Not since Matt Murdock over on Daredevil has a character with limited to almost no vision been as useful as Gabriel is today. This is “Dead or Alive Or.” Which is a weird title, by the way.
The episode begins with some Saviors receiving radio transmission from others on the disappearance of Doctor Carson from the Sanctuary. As they leave to begin their search, they’re unaware that underneath the overpass is Daryl, Rosita, Tara, Dwight, and everyone moving on from Alexandria. Though Tara doesn’t give a second thought to tossing an approaching walker to Dwight. He takes care of it no problem, but still.
Carson and Gabriel, meanwhile, sit in a car, unaware of their location. Gabriel is squinting at the map, prompting Carson to think that Gabriel’s optical nerve has been damaged. But Gabriel’s focused on the priority of bringing Carson back to the Hilltop to save Maggie. Plus, as far as Gabriel is concerned, God is leading the wheel. In that regard, Carson feels that God should be driving. They head off as a walker approaches.
Then Carson examines Gabriel’s vision and asks if he can spot the nearest mile marker, but he can’t. Carson has some antibiotics stashed at the Hilltop, but he regrets letting Gabriel leave the Sanctuary. Before the two can decide how they’ll get a new vehicle, Gabriel hears a sound that’s almost like a bell. They head into the woods and come across some netting and a nearby building.
With the others, at Rosita’s insistence, Daryl has everyone take a break. Tara wants Dwight dead now, though neither Daryl nor Rosita is interested in pursuing that angle. Rather, they believe that Dwight really could prove a useful ally.
Maggie oversees the rebuilding of the Hilltop. Henry, meanwhile, hasn’t eaten in awhile, so Carol offers to take Morgan’s shift. Across from them, Jared asks the two to move Henry. That and he warns them that the Saviors will come, but Henry interrupts and asks which Savior is responsible for killing Benjamin. Okay, that’s enough, Henry. Carol and Morgan tell him to take a walk.
The two debate whether to tell him the truth. Morgan figures now is fine since he’ll learn, but Carol says that Henry is still a child and doesn’t really know what he’s doing.
At the Sanctuary, Negan chews out Eugene for the escape of Gabriel and Carson without anyone knowing about it. How does that happen? Negan figures that Carson was never one of them, just like his brother. However, Negan will learn the truth once Carson is returned.
Eugene asks what happened at Alexandria, though Negan in return asks if Eugene really cares what happened. After all, they did try to kill him. Negan then gives Eugene some good news: he’ll be in charge of his very own outpost. So as the bullet maker, he’ll provide the ammunition needed to settle this score with Rick for good. Lucille gets first dibs, though.
But if Rick and company pull some shit, the Saviors will do something that they’d rather not, and that will be on Rick. Negan will set Eugene up at that manufacturing shop. And yes, Eugene, there will be wine.
While exploring the cabin, which is filled with radios and all sorts of communications equipment, Carson insists that Gabriel- who is trying to read a note- rest. Carson then goes over the note that’s apparently a log. It might have helped someone else, but when Carson checks a nearby room, and spots a walker with a bag over its face, he concludes that no, it did not help.
Tara, Rosita, and Daryl look over a map when Dwight informs them that Negan might not send some Saviors into a certain section of the swamp. Negan didn’t think the swamp was worth the risk. Tara again doesn’t trust this, and Tobin agrees, though Dwight reminds them that he didn’t just turn on the Saviors- he’s killed several of them. But Laura got away, and if Dwight is taken back to Negan, he dies.
Right now, Dwight’s here to help defeat Negan. After that, he knows how this ends. So the swamp it is.
Back at the Hilltop, Dianne informs Maggie that they’re running low on rations, including the amount it takes to feed the prisoners. In fact, it is worse when you include them and Jesus is still out scavenging.
Gabriel again refuses to rest. Instead, he’s looking through the available medicine. Carson examines the pills and realizes that they’re both antibiotics. Well, that’s a great ex-machina.
Back in the woods, Dwight and Daryl discuss Sherry, who is possibly still in the woods, and how Dwight did everything purely for her. They arrive at a river that is filled with walkers, so the goal is to push through and clear a path. Tara, though, decides to stay back and keep an eye on the group.
Gregory summons Maggie and notes that his behavior has improved since he’s been imprisoned, but Maggie refuses to free him. Alden notes that yes, the Saviors have behaved. He tells Maggie that they don’t have to be enemies. If just one of them gets out of the pen and a bit of shade, that’s all the Saviors will need. Instead, Maggie is cutting off the rations, noting that the Hilltop comes first. She doesn’t have a choice.
Rosita is next to run into and put down a walker in the swamp. More walkers start rising from the water, so Siddiq and Daryl get to work putting them down. Tara, meanwhile, volunteers Dwight to help her with some approaching walkers.
Carson informs Gabriel that he has permanent damage to his vision. He’s improving everywhere else but his eyes, though again, Gabriel is letting God lead the way. At the very least, he’s alive. Not that God led them to this place, but he believes there’s greater meaning in being led to this place. But then Gabriel accidentally knocks over the piggy bank, revealing car keys and a map inside. More ex-machinas.
As Dwight and Tara deal with walkers, with Tara keeping her silencer trained on Dwight, he apologizes for what happened to Denise. Still, she says that he should have stayed with the Saviors. However, if Tara kills Dwight, that won’t do anything. Except make her feel a hell of a lot better. She opens fire and the chase is on.
The two end up in a clearing, but they jump back into the bushes when they hear other Saviors passing nearby. Oh, so that’s the payoff to the opening.
While Carson and Gabriel search for the car, Gabriel sees a sign that reads ‘Danger! Traps in Yard!’ He yells out to Carson, but it’s too late, as the doctor steps into a bear trap. Walkers approach and he manages to hold off as many as he can until Gabriel eventually and luckily manages to fire and kill the walker.
Tara continues to hold her gun to Dwight, who soon rushes out to meet the Saviors. They all thought he was dead, but he tells them that he spent the entire night hiding. No one’s seen Laura, though. The Saviors are about to check the swamp, but Dwight tells them that he already checked there, so he leads them elsewhere. And then Tara realizes that Rosita was watching her.
Naturally, Daryl chews out Tara for letting Dwight escape, though she now contends that he’s helping them since he led the Saviors away. Tara, make up your mind.
Carson and Gabriel’s one moment to rest is interrupted when they’re captured by Saviors, though Gabriel still believes that God is still leading the way. When Carson goes for one of the Saviors’ guns, he winds up shot and dead as the Sanctuary loses yet another doctor. And Gabriel? All he can do is weep.
Daryl and company arrive at the Hilltop, where he reveals to everyone what happened at Alexandria. Of course, we don’t hear it. It’s all silence. I suppose this is meant to make the reveal more dramatic, but honestly, the overpowering music robs the scene of its impact, in my opinion.
Henry asks Morgan and Carol how Carl died, and they inform him that it happened as a result of him helping a stranger. Morgan, meanwhile, finally tells Henry that Gavin is responsible for Benjamin’s death, and Henry got him. So basically, Henry doesn’t need to do any more than he’s already done.
Siddiq approaches and thanks Maggie for her hospitality. While it’s not much to Maggie, it’s a lot to him. He asks if there’s an infirmary, as he has some medical expertise, so Maggie directs him to the trailers.
So Eugene gets his outpost. Frankie approaches and tells him that he was destined for this, but he just wants dinner taken. And he then sets up an official repast and motivational room.
But then Negan enters with Gabriel, who apparently told him how he escaped…it was Carson that led him out. And Eugene will need an extra set of hands. Though Gabriel’s eyes aren’t good, Gabriel does still have hands that can be put to use. It will be a few more days before Eugene has enough bullets, but that doesn’t work for Negan.
And then Eugene suggests the rather archaic, yet cool-sounding of launching walker body parts at the survivors via catapult. Instead, Negan gets inspiration for a big day that he has planned. As for Gabriel, who thought he found something, Eugene tells him to get sorting.
Maggie returns to the imprisoned Saviors and tells them that they will be taken out in pairs, under guard, for work, exercise and, if necessary, medical attention. They will start by cleaning the stables. Same quarter rations. Gregory wants to evacuate since the Saviors will still be coming, but with all they have, how can they lose? Also, Rick has arrived. Of course he has.
At the Sanctuary, Negan assembles his Saviors and reminds once you’re bitten or scratched by a walker, you become one of them. But what if that was used to their advantage. He strikes a walker until Lucille is messy with walker blood and guts. All that’s needed is a tough or big wet kiss from Lucille. And that’s what’s needed, the living join the walker club. Dead or alive, they will learn.
Well, that’s just nasty.
It’s interesting how so much of what Gabriel is going through feels like a test of his faith. Like many before him, those who believe in a higher power find themselves placed in terrible circumstances that challenge their beliefs. And we’ve seen Gabriel’s faith called into question before, so it would be easy for him to just give up and accept that things won’t get better.
Not here, though. Despite his vision worsening, he still believes that God is leading the way. Coincidentally, if the character Jesus was with Gabriel and Carson, he could’ve taken the wheel himself.
Okay, now that we’re done with that awful joke that everyone and their mother has made, I’m of two minds about Gabriel and Carson’s adventure. On one hand, the discoveries do validate Gabriel’s belief that a greater authority is guiding him on the right path. Though someone more pragmatic like Carson might just see them as coincidences. I certainly do.
Whether it’s the antibiotics, Gabriel managing to shoot a walker with his terrible eyesight, and that him knocking over the piggy bank revealed a key and map inside, these all felt far too easy. Who stores a key and map in a piggy bank in the first place, by the way?
Ex-machinas or not, we do get some potential comic setup with the discovery of the shack having all that communications equipment. Now I won’t go into spoilers, but like the early setup of the Wolves or Eugene and Abraham finding the munitions shop, I do like that The Walking Dead is planting the seeds early on for what may come later down the line.
And then Carson dies. I assume this death was more for Gabriel as a reality check that things aren’t always going to work out the way he believes they will, but it does work at shattering him, even though Carson really didn’t need to try and make a move at the Saviors’ gun. But now that Gabriel is with Eugene, I wonder if the two will come up with a plan to possibly sabotage the bullets.
On a side-note, what is up with Gabriel’s eyesight? And his health in general. Did it come from when he and Negan covered themselves in walker guts when they were trapped? It can’t just be that because Negan is completely fine, so what gives?
Speaking of Negan, we get a good look at his plan to stir up more shit among the other communities with the idea of coating weapons in walker guts. It’s an interesting idea in theory, and though we’ve seen characters in the past, like Rick and Abraham, get walker blood on them and turn out just fine, this could potentially be a move that cripples the survivors.
Never mind getting shot at or beaten to death. All that’s needed here is a simple touch and you’ll presumably turn in no time.
By the way, I love Negan’s reaction after Eugene suggests using catapults filled with walker guts on the survivors. It’s like you can hear the gears turning in his head as he tries to unpack what Eugene even said.
As for the folks in the woods, it’s nice to have some conflict that comes from a real place between Tara and Dwight. Yes, he’s responsible for Denise’s death and Tara has every right to want Dwight dead, but he is pulling his weight. As he points out, he not only betrayed the Saviors, but killed several of them. And I like that even though he’s proving himself a useful ally, he’s fully aware that this could all end with his death.
Though you’d think Tara’s time with the Governor would remind her that people can change. Sure, Tara didn’t cut off Hershel’s head, but she was still allied with the Governor at the time. She could’ve remained antagonistic towards the survivors, but she soon changed. It’s entirely possible that Dwight, despite all he’s done, could turn a new leaf, too.
More than that, once Dwight leads the Saviors away, only then does Tara believe that Dwight won’t betray the others. Why she picks this moment, I don’t know. Could be because she saw it with her own eyes, but it’s a pretty flimsy flip-flop on Tara’s part.
Over at the Hilltop, Maggie continues to kick ass as leader and she’s putting the needs of the residents above those of the prisoners. Not an unrealistic attitude to take, and it’s nice that she does bend to Alden’s request to at least allow the Saviors- and Gregory- out for a bit for exercise and work. Hell, she didn’t even have to throw in medical attention, but she’s willing to make this work as best she can.
Morgan, meanwhile, gives Henry some form of closure by saying that Gavin is the one who killed Benjamin. Sure, it’s a lie, but the hope is that Henry no longer has any kind of bloodlust or need to kill. Though, with Jared still alive, I’m betting that the truth will slip out at some point.
Now, as far as the Alexandrians arriving at the Hilltop and revealing Carl’s fate, I hate the fact that music overpowers the scene. When Rick told Negan over the radio in the previous episode what happened, we heard it all take place and got Negan’s reaction. Here, sure we can put two and two together, but I feel the impact of this scene would have been stronger had we heard the news rather than just have music play over it.
“Dead or Alive Or” provided some very good setup for the continuation of the war, as well as provided some possible future plans now that Gabriel and Carson stumbled upon communications equipment. And with the Saviors now coating their weapons in walker guts, the war is about to get a lot messier.