Everything has a price.
The episode begins with Max- nay, Stephanie- explaining to Eugene how their interactions were just dumb luck. She came across some spare radio parts in a dumpster and eventually made a functional radio. We revisit Stephanie’s conversations with Eugene over the radio as she never thought before of leaving the Commonwealth. Or, at least, she never let herself believe that it was possible.
But then Stephanie’s brother, Mercer, found the radio equipment. Needless to say he wasn’t happen. More than that, he found out that someone on an unauthorized radio station has been speaking with a rogue community outside the Commonwealth’s walls. Lance Hornsby is already all over it. Mercer’s not about to have his sister go out to a train yard and meet some stranger.
It’s too dangerous for everyone at the Commonwealth, but especially for them both. With Lance on top of things, it would’ve been impossible for Stephanie to meet Eugene herself. But then Eugene showed up and chatted with someone named Stephanie, using Max’s words and voice. We briefly revisit the scene from “Out of the Ashes,” where Eugene asked the actual Stephanie if she was carrying rocky road ice cream.
Eugene seemed so happy, so Stephanie kept her head down, as she didn’t know what else to do. We see Stephanie’s daily interactions with Governor Milton, who one day requested the bank to cut off Sebastian’s line of credit. That, she hoped, would whip him into shape. If only. Then Hornsby came by to tell Pamela about Eugene and Alexandria. Stephanie doesn’t know what Lance is planning, but she knows how ambitious he is.
Stephanie confirms that Mercer is her brother and that her real name isn’t Stephanie, but Max. Okay, make up your mind, Walking Dead! Fine, we’ll call her Max for now. Overwhelmed with even more revelations than he already has, Eugene leaves before Max can finish.
The next day, a Commonwealth convoy hits the road, Jack. Lance is confident that Alexandria fits into the Commonwealth’s vision, but Pamela isn’t convinced that they need to stretch their resources. If you grow your empire further than your power can extend, you can lose your empire. If this doesn’t go well, then the Commonwealth is out. These newcomers can stay with their permits, or go home and finish their own repairs.
Right now, Pamela wants to focus on work at home, but Lance implores her to give it a chance. She might be surprised.
So when the Commonwealth convoy- Daryl included- arrives, Aaron takes Pamela, Lance, and Mercer on a tour of the community and explains that the engineering plans came from Maggie Rhee, the leader of an allied community. As for security, Daryl tells Mercer that the community fought a lot of fights. When Mercer asks what Daryl did before this, Daryl responds that it doesn’t matter. Not to any of them, anyway.
Turns out that Pamela even knew Deanna. She looks over a photo of Deanna and Reg, telling Daryl that she remembers Deanna from their philanthropic works. At the time, Pamela had no political aspirations, but she could tell that Deanna was born to lead. Deanna was the one who brought Daryl and his companions into Alexandria. No one had done anything like that for anyone before, and Daryl admires Deanna for that.
No matter how many times Alexandria fell, the community banded together to rebuild it. Suddenly, a breach. A walker has made it through the walls, and Daryl quickly takes care of it. Pamela asks Aaron how he lost Deanna, and Aaron tells her that Deanna was bitten and had to be put down. Pamela decides that she’s now seen enough.
At the Commonwealth, Ezekiel has a doctor’s appointment. Though he and Jerry think this is just a routine checkup, Tomi needs Ezekiel ready for the upcoming surgery to remove the tumor. Ezekiel is surprised to learn that he’s been moved up the list, as most people wait years. More than that, his bill has been paid. Jerry is overjoyed and believes Ezekiel deserves this happiness, but Ezekiel is more confused than ecstatic.
To my irritation, Oceanside is the next community that Pamela and Lance visit. Rachel shows them around, and Pamela is somehow more excited to have Oceanside as a partner than Alexandria. Lance brings up a trade provision, but apparently Hilltop’s leader, Maggie Rhee, isn’t partnered with the Commonwealth. Hilltop got the same offer as Alexandria, but Maggie declined.
Rachel explains that Alexandria has gone its own way before, but Maggie and Hilltop have been there when needed. Oceanside renewed its mutual protection pact and Rachel will honor it. If Maggie partners with Commonwealth, then Oceanside will follow.
Why are we wasting time with Oceanside? Anyway, Lance wishes that Aaron gave him a heads-up so shit wouldn’t blow up in his face, but it’s not Aaron’s fault the walker got in the walls. Plus, he can’t predict Oceanside and Hilltop’s stances. Aaron holds his ground. He doesn’t know Pamela, but Lance does. So Lance should’ve been more prepared. He shouldn’t act like Alexandria means more to him than it does to Aaron.
Like with Carol, Lance tells Aaron that they’re on the same side. Right now, that means they’re on the same sinking boat. Maggie could make things even more difficult. Right now, this is all or nothing for Pamela. If Maggie says no and Oceanside walks, Alexandria is on its own. Undeterred, Aaron knows that Alexandria will figure out something.
As if on cue, the convoy comes to a stop when it spots Maggie, Lydia, Dianne, and Elijah dealing with some walkers. Though they dispatch the walkers, the four don’t have time to shower the blood and filth covering them. Still, Pamela is delighted to meet Maggie.
Maggie doesn’t get why Aaron and Daryl trust the Commonwealth, but Daryl points out that he might not. Hell, when has he ever? Still, it’s nice to see Alexandria get cleaned up, so the Commonwealth’s word meant something. Aaron knows that this arrangement wouldn’t last forever.
Lance informs the three that the forward unit picked up a walker swarm. With some extra rifles on hand, Governor Milton proposed that they go hunting while the unit deals with the swarm.
Pamela then decides that it’s time to split up, gang. She’ll go with Maggie, while the others pair off. She also won’t need Mercer with her, either. Of course, Pamela uses this one-on-one time to chat with Maggie, asking her how thing got so bad. Maggie has met so many communities that she can’t figure out how some are lucky, while others aren’t. Pamela doesn’t believe in luck, but to Maggie, luck is about opportunity.
Maggie doesn’t know anyone who has had more opportunity than Pamela. Well, since they’re being honest, Pamela admits that she didn’t want to come on this tour. She has enough people at home to care for. That’s the price of leadership, and everything costs something. For Pamela, it’s sleep. When it’s 3 a.m., Pamela isn’t thinking about getting a phone call, but who can she trust and how does she stay safe?
Pamela didn’t think this trip would be worth it, given how small the communities are. But the right allies make them stronger. The world belongs to the living, not the dead. Hearing all of the stories confirmed to Pamela that the natural order of things needs to be restored. It provides a future for their kids. Small city states fighting one another for power won’t provide stability.
Now, Pamela offers the same thing that Maggie’s protection pact with Oceanside did- someone who has her back.
Personally, I’d just cut off Oceanside altogether and let them slowly slide into the sea. But this is why I’m not a decision maker.
Back at the Commonwealth, Carol pops by Ezekiel’s place while he’s in the middle of cooking. She asks about his check-up, and Ezekiel confirms that he’s been moved up the line for surgery. He puts the pieces together and asks what Carol did. She admits that Lance Hornsby owed her a favor. Ezekiel is upset to hear that cheating got his surgery moved up and debt wiped out.
Carol stands her ground, calling the lines at the hospital a lie. Plus, Pamela probably wouldn’t do the same for her shitty son. On that, I think we can all agree. Ezekiel brings up the people he’s seen suffering in the hospital, just as he is. Carol asks if Ezekiel is supposed to just die because the system is broken. Lesser men have been given more and done nothing with it, but Ezekiel isn’t a lesser man.
This is a great scene, so I don’t know why we’re leaving it now to head back with Maggie and Pamela. The two discuss leadership, with Maggie crediting her leadership skills to Deanna and Georgie. The communities they built are fair, which is debatable, but Pamela counters that the Commonwealth is also fair. Possibly, but Pamela lives in nicer quarters than everyone else.
Her justification is that she has more responsibilities, and a leader must give their people something up to. Maggie, though, wants people to look up to what she’s done instead of what she has that they don’t. The two then take care of two approaching walkers, and Maggie at least appears to be impressed at Pamela’s ability to fire a gun.
Rosita joins a sulking Eugene and the two catch up. The new job is a lot for Rosita, but she’s handling it. As for whether they regret coming to Commonwealth, Rosita at least likes that they can all be together and everyone’s safe. So it works for now. Rosita didn’t expect to end up as a cop, but she’s good at it. Eugene points out that she’s good at everything she does, which is asking a lot, but whatever.
She does miss home and going outside the walls. That freedom is gone, but it’ll come when Alexandria is fixed up and people have choices again. Rosita is excited about the future, but she wants Eugene to spill what’s eating at him. Eugene thinks back to when they first met and how long he lied to her. And to Abraham. Don’t forget him. It was a long time ago, but they found a home, so going with the flow worked out.
Eugene finally spills that Stephanie isn’t missing- she just broke up with him. More than that, she wasn’t who she thought he was. No shit. Rosita is confident that Eugene will find his soulmate.
Again, credit where it’s due- I really like this scene.
The Commonwealth convoy has arrived at Hilltop. Dianne confirms to Maggie that Commonwealth kept their word. The soldiers are helping with repairs. Lydia, meanwhile, catches up with Daryl, telling her that while she’s fine, some things just can’t be fixed. She asks Daryl how he knows when it’s time to walk away, and he wonders if that’s what she wants to do.
Lance offers to hand out supplies, and while Maggie is still skeptical, she agrees. As Hershel helps hand out food, Daryl tells Mercer that Hershel’s a different kind of kid, given the time he spent growing up on the road. Daryl talks up how special the Hilltop used to be, but it’s going through hard times. Soon enough, it’ll be back up and running.
Not all places are as lucky as Alexandria, but a hell of a lot more aren’t as lucky as Commonwealth. Daryl’s not coming around, but even he can admit that the Commonwealth has done a lot of good for the other communities. Mercer admits that even the Commonwealth isn’t perfect and Daryl shouldn’t get too comfortable.
The only reason Daryl’s not in armor is because someone thought it would make good for appearances. Again, everyone has a role to play.
Time for Ezekiel’s surgery. His face spells reluctance, but he knows for certain that he doesn’t want pineapple on any pizza he can have after this. Or can’t have, as one doctor informs Ezekiel that he won’t be eating anything but Jell-O for awhile. Not a bad deal, all things considered.
Time for some good luck. Or rather, Lance and Maggie talk about foot. She brings up her dog bringing a lucky rabbit’s foot home- with the rabbit attached- while Lance has his lucky coin that his father gave to him. He thought it was made of gold, but it’s just gold plated. As for her decision, Maggie first asks what Lance gets out of this.
Lance figures that she’s in over her head, and though he doesn’t know her very well, he knows that she’s smart enough to know a good offer when she hears it. To answer Maggie’s question, Lance recounts his first visit to Alexandria. He saw the potential, and now he asks Maggie whether Hilltop as it stands is the best she’ll ever have. Same with Alexandria or Oceanside. She and Hershel could have so much more.
Maggie even tried to build what would become her son’s first college. Lance asks her to imagine the world that she wants to build, and then picture workers helping make that vision a reality. It’s enough for Maggie to consider as the soldiers announce an incoming swarm.
So she, Elijah, Lydia, and Dianne- are these four just a thing now?- head out to take care of the walkers, but receive some assistance from Mercer and the Commonwealth soldiers. When the walkers are all down, Maggie and Mercer nod to one another.
Now Dianne and Lydia are imagining not having to deal with walker stuff like this every time the alarm goes off. They could keep building.
Mercer calls the guards into formation and reminds Daryl that someone else is always watching them. From a distance, Maggie certainly is. Even with all of this in mind, Maggie still passes on the Commonwealth’s offer. Why? Because Maggie remembers what Pamela said: everything costs something. Well, that’s gotta be a new feeling: rejection.
Eugene pops by Max’s place with some raspberry ice cream. He apologizes for not listening to her, but he was bruised and confused. He admits that he let Lance get in his head, calling him a snake. Though Max calls him a worm instead. Eugene also let an imposter into his heard and mind, not to mention read his manuscript. Max asks how, with everything they shared, Eugene could think that Shira was her.
Hey, in Eugene’s defense, you two never swapped pictures. Kind of a dick move for her to rail on him for this. Eugene figured out a long time ago that he’s not like most people. He got used to rejection, given how often it’s happened. So part of him always wondered if this connection was all in his head. When he arrived and Shira didn’t push him way, he so badly wanted it to be real. Subtle cues escape him sometime.
Eugene then apologizes for hurting Max, even though he’s the one who has been tricked this entire time. Seriously, why are we making this seem like it’s all Eugene’s fault. His intent does not excuse his impact. Max at least asks if she can read his novel, but Eugene was in the middle of burning it when she came to him. He’s at least committed the text to memory, so he starts describing it in detail to her.
This scene is kind of terrible.
As the Commonwealth convoy packs up to depart, Maggie says her goodbyes to Daryl before getting a dose of big news: Dianne and a few others are leaving Hilltop. Maggie cautions Dianne on who she trusts, but Dianne counters that Maggie needs to know when to ask for help. It’s harder than it’s ever been, but it doesn’t have to be. Dianne respects the hell out of Maggie, but she can’t do this anymore.
I hope someone else at Hilltop knows how to use a bow and arrow.
Pamela compliments Lance’s efforts, but he’s convinced that this is far from over. They have Alexandria already, and now they just need time to get the other two. Pamela gets why Lance would want to bring in three new communities since someone has to run them. That selection would fall to Pamela, but she knows that Lance isn’t really doing this for the Commonwealth.
More than that, she knows how ambitious Lance is, and ambition is hard to reel in. If he wants to make it work, Pamela is fine at that, but if his job at home suffers, then there will be consequences. The Commonwealth always comes first.
Lance later heads into the woods and fires off two warning shots. Bit of a waste of an extra bullet, but Lance makes up for it by firing and putting down approaching walkers. From a considerable distance, mind you. As Aaron approaches and asks how the deal went, Lance confirms that everything is going well and Pamela’s even on board. More than that, they’ll be bringing in more people.
So Aaron needs to prepare himself because they’re about to remake the world. As one more walker approaches, Lance puts a bullet through its head as the episode comes to a close.
The Walking Dead tends to be about the bigger picture. Why fight to protect your community? To make a better life for people that come after you. Why try to survive at all? To prove that all life is precious, as Morgan would say. Why extend your hand to invite in strangers? To show there’s still good in the world. But, of course, not everyone wants help.
Lance and Pamela set out on a mission to bring other communities into the fold because they see potential. More so Lance than Pamela, but they do at least want all communities to be on one accord. Sounds easy enough. Especially after Lance and Pamela see Alexandria struggling to rebuild. So who wouldn’t leap at the opportunity that the Commonwealth presents?
Someone who wants to stand on their own two feet, that’s who. In this case, Maggie has no reason to ally with the Commonwealth. For one, she doesn’t want to owe them anything. But also, she knows that the Commonwealth could turn on them at any moment. Just looking at how the soldiers mowed down walkers, it’d be easy for them to train their guns on Maggie and company if their relationship soured.
At least she and Pamela seemed to hit it off. Their conversations about leadership hit home the stark differences between the two. While Pamela rides in a convoy and is helped onto the ground, her first impression of Maggie is seeing her in the middle of killing walkers. Pamela sees that Maggie is a fighter who won’t just bend over backwards for a handout.
Plus, Maggie sees right through Pamela. While the Governor lives in a nicer home, Maggie dresses and works alongside Hilltop’s residents. She’s on the same footing as them, while Pamela looks down on Commonwealth’s worker ants. Sure, Maggie is impressed with Pamela’s ability to fire a gun, but that doesn’t make them best friends. In the end, Maggie feels she has nothing to gain from this partnership.
She may not feel that way, but others do. Yes, Maggie has a point about not just blindly trusting anyone. But Dianne also has a point about knowing when to ask for help. In this case, Maggie’s pride distances her from the very people she’s working with. So what choice is there but to leave Hilltop and join a much stronger looking community? Hilltop is barely getting by, and Maggie’s refusal to accept help drives away her allies.
Not to mention how much harder this makes it for Aaron having to explain it, or Oceanside making its move based on Maggie’s decision. Her call has a ripple effect because it makes it seem as if the other communities weren’t willing to meet Commonwealth halfway. They were, but it appears they all have to be on the same wavelength.
They’re not, so Hilltop has to survive without any outside help beyond Alexandria and Oceanside. Maggie may feel she’s making the right decision, but that comes at the cost of losing some of her people.
I like Pamela having a previous relationship to Deanna. It’s a nice nod to Alexandria’s former leader and the work she did bringing in Rick and others, even though Rick not being acknowledged in any way does bug me. I can see not mentioning Gregory. He was an asshole. But Rick was just as instrumental in bringing the communities against the Saviors.
Anyway, Pamela seeing through Lance will put him on his guard, no doubt. If this falls through, it’s his ass on the line because he’s fought so hard to make this work. The question is why. As is, the other communities need Commonwealth more than Commonwealth needs them. But Lance is more interested in raising his profile. It’s why he’s so dead set on making this arrangement work.
We’ve already seen how he can pull strings, like with Ezekiel’s surgery. I did really enjoy the scene between him and Carol. In Carol’s mind, Ezekiel has suffered enough hardships that he deserves some good fortune. But Ezekiel’s more honorable than that, and he won’t cheat the system just to have a better chance than someone who is suffering just as much as him.
Okay, now onto the one thing I hate about the episode: the revelation between Eugene and Max. That itself isn’t the issue. I like that we spend enough time with Eugene as he processes this, especially his conversation with Rosita. With Abraham not around, she’s the one person he’s known the longest and I enjoyed seeing the two comfort and compliment one another as they adjust to life in the Commonwealth. All that works.
What doesn’t work is Eugene and Max’s conversation. I hate this. Eugene’s world has just been shattered and he’s facing one revelation after another. Who he thought was Stephanie was not, in fact, her. Max has been hiding in plain sight all this time, but kept her head down because she didn’t know what else to do. Fair enough.
But why are we blaming Eugene and acting like it’s his fault for not realizing who Max was? The two didn’t exactly swap photos over the radio. Max did say she kept her head down, but could’ve just come forward at any time. She didn’t. Is Eugene supposed to be a mind reader?
You can’t blame him for not knowing who “Stephanie” really was when he never even met her. Not to mention how badly he wanted it to be real, having faced rejection so much. At the very least, Max should’ve apologized for not coming forward sooner. I just dislike the episode making this seem like Eugene is the only one in the wrong here.
Oh, and why was this episode’s title changed from “All or Nothing” to “The Lucky Ones?”
That aside, I quite liked “All or Nothing.” We see the seeds of the conflict between Hilltop and Commonwealth, Eugene learns the real truth- for better or worse- and Lance’s moves aren’t going unnoticed by Pamela. See you next time to see how this all unfolds in the episodes to come.