So Jesus shows up after Rick and Michonne have their fun. Not unusual at all. And leave it to Rick Grimes to make a bloody impression on a first visit.
The episode begins with Abraham sharing a tale with Sasha as the two return to the Safe Zone. It’s a brave new world, though Abraham can’t imagine Maggie having a child in a world like this. Though Sasha figures that it’s because the way things go that it can still happen. Sasha won’t be seeing Abraham tomorrow because she’s starting a new shift at the watch post. Eugene will be taking over Sasha’s patrol. Huh. How about that. The two part ways.
We then cut to Abraham waking up in bed with Rosita at his side, which is just beautiful. He tells her about Eugene’s plan to patrol, and he’ll be teaching Rosita about chemistry. Abraham feels you can’t teach chemistry. Rosita gets out of bed and tosses Abraham a locket she made with a light from the fuel truck. She felt Abraham’s neck looked a bit lonely. Also, she then wants him to show her in the shower.
That evening, Glenn joins Maggie, who is working on building a garden, as rations are being stretched. Maggie is a bit worried, but Glenn assures her that they’ll be fine. They then spot Abraham rushing over to help Denise with something.
Jesus, meanwhile, observes a painting on the wall when Carl suddenly puts a gun to his temple, demanding to know why he’s in the house. He tells Carl that he’s just waiting for the two to get dressed when Rick appears, as do Daryl, Glenn, and Abraham. Well, time to talk.
When asked how he escaped, Jesus says that one guard can’t block two exits. He checked out the arsenal and is impressed, but the provisions are low for the amount of people in the community. Jesus knows that they got off to a bad start, but they’re on the same living side. Rick and Daryl could have left him, but they didn’t. Part of his job is finding other settlements to trade with. He took the truck because his community needs things.
He thinks the communities can trade and his has started trading livestock. Jesus admits that he was wrong about Rick and Daryl being bad people. He offers to take them to his community in a day so they can see for themselves. When Maggie mentions that Jesus said more settlements, everyone realizes that their world is about to get a whole lot bigger. Cue title sequence.
Denise gives Daryl a homemade oatcake, even though he’s likely to just pick up something on the road. Literally. He eventually takes it, as he reminds Denise of someone she knew. Rick tells Carl that he isn’t sure, but if Jesus is being honest, this could be the start of everything. He explains that he and Michonne just happened last night, and Carl is cool with that. Carl doesn’t want to come on the trip, though, since someone should stay back to keep the place safe.
The group hits the road, Jack, with Abraham asking Glenn if, while he poured the Bisquick, he was trying to make pancakes. Yes. Abraham is skeptical that someone would try to bring a child into a world like this, but Glenn assures him that he and Maggie want to build something.
Ahead, the group finds a recent crash and Jesus recognizes the vehicle from his own group. Rick warns Jesus that this will end badly for him if this ends up being a trap. The group checks the nearest building, with Rick handcuffing Jesus and leaving him with Maggie. Inside, they make quick work of the walkers inside, but also a few others who know Jesus. Abraham damn nearly kills a man who I guess he thought was a walker.
Back on the road, Harlan Carson, played by R. Keith Harris, thanks Glenn for saving his life. When Glenn then asks Harlan if he has any prenatal vitamins, Harlan replies that he doesn’t, but he was an obstetrician, so he can still be of help.
Jesus checks on Freddie, played by Brett Gentile, but he’s still in shock over almost being choked to death by Abraham. His wife died before this all happened and he came pretty close to seeing her again. Abraham seeks to take in all of this.
The trip comes to a halt when the motor home winds up stuck in the mud, but luckily, the group has arrived at Jesus’ community: The Hilltop. Jesus orders the men on the watch post to open the gates. Rather than have Gregory come out, Jesus lets Rick and his folks keep their guns- they ran out of ammo months ago, which explains the spears- despite the fact that they’re newcomers. He trusts them, so now it’s Rick’s turn to trust him.
Most of the residents came from FEMA camps. Jesus explains that the main house used to be a living museum. The windows let people see for miles, which works well for security, and rooms have been converted into living spaces.
We’re then introduced to Gregory, played by Xander Berkeley, who keeps the trains running on times. He’s willing to talk, but wants Rick’s group to get cleaned up first, as it’s hard to keep the place clean. Gregory is a dick to dirty people. Rick wants Maggie to talk to him first, as he figures that he shouldn’t.
While Abraham talks with Daryl about whether he ever thought about settling down, Maggie, or as Gregory calls her, Natalie, is first to speak with the Hilltop leader. He says that he came to this place once, but never figured this particular house would be his. It’s like it was waiting for him the entire time. He thanks Maggie for returning the community’s doctor.
The community has been here since the start, but Maggie wants to know how it’s survived. Gregory, though, wants to know how the Safe Zone sustains itself. Maggie then asks if he has enough to trade. As Alexandria’s food situation is dire, Gregory gets blunt and tells Maggie that Alexandria doesn’t have shit. He won’t give away things for free, so he offers the group to work for their share.
Maggie doesn’t warm to Gregory’s sweet talk and gets blunt that the communities will help each other. It doesn’t help Gregory’s case that the Hilltop is low on ammunition. Gregory assures Natalie that they’re doing just fine.
Jesus talks with Rick and Daryl, saying that Gregory wants the best thing possible, but so does Rick’s group. And they’ve come all this way, so they won’t walk away empty-handed. Jesus assures them that this will be handled and he’ll make Gregory understand, with time. Michonne is first to agree that Jesus be given time to work out this situation.
A man comes in, saying that they’re back. One man, Ethan, played by Justin Kucsulain, states that the others are dead because of Negan. The deal wasn’t enough and Craig is still being held hostage. Craig will be returned once a message is delivered.
He stabs Gregory and Rick springs into action as a fight breaks out between the two sides. Just as Michonne readies her sword, Ethan is soon down when Rick puts his blade deep into his throat.
Everyone is brought to stunned silence, with Rick not sure why everyone’s looking at him like a threat. Another damn fight almost breaks out, with Jesus getting in the middle of it, declaring Ethan to being a coward who instigated the fight. He tells Rick to lower his gun, saying that he’s done enough. Things aren’t as simple as they seem. Daryl checks on Abraham, who was almost choked to death. As he gets up, he doesn’t notice that he’s forgotten Rosita’s necklace.
Carson was able to patch up Gregory. Things like this don’t happen a lot. Rick asks who this Negan is, and Jesus explains: Negan leads a group called The Saviors, who showed up after The Hilltop walls went up. Negan made a lot of threats and demands. He even killed a 16-year-old resident in front of everyone to make them understand right off the bat. Huh. No one knows how many people Negan has in his army.
Gregory isn’t good at confrontation. Jesus wouldn’t have picked him as leader, but people like him. Gregory agreed that half of the community’s supplies would go to the Saviors in exchange for them not attacking the Hilltop. Daryl and Abraham, familiar with the name Negan, explain that they met and took care of some Saviors. They offer to help take down this Negan fellow in exchange for food, medicine, and one of them cows, as Daryl puts it.
The group knows that their aid will cost them something. Gregory wants to talk, but just to Maggie. In his quarters, he wonders how this group can take care of Negan. Maggie assures him that they can save the Hilltop’s captured members. Maggie still wants supplies, but Gregory maintains that he has leverage.
Valid, but Maggie says that if the Hilltop keeps giving half of what they have, they won’t have much very soon. Without fighters, they’ll be defenseless. So now Maggie has leverage as well. Deal. However, Maggie wants something else.
So Rick’s group gets some supplies for the road. Rick tells one man, Andy, played by Jeremy Palko, that they’ll bring back Craig, but need to know everything about Negan’s compound, so he’s coming with them. Jesus will also be joining, as his knives are still at the Safe Zone. Rick asks Michonne if she’s up for this. It will be a fight, but Rick is confident that they’ll win this.
Inside, Harlan performs an ultrasound on Maggie and shows both her and Glenn the fetus. It’s a fetus. What do you expect?
Rick’s group departs from the Hilltop, with Glenn showing everyone the sonogram photo. Show-off. Abraham is at least impressed.
So “Knots Untie” continues to expand the world to our characters with Jesus bringing them to the Hilltop. I like the pace at which the show is moving. I didn’t think we’d see the Hilltop so soon after meeting Jesus, but it’s not an issue.
Good to see other communities, but my only issue with the Hilltop is that it doesn’t look populated. Think Asgard in the first Thor film: a sprawling civilization where it appears all of the residents are away on holiday. Maybe some are off on runs and I’m sure we’ll see more people soon, but for its first appearance, the Hilltop, for a community that’s been around for so long, looks less inhabited than the Alexandria Safe Zone.
But we get a good indication that the residents aren’t the most confident. Gregory comes off as a smarmy leader and while he’s not willing to stand up to Negan, he has everything he needs to barter with Rick. After all, what good are ammunition and guns if you don’t have any food to feed your residents? Gregory knows this and uses it to his advantage to try and force the group into servitude.
He’s never met someone like these people, though, as right off the bat, they’re more than willing to start a confrontation. They’re also willing to show their cards to make sure they don’t leave empty handed.
And I like seeing Maggie slowly grow into a position of leadership. Based off her experiences with the group, Hershel’s teachings, and working with Deanna, she’s more than capable of leading a negotiation. She does a good job turning the tables on Gregory and explaining that giving away half your supplies will soon leave you dry. So it makes sense to trade with people who have the firepower and willpower to go up against any threat.
Trust Rick Grimes and company to escalate a fight. Yes, that was started by Ethan, but only Rick could show up in new territory and end up covered in blood on the first day. That’s how you make an impression. Not a good one, mind you, but people will remember that. And Andrew Lincoln’s delivery of that nonchalant “What?” after killing Ethan was great.
Consider what these people have endured. Whether the likes of the Governor, the Hunters, wave after wave of walkers, including the biggest brawl against the roamers yet, and the friends and family they’ve lost, it goes without saying that Rick and company have seen some serious shit. And after what Daryl did to that small group of Saviors on the road, to them, this mystery Negan fellow is just another obstacle.
Yes, they’re no strangers to confrontation, but you’ve gotta wonder whether they’re being overconfident. After all, they never expected the Governor to decapitate Hershel, the Hunters to cut off Bob’s leg, or even Beth getting shot in the head. Granted, Beth’s death was an accident, but it was still unexpected and almost led to another shootout.
So though Rick and company have faced and overcome every challenge in their way. Despite the losses, they’ve come this far and Rick now stands as leader of the Alexandria Safe Zone. Even if Negan is a roadblock, they’re sure he can be killed with ease. Is this naiveté? We’ll find out, but at the very least, it’s nice to see the group step up, as they would, and offer assistance in exchange for good.
In a way, they’re not much different from the Saviors in that they’re taking some of the Hilltop’s supplies, and right off the bat- something even Negan didn’t do. But they’re not trying to kill community members- minus Ethan, anyway- so much as help them and maybe make them more confident, as was the case in Alexandria.
Between all of this negotiation and learning about Negan, we get some character moments as well. Continuing from “Always Accountable,” this episode built upon the relationship between Sasha and Abraham. While I can’t get a sense of how she’s bonding with others since her unhinged behavior last season, Abraham has forced his way into her life and it’s helped better them both.
While Sasha is opening up again, Abraham is considering the possibility of starting a family- a daunting task in this world. Maggie and Glenn are resolute in their decision, while Rick and Carl are doing everything they can to ensure a good life for Judith, but Abraham is still in the process of wondering whether it’s worthwhile to settle down and have a child.
What’s worse is that he’s torn between two women. I wouldn’t see this is an issue because I would choose Rosita in a heartbeat, but it’s interesting that Abraham would even allow himself to get as close to Sasha as he has, given how long he’s had this relationship with Rosita. I’m sure The Walking Dead is smart enough to avoid any sort of love triangle nonsense.
All this character building surrounding Abraham feels like the show is setting him up for something. Could be a change, could be an injury, or any number of scenarios, but you don’t put this much focus on a character by accident, so keep an eye on Abraham.
“Knots Untie” was another good episode. It expanded the world by introducing us to the Hilltop and its residents, including the shifty leader in Gregory, gave us more information about Negan, and set up our main characters in what’s building towards a confrontation with the Saviors. Will this be another obstacle they can overcome with ease or are they underestimating Negan? We’ll see.