I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m seriously pumped after last week’s episode of The Walking Dead. Rick is back to his old self (well, at least almost), is ready to fight the Saviors, and what’s more, we have a new community. To make it even better, this new junkyard group isn’t in the comics and so, throws a huge unknown into the mix as our heroes gear up for All Out War. This week, we get a closer look at this strange new group, while elsewhere, others grow tired of waiting for a unified front and take matters into their own hands.
A NEW ALLIANCE — BUT CAN THEY BE TRUSTED?
So, first things first, what about this (very large) junko group? Up until now, we had only a breadcrumb trail of clues, but this week, we learn a lot more. Very reminiscent of Mad Max, the group’s leader is named Jadis (guest-star Pollyanna McIntosh), and so, if these people turn out to be bad, that means she will dethrone Alpha from the comics as the first female villain in the television series. They appear to be a tight-knit group and according to Jadis, have been at the same location since the beginning of the outbreak. As we may recall from the ending of last week’s episode, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) smiles when he sees the staggering size of their numbers and believes he can convince them to join forces with Alexandria to fight the Saviors. Unfortunately, I think Rick may have been a tad bit overconfident because Jadis flat out says “No.” Her bluntness is actually almost comical.
Are you a collective or does 1 lead? We own your lives. Do you want to buy them back? — Jadis
The Saviors own our lives. And, if you kill us, you’ll be taking something from them. And, they will come looking. You have only 2 options when it comes to the Saviors. Either they kill you, or they own you. But, there is a way out — join us. Join us in fighting them — Rick
Uh, no — Jadis
But, that’s when Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) steps in and pretty much becomes the MVP of the episode. Not only does he help Rick and Co. gain the upper hand in a fight that breaks out between the two groups by grabbing Jadis’ 2nd-in-command, Tamiel, and threatening to kill her, but he also makes a very convincing argument of why Jadis should at least hear Rick out and allow him to prove himself. I personally am loving how they have developed Gabe’s character, as he has become a total bad-ass and won’t even hold back killing somebody if it’s warranted and for the better of the group. Anyways, Jadis ultimately decides to give Rick his 15 minutes thanks to Father Gabriel. Unfortunately for Rick, those turn out to be 15 very intense, very painful, and very bloody minutes, which includes Rick being forced to fight a walker named “Winslow” who’s covered in spikes and armor.
In last week’s episode, Greg Nicotero most definitely out-did himself with perhaps the coolest walker scene in the entire series thus far, and this week, the show follows up with one of the most original walkers since the well walker back in season 2. Rick is pitted against this walker “Winslow,” and the rules are simple — he simply has to find a way to make it out of the pit alive. Unfortunately, at first, Rick doesn’t fair well at all. He grabs a computer keyboard from the garbage heap and smashes against Winslow’s head but with virtually no impact. Then, he tries to use his bare hands to push Winslow back, and for that, he gets a spike straight through his hand (Ouch!!!!). The good news is Rick has people on his team who are quite smart, which includes Michonne (Danai Gurira). Michonne yells “The wall. Use them!!,” and at that moment, we realize she just gave him the key to winning the fight. So, Rick pulls down multiple bags of garbage, and after Winslow is finally pinned on the ground, he grabs a broken piece of glass and severs his head.
Not bad. Not bad indeed. At first, there is dead silence, but eventually, Jadis throws a rope down for Rick to pull himself up. After a cutthroat game of negotiation, Rick and Jadis finally agree to form an alliance to fight the Saviors — but on a couple of conditions. First, Rick has to provide them with guns, a lot of them, and very soon. That, in itself, is going to be problematic since they currently have only two. They also have to allow the Heapsters to keep 1/2 of the goods from the houseboat. Oh, and Rick takes a cat sculpture and gives it to Michonne, replacing the one she found (and eventually lost) in season 3…. awwww, sweet. So, this is good, right? Rick knows they need the numbers if they have any hope of defeating the Saviors, but the question is can these people really be trusted? What’s more, do we know if they can even fight? I don’t know about everyone else, but I was somewhat alarmed when Jadis said they had waited a long time for someone to come along and retrieve the supplies on that houseboat. They didn’t even try to do it themselves and just waited for someone else to do all the work!. But, more importantly, Jadis’ motto is “We take. We don’t bother,” and if you think about, there’s another very bad group we know who has the same philosophy. Bottom line — I highly recommend Rick keeping one eye open at all times when they’re around these people.
ONE BROKEN ALLIANCE AND ONE TEARFUL REUNION
Elsewhere, while Rick is fighting to create new alliances, others decide on their own that it’s time to act. Richard, for instance. Up until now, I actually liked the guy, and I even agreed with him that The Kingdom needs to step up and help take Negan and the Saviors out. However, after watching this episode, all I see now is a very angry man with a black heart who is willing to do anything to blot out the Saviors, even if that means getting innocent people killed.
It all begins in the opening scene where Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Richard, Morgan (Lennie James) and other members of The Kingdom meet up with the Saviors for a scheduled drop. The same jerk who went head-to-head with Richard earlier in the season shows his ass once again and decides he wants Richard’s gun. Just like that, he wants it. Now, most people would put up a fight, but with Ezekiel trying to keep peace, he turns the other cheek.
Hand him your weapon, Richard — King Ezekiel
With that and how angry Richard has been lately, you just know things are about to go sideways. And, they do and very quickly. Richard mouths off, and when the Savior tries to throw a punch, Morgan uses his stick to stop him. Oh crap. The Savior then takes Morgan’s stick, beats the crap out of Richard (and even gives Morgan a pretty good blow to the head), and to top it off, refuses to give Morgan his stick back. Of course, Morgan is visibly upset seeing how Eastman gave him that stick, but still refuses to do anything. What’s more, the other Savior, Gavin, gives Ezekiel a pretty stern warning. Richard **will** continue to attend the meetings, and this **will** stop. Otherwise, Richard “may be batting first on the line-up,” and I think we all know what that means. So, the Saviors win once again, and Richard and Morgan are left beaten and with their tails between their legs.
After the humiliating beatdown in front of Ezekiel and the rest of his men in that opening scene, Richard hatches a plot to kill small pockets of Saviors passing along the main road, and with an offer of a new crossbow, he’s also able to recruit Daryl (Norman Reedus). At first, Daryl is completely on-board. After Glenn and Abraham and also after what they put him through at The Sanctuary, he’s itching just as much to wipe out these assholes, and so, I think Daryl probably would have listened to just about any half-ass plan as long as it meant dead Saviors. However, that quickly changes after he hears all of Richard’s plan. To prevent the Saviors from tracing the attacks back to him and The Kingdom, Richard sets up an “escape goat” of someone Ezekiel cares about to take the fall if they’re caught. I.E. — Richard’s basically gas-lighting Ezekiel, and as an added bonus, some Saviors will die as well. But when Daryl hears who this escape goat is, all bets are off. Yes, everyone, that jerk-off, Richard, made a trail from his trailer to Carol’s little house, and so, if they’re discovered, the Saviors will show up on Carol’s doorstep. Uh, oh!!! Yes, you guessed it! Daryl completely goes Rambo on the guy, and so, there’s Richard with his 2nd beatdown of the day.
If she gets hurt, if she dies, if she catches a fever, if she’s taken out by a walker, if she’s hit by lightening, anything happens to her, I’ll kill you — Daryl to Richard
Of course, as an upside to all of this, Daryl now knows Carol is still close-by, visits her, and all the Caryl shippers out there finally get the big, tearful reunion they’ve been anticipating since the end of last season. Next to the Rick vs. Winslow fight scene at the junkyard, this is by far one of the best scenes of the episode and just like past episodes, Melissa McBride hits it out of the park once again (can we PLEASE get the woman an Emmy nomination, please?!). She invites Daryl to dinner, and of course, the topic of the Saviors comes up. Carol wants to know what happened after she left, whether the Saviors came. And, most importantly, she wants to know if everyone’s OK. By this time, she’s crying pretty hard. For a moment, just dead silence. Daryl then sighs, and just when you think he’s about to spill all the horrors they’ve endured at the hands of the Saviors — Abraham, Glenn, Spencer, Olivia, everything — he doesn’t do it. He flat-out lies.
Yes, the Saviors came, and we made a deal with them just like Ezekiel. Everybody’s fine — Daryl to Carol
Carol then smiles, and it’s obvious she’s relieved. It’s also pretty obvious why Daryl did what he did. Carol said that she left because if the Saviors came and they hurt people, she would have no choice but to hurt them. And, she couldn’t do that because then, nothing would be left of her. Basically, Daryl lies as an act of mercy. The entire scene has a happy ending, with Daryl giving Carol a long hug before going on his way. The Caryl fans should be very happy.
After leaving Carol’s house, Daryl then makes a stop to see Shiva and seems pretty fond of her. Shiva seems pretty fond of him as well and even allows Daryl to pet her. Morgan then shows up, and just like earlier in the episode, the animosity between the 2 men remains. Morgan tries to find some common ground, some way for them to see eye-to-eye, but I’m afraid it’s just not in the cards.
You’re the same as me, Daryl, because you didn’t tell Carol what happened. You didn’t because she’d be here otherwise. And, I’m glad about that — Morgan to Daryl
Daryl basically sees it as a load of bull, and the episode ends with Daryl saying to hell with the Kingdom and leaving to go to the Hilltop to get ready to fight. Yes, everyone, that’s a call to war, but given Daryl’s rough start at The Kingdom and with Richard and Morgan, I’m not sure how they will ultimately fit into it all.
REMEMBER OCEANSIDE? HERE MARKS THE BEGINNING OF TARA’S INNER CONFLICT
Finally, remember Oceanside? We haven’t heard from them since that single bottle episode earlier in the season, but one scene this Sunday should definitely remind us of the group. In the final moments of the episode, Rick says it’s imperative that they find some guns and very soon, and mentions to Tara (Alanna Masterson) that since she’s been further out than anyone else in the group, perhaps she can tell them where not to look. She just laughs off the comment, but judging from the look on her face, you can tell she’s conflicted, and she’s worried. It doesn’t help that Rosita (Christian Serratos) goes off on Tara much like she did Sasha last week. As I had said in my review of the Oceanside episode, that group I’m sure will become very important later on down the road. And, given Rick’s desperation and their dire need for guns and ammo, I think we all have a pretty idea where this is all going.
All in all, I thought this was another fantastic episode that exemplified the method of storytelling and pace that has made the show such a big hit over the past 7 years. Our heroes are back at front-and-center, they’re gearing up for war, and Rick is back to the Rick Grimes that fans have grown to love. What’s more, we have a new community and to make it even better, this group isn’t in the comics which is great since it throws a wrench into what all of the comic-book readers (myself included!) thought was going to happen in 7B and going into season 8. The series just got its first big “?” in a really long time, and I love it. The only real complaint I have about the episode is related to some of the special effects. Did anyone else think that shot of Rick overlooking the garbage heaps looked like something a 6th grader would put together for his video class? I mean, come on, the special effects team have done a bang-up job making Shiva look amazingly like the real deal, and after all that, they couldn’t make the junkyard background appear realistic? Hell, why couldn’t they just shoot the scene from a real junkyard with giant heaps of trash? We all know the show films at several locations, and so, I wouldn’t think it would be that difficult to do. Regardless, I thought that overall scene looked cheap and tacky.
Even so, the episode is still top-notch and earns a solid “A” rating. If long-time fans were doubting whether the series could get back on track to where it once was and what made it a global fan-favorite, I think these past 2 episodes should alleviate those fears.
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