying to cut his bonds. Dillon, the Savior who has been the unofficial mouthpiece of the group, bumps him, making him drop his improvised weapon.
- In Maggie’s office, cuddling the baby Aaron brought, the two talk about grief. Jesus arrives and Maggie tells him that the Saviors are bargaining chips in case they need to barter for their own people. And if they aren’t needed, then she can’t let them live.
- Aaron leaves. When Enid asks why he says ‘to make sure we win’. Enid asks to go with him and Aaron agrees.
- The Daryl Dixon Battle Wagon rolls up to a hill near Sanctuary. He hands Michonne a sight and shows her the horde swarming around Sanctuary. He plans to end this thing, immediately.
- At the junkyard, Jadis marks Rick’s cell with an ‘A’. Naked and weaponless, the only thing he can do is wait.
After last week‘s weirdly disjointed, staccato argument fest, this week’s episode takes everything last week did and doubles it.
And it works.
Negan and Gabriel, along with Negan’s increasingly tedious lieutenants, are basically the only characters we don’t see this week. Everyone else is on screen, interacting in pinwheeling ways that often mean a character is on screen for seconds but always in a meaningful way. Daryl, for example, gets maybe 2 minutes of screen time but every second of it counts.
Not only that, but new characters are introduced and they work. Siddiq is brilliant, finally stepping into the light and revealed to be the embodiment of what the show needs to be about; what’s next. He and Carl have no part in the war but their plot is just as vital. Especially for Carl stepping out into the spotlight as a leader himself. Likewise the Carol and Henry stuff, which also plays as a neat counterpoint to the last time Carol was involved in child care.
That idea, the battle for the future, is vital to every plot this episode. Daryl, Tara, Michonne and Rosita want their future built on the bodies of the Saviors. Jesus wants it built with the Saviors who’ll join them. Maggie, in another of Lauren Cohan’s typically impressive turns, is torn between vengeance and pragmatism and chooses the second, for now. Ezekiel, torn between the shattered remnants of his role and the possibility of rebuilding, chooses to wallow. Both choices are understandable and sympathetic. Both choices make sense and feel EARNED in the exact way very little did last week.
This is a massive episode that checks in with Alexandria, Hilltop, the Junkyard, the Kingdom AND stops off at the Sanctuary. However it never feels rushed, and crucially after last week, no choice plays as mandatory. Instead this is a complex, punchy, fast-paced hour that sets the show on course for it’s mid-season finale at a dead run. Great stuff.
- The sense of pacing this week is so much better. There’s a ridiculous amount of plots but each one is given room to breathe.
- Siddiq is GREAT. More of him please.
- Likewise the Daryl/Tara/Rosita/Michonne war party is a fun development.
- Some nice elements of scale and scope here. Specifically that the war is a day and a half old. The Coalition really have done an amazing job. Which means we’re pretty sure things will be going south any time now.
- The recurrent, menacing sound of something being built at Hilltop was really nicely handled. We especially liked that, like the Saviors themselves, the viewers have no idea what it is until we see it.
- Consistency for the win! The fact Rosita still has that tiny scar, and Michonne is still beaten a quarter to death, is massively welcome. This isn’t a show where people shrug off injuries.
- Siddiq watermeloning that Walker’s head against a tree was superbly nasty.
- Rocket launcher justice. ‘Nuff said.
- ‘The Fat Lady’ was a brilliant, simple idea that we really want to see on the show again. Nice salute to Fury Road too.
- Honestly, very little. This episode teases bad elements (Gregory being endlessly verbose, corrupt and incompetent, Jared being a scumbag) and then clubs them in the head and throws them in a cell.
- ‘When we do we have to make sure what’s left is worth what we lost.’
- ‘This is what I do.’-JERRY, NO, OUR FEELINGS. ALL OF OUR FEELINGS AGAIN, JERRY.
- ‘How many Walkers have you killed? I know it’s hard to keep tra-‘
‘Give or take a couple.’
- ‘You gotta honor your parents.’
‘If I was honoring my dad we wouldn’t be talking right now.’
- Angela Kang has been on the show’s writing staff since season 2 and has been part of some of it’s finest hours. She’s also written for beloved and much missed PI show, Terriers
- Corey Reed has previously co-written ‘Four Walls And a Roof’ with Angela Kang as well as ‘Consumed’ with Matt Negrete and flew solo on episodes like ‘Forget’ and ‘Now.’ Outside The Walking Dead, he’s also written for Medium and Da Vinci’s Demons.
- Avi Nash, who is fantastic here as Siddiq, has previously appeared in Barry, Amateur Night and Learning to Drive.
- Macsen Lintz, who steps up into the spotlight this week as Henry, has previously appeared in Under the Dome, under-rated found footage time travel movie Project Almanac and others.
- John Polson is a startlingly prolific director, producer and actor. He’s best known in front of the camera for playing Billy Baird in Mission: Impossible 2 but behind it he’s been responsible for episodes of a vast number of modern TV standouts. This includes 19 episodes of Elementary, 6 of Blue Bloods, 4 of FlashForward, 7 of Without A Trace and many, many more.
- Callan McAuliffe plays Dillon, the Savior who is starting to emerge as something approaching a sane leader. He’s previously appeared in Beneath The Harvest Sky, Robot Overlords and The Great Gatsby
Review by Alasdair Stuart