You know, when Negan threw his only doctor into the furnace in episode 7.11 “Hostiles and Calamities,” I thought that was one of the stupidest things any character has every done on the show, which was very disappointing because Negan is smarter than that. He’s one of my favorite characters in both the comics and the television series, but I tell you, I cut loose more than a few F-bombs when he lost control and pulled that stunt. However, I also had an “Oh crap!” moment and immediately thought of that other Dr. Carson at the Hilltop. “Yep, that son-of-a-bitch is going to go to the Hilltop and take Dr. Carson #2,” I thought, and sure enough, that’s exactly what happens in tonight’s episode.
THE SAVIORS COME AND THEY TAKE AND GREGORY MAKES A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL
The last time we visited the Hilltop, Rosita (Christian Serratos) abruptly showed up and forged a suicide pact with Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) to take out Negan for killing their beloved Abraham. The opening sequence of the episode actually is a montage of events leading up to that scene, which isn’t made clear until we see Rosita walking through the gate. It begins with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) scanning the Hilltop activities, smiling and then settling on something — the blacksmith area. We then see everyone practicing throwing knives just outside the gates at some trees. Enid is with them, and Maggie practices knife-throwing moves with everyone mimicking her. Sasha doesn’t join her and instead is alone, sharpening her knife. She’s visibly distraught, and we can’t be sure why. Missing Abraham or perhaps knowing that if she succeeds in her plan, she will likely die?
The scene then cuts to Jesus’ (Tom Payne) trailer where Maggie works diligently on emergency exits, obtaining scrap metal and getting more horses — things a city planner might do — as Enid (Katelyn Nacon) brings her some snacks and hangs with her as her gofer of sorts. At the same time, Sasha is secretly working on a crude map of the Sanctuary jotting notes from what Jesus had reported back. As Maggie falls asleep at her work table, Jesus quietly hands Sasha a folded piece of paper. She opens it and it’s a very detailed layout of the Sanctuary. Sasha is grateful to get it, but also notices that Enid is watching. Uh, oh, busted! Oh, yes, given the look on Enid’s face, something tells me she has a pretty good idea of what’s going on and what Sasha is planning.
Later, we see Daryl (Norman Reedus) camping out under a tree and assembling his arrows, while Maggie, Sasha, Enid and Jesus are in the trailer with the grill going out back. Maggie comes out to get some grilled veggies, and Daryl tries to hide in the shadows. Maggie spots him, comes over and sets down the plate of veggies in front of him, gives him a sisterly pat on the shoulder, and walks back to the trailer without saying a word. Just before she goes back inside, Daryl sees her wiping her eyes and composing herself. That weighs on Daryl. The following day, Gregory (Xander Berkeley) is peering out the window watching a group of Hilltoppers at the front gates with Maggie, talking. He pours some scotch, then looks out the window again and they’re gone. Stressing much over Maggie’s growing leadership at the Hilltop, Gregory? Oh, yes, you should be! He finishes the bottle of scotch and slumps back in his chair. Cameras then pan to the window to show Rosita walking through the gate. Rosita goes to see Sasha at Abe’s grave just like the final scene of 7.12, and it is then that we realize everything prior was before Rosita arriving at the Hilltop.
Once the credits roll and the episode actually begins, we then see Jesus and Maggie talking outside the trailer, and while the conversation is fairly brief, it’s actually more significant than you may initially think. First, it is finally revealed, albeit if only indirectly, what a good deal of the fandom was suspecting — that Jesus is gay.
I grew up with a lot of people around, and so, I’m used to it — Jesus
Big family? — Maggie
Group home. This isn’t like that, though. For the first time, I feel like I belong. When I was first here, I was never here. I always found it hard getting close to anyone. Neighbors, friends, boyfriends — Jesus
You should try it sometime. Even if it doesn’t last — Maggie
If you’re a comic-book reader like myself, you know that Jesus is gay in the source material, and it wasn’t really clear if the writers were going to retain that in the television series. This is especially true given how they have re-mixed so many of the other characters — like making Dr. Cloyd a lesbian, for example. However, now, I think we have our answer, and the only question is who will Jesus be ultimately paired up with. It’s Aaron in the comics, but given that Eric is still very much alive, we’ll have to wait and see.
So, besides the big Jesus reveal, this conversation is actually pretty important for another reason, and this one is somewhat subtle. While Jesus and Maggie are talking, Sasha approaches the other side of the trailer and hears most of the conversation. It’s becoming pretty clear to everyone, including Sasha, that Maggie is destined to become the leader of the Hilltop, and with each passing day, she’s getting closer to everyone, and people trust and respect her. After Glenn and Abraham had been killed, Sasha and Maggie came to the Hilltop together, but since then, they’ve grown apart. Everybody needs Maggie, and nobody really seems to notice Sasha anymore. That being said, when Rosita approached her with the plan to kill Negan, all of a sudden Sasha had purpose once again. So, while Sasha’s swiftness in agreeing to help Rosita may have seemed confusing and downright rash, I think these scenes really put it all in perspective and explains her actions quite well.
As I had mentioned, I suspected Negan had already decided to take the Hilltop’s doctor the very moment he pushed his own doc to a fiery death in 7.11 “Hostiles and Calamities.” Of course, Negan doesn’t actually do it and instead sends his sidekick, Simon (Steven Ogg), to do his dirty work just like he always does. So, while Enid is preparing to rat Sasha out to Maggie, she doesn’t get the chance because she’s interrupted with an announcement that the Saviors are coming. Uh, oh, here we go! When Simon and his goons arrive at the Hilltop, they announce they will be taking someone back to the Sanctuary and immediately ask to see Dr. Carson (R. Keith Harris). “Why do you need 2 doctors at the Sanctuary?” Dr. Carson asks when he realizes they’re taking him with them, and Simon responds very bluntly “We don’t.” Ta-dum!! It is also here that we learn the 2 Dr. Carson’s are actually brothers just like in the comics because the Hilltop Dr. Carson asks what his brother did and theorizes he probably pissed somebody off and got himself killed. So, the Hilltop is losing their doctor, but no worries, because Simon does bring something to offer as a “fair exchange.” It’s in a huge crate, and I swear, at first, I thought the very dead and very crispy Dr. Carson #1 was in there. But, nope, instead it’s full of literally hundreds of bottles of aspirin. That Simon and his damn sense of humor!
While Gregory is visibly stressed that the Saviors are taking his doctor, he ultimately decides to try and take advantage of the current situation and turn it around to his own benefit — not too surprising considering he’s a spineless prick. I’ve always felt that Simon and Gregory have a great rapport and a very strange, inexplicable “chemistry”, and so, it’s no surprise that I count these scenes among the best in tonight’s episode. We all know Gregory doesn’t like Maggie AKA “Margaret,” and it’s pretty clear from that opening sequence that he’s feeling increasingly threatened by her leadership over his people and their now looking at Maggie for guidance. That’s a role that Gregory used to fill, and he wants it back. So, he pulls Simon aside and hints that there are some people who may want to take over the Hilltop and they may not be as “cooperative” as he’s been. Of course, Simon wants to know who, but Gregory doesn’t tell — at least not yet. Even so, Simon makes clear that if Gregory has any problems, he’s there to help.
If you’re having problems of that nature, come to see me. Anytime — Simon
I don’t know where to go — Gregory
I’ll arrange it so that you just tell the guard who you are, and he’ll let you right in. As long as there’s not any shenanigans afoot. Yeah, we’ll crack open some Tequila. We’ll talk. We’ll work it out — Simon
Yes, everyone, you’re not crazy if you’re thinking this may be Gregory’s first step in attempting to get Maggie killed by the Saviors. Or perhaps Jesus as well? Gregory has seen how close Jesus has grown to Maggie, and we know that Jesus is all for Maggie eventually replacing Gregory as leader of the Hilltop. It also doesn’t help that Gregory actually goes so far as to threaten Jesus after the Saviors leave. We’ve all been hearing humors of a “betrayal” by the end of the season, and the last I checked the tallies, most people seem to be banking on it being Eugene. However, after this scene, I’m not so sure anymore. Will Gregory betray the Hilltop and throw Maggie and Jesus to the wolves in a lame attempt to regain his power? I guess we’ll find out fairly soon, but I definitely wouldn’t put it past him.
So, while Simon and Co. are busy gathering up Dr. Carson, Maggie and Daryl hide in the cellar, thanks to Enid’s quick thinking. Even still, a single asshole Savior finds his way to the cellar, and even with Enid working tirelessly to create a diversion, he’s hell-bent on checking it out. This guy is a real piece of work too. He’s extremely rude to Enid, and he forces her to hand over her knife likely just to show the weak girl who’s the boss. Oh, yeah, a real tough guy. After the prick finally moves on, Maggie and Daryl do get the chance to talk about Glenn’s death and Daryl’s overwhelming guilt. It’s a hell of a tear-jerker scene, and so, be sure to have those tissues ready! So, while Daryl is very down on himself, Maggie has the perfect response and demonstrates what a great leader she eventually is going to be. She tells him that they need to win and then, says “Please help me win, Daryl.” Now, that’s a language Daryl can understand. Ever since he escaped from the Sanctuary, Daryl’s been bouncing around from one community to the next, trying to find his place, trying to find his purpose. Well, I think Maggie just gave Daryl that purpose. She then hugs him, and something tells me everything’s going to be OK between those 2.
A HALF-BAKED ATTACK ON THE SANCTUARY GOES BAD
Elsewhere, once the Saviors arrive at the Hilltop, Sasha and Rosita put in motion their plan to take out Negan and make their way to the Sanctuary. Keep in mind that Sasha had told Jesus earlier that she was still planning and getting ready, and the Saviors’ surprise visit appears to have moved up her schedule. Lack of planning? Hastiness? Yeah, this is the first hint that this scheme to kill Negan is probably going to go sideways and turn into a real shit-show. The trip starts out pretty bumpy with Rosita wanting to go into the Sanctuary, guns-a-blazing, while Sasha thinks taking the shot from a distance is the better approach. Sasha’s reasoning is simple — a sniper attack would at least give them the chance to get out alive, and if they miss, so what. They’ll re-group and try again. But Rosita argues if they miss, they won’t get another chance (although she doesn’t really explain why not). And, of course, Sasha fires back and assures her she won’t miss. The conversation gets even more tense with Rosita noticing Abraham’s necklace around Sasha’s neck (oh snap!!), and with the look on Rosita’s face, I really thought Sasha was done for. Regardless, Sasha ultimately wins the argument, and so, they begin looking for a location to lay-in-wait for Negan to appear.
Sasha remembers Jesus talking about some buildings near the Sanctuary that have several floors in them, and the pair finally decides to set up camp there. They situate themselves so they’ll have a good shot at the back lot, roll out the maps, supplies and guns, and start to get ready. As they scope everything out, they see Eugene, and what is said next really lightens the mood and makes way for the 2 women to finally sit down and have that long-overdue talk.
It looks like he’s ordering people around — Sasha (referring to Eugene)
Oh yeah, playing some angle — Rosita
With the atmosphere now much more relaxed, the 2 finally begin acting civilized, and during these conversations, we discover a great deal about Rosita — particularly where she learned some of her valuable skills. And, contrary to what you may think, she didn’t get them from Abraham nor Eugene! A survivalist named Johnny taught her about bombs. Markus taught her about cars, as he was a mechanic. And, knot-tying was from Chase. At the end of it, Sasha seems thoroughly impressed and even comments on how Alexandria and everyone else needs her — something that Father Gabriel also said a few weeks back. Make a note of that because as it turns out, this becomes very important and has a tremendous impact on some of the decisions Sasha makes later in the episode.
Anyways, as the conversation progresses, Sasha becomes more curious, obviously wondering about Abe. Rosita admits it was different with Abraham, and unlike all the others, she fell in love with him. Rosita also admits that she thought she hated Sasha when Abe first dumped her, but she finally realized it was just because Abe figured out his shit first.
Now, I’ll never get to tell Abraham that I was happy he was happy — Rosita to Sasha
It’s an extremely emotional scene, with Rosita tearing up and everything. With the air now clear, Rosita believes she and Sasha could be friends. Sasha says they **are** friends, and she has her back. Rosita reciprocates. Oh, yes, Rosasha just went canon, and they’re now BFF’s! The ovary juice is definitely flowing tonight! While some may say that’s great and it’s exactly what was needed if they want to do this mission together, my heart actually sank. Why? Because they’re friends now, everything’s peachy, and so, obviously, one (or both!) of them is going to die.
But, no time for wishy-washy stuff because Sasha and Rosita then hear voices on their long-range radio, and they see Negan come out and greet Dr. Carson and Simon as they arrive back from the Hilltop. Negan is hugging on Dr. C, and Sasha can’t get a clear shot. They try to listen in on the radio to see if they can hear anything, but unfortunately, nada. Then, they hear Eugene over the radio asking for help in finding more dead ones for the fences. Plus, Negan will be tied up with his wives, so everyone should direct all questions to him. Rosita and Sasha realize this means there will be Saviors coming out hunting for new walkers, and also, they now know where Negan is going to be. So change of plans — they’re going in.
That’s when things get hairy and everything starts to fall apart. Remember what I said about planning? Yeah, if more forethought had been put into this attack, it may have actually worked, but instead, Sasha and Rosita are forced to resort to flying by the seat of their pants. Their first mistake is trying to rescue Eugene (Josh McDermitt). He’s along the fence, explaining to the night watchman about the walkers when the guy is shot in the head, and Rosita and Sasha appear. They tell him they’ve come to rescue him, and most people would be beyond thrilled. But, oh, no, not Eugene. Instead, he just starts crying and says, “No. I didn’t ask anyone to come here and rescue me,” and then, he goes back into the Sanctuary. Dammit, Eugene! Loving that power in his new position a little too much? Stockholm syndrome? Or, perhaps “playing an angle,” just like Rosita said? God, I hope it’s one of the latter, because I would absolutely hate Eugene going to the dark side! Of course, Rosita is pretty pissed, but they keep going and proceed to cut through the fence. Sasha then goes through, and in a surprising (well, for some, surprising — not me, though) turn of events, she then bolts the fence back together, thus preventing Rosita from following.
Go. It’s not your time. There’s got to be a point to it, right? They need you — Sasha to Rosita
I don’t know about everyone else, but after the 2 women’s girl-bonding session and Sasha’s comment about Alexandria needing Rosita, I **knew** this was coming. What’s more, as the scene was playing out, I couldn’t help but to think back to Abraham asking Sasha last season whether she wanted to die. She did want to die for a while after losing Tyreese and Bob, but Abraham was able to pull her back from the ledge. And, for a time, Sasha was actually happy. However, Abraham is gone now, and so, in the end, I guess Sasha is going to get what she wanted all along.
Anyways, what did I tell you? I real shit-show, right? Without a doubt, but there is one good thing that happens in the final moment of the episode that, for the fans who are familiar with the comics, provides a glimmer of hope. As Rosita is running from the Sanctuary, she stops and begins to cry. Then, she turns around when she realizes she’s being watched by a figure in the shadows — and this figure is carrying a crossbow! Could it be Daryl?? I really think the writers set it up to make the viewers think that, especially given Daryl is the one who realizes Rosita and Sasha are missing from the Hilltop. It would stand to reason that he might go looking for them. However, there is one more possibility — Dwight. He’s the only other character with a crossbow, and we didn’t see him at the Sanctuary. Plus, in the comics, Dwight does eventually defect and betrays Negan. Is this going to be the beginning of Dwight turning to the other side? The season finale is just 2 weeks away, and I have a feeling we’re going to find out by then.
All in all, I thought this was a solid episode — perhaps not quite on the same level as last week’s stellar “Bury Me Here,” but still very good. Not a lot of action, but definitely a great deal of scheming, plotting, and backstabbing that I’m sure is laying the foundation for what I expect to be an epic finale in 2 weeks. Nevertheless, I know, there will be naysayers who will believe the episode is slow, but in my opinion, that makes very little sense to me. I mean, what do people expect? For Negan to Lucille Glenn and Abraham in the premiere, and for All Out War to be over and done in 2 or 3 episodes? Now, that wouldn’t be interesting, nor would it be believable, and not to mention, you’d burn through the comic-book material so fast that you’d be out of source material very soon. And, then The Walking Dead would be done. No, seriously, let’s be realistic. Preparations have to be made. Supplies and weapons gathered. Alliances formed. All of this takes time. Finally, one of the things that I believe will make this episode so memorable is that very last scene. They purposely make it virtually impossible to know for sure who the shadow figure with the crossbow is, but who the person is and what it may mean I’m certain will be the buzz around the watercooler until next Sunday rolls around again.
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