If you have read my season 7 reviews thus far, you know that I have been raving about the stellar job the writers, the production team, the cast, basically everyone have done. With my also being an avid reader of the comics, his season no doubt will go down as one of my favorites, and part of the reason for that is the introduction of super-villain Negan and the show’s perfect casting of Jeffrey Dean-Morgan for the role. However, with the season’s 5th installment this Sunday comes my first real criticism since the premiere episode — having to wait 4 full episodes to check-in at the Hilltop and get an update on Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and her baby. For me, that seemed like a top priority and in fact, far more important than checking in with Daryl at The Sanctuary, and so, if I were at the helm, I would have aired this one earlier. Regardless, what’s done is done, and this week, we finally learn the fates of Maggie and baby Gleggie and how the Hilltop is adjusting with the news of Alexandria’s failure at taking out their mortal enemy.
WELCOME TO THE HILLTOP’S ONE BIG DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY
First and foremost, I will go on and tell you that Maggie and her baby are fine. Well, at least physically. No miscarriage, and instead, a small part of the placenta had separated from the uterine wall, a condition that is usually not life-threatening. So, yay for that! However, emotionally, Maggie still has a long way to go, but fortunately, she has Jesus (Tom Payne) in her corner who really steps up to the plate to help her get through this dark time in her life. The first thing Maggie sees when she wakes up are the blue flowers Jesus had left for her, and we later learn that blue flowers supposedly inspires strength and calm. Then, when Maggie visits Glenn’s grave and puts his pocket watch on it, Jesus arrives with green flowers, with green meaning “release.” Even though Rick and Co. may have started off on the wrong foot with Jesus last season, this episode does a good job at exposing the true man behind that tough exterior, and it’s all good. He’s a good man with a good heart and truly cares about the people. At the same time, he’s very deep and knows things that very few do (like the little anecdote about the meaning of the color of flowers). This all makes me quite curious as to his backstory, and I’m really hoping we’ll get a glimpse into that very soon.
This is all in sharp contrast to the Hilltop’s uber-prick leader, Gregory (Xander Berkeley), who isn’t making things any easier for Maggie even though she just lost her husband and came pretty close to losing her baby as well. First, he’s adamant that both Maggie and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) leave because the asshole’s a coward and scared shitless of the Saviors, and the 2 women not being at the Hilltop gives him “plausible deniability” of being involved with Alexandria.
Wait, Maggie is pregnant — Sasha
Well, that’s her mistake — Gregory
Okay, here you have a woman whose husband was just killed and the only thing she has left of him is her unborn child, and then, this dick comes along and says it’s a **mistake**?? As we saw in season 6 with Gregory’s behavior towards Maggie in their first meeting, Gregory is obviously very condescending towards women and sees them as 2nd class citizens, just mere “objects” for his own pleasure. However, as Gregory will soon find out, Maggie is much stronger than any other woman he’s encountered — a trait that could be considered very valuable to the Hilltop but one that could also be viewed as a threat to some.
For those who are familiar with the comics, you know that Maggie eventually displaces Gregory as leader of the Hilltop. The first sign that the writers may be heading in that direction comes when the Saviors stage an attack on the Hilltop in the middle of the night (we will learn later as payback for collaborating with Alexandria). First comes that creepy whistle which is the calling card of the Saviors, and then, when Sasha looks out the window, she sees multiple fires, the gates wide open, and a car with music blaring, attracting every walker for miles. What’s more, the Saviors had the forethought to bolt all of the doors and windows of the trailers shut, thus preventing anyone from going outside. Noticing the small door through the roof, Sasha tells Maggie to stay put and escapes through the roof of the trailer to help with all the walkers. However, before you know it, Maggie is on the roof of their trailer too, giving orders and telling Jesus to get out there to help Sasha. The big problem is that car, and it’s absolutely imperative that they get that music shut off. But, all of the windows are covered with a metal grate, including one with a lock in the shape of a hand giving the finger. Oh, yes, those Saviors and their sense of humor!
But, no worries, because here comes Maggie to the rescue. In a move that is 100% genius, she drives out the Hilltop’s big tractor, and in less than a minute, that car is a flattened sheet of metal. At the same time, we see Gregory from his upstairs window, and even though his community is under attack, he does nothing and just backs away from the window. I think it’s pretty clear who truly cares about the Hilltop and who should be its leader.
Moving on to Sasha, she seems to be doing a little better than Maggie — well, at least until Jesus gives her something they found that belonged to Abraham. Jesus then gives Sasha a chain, and at first, I thought it was only the pendant that Rosita had made. However, upon looking closer, it really appears to have a diamond ring (engagement ring, perhaps?) on it as well. If this is the case, the big question is was it his dead wife’s ring or one that he had intended on giving to Sasha? With the big tears that well up in Sasha’s eyes when she sees it, my guess is the ring was likely for her — or she at least thinks it was. So, so sad.
Just like with Maggie, Gregory has absolutely no sympathy for Sasha either, and even goes so far as offering to have a private “one-on-one meeting” with Sasha to discuss the possibility of her staying at the Hilltop. Ugh! The guy is just terrible.
However, the good news is Gregory does finally get his, and as they say, Karma’s a bitch. After the Saviors initial attack on the Hilltop, they show up again the following day, but with Simon (Steven Ogg) acting as their “Negan.” As you may recall, the Hilltop interacted mostly with the Saviors at that one outpost we saw last season, and well, we know what Rick’s group did to them. So, Negan had to put together a new Hilltop team, and given how the last one ended up, he decides to have his very own right-hand man, Simon, lead this one. Getting back to the Hilltop, even after everything Gregory tries to do to cover his ass, Simon and the Saviors already know that the Hilltop is in cahoots with Alexandria, and it’s absolutely hilarious watching Gregory sweating bullets and about to piss his pants knowing Simon could off him at any moment.
We need to talk, and it’s getting a little claustrophobic in here, right? Let’s talk in your study. I want to see that painting — Simon to Gregory
Pondering over Gregory’s prized possession which is a painting in his study, Simon finally asks Gregory if there’s anything else he should know about. You can tell Gregory thinks on it for a moment, but ultimately, he decides “What the hell!” and betrays Maggie, Sasha, and even Jesus to put himself in a good light with the Saviors. His exact words to Simon, “Tell Negan I understand the benefits of crossing the aisle.”
When the Saviors arrived, Gregory ordered Jesus to put Maggie and Sasha “in a closet,” and that was understood to mean the closet in the front hallway downstairs. So, when Gregory and Simon emerge from the study and make their way to the closet, I’m sure all the fans gasped and thought this may be the end for Maggie and Sasha. However, Jesus knows Gregory pretty well, knew that he would likely throw Maggie and Sasha under the bus, and so, he puts them in Gregory’s bedroom closet instead. To top it off, he puts a case of Gregory’s finest scotch in the downstairs closet, and so, when Gregory opens it, Simon thinks the “big surprise” is a gift of his best booze. Also, after Gregory opens the door, if you look at Jesus, he actually shakes his head, shocked that their leader would sell out the 2 women who had saved them last night. Even though Gregory’s face looks as if he just lost his best friend as Simon takes the case and loads it on his truck, the gesture does get Simon off his back, and the Saviors then just proceed to take 1/2 of the Hilltop’s stuff. But, before that, Simon does one last thing to demonstrate to everyone who’s on top and in charge — he takes his new role as the Hilltop’s new “Negan” pretty seriously and forces Gregory to kneel. PRICELESS. Yes, Gregory, you just became Simon’s bitch!
Even though Gregory already had a day from hell, it was about to get worse. When Gregory confronts Jesus about the closet snafu, Maggie notices Glenn’s watch in Gregory’s pocket. And, with that, she punches the holy daylights out of Gregory. I think we all agree, very well-deserved. I mean, come on! What kind of low-life steals off of someone’s grave?
I’m not Marcia. Or Dear. Or Honey. My name is Maggie. Maggie Rhee! — Maggie to Gregory
Woo hoo! How much you wanna bet Gregory gets her name right from this point on? What’s more, Jesus finally steps up and does more than “just help,” as Sasha said he should, and basically tells Gregory off. Maggie’s staying. Sasha’s staying. And, he’s staying too, and so, basically Gregory had better just get used to it. Oh, yes, these are the first steps of kicking the blow-hard dictator to the curb.
CARL AND ENID SITTING IN A TREE, AND A DOUBLE SAVIOR TROJAN HORSE
Back at Alexandria, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) seems to have learned his lesson after Negan’s initial visit and recruits Aaron (Ross Marquand) to go on a supply run to make sure they’re not caught empty-handed when Negan and the Saviors return. Remember, Negan said if they didn’t have something “interesting” for them when he returns, then someone was going to meet Lucille. Rick also wants Carl (Chandler Riggs) to come along, but he has no interest at all and instead, just pouts and acts out (and practices playing darts. It definitely looks like Carl has a long way to getting his aim back after losing that eye). Michonne (Danai Gurira) also stays behind but not before she plants a nice, steamy one on her man before he leaves. I’m not a big fan of Richonne at all, but I guess the writers felt the need to throw the fans who are a bone.
And, what about Michonne saying she didn’t go with Rick because she “needs to figure some things out”? Just like Carl, I think deep inside she believes that this deal between Alexandria and Negan and the Saviors can’t possibly work, but what can she do? We know from last week’s episode that her taking out Negan in a sniper attack is definitely out of the question. Sorry, sister, you’re not an Andrea from the comics because you totally suck ass at that sniping shit!
In the meantime, Enid (Katelyn Nacon) is worried sick about Maggie and decides to make the long trip to the Hilltop to see her. Carl catches her climbing the wall, and it is here that they talk for the very first time about everything that has happened. Carl locking Enid in the Armory last season to prevent her from going with the group to take Maggie to the Hilltop. Glenn and Abraham being killed by Negan and Carl witnessing it. This is also the scene that was totally misinterpreted by someone who screened the episode and somehow took it to mean that Enid had been raped/sexually assaulted by the Saviors TWICE, with Carl being forced to watch. WTF?! How someone could arrive at that conclusion, heaven only knows!
I’m not saving you anymore — Carl
Is that what happened in the Armory? You saved me? — Enid
Yeah — Carl
You made it back in one piece. You’re still here — Enid
I’m not talking about that — Carl
I’m sorry you had to see it — Enid
I’m not — Carl
Well, eventually Carl does have a change of heart. Not necessarily to “save” Enid per se but to go along with her to the Hilltop as part of a plan to exact revenge on the Saviors. Stay tuned on that one.
As Carl says himself, it’s a long walk to the Hilltop, and since he crashes the car he had to save Enid from walkers, they are forced to make the trip on foot, which means lots of alone time. There have been lots of speculation since last season that Enid would ultimately become the “new Sophia” from the comics. Just take a look on social media because it’s everywhere. In the source material, Sophia never dies, and Carl and Sophia eventually become a couple. Well, in a series of very cheesy (but sweet!) scenes, Carl finds 2 pair of roller skates, and he and Enid end up roller-skating to the Hilltop hand-in-hand, with the trip ending with a kiss. So, for all the fans, I think you just got your answer.
The episode ends with another big cliffhanger, but one that I’m sure the comic-book fans will absolutely love. One of the things I love about Negan is the complexity of the character. He’s not just “evil” so to speak and far from being simple and predictable. He has a code, and among other things, admires and respects courage and bravery. In the comics, Carl demonstrates he’s not afraid of the “boogeyman” Negan, and because of that, Negan comes to actually like the kid. It’s a very interesting and unusual relationship, and given the ending of tonight’s episode, it appears the writers decided to bring the arc to the small screen. After Carl refuses to stay behind at the Hilltop with Enid, he sneaks into the back of one of the Saviors’ truck. But, in a surprising twist, he finds he’s not alone. Sasha had asked Jesus earlier if he could find out where Negan lives (with obvious plans to take him out herself, or die trying), and so, Jesus ends up pulling a Carl Grimes and stows-away in the back of that same truck — actually the “Negan” truck, since it’s the one that had the case of scotch on it. Oh boy. When Simon and those guys finally get back to the Sanctuary, they are definitely in for a big surprise.
All in all, another great episode, and one that fans have been anticipating since the beginning of the season. I love how we finally got a closer look at Jesus and the kind of man he truly is. He’s definitely more than the unruly thief Rick and Daryl met on the road last season, and Tom Payne does an impeccable job depicting this and bringing the character to life from the pages of the comics. Besides Tom Payne’s performance, I was also very impressed with Steven Ogg‘s portrayal of Simon AKA “Negan-lite.” This character isn’t in the comics, and so, it has been really hard to gauge exactly what to expect. However, with Simon having a central part in tonight’s episode, it’s obvious the writers have plans for the character, and I must admit I’m pretty excited about the possibility. He’s intense, he’s scarier than hell, and he approaches his “job” as Negan’s 2nd-in-command like it’s a reality show, making him a very memorable character and one that you can’t help but like…even if only a little bit. That means Steven Ogg is doing his job, and the amazing part is Ogg had limited acting experience prior to being cast on The Walking Dead. Much like Josh McDermitt and Khary Payton, Ogg’s resume is fairly short, but obviously someone saw something that screamed his being perfect for the role. Well, whoever it was, all I can say is kudos and plaudits on the casting choice.
The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
Critic Grade — A-
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com