A bridge too far.
The episode begins with Rick having a seat to talk with a good friend about how things have changed since they fought. Now the world is changing and growing and ready to deal with the world, but they won’t be defined by those things. The people are getting back a piece of who they used to be before the world went to hell. They aren’t just fighting to survive anymore. They’re making a new beginning.
At the camp, Ezekiel gets Henry ready for work on the bridge, as without it, there would be no trade. This boring structure is what connects them, so Henry should be proud. And be back in an hour, because he’s going home. And Carol reminds Henry to carry his stick.
If the Kingdom didn’t need Ezekiel, he’d stay behind to help Henry, but luckily, that’s not the only reason he would stay. As Regina and Arat pass by, Carol tells Ezekiel that the Sanctuary is not ready yet. The proposal still can’t happen. Right now, it’s about finding the small moments. This is goodbye for now.
Eugene updates Rick on the spring and supports, so Rick will talk to the foreman. Rosita gives Rick an update on the herd, so they will blow the rockslide. If the herd comes, they will redirect. Another Savior has died, by the way, so Rick will talk to Carol.
As Enid patches up Cyndie, Rick tells Siddiq to head back home, since there’s a bug going around. Also, items are scarce at Alexandria. Luckily, Michonne is on top of that.
Speaking of, Michonne arrives at the Hilltop from the Sanctuary to tell Maggie that the ethanol was sent out, but it hasn’t arrived yet. Maggie thinks that the Saviors are lying, but it’s possible that those delivering it were attacked. Michonne asks Maggie to send over food since the Hilltop has a surplus, but until the Hilltop gets fuel, the tractor isn’t moving, meaning no food. And there’s no blacksmith to fix the plow from the museum.
Earl is still locked up, so Michonne tells Maggie that it’s time to make some rules. She didn’t hang Earl like she did Gregory, but keeping him locked up could keep food from growing. Until the ethanol arrives, no more supplies to the Saviors.
On the bridge, Aaron talks with Daryl about taking care of baby Hershel, saying that Daryl would make for a good father. Henry delivers water to Justin, who wants more than he’s supposed to have, so Henry trips him up. Before Justin can attack him, he gets into a slugfest with Daryl.
Eugene continues to update Rick on the food situation when they happen upon the fight. He breaks up the scuffle and orders everyone back to work. Later, Rick tells Daryl to let it go so they can get the work done on the bridge. After all, some Saviors have left the bridge work. Carol agrees that the Saviors can’t be expected to forget what happened in the past.
Yes, this won’t be easy, but it’s not about forgetting. It’s about moving forward. Soon enough, the Saviors will realize that they’re on the same side. However, Daryl asks Rick if they are indeed on the same side. He’s asked, but apparently Rick hasn’t been listening. Things haven’t been easy since Gregory’s execution. Carol gets what Rick is trying to do, but she figures that some Saviors aren’t ready.
Over at the Hilltop, Michonne overhears Tammy arguing with Jesus to see her imprisoned husband. Jesus tries to appeal to Tammy, saying that Maggie needs time to figure this out. Fair enough, and since Tammy has no place else to be, she’s going to park her ass right in front of the cellar door.
Michonne asks Jesus what he really wants, and he doesn’t know why Maggie hanged Gregory. He trusts Maggie’s instincts, and no one is right all of the time, and this is why Michonne wants something built that’s bigger than all of them. It’s also why she figures that Jesus should talk with Maggie.
Jadis shows some artwork to Gabriel. They bond over how Rick reached out to them, even after their initial encounters. As Jadis grabs Gabriel’s hand, she admits that Rick isn’t the only one who has that ability. With that, Gabriel heads back to his job.
Indeed, Jesus speaks with Maggie and reads over a letter from Georgie, who want Maggie to join them. He finally brings up Tammy and how she’s been asking to see Earl for over a month. Some decisions are too big for one person to make, and Maggie realizes that Jesus has been talking to Michonne. To Jesus, good people can disagree.
So Tammy is taken down to see Earl. She forgives her husband for what he’s done, but Earl doesn’t need her forgiveness.
Arat and Rosita set off an explosion that gets the attention of some walkers. Upon hearing it, they immediately start heading in the opposite direction.
As Earl stews in his cell, Maggie heads down to speak with him about his drinking, as she wants to know how he wound up in the cell. He started drinking after he quit smoking. And it was always bad. He was drunk the day that Ken was born and he can’t even remember the first time that he saw him. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous after that.
When Ken was two years old, Earl and Tammy were barely making it. The stress got to him. One day, when he went to pick him up from the sitter, he stopped by a bar on the way and the sitter could smell the whiskey on him. Eventually, Earl retrieved Ken. Next thing Earl knew, Tammy was picking him up, as he figured that he’d call her. Still, Tammy stuck around. She knew that Earl was sick, but they swore to stick together.
After that, Earl was never even tempted to drink, until recently. Maggie thanks Earl, who then asks why Gregory was executed, but not him. After all, he still attacked her. Gregory didn’t make him do anything. Maggie asks Earl if she thinks he made a mistake, and he doesn’t.
Tara sits atop her perch and spots walkers when she radios to Rick- Mother Goose- to update him on the herd. Jerry sounds the alarm and the walkers are indeed turning. Before they reach the lumber site, the next explosive will be detonated. As for the Saviors, Alden tells Rick that some of them have walked off. Tara then radios Rick and tells him that the herd isn’t stopping, so they might run right into the workers.
Indeed, the herd arrives at the lumber site, though Aaron ends up trapped under a log for the moment. As the herd approaches, Daryl cuts a few walkers and frees Aaron, whose left arm is mangled to shit. The cavalry arrives to take out the rest of the walkers.
Rick then fires at the ropes holding the logs together and sets them free as they roll on down the walkers.
Back at the camp, Enid takes a look at Aaron’s left arm and immediately determines that the only solution to cauterize the wound is to amputate it. Yeah, there’s no other way. Oh, and Aaron doesn’t even get any painkillers because they wouldn’t kick in fast enough. Today is just not Aaron’s day.
After that, Daryl storms out and confronts Justin, who was supposed to turn the herd. His excuse is that the battery wasn’t charge, but it’s apparently a solar walkie, so no dice, as Daryl literally punches Justin out of the tent and starts beating the shit out of him. Carol stops him, but as far as Daryl is concerned, there’s only one way to deal with the Saviors.
Over at the Hilltop, Michonne and Maggie have a moment. Michonne admires what Maggie has done with the Hilltop, and Maggie admits that she’s ready to talk about common laws. But they won’t give up doing what’s right for their respective communities. Jesus will load up the food as promised and Earl will work under supervision. The council will decide when that changes.
The plow will get fixed and the fields will get planted. Michonne asks what changed. Maggie then tells Michonne that Hershel drank. And if he could get a second chance, then anyone can. Gregory, though, wasted all of his chances, and Maggie doesn’t regret what she did. Some people can be redeemed, yes, but others can’t.
That evening, after Justin tells Rick to keep Daryl on a leash, Rick chews Justin out for blaming people for his mishaps. Now, he gave Justin the benefit of the doubt, but no longer. Justin’s days at the camp are over, and if he doesn’t leave, Rick will make him regret it. Luckily, Justin won’t wait until morning to leave.
Then Rick meets up with Enid to look over her handiwork on what remains of Aaron’s left arm. He’s holding up, but Enid still needs to make sure the wound isn’t infected. Rick apologizes to Aaron- he put this project first and Aaron paid the price. Aaron thought he was seeing the end of everything, but Rick changed all of that. It’s not the end of the world anymore, but the start of a new one.
Jadis and Gabriel listen to frog mating calls. Jadis plucks up the courage to ask Gabriel about his past, as her is fair game, except her secrets. As for the woman in his drawing, she’s from his church days and he cared for her very much. But he was afraid, and then he lost her. And luckily, Gabriel isn’t celibate, so the two kiss because why not? Plus, Gabriel is Episcopalian, not Catholic, so this is fair game.
Not too far from here, Rick watches everyone from afar while Carol decides that she’s ready to try on Ezekiel’s ring.Though Ezekiel doesn’t get to deliver his speech. Lame.
Back to narration. Rick tells his companion that it was a hard day. The project is behind schedule, Aaron lost his hand, and people were at each other’s throats. But when the day was done, most of the people came together. They chose to be together. No matter what happens, it’s human nature to come together, and that’s what the people do. So just who is Rick speaking to, anyway?
Of course it’s Negan.
Negan finally tells Rick that this is a pretty picture and he wants to see that world, but Rick is confident that Negan will die behind bars. He asks Negan if he ever gets tired of being in charge, but Negan knows that things will soon go to shit. When they do, Negan wants Rick to come back to him. Rick is confident that the world is thriving without him, but who is he building it for? Carl?
Rick’s family is gone, as is Negan’s. The bridge isn’t a future, it’s a monument to the dead. Negan tells Rick that he isn’t saving the world- he’s just getting it ready for him.
Jadis takes Tara’s spot atop the crane and looks into the sky as she spots the helicopter in the distance. As it passes overhead, she says nothing.
Justin, meanwhile, takes the long, cold, lonely walk back to the Sanctuary when someone emerges from the woods and grabs him.
The interesting thing about these past two episodes is that they exemplify what’s been wrong with The Walking Dead in previous outings- jumping from one location to the next and juggling multiple storylines without any sense of balance. I bring that up because this episode shows how to do that in the right way.
We are, for the most part, contained. We’re either at the Hilltop or with the bridge crew at the camp site. That or Rick talking with Negan, but luckily, that’s just the framing device to set up the episode and bookend it towards the last few minutes. And even the jump forward in time by a month shows the mounting escalation and tension on all sides without it feeling contrived.
Moments and characters are allowed to breathe and we get just enough bite-sized chunks with characters to get a sense of what they’re doing, where they are, and the current situation. Everything circles back to both the bridge and how other communities are dealing with the Saviors because they still aren’t fully trusted. It’s hard to blame anyone for second guessing that the Sanctuary can be counted on to contribute.
And Rick is doing everything in his power not just to keep people going, but to not be Negan as well. After all, he is, as Michonne said, the famous Rick Grimes, but he’s not trying to be a tyrant or ruler. Even though it can come off that way. Everyone may contribute their part, but Rick still rules with an iron fist. Not the other Iron Fist. That show got cancelled.
But Rick is still in charge and has to keep an eye on everything, even when he’s being pulled in multiple directions. He wants rule of law, but has to contend with Maggie executing Gregory. He wants the Saviors to thrive and contribute, but they’re rebellious and not as willing to do their part. And he wants missions accomplished, but can’t account for when people close to him are harmed, as is the case with Aaron.
Oh, and everyone’s pointed this out already, so I’m jumping in as well. The fact that TV Rick still has both of his hands is one thing, but that Aaron not only lost one of his hands and that he looks like comic Rick, it’s like Aaron is being set up to take some of comic Rick’s arc. Maybe he’ll get his own prosthetic. After all, Aaron was in Alexandria before Rick. What better way to pick up the mantle after Rick leaves?
Speaking of, Aaron’s mangled arm looked gruesome and I still wince a bit thinking about it. Not only did it get crushed, but he doesn’t even get the courtesy of having something to dull the pain before Enid just hacks it off.
Side-note, I guess at some point during the time skip Enid started practicing medicine and how to be a doctor? Perhaps she’s learned from Siddiq, but given how this show can’t have too many doctors in the same way it can’t have too many Black characters, I’m guessing that either Siddiq or Enid is going to bite the dust soon.
At the Hilltop, it’s nice that Michonne is here as the voice of reason for Maggie, but also to give Jesus a little push in order to be more vocal. Maggie may not be on good terms with Rick, but she’ll at least hear out Jesus. That she’s open to the idea of common law and allows Earl to be out while supervised shows she’s doing what’s best for the Hilltop and isn’t being a complete hard-ass. But she’ll put her foot down when needed.
Plus, her talk with Earl gave us a bit of insight into his character, as well as shed some light on Maggie’s relationship with her father. That Hershel and Earl both drank helps Maggie see the demons that Earl struggles with, though she doesn’t use that as an excuse to just let Earl out without restriction. He did still try to kill her and he even acknowledged that he needed her forgiveness, not his wife’s.
Oh, and one more thing about Maggie: we know that Lauren Cohan is exiting soon, but like Andrew Lincoln, we don’t exactly know yet the method in how she will leave. However, we do know from last season that Georgie shared with her the plans for the future. And we learn here that Georgie has been sending Maggie letters, so perhaps Maggie heads to Georgie’s community for awhile and returns later in the series.
Just a hunch.
There was a lot of good acting and little character moments throughout that I enjoyed and made this episode really feel like everyone got just enough to do. Whether it was Arat and Rosita talking while getting ready to set off explosives, Ezekiel preparing an actual speech for Carol, Tara’s chit-chat on the radio- when she should be out looking for Heath- the dialogue here felt very natural.
Admittedly, Gabriel and Jadis- yeah, I’m sticking with Jadis instead of Anne- is sort of an odd pairing, but it’s nice that Gabriel has someone he can open up to, building on the two of them being seen together in the museum last time. I’d love to know just why Gabriel knows about frog mating calls, though.
And Jadis spotting the helicopter yet again just has to play into the plot at some point.
As for Negan, it’s nice to have him back and it’s only a matter of time before he’s out and about again. Not just based on comic knowledge, but his premonition. Negan has been a leader for a long time and has an idea of how Rick operates. If things go to shit, he’ll be out of that prison cell. And it’s nice of him to get under Carl’s skin by using Carl’s name.
And who grabbed Justin? Well, there’s one guess about who it could be based on the antagonists this season, but based on Justin’s reaction, it would have to be somebody that he knew. Who could that be? Well, hoping we find out this and more next week.