Making new friends is hard.
The episode begins at Hilltop, where Elijah and Marco shoot arrows at walkers from a distance. I guess we’ve filled the archer quota now that Dianne is gone. Lydia arrives and informs Elijah that she, too, is leaving. She even just talked to Maggie, who didn’t say much, but did give Lydia directions to the nearest Commonwealth checkpoint.
Turns out that the troopers left them in case people change their mind, which a lot of people are. Elijah is certain that Lydia will be back and asks if she needs an escort since it’s a long walk, but then they spot a bloodied man riding to Hilltop on horseback. He falls off of his horse as others approach. He talks of people being slaughtered and hands a bloodied map to Lydia, warning her to leave. The man then dies.
Lydia shows the map to Maggie, who immediately shoots down going to wherever the map leads. Even though the man died begging for help, Maggie points out that Hilltop is barely holding on as it is. Whose fault is that? Anyway, this could be help or a trap. If they go out to investigate, then Hilltop is left open to attack. By who? The Reapers are gone- as far as we know- and nobody cares about Hilltop that much, Maggie.
Lydia doesn’t think this is a trick. The man was scared, but Maggie isn’t about to go up against another group when she’s outnumbered. Again, whose fault is that? Elijah reminds Maggie that they bring in whoever needs help. Plus, being outnumbered hasn’t stopped Maggie before. That much is true. Lydia believes this mysterious group is barely holding on.
These are the sort of people that Lydia’s mother would’ve targeted, and Lydia was party to that, so she’s not letting it happen to anyone else. She’s still leaving Hilltop, but she has to help these people, first.
This conversation was pointless because Maggie decides to join Elijah and Lydia anyway, leaving Hershel to hold the fort while she’s gone. I feel safer already. But hey, Marco’s keeping a perimeter, so that’s promising at least.
During the drive, Lydia asks why Maggie doesn’t want the Commonwealth’s help. Maggie believes they can get by without them, even though all evidence points to the contrary. It’s all temporary. What’s easier isn’t always better.
Anyway, story time. Maggie talks about her time on the farm and how some corporate farm developers tried to buy the farm. Hershel refused them every time. Then a drought hit and the developers offered triple what the farm was worth, since they knew Hershel was in debt and desperate. But the drought would end and the farm would become profitable again. All the developers had to do was outlast them.
They dropped off crates of food to help with the livestock, but Hershel and company just let it rot. They were being tested. Eventually, the drought ended, the family got back on their feet, and the developers never bothered them again. Sheesh, I see now where Maggie gets her stubbornness from. Why did Hershel let the food rot? Because if they took it, the developers would know that the people living on the farm needed them.
Somehow, they didn’t lose any cattle. They stuck together and made it through. They got by, but Lydia doesn’t want to just “get by” all her life since she’s been doing that already. She was taught that it makes you stronger and wiser, but it hurts. At the very least, Lydia would’ve asked what others wanted instead making the decision for them. Maggie doesn’t believe that’s what she’s doing, even though she kind of is.
In Maggie’s eyes, the Commonwealth hasn’t been tested for 10 years. Lydia just wants things to be the same every day.
I love how this story about Maggie on the farm is so important that she’s never shared it before. Anyway, the talk comes to a stop when the three come across some reanimated Commonwealth guards, still in full uniform. As they inspect their wounds, they see Aaron running towards them.
But enough about that. Let’s jump back to a week go. Aaron heads to the Commonwealth church where, as you’d expect, Father Gabriel is delivering a sermon. More specifically, he’s discussing the parable of the lost son in the book of Luke. You know the story. One son squandered his wealth and soon found himself in need. When he came back to his father for help, he embraced him and celebrated his return.
Now, Gabriel asked people in the congregation to sit next to strangers and he’s still seeing a lot of stiffness and unease. It didn’t matter that these people were strangers beforehand. They were forced to see the humanity in each other, and the strangers became more than friends. They became family. Why is it that way out there, but not in the church?
He reminds everyone that they’ve all sinned, and that’s the very thread that binds them together. If they strip themselves of superficial labels, then they’ll see the person next to them as they see themselves. The way they were before the world fell can’t be the way they are moving forward. They must remember the thread, for that’s what makes them try, forgive, and return from peril. It makes them who they are.
I really like this scene.
Following this, Aaron and Gabriel talk, with Aaron expecting more of a fire and brimstone sermon from the pastor. Still, the sermon wasn’t an act from Gabriel. At first, sure, he went through the motions, but then it felt like someone flipped a switch and he could hear God’s voice again. It feels like the hell they endured wasn’t real- like a nightmare.
The Commonwealth is pouring more manpower and resources into rebuilding Alexandria. While that’s being finished, Commonwealth wants Aaron to help with the new immigration initiative, even though they didn’t seem too keen on immigrants when the newcomers arrived.
But after learning that Aaron used to work for an NGO, they asked him to review their intake policies. Now they’re reaching out to people who need help. The Lord’s work.
It’s why Aaron is here. He found a group of 40 people holed up in an apartment complex on Virginia’s western border. Aaron hopes to make first contact and offer help, and people above him want Gabriel to come because it’s a religious group. If they’re hostile, there will be Commonwealth soldiers, as well as Aaron’s boss, Carlson.
As if on cue, a new recruit, Jesse, played by Connor Hammond, comes in and informs Aaron that Carlson is ready. As for what Aaron knows about this group, they’re just a friendly group of settlers. They sound friendly.
We’re introduced to Toby Carlson, played by Jason Butler Harner, who scouts the apartment complex from a distance. He’s a bit energetic, but he’s just ready to save lives. Today, they’re going to make the world a little better than yesterday. Aaron doesn’t find the complex very inviting, but Carlson thinks the settlers might just be afraid. That can change once they meet Aaron.
Yeah, the guy who has a weapon for a hand. Carlson can’t wait to see Aaron and Gabriel do their thing. Unfortunately for Gabriel, Carlson is going with them. He just won’t do any of the talking. However, Aaron wants to know why some of the Commonwealth soldiers are setting up camp instead of coming with them. Carlson doesn’t want to spook the potential newcomers. Luckily, they’re just a radio call away.
Gabriel nopes the fuck out of this since the complex might have some guy with a shotgun looking for an excuse to shoot whoever steps into his territory. That’s not untrue. Aaron expresses his concern to Carlson, suggesting that they just leave the people alone. Gabriel, meanwhile, flat out tells Carlson that his plan is shit, and Gabriel doesn’t want to die. Gabriel’s on fire so far this week.
Carlson is confident that this plan will go off without a hitch. He’s done it before, and he’ll do it again. True, he’s done it before, but the largest group he’s found so far was a whopping four people…and there are 40 in this building. All it takes is one nervous person to ruin this. Carlson wants Aaron and Gabriel to trust what he’s doing. He also needs Gabriel to keep wearing his clerical collar since it’s part of his “costume.”
Gabriel already loves this plan.
So Jesse, Carlson, Aaron, and Gabriel approach the apartment complex. Aaron announces his presence and extends an offer of friendship on behalf of the Commonwealth. He pulls out a bag of food, saying that his people left bags before that are now gone. So the people in the building must’ve taken them.
When Aaron asks to speak with someone face-to-face, two people come out- one of them even has a scythe. Wait, where the hell did they find that? They demand that the four hand over their weapons, which they do, save for Aaron removing his prosthetic. Gabriel says there’s a group of peacekeepers nearby waiting for the four to check in, but that’s it.
They’re brought into the complex, searched for additional weapons, and led down a hallway until they meet the building’s leader. This is Ian, played by Michael Biehn. Aaron goes over his welcome speech and gives a rundown on why the Commonwealth is so great.
Ian points out that this community must also have soldiers, and even points out that Father Gabriel isn’t wearing his collar. But Gabriel wanted these people to see who he is before learning what he is.
Aaron asks for his bag back so he can show Ian something: pictures of the Commonwealth on an iPhone. Someone in the Commonwealth actually has a damn iPhone. Whenever people see those photos, they want to live at the Commonwealth, too. But they’re not just waltzed in.
There’s a screening process. Ian asks where the Commonwealth is located, and this is where Carlson pipes up and says that information can’t be revealed.
Ian instructs the four to turn around and look at a shelf filled with skulls. These are the heads of raiders, murderers, rapists, and even a few cannibals. They all sat in the same seats as the four, most wolves in sheep’s clothing and meant to bring harm to the people at the complex.
So why should Ian trust these people when they know where he lives, but he doesn’t know where they live? Would be pretty stupid to let them go, wouldn’t it?
Ian pulls out a gun and orders Carlson to his knees. Seems that Carlson reminds Ian of a victim named Billy Johnson. He came by a few years ago with promises of wealth and prosperity in a land far away. But Billy just wanted to get Ian and his people out in the open, so his raiders could kill them. Billy wound up on the shelf because he thought Ian was stupid. Ian’s got plenty of space on the shelf for Carlson if that’s what he wants.
So Ian demands that Carlson reveal where his raiding party is, or Ian will start killing people. He has a huge responsibility to this place and his people. They’ve trusted him with their lives. Gabriel does agree.
The Commonwealth has nothing that the complex has, and Aaron points out that the people aren’t starving because of the food left for them. Also, the soldiers in those photos are real. If the four don’t return, the soldiers will be looking for them.
Or no one has to die. Ian can save himself and his people by letting the four go, and Aaron promises that they will never return. That much Ian can agree with, as he orders the four to leave and never come back.
Carlson says nuts to that, as he springs into action, seizing Ian’s gun and shooting him and killing two others in the room. Aaron and Gabriel are aghast, as Ian was going to let them go, but things are going Carlson’s way now. He heads out, telling the others to lock the door and that he’ll be back when it’s safe.
Things are going great so far. Let’s go even further back to one week and one hour ago. Carlson pays Lance a visit. Lance is in the middle of drinking and in a foul mood. Pamela’s released a lot of resources for Lance, and he used some of them to send a convoy of supplies for some “other thing.” The convoy didn’t check in last week, so Lance sent out scouts to see what happened.
Turns out the convoy was hijacked and the troopers guarding it were killed. The tracks led to some apartment complex where a group is holed up. Their leader apparently dresses like a general, and the followers are pretty religious. Even to the point of having Mass on Tuesdays and Sundays. Now they have the cargo and weapons. Carlson doesn’t see the issue. Just snuff out the warlord.
But Lance assume the worst. These guns could be pointing out of that apartment from all directions. If Lance sends a squad, they’ll be cut down before reaching the door. So Carlson proposes sending a company instead of a squad, then raze the whole damn building.
But Pamela will get suspicious if Lance asks for 100 troops. What Lance needs is a more surgical solution. That’s where Carlson comes in, even though he doesn’t do that anymore.
Right now, Lance needs the former CIA agent who rooted out disobedience. He needs an assassin. Carlson likes being retired and going out to give people a second chance. It’s zen and feels great, but Lance warns Carlson that this peace can be taken from him. Carlson dips a finger in Lance’s drink and asks if he’s tired of living.
Lance points out that most of the dead troopers are young folks in their 20s. Those deaths are on him and he needs to make it right. Soon enough, Carlson agrees. Aaron’s been working out great, as he instantly connects with people. Lance also asks about Gabriel, and Carlson sees where this is going.
The group is religious, so Gabriel should let their guard down. After that, Carlson needs to see the leader and do what he does best. So what does Carlson say when shit hits the fan? Lance is confident that they’ll just fall in line, like everyone does.
Back at the complex, the soldiers bring in Ian and Carlson orders them to sweep the perimeter. He demands Ian tell him where the guns and cargo are, and Ian gets pistol whipped when he claims to not know about the stolen cargo. Carlson doesn’t believe him, so he hits Ian again, but this time, Ian gets a punch from Gabriel. For that, Carlson has the guards cuff Gabriel.
Just as Ian starts talking about the weapons, Carlson kills him and promises the warlord a spot on the shelf. Right above Billy, even. Not satisfied, Carlson beats on Ian a bit more. A disgusted Aaron reminds Carlson that they’re supposed to help people, and they are, but to Carlson, this is the other side of it: snuffing out threats. This is how they make the world safe.
At the sound of a horse riding off, Carlson and Aaron rush out to see Jesse riding off. One of the soldiers does manage to nail Jesse, but he still escapes. The soldier who fired the shot gets his face bashed in by Aaron. Luckily, Carlson’s out of bullets, so Aaron has time to flee before approaching soldiers can shoot him.
Carlson is called inside, where he finds a dead soldier and a missing priest. Well, shit. He tells the soldiers to prepare his armor.
Back in present day, Aaron finishes telling this all to Maggie, Elijah, and Lydia. It doesn’t explain what the Commonwealth would want with all of those guns. She pulls out Jesse’s map and asks Aaron the best way to enter the complex. To their surprise, Aaron has never seen this map before, and he’s not the one who gave it to Jesse.
Now let’s jump to 12 hours ago, during the attack. Jesse rushes to a horse and prepares to ride off, but he’s stopped by, of all people, Negan. Jesse tells Negan how many people he’s with and what firepower they’re carrying. A woman, Annie, played by Medina Senghore, rushes up and tells Negan the situation: a man in charge is arguing with a priest and a guy with a spiked ball for an arm.
No, that’s not a setup for a joke. According to Jesse, Gabriel and Aaron weren’t aware of Carlson’s intentions. Negan grabs a map and explains to Jesse that when he arrives at a particular community, he’s to ask for Maggie and inform her that Gabriel and Aaron are in trouble. Jesse then saddles up and rides off.
Negan and Annie arrive at the complex just as Carlson rushes outside. Annie kills the guard while Negan frees Gabriel. However, they can’t help Aaron because then they’ll all wind up dead.
Back to present-day as Carlson, now in his Commonwealth armor, is on the apartment complex’s roof with some of the residents as his hostages. He informs the residents that they have been made enemies of the Commonwealth. One has stolen from them, and that can’t stand. The bad news is that their warlord is dead. The good news is they can still make things right by returning the stolen goods.
Inside, Annie tells Gabriel that she has no idea where the weapons are, and Negan believes her. But Gabriel knows that Carlson won’t let them leave alive.
Carlson approaches two of the residents, who are both on their knees and looking down a long drop to the ground. They claim to not know where the weapons are, so Carlson kicks one off the roof and the man falls to his death. The other man also doesn’t know, so he goes for a fall as well. One by one, Carlson’s hostages all fall to their deaths.
When he’s out of people to drop, Carlson announces to the residents that their people have let them down. He orders the soldiers to check each room and kill anyone who won’t talk.
Inside, Annie implores everyone to stick together. Forget about giving up or begging for forgiveness. Ian’s dead, but he wasn’t the complex’s first leader or what kept them together this long. Wow, way to throw Ian under the bus. Or off the roof. Anyway, they did it by working together as a family. Right now, their family is scattered on the building, but they know this house better than these invaders. They’ll come out of this on top.
Maybe on top of a building and then off of it. As good as this speech may have been, Negan reminds Annie that, right now, the Commonwealth has taken out their best people. True, but the people needed to hear Annie’s words to stay encouraged.
At the same time, Maggie, Elijah, Aaron and Lydia drag one dead soldier and confiscate his radio. Which is theft. They make their way up the compound and the hunt is on as the episode comes to a close.
The Commonwealth isn’t all peaches and cream, when you think about it. Like any community, there’s a nasty side to it. Given what these characters have been through and now witnessed, you can forgive them for being skeptical that the Commonwealth is the place to be. But that doesn’t mean turning down a potential lifeline.
Maggie’s in a real predicament. She knows the Hilltop needs help, but it seems like her pride prevents her from accepting the Commonwealth’s help. She’s so confident that the Hilltop can survive on its own that she even refuses to help a dying man because she believes it’s a trap. As we see by episode’s end, Jesse had nothing but honest intentions and was sent by Negan of all people.
But as was pointed out, the unknown has never stopped them before. Hell, these people fought for Hilltop when they were certain the Saviors weren’t a big threat. Granted, they were wrong, but as Rick said, confrontation has never been something that’s tripped them up. So even if Maggie went to war with Commonwealth, it’s not like she’d let their numbers scare her.
Maggie says that Commonwealth hasn’t been tested for 10 years. That’s a fair argument, but a counterpoint to that would be Alexandria. Many of those people lived sheltered lives. Sure, some went out to take care of walkers, but many went on without a care in the world. When the walkers and Wolves invaded, they weren’t fully prepared.
But when push came to shove, as seen in “No Way Out,” the people banded together and fought to protect their home. Sure, they had Rick as a motivator, but they didn’t have to help him clear the walker herd. My point is that being untested doesn’t mean you’re not ready to deal with the harsh reality of a world overrun with the dead. So I find Maggie’s point there to be moot.
In his sermon, Gabriel talked about people finding the humanity in one another. I wonder if Maggie’s just been burned so many times that she can’t find humanity in strangers. She has good reason, but if no one saw humanity in one another, Aaron would’ve had no reason to bring Rick and company to Alexandria in the first place. Maggie would have no reason to trust Alden, despite his past as a Savior.
Also, yeah, Maggie is bringing down the hammer since it seems to be her way or the high way. Despite how Elijah and Lydia feel, Maggie is confident that she’s right. She’s in the tough position of providing for Hilltop with her limited resources and shutting out any outside help.
It’s a shitty position to be in, and Maggie’s already driven away some of her people, so it remains to be seen just how long she can do this. Dianne’s gone ,and Lydia has one foot out the door, so Maggie wouldn’t want to end up as the last person standing, I’m sure.
The Commonwealth story at the apartment complex had some very good tension and I enjoyed the way the episode built to it. Gabriel’s sermon about seeing the humanity in people tied well into the plot. The people at the apartment complex put their trust in strangers one time too many and paid a price. They fought back, yes, but they know better than to open their doors to strangers.
More so when those strangers aren’t willing to tell you where they live. So of course Ian wouldn’t want anything to do with Commonwealth. He has people to protect. But because of the missing weapons, the Commonwealth has come a-calling.
The confrontation was well done and while something about Carlson’s enthusiasm did seem off, I didn’t expect him to be a CIA agent with a bloodlust bubbling under the surface. Then again, given the military power of the Commonwealth soldiers, I could believe that, like the Reapers, many of them have formal military training. At the same time, I could see someone like Carlson initially wanting nothing to do with this mission.
Like he told Lance, he’s at peace. Why unleash the beast if he doesn’t have to? Because he’s damn good at his job, and if there’s an opportunity to put those skills to use, then take advantage. His turn gave me Governor vibes, right down to his willingness to kill any and everyone that wouldn’t comply. Were it not for fate, Aaron and Gabriel would probably be dead, too.
Hell, this isn’t the mission they signed up for. Both are very personable and suited for this mission. Gabriel is a good judge of character, while Aaron has done enough of these outreach missions to know how this works. Like getting punched by Rick, he couldn’t have anticipated Carlson killing Ian and taking control the way that he did.
So the survivors taking on Carlson probably won’t smooth out any tensions between the communities. Nor will it make Lance’s job any easier if Pamela finds out what he’s doing. I’m curious to see how this battle escalates things when Pamela and Lance already feel spurned by Maggie turning down their offer.
I was surprised to see Negan return as soon as he did. It’s really a small world after all. But it’s nice to see him finding yet another group of survivors and trying to help them navigate the dangers around them. Him sending Jesse on the path to find Maggie shows that, despite their differences, he still trusts these people to help others in need. Most of the time, anyway.
“Warlords” was pretty good. A lot of great scenes mixed in with good tension made this a good episode to watch. Now with Carlson on the warpath, here’s hoping the survivors can all get out of this situation alive.