Last night's midseason finale of The Walking Dead ended on a … well, we can't quite call it a high note, but at least it was something in the treble clef. For perhaps the first time all season, storylines progressed at a speed beyond glacial, certain fundamental dynamics finally saw some change, and another annoying character found out he didn't quite have the stomach to survive the apocalypse.
On the downside, Negan remains incredibly two-dimensional, Rosita took over the idiocy mantle from Spencer, and Carl continued to mope around glaring impotently at Negan whilst not doing anything of note.
From displays of dominance to faction elimination, a look at which characters saw their prospects rise this week
Adam Wagner: Maggie
The 2016 American Presidential Election created so much controversy and vitriol, dividing our country even further than before—but I think we can all come together, forget our differences, and agree on one thing: Maggie Rhee for President!
Life for Maggie has been tough—and it’s only going to get tougher—but Hilltop needs a new leader. Plus, if the separate groups are going to unite to take down Negan, it’d be smart to have trusted people at the top to coordinate efforts. Sniveling Gregory would almost surely snitch or back out at the most critical time. And what a revenge story to see the surprise on Negan’s face when Maggie—who he thinks is dead—shows up to avenge the death of her fallen love.
Hello. My name is Maggie Rhee. You killed my lover. Prepare to die.
HELLO. My name is Maggie Rhee. You killed my lover. Prepare to DIE.
HELLO! MY NAME IS MAGGIE RHEE! YOU KILLED MY LOVER! PREPARE TO DIE!
P.S. Finally, an apple that isn’t a woman’s downfall. Maggie straight prison punks Gregory out of his midafternoon snack, and it's not poisoned or a trick to get her kicked out of
Eden Hilltop. #takebacktheapple
Pritpaul Bains: Daryl
Everybody's favorite stringy-haired, lovably violent redneck got the hell out of Dodge last night, beating poor Fat Joey to a pulp in the process. It's nice that Daryl is finally out of character development purgatory, but you have to wonder whether Joey might have been sincere in his claim of being willing to just let Daryl go. He did have a loaded gun he could've pulled on Daryl if he wanted to, but he chose not to (possibly a show of thematic lockstep with the Savior who basically offered herself up as a sacrifice to Michonne's cause).
Honorable mention to the 2-minute montage at the end of the episode of all the good guys doing nothing but staring at each other in silence and nodding in acknowledgement.
And also to Lucille, for taking that bullet like a champ.
Joe Brosnan: Tara
As one of the only staunch supporters of this season’s Tara-centric episode, I accept the full responsibility of continuing to carry her flag. To most of your reliefs, this episode only showed flashes of Tara, but how she carried herself in her limited screen time proves she’s not falling from the top of my rankings anytime soon.
The first time we saw Tara, she was bringing Olivia lemonade. Not only did Tara offer up her dead girlfriend’s favorite powdered drink, but she also offered to be the one to sit down for dinner in her place.
Later on, after Rosita had solidified her place as Sunday night’s second biggest choker after Dez Bryant, Tara selflessly laid claim to the homemade bullet. Once again, Tara proved that she deserves a seat at the group’s adult table, so it was rewarding to see her included in the episode’s closing shot walking into an anti-Negan powwow.
From poor decisions to lost lives, a look at which characters lost ground this week.
Way to go, genius. Even if you had managed to kill Negan, you'd end up getting killed in the process and fuck over the rest of your community. Now, all of a sudden you're responsible for Olivia's death, Eugene's capture, and Alexandria falling even deeper in debt to Negan—and you DIDN'T EVEN SUCCEED AT YOUR ONE JOB. Also, when the hell did Gabriel become smarter than almost everyone else in Alexandria? FATHER FUCKING GABRIEL IS THE VOICE OF REASON IN THIS SHOW NOW, AND IT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE.
HM to Spencer. He made a gutsy call, but I guess he shouldn't have followed his gut instincts. Rick is playing the world's smallest catgut violin for his passing. Intestines.
Through most of the episode, Rick is a wholly broken man. Out with Aaron, he is still seeking confirmation on his decision to play by Negan’s rules. It haunts him to think that this is how life is now, but he’s even further haunted by Lucille’s carnage. He’s unsure of himself, his decisions, and what to do.
And, in addition to being broken, he’s also being cucked! Negan is stealing all the father/son moments—showing Carl how to shave, cooking dinner, and teaching him that his actions have consequences.
Sure, by episode’s end Rick has come around, admitted he was wrong, and stood with his posse like a promo photo for a Marvel Avengers movie—but Negan’s still got the upper hand. It’s like the great poet and eminent sage Chumbawamba once said, “I get knocked down, but I get up again.” Rick has definitely been knocked down … let’s hope the 2nd half of Season 7 sees him getting back up again (and hopefully with a murderbeard).
Poor Eugene. He knew that creating bullets would spell trouble for his group, and his premonition came true in less than a few days. It’s frightening to think that the Saviors not only have all of the guns, but they also are tantalizingly close to a seemingly unlimited supply of bullets. Eugene’s in a tough spot, and I don’t think he’s mentally tough enough to escape or rebel, so expect the Saviors to be swimming in lead sometime soon.
A tribute to the late, great Hershel Greene, this section searches for the best displays of humanity amidst chaos this week.
Perhaps the most surprising storyline to emerge this season was how likeable Father Gabriel has become. No longer frail and jittery, Gabriel has become a beacon of sensibility and sound advice. He didn’t question Rosita’s insistence that Negan had to die, but he did question her suicide mission. It may have taken too long to get here, but here’s hoping he doesn’t leave anytime soon.
Eugene has come a long way from being the lying, selfish “genius” that only looked out for #1. Remember: this is the character that led Abraham & Co. on a bogus journey under a false promise just to seem important and save his own skin.
So when he piped up and admitted that it was him that made the bullet, despite the understanding that Negan would probably wipe that miserable mopey expression off his face (come on Eugene—what about business in the front and party in the back says you gotta look like you’re on the verge of tears all the time? What Would Facts of Life George Clooney Do?), I think Hershel would have been proud of the progress he’s made in the courage and humanity department.
For being grounded, reasoned, and the one guy (aside from Eugene and SOMEHOW FUCKING GABRIEL) who understands the situation Rick and crew are in. “Either your heart's beating or it isn't. Your loved one's hearts are beating or they aren't. We take what they give us so that we can live.” Act when the opportunity presents itself. Until then, just stay alive.
- SPAGHETTI TUESDAYS ARE BACK! (JB)
- Who's inside that mysterious pair of boots that's following around Rick's crew? My bet is someone entirely new, but reasonable guesses include a member from Oceanside who tailed Tara or possibly another member of the Saviors, like Dwight or Simon. (PB)
- How anticlimactic was Daryl’s escape? (AW)
- Shaved Negan loses about 70% of his authoritah. This is the opening Rick's murderbeard has been waiting for. (PB)
- Negan channeling his inner Mike O’Malley with his puns this week. (AW)
- Ughhh. Yes. We get it. Negan trolls [insert random Alexandrian here], random Alexandrian pauses passive aggressively, then complies. This exact scene has occurred like 20 times in the last few Negan-involved episodes. (PB)
- At least TWD plays pool better than Billy Madison. (AW)
- Eugene update: still likes to watch. (PB)
- If Eugene does a good job making bullets, maybe Negan will cut him a peephole into his wives’ lair. (JB)
- Why is Gregory repeatedly rubbing his nipple with an apple? I couldn't tell if he was trying to threaten Maggie or come onto her. Maybe both. (PB)
- If Negan doesn’t start correcting his posture soon, he’s going to have some serious back problems. Scoliosis is not a joke. Millions of people suffer every year. (JB)
- Another note? (AW)
- Yo Carol and Morgan, can you two shut up and just make out already. We don’t care about you. (JB)
Zombie Kill of the Week
While somewhat lacking in the cool factor, it was definitely nice to see Spencer die twice.