Finally an episode that remembered different storylines can be featured in the same hour and a half. While we thankfully returned to the world of competent storytelling, we were still met with a pretty weak episode. You'd think after introducing a brutal new villain and two new societies, we could get some sense of variety. Nope—Daryl's gonna Daryl, Negan's gonna Negan, Jesus's gonna ninja, and everything remains the same.
With shows that follow the weekly format, the audience usually forgets the filler episodes with time, remembering only the crazy scenes rather than the 8 hours of setup it took to get there. So, TWD … I'ma let you finish—but you better bring your A-game next week or people just might not return after the break.
Ach, who are we kidding? What the hell else are we going to watch?
From displays of dominance to faction elimination, a look at which characters saw their prospects rise this week
Adam Wagner: Michonne
Over the past few seasons, Michonne has seemed to find a sense of community and happiness in Alexandria, sleeping (in) with Rick and playing her part in the group. But that’s not the Michonne we were introduced to in Season 3. She’s a nomadic badass with a blade, and this episode showed her returning to her roots and getting shit done. It seems our group is fractured over what to do with Negan, and if anyone has a chance at taking him down one-on-one, I put my money on Michonne.
After all, she seems to have trouble with authority (see also: The Governor) and Negan fancies himself the Boss.
Pritpaul Bains: Father Figure Negan
I'm getting kind of tired of assigning Negan this rank basically by default every other week, but I'd say he legitimately earned it last night. Between asserting psychological dominance over Carl, ironing the wrinkles back *into* Mark's face, and tormenting poor Fat Joseph, Dwight, and Olivia within a span of minutes, Negan was at his psychotic best.
While it's understandable that TWD insists on force-feeding Negan screentime (and I almost can't believe I'm writing this), the more we see of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the less compelling the character becomes to watch. Negan's one-note persona is best administered in small doses, and his dialogue and reactions are becoming dangerously predictable.
Joe Brosnan: Daryl
Sometimes our risers find themselves in this position due to their cunning and skills (see: Negan, Ezekiel), but that’s not the case today. Daryl is this week’s riser simply because he got lucky. First, in waltzes Carl, a timely reminder of exactly what he needs to hold on and fight for. And then later on, he’s spoon-fed a Get Out of Jail Free card while Negan and company are out of town. I figured it was inevitable that Daryl would leave The Sanctuary, but to have him escape so soon without any true repercussions would make this seem like a big waste of time.
Hey, maybe that’s the theme of this year’s season!
From poor decisions to lost lives, a look at which characters lost ground this week.
It was quick, but there was one throwaway line from Negan that made me feel as if he’s getting a bit too cocky and comfortable. He tells Carl that soon Daryl will be one of his best soldiers and that even Rick and his group are following orders, but their actions this week contradict that entirely. Michonne is on her own path towards Negan. Reconnaissance Jesus has successfully scoped out The Sanctuary and is now truck-surfing his way back home. Sasha and Maggie are planning a combined attack with the Hilltop. Rosita really wants one bullet. And Rick and Aaron seem to have found Negan’s sixth horcrux.
I wouldn’t get too comfy Negan. Rick’s coming for you soon, and neither can live while the other survives.
Karaoke Carl failed to do the one thing he set out to last week—kill Negan. Despite having an assault rifle in his hands and a clear enough shot at Negan, he only managed to take out two randos from Negan’s gang before being ambushed and having his gun taken from him. Then, he’s left holding Lucille while Negan is alone (save for Judith—who needs to grow up to the violence of this world sometime) with his back turned, and he does nothing.
I swear, for a kid who seemed so hell bent on only killing Negan, he sure squandered several opportunities to be the hero. Now, his gaping eyehole is creeping everybody out and he’s going to have to explain why Negan is hanging out on his porch, drinking lemonade, and holding Judith.
PB: Definitely Carl
Let me be clear on this. Carl isn't earning this because he got caught, and spent the entire episode being psychologically broken down by Negan. He earned this by being stunningly, incomprehensibly dumb. What was your plan, exactly, Carl? What was your end game? Was this a suicide mission?
Taking out Negan is a stupid, shortsighted plan, but at least it's a plan. The complete inability to create contingencies or assess other outcomes … that's on you, Carl.
Although you do belt out a pretty tune. Carl singing “You Are My Sunshine” in Negan's living room gave me flashbacks to Pippin singing for Denethor in the halls of Minas Tirith as Faramir charged to imminent doom … except for the fact that Carl didn't earn even a fraction of the pathos that Pippin did.
Honorable Mention to Rosita for joining Carl in the “fucking idiot” department this week and acting like her single bullet will somehow do … anything.
A tribute to the late, great Hershel Greene, this section searches for the best displays of humanity amidst chaos this week.
Olivia went from Who? to Fuck You! in no time. After being fat-shamed and sexually harrassed by Negan, Olivia showed him what the 5 fingers say to the face—and got 50% hotter while she was at it.
It seems like so long ago that we were here hating Father Gabriel, and now he’s taken the baton from Abraham as our resident shit-talker. Watching him call out lax-bro Spencer was enjoyable, and not only because it proved that this show is in fact capable of juggling multiple storylines.
In an episode where everyone seemed to be on their own trail of vengeance or just straight up mean, Eugene analyzed the situation from top to bottom and just wanted to make sure no one else had to die. While he isn’t definitively trying to stop Rosita from trying to take down Negan, he understands what’s at stake. Violence isn’t always the answer, especially when you’re hot with vengeful anger. That’s how you get people killed (looking at you Daryl and maybe Carl). Winning a battle takes strategy and the bravery/skills of a few—not one or the other. Eugene knows that, and he takes the verbal lashing from Rosita without rebuttal to really drive home his sincerity.
- Pancake Jesus is “making a trail.” (AW)
- Show-me-first Jesus really knows how to “roll with it.” (AW)
- Disappearing Jesus will also return on a Sunday. (AW)
- Sneaky Jesus probably left Daryl that note. (AW)
- Ninja Jesus status update: still ninja. (PB)
- Carl status update: still a fucking idiot. (PB)
- I really wish Carl started singing “Easy Street.” (JB)
- Negan and Carl were fantastic together. I wish we could have spent more time hanging out with just the two of them. (JB)
- Smart move by the writers to humanize Negan a bit after he sees Carl’s eye wound. If Negan’s going to stick around for a while, he needs to have some moments like this. (JB)
- Whistle me timbers! Was Michonne channeling her inner Omar Little? (AW)
- RIP Mark's face. (PB)
- I said TWD should take notes, not pass them. (AW)
- Is the title of this episode *supposed* to remind us of Outlander's theme song? Somehow, I doubt it. (PB)
- Since when does a zombie die from losing its arms? I totally thought Spencer was going to get surprise-bit as he looted the bloated zombie’s pockets. (AW)
- Oh, great! Finally an episode in which it looks like actual things will happen to move the plot forward! And—wait, 90 minutes again? Fuck you, TWD. (PB)
- Spencer's black jacket and slightly heavier 5 o'clock shadow are clearly marking his transition into Dark Spencer, aka low-rent James Marsden. (PB)
- “If you do anything to him…” You'll do what, exactly, Daryl? (PB)
- Next week on the mid-season finale: Rosita stares at her bullet, Daryl runs in slo-mo, and Negan shaves. Tune in! (PB)
Zombie Kill of the Week
In one ear and out the other. Throw some onions and peppers on that sword and baby you got a kebab going!