Onward to the Hilltop.
The episode begins moments after we ended last time with Rosita stumbling through the woods. She still hears what appears to be the dead talking when she eventually passes out.
Elsewhere in the woods, Daryl brings Henry and Carol to the spot in the woods where he’s staying, and it’s riddled with various traps. It’s not much, but it’s still home. Though Daryl hasn’t fixed the boat since last time. Oh, and he’s got a dog, too. It’s name is Dog because of course it is.
Back with Michonne and the others on the road to Hilltop, Siddiq is glad she changed her mind about them. Though she could’ve let them stay in Alexandria. Siddiq guesses that she likes the newcomers, and while she hasn’t denied it, she may not trust them just yet. It doesn’t help that, according to Magna, Michonne still has her knives. Kelly tells them to go along with this a bit longer.
Yumiko apologizes about Magna, saying she’s been on edge since they lost Bernie. He was with them long enough to form a bond. He used to wear a horrid shirt that felt like looking into creation. Magna hated it, saying it gave her a migraine. So this guy wore it every day. At some point, Magna came around.
Michonne assures Yumiko that Hilltop is safe, but it’s been awhile since she’s been there. As for questions, Michonne tells Yumiko to trust her.
And then we cut to Hilltop, which is doing quite well, all things considered. Tara visits Leader Jesus, who has been listening to Georgie’s records. Maggie sent another letter and she’s quite happy. And there are people who want to speak with Jesus. Then Tara delivers reports: Tammy Rose wants to expand, Enid wants more room in the garden, a noise complaint, and Jesus has been re-elected leader of the Hilltop.
Jesus isn’t exactly happy. He doesn’t need Maggie’s office since, in his mind, it’s temporary.
Out in the woods, Daryl hunts and kills some walkers, saying that keeping them where they are keeps the animals away. He prefers it this way, as it’s quiet and isolated from the others. Carol informs Daryl that Ezekiel has had a hard time letting go, and she’s taking Henry to the Hilltop so he can become an apprentice. But Daryl wants to know why Carol is really here, and she wants him to join them.
She can’t stay at Hilltop and there are problems at the Kingdom. Daryl won’t play Henry’s babysitter, but Carol believes that Henry is an idealist. Still, Daryl believes that Henry will have to learn just like everybody else.
Back with Michonne and company, they arrive at the clearing where we first met Magna’s crew. Yumiko suggests that Magna take one item that belonged to Bernie to remember him, but Magna decides against it. Siddiq finds a flute and remembers how he used to play when he was a child, but then his mother decided he preferred painting instead. Probably for the best.
Connie signs to Siddiq that Luke likes musical instruments. Michonne won’t return the weapons taken, saying that Siddiq and DJ will take the rest of them to Hilltop, even though she herself hasn’t been there in awhile. Yumiko, though, decides to go with Michonne’s play, even if she’s not a fan of it. Magna and company may not like Michonne’s rules, but they can at least make it a few more hours.
Out in the woods, Aaron tackles Jesus off of his horse and they engage in combat for a bit. Aaron was late because it was Election Day. And Aaron is violating protocol by being out here. They talk about the fair, Jesus says that it’s important to bring the communities back together, but the talk is interrupted when the two spot a flare go up in the sky.
They finds Rosita resting against a tree. She tells them she left him by a barn. It’ll be dark soon, so they decide that Eugene will be fine on his own. With that, the two help Rosita up and leave just as some walkers approach.
Back at Daryl’s camp, Dog drops off a hand while Carol is impressed that Daryl is cooking for them. With the food ready in 30 minutes, Carol realizes that this will be enough time for her to fix up Daryl’s hair.
As night falls, though, Daryl knows that Carol believes that Daryl is still looking for Rick, as they never found a body. Later, the three eat up when the food is ready. Henry asks Daryl about how he got his scar, but Daryl doesn’t answer. Instead, he’s worried about where Dog is, as the food is getting cold.
Michonne keeps guard as her group rests inside a building, but a noise gets her attention. She slowly explores the building and finds Luke searching for something. And it turns out that she’s sliced Luke’s Stradivarius. Roll credits.
Elsewhere, Henry heads out from his tent when he finds a walker stuck in mud. Daryl, annoyed that Henry is following him, tells him to turn off the flashlight and go back to camp. Daryl soon finds Dog surrounded by walkers stuck in traps. As Daryl approaches Dog, some of the walkers grab him by the ankle, though Daryl insists that Henry keep his distance. And soon enough, Daryl does manage to free Dog.
One walker does get loose and almost gets at Daryl, but Henry manages to kill it. Still, Daryl isn’t about to be buddies with Henry anytime soon. Also, Carol doesn’t need to fire any arrows.
Back at Hilltop, Tara updates Jesus on Rosita’s condition. Jesus then tells her that he’s been training and keeping communication open with Aaron to try and get Alexandria on board with the fair, though Tara feels they won’t. Jesus doesn’t accept that and he still doesn’t want to be the Hilltop’s leader. Tara tells him to stop pretending.
Maggie’s gone, but the people are still counting on them. Tara will be going out in the morning to look for Eugene.
At the camp, Daryl tosses Henry- who again notices some scars on Daryl’s back- something for his infection and tells him that Dog protects the traps, but he never got stuck before. Daryl does then thank Henry for his help, and Henry in turn thanks Daryl for saving him, though he doesn’t want Carol knowing that. Daryl then explains that the traps are a slow way to die and a way for him to keep out walkers.
Henry tells Daryl about how much Carol admires and misses him, seeing him as a best friend. Carol worries about Daryl, but hey, she knows how to find Daryl, though Henry doesn’t think that she should have to. Daryl asks if Henry wants him looking over his shoulder all the time, but this is about more than him.
Luke is upset about his now ruined Stradivarius. He’s been traveling with instruments because he considers them art, as historians wondered how people survived the Neanderthal age. How did we defeat those who were faster? Why are humans still here? And then they found a cave with a 40,000 year old flute. They realized that maybe humans didn’t defeat the Neanderthal in the traditional way.
They sat around a campfire and shared stories in the form of music. They created a common identity, grew communities, and Neanderthals eventually died out and retreated. And this Stradivarius is the one thing that separates them from the animals. And if society wants to rebuild something, you can’t ignore that. And after everything Luke has seen, he believes that will help.
It’s survival of the fittest. It’s at least part of what makes them stronger.
Next morning, Michonne decides to head back to Alexandria, saying it’s for the best that she doesn’t go to Hilltop. This is when Siddiq finally tells her that Maggie isn’t even at Hilltop anymore. And she took Hershel with her. Before Michonne can process this, Connie alerts them to approaching walkers.
They head outside and DJ finally gives Magna and their crew their weapons. Everyone gets to work with the approaching walkers, with Yumiko in particular impressing me with her firing an arrow at a roof that manages to crush some walkers. I think Dianne might have some competition.
Michonne realizes that this is the same herd that attacked them, as they find their friend, Bernie, reanimated and approaching them. And he’s still wearing that damn shirt. Michonne puts Bernie down and everyone heads off, though I’m left wondering how Magna can find this sad when the walker still had on that damn shirt.
Over at Daryl’s camp, Daryl, Henry, and Carol get ready to head off for the day. On the road with the others, Michonne tells the newcomers that she understands what it’s like to worry about your family, though Yumiko assures Michonne that they will be fine. Michonne approaches the point where she’ll head back, as Siddiq apologizes for not telling her earlier about Maggie, who is with Georgie with a new community.
Siddiq admits to Michonne that he made a promise not to say anything, but this means that Michonne can come with the others to Hilltop. Still, Michonne also kept her promise to Judith. What about her promise to Carl, though? Well, that’s not very simple.
Two Hilltop riders, one of them played by C. Thomas Howell, on horseback with spears ride in to tell Michonne that they have Rosita Espinosa. Michonne receives the message and rides off, but then Connie spots something in the distance. It appears to be nothing, so they ride off.
But we do get a point of view from the woods, so it does appear that they’re being watched…
Daryl, Carol, and Henry arrive at the Hilltop and Jesus learns that Henry has taken up an interest in becoming a blacksmith. As for why Aaron is at the Hilltop, he informs Daryl that Rosita is at the Hilltop and Eugene is still missing, but they’re headed out to find him. Since Jesus knows the terrain, he offers to join on the search for Eugene. Thus, Tara is left in charge of the Hilltop for the moment.
With that, Aaron, Jesus, Daryl and Dog ride off to find Eugene as the episode comes toa close.
Okay, I want to start at the end and talk about the elephant in the room that is Maggie’s disappearance. While it sucks not having Rick, we at least got an explanation as to what happened to him. His exit doubled as an exit for Lauren Cohan as well. We know that. But it still feels weird, story-wise, that Maggie just up and left with no real explanation as to why. As far as we know.
In the six years since Rick vanished, a lot has changed, but there appears to be some friction between Hilltop and Alexandria. Maggie and Michonne seemed to be on the same page last we saw them and it appeared that Maggie had abandoned her bloodthirst for Negan. The idea of biding her time and showing Rick is over, so what happened?
While an explanation isn’t necessarily needed at this point, I do hope it’s addressed. Not just for story purposes, but keep in mind that Michonne is just as in the dark as we are. We as an audience would be able to learn through Michonne just what happened at Hilltop and why Maggie took Hershel with her to Georgie’s community. That said, at least she’s keeping in touch with her letters. Her presence is missed, but it’s felt.
And this leads to Jesus, who already told Sasha two seasons ago that he had no desire to be a leader. Seeing him in charge is the natural progression for his character to take, but at the same time, it is in character for him to not want the job. Jesus is a right hand man and prefers to be in the field. He’s better utilized that way and he gets a better kick out of it than leading a community.
Indeed, Jesus does have what it takes to be a great leader, and with Maggie gone, he does feel like the next logical choice as far as what the people want, but it’s not a position that he wants. It’s why he sees it as a temporary promotion of sorts. So it’s nice that he has the likes of Tara, Dianne, and Enid helping out in various ways. Though I’m surprised that Tara didn’t decide to take up shop at Oceanside. And you know why, too.
That said, I do like seeing the Hilltop looking more lived-in. This is how the Hilltop should’ve first been introduced, because it looked barren when we first saw it in Season 6. Life is vibrant here and it feels more like a full-fledged community. And that introductory shot coupled with the music made it feel like an advertisement for living at the Hilltop. Perhaps that was a directorial choice.
And that’s how I awkwardly segue into the person behind the camera: our very own Sergeant Abraham Ford. Yes, Michael Cudlitz was the director for the episode and he brought his own special touches to the episode, such as the opening with Rosita or the fight with Aaron and Jesus. It’s always nice to see actors writing or directing episode that they star in and hopefully Cudlitz returns to direct another episode.
Henry bonding with Daryl seemed inevitable, if just because it felt very telegraphed. Daryl resisted Henry at every turn. They ended up in a snag, and even with Daryl telling Henry to keep his distance, Henry helped him in the end and the two had a moment afterward to talk. Easy to spot, but nice nonetheless, if just to allow Daryl to open up a bit more.
Though Daryl, like Michonne, has a similar scar on his back, so I wonder if this has anything to do with Rick, who gets a mention in the episode. We learn that Daryl has been searching for him because Daryl, like most of television viewers, knows that if you don’t see a body, then there’s a good chance the person in particular isn’t dead. That’s not always the case, but it’s a fair assumption.
But it makes sense that Daryl would keep looking for Rick. After all, some of the last moments they had together involved them arguing in that hole. Sure, they got past that and worked together to survive, not to mention Daryl killing a few walkers that got a bit too close to Rick on that bridge, but Daryl is Rick’s brother in many ways. So of course Daryl wouldn’t give up looking for him.
And with Henry becoming the blacksmith apprentice at the Hilltop, he really is becoming comic book Carl at this point, which makes me sad that we couldn’t just still have Carl around for this.
Onto Alexandria, it’s been six years since Rick’s disappearance and I find it odd that no one bothered to tell Michonne about Maggie. I would assume that Aaron and Siddiq aren’t the only ones who knew about the change in leadership, but still, why not let Michonne know that? No reason to keep her in the dark.
I again understand why Michonne is being such a hardass to Magna’s crew, but don’t take it out on Luke’s Stradivarius. We as an audience know that Michonne, like Rick, doesn’t take chances with newcomers, so she’s not doing this out of malice, more out of safety and precautions. In the short term, this doesn’t give Magna and the others much of a reason to rely on her.
And I appreciate that, even with Yumiko being the reasonable one, the newcomers do consider the option of just leaving if it means they have their weapons. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it would be on their terms. But at the same time, Yumiko did have a point that Michonne wouldn’t bring them out here just to split them apart. Though she did still split Luke’s violin, so there’s that.
Again, I like the newcomers. They feel like they’ve been in this for years and are reminiscent of when we first met Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita way back when. They bicker with one another like buddies, but also have deep bonds with the people they’ve lost. When they mock Luke for his love of instruments or show sadness at seeing Bernie, this definitely feels like a close-knit group.
We don’t spend a ton of time with Rosita and getting to process what she’s been through, and that’s fine because I’m certain that will come next. The mid-season finale is upon us next week and with Eugene still out there, he’s no doubt still reeling from hearing that what sounded like the walkers talking.
The show is taking its time slowly introducing us to the concept of the Whisperers and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next week. We’ll see how the dead are evolving when we return next time for the mid-season finale. See you then.