A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 10: “New Best Friends”

Now to find out just why the hell Rick had that goofy grin on his face as he and the others encounter a new community.  But before that, let’s check up on the Kingdom.  This is “New Best Friends.”

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The episode begins Ezekiel and some Kingdom members in a clearing as they await the arrival of the Saviors.  One member, Diane played by Kerry Cahill, manages to down a walker that’s wearing a dress similar to her sister.  Don’t think too much about that.

Anyway, the Saviors soon arrive and receive their offering of fruit and supplies.  The leader of this small group, Gavin, played by Jayson Warner Smith, finds the load a bit light, but everything is accounted there nonetheless.

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Jared, though, wants Richard’s gun, even though he’s the one who hit Richard first. When we end up with a standoff, Ezekiel tells Richard to give Jared his gun.  Jared collects and tries to get in a strike, but Morgan blocks it with his staff, so he loses it in the process. Jared strikes both Richard and Morgan with the staff, but Benjamin intervenes and knocks Jared off of his feet.

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Both Gavin and Ezekiel realize that this can’t stand, but Ezekiel relents and says that Richard won’t attend any future exchanges.  Despite that, Richard could still be first on a potential lineup.  Gavin acknowledges that yes, this wasn’t Richard’s fault, but things may need to become more visceral.  And despite the connection Morgan has with his stick, , he won’t be getting it back.

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Back at the Kingdom, Ezekiel is impressed with Benjamin’s abilities, but admonishes him for seeking a fight just because he knows how to fight.  At least Jerry is impressed with Benjamin’s skill.  As for Richard, he’ll receive a talking-to from Ezekiel later.

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Daryl, meanwhile, figures that Morgan went with Ezekiel to meet the Saviors, and he’s less than pleased with that.  After all, Morgan knows what the Saviors are and Daryl says that if Carol saw what happened to Morgan, as well as if she learned what happened to the others, she’d be leading them right to the Saviors.  She would, yes, but that’s just why she left.

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Following this, Daryl meets with Richard, who is in the middle of target practice with a bow and arrow.  The Saviors are smart enough to know that Richard shouldn’t have a gun.  He gives Daryl a crossbow because he knows that they want the same thing.  As such, Richard will need Daryl’s help because the Kingdom needs something to move Ezekiel if the communities want to eliminate the Saviors.

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After bringing Daryl to his hideout and revealing his cache of weapons and explosives, he the two end up on a road that the Saviors frequent.  They’ll hit them with guns, followed by Molotov cocktails- the fire is so the fight looks bad, as the Saviors will no doubt be pissed about some of their soldiers being killed.

In addition, Richard left a trail from their current location to the weapons cache to the cabin of that someone Ezekiel cares about and occasionally brings food, even though they don’t live in the Kingdom.  Richard figures that when the Saviors find their friends dead, they’ll follow the trail and attack the woman living in the cabin.  Even if she’s not killed, this should be the push Ezekiel needs to join the upcoming war.

Daryl picks up on the fact that it’s a woman Richard is talking about and demands to know her name.  Richard does spill that it is, in fact, Carol, and he hoped that Daryl didn’t know her, but he also didn’t think that Daryl would care because he knows what needs to happen.  It doesn’t help that Carol is just living out there and waiting to die.

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Immediately, Daryl wants no part of this and just as the Saviors’ vehicles approach, he grabs Richard and a fight breaks out.  Richard fights back and the two end up in another standoff that results in no Savior losses.  They’re running out of time and Richard reminds Daryl that if he and his people want to move against the Saviors, they’ll need the Kingdom. And what they have to do may require sacrifice.

They’ve already lost so much and Richard can tell that Carol living on her own isn’t a good thing.  Daryl promises that if anything bad happens to Carol, he will kill Richard, who is ready to die for the Kingdom anyway.

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So let’s go back to the junkyard, where the inhabitants that time forgot soon circle the survivors.  One woman, who I’ll identify later, asks if Rick’s group is a collective or if there’s a leader.  After Rick gets in his introduction, the leader tells Rick that her group owns his life, as well as the others.  They can’t buy them back since the group is holding Gabriel.  Before anything else happens, Rick wants to see Gabriel alive.

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Sure enough, Gabriel is brought out.  The leader of this group tells Rick that the boat things Rick and Aaron found were taken, so the group took Gabriel.  In that case, Rick acknowledges that his group has nothing to trade for their lives.  Plus, their lives already belong to the Saviors, and if Rick’s group is killed, these people will be taking from the Saviors, who will no doubt come looking for this group.

So there are two options: they kill you or own you.  But there’s a way out: join Rick in fighting them.

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The leader refuses and Gabriel is taken away.  A skirmish breaks out between the two groups but it comes to a halt when Gabriel holds a knife to one of the group’s members: Tamiel, played by Sabrina Gennarino.  He demands that he and the others be let go and tells the group that the Saviors have communities and items that these people would want.

The group lowers their weapons and Gabriel is given a chance to speak: if these people join Rick’s group in fighting the Saviors, they’ll be rewarded.  Sounds nice, but these folks want something now.  Gabriel tells the leader that Rick can do anything.  If there’s anything the group needs, say it and Rick’s group will get it.  Instead, the leader tells Tamiel and Brion, played by Thomas Francis Murphy, to take Rick Up Up Up.

Who says Up Up Up?  I couldn’t help but think of the Upside Down from Stranger Things. But I digress.

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Rick is taken up on high and looks at the world’s worst green screen-I mean, looks at the vast, expansive junkyard while the leader tells him that her group has been here since the outbreak.  They take, but don’t bother.  Things grow harder and are changing again, so maybe it’s time the group changed as well.  She needs to know if Rick is worth it, so she pushes him into a sectioned-off area of the junkyard that none of the others can reach.

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And what makes this area so special?  Well, it’s home to a spiked walker that Rick must fight.  He takes advantage of whatever he can, such as a keyboard, but almost every move he makes results in him getting cut in the process.  After Michonne suggests that Rick use the walls of trash to his advantage, he buries the walker in mounds of trash.  He then finishes the walker with a glass shard.

This might be the closest we ever get to a Walking Dead/Mortal Kombat crossover yet. You could substitute the walker for Goro, Reptile, or any other secret or challenging character you must face when asked to test your might.

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Okay, anyway, Rick emerges victorious and the group lowers a rope for him to climb.  The leader says that if Rick can get his hand on a lot of guns, the group will help him.  Rick is confident that they will win and he promises a third to the group once this is all over.  The leader, however, wants half. They go back and forth and the leader soon agrees to a third as well as keeping what her group stole.

I mean, Rick’s not really in a position to negotiate, so he agrees to the leader’s terms. Turns out her group waited by that boat for a long time for someone to get the supplies for them.  Again, they take, but they don’t bother.  Sort of a dick move, but sure.  The walker, by the way, was named Winslow.  The leader, who finally identifies herself as Jadis, played by Pollyanna McIntosh, tells Rick to leave since the deal expires.

As Jadis’ group falls back, a bloody Rick stumbles out and tells the others that they have a deal.

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Carol gets a visit from Ezekiel and some followers who were out clearing the dead. Ezekiel respects Carol’s privacy, yes, but the dead, not so much.  He’d hoped they would be quiet enough to avoid getting Carol’s attention.  She then receives some cobbler from Jerry before heading back in and returning to her book.

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However, there’s another knock at the door.  This time, it’s Daryl, and she’s more than happy to see him.  He tells her that, despite Morgan saying she left, he was out there and happened to see her.  When asked why she left, Carol tells Daryl that she had to go.

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Back at the junkyard, Gabriel tells Rick that while on post, he heard a noise and one of the members jumped him in the pantry.  Jadis was upset about not getting the boat supplies, so they took him hostage and made him pack up everything.  Rick is just glad that Gabriel got them here.  Gabriel tells Rick that he was beginning to lose faith, but then he saw Rick nodding at him and knowing that Gabriel didn’t just walk away.

Gabriel knows things will be right again, but there will be tough times ahead before that. He then asks why Rick smiled and what made him so confident.  Rick responds that someone showed him how enemies can become friends.  If you’re talking about Gabriel, Rick, keep in mind that you’re the one who saw him as an enemy.  Not the other way.

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Alright, enough of this gooey shit.  Rosita wants to stay out so they can find guns for this deal, to get back to Alexandria, but Tara implores that they stay together and find supplies. Rosita, though, would rather go it alone because there’s always another fight brewing. She won’t let anyone get in their way.  If they have to take from other people, she doesn’t care.

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Jadis demands that Rick bring her guns soon or else.  Despite having no idea where to look, Rick is confident that they’ll find some firearms.  Since Tara has been out further than the others, Rick asks her if she at least knows where they shouldn’t look. She does at least know that much.  Before leaving, Rick grabs a cat statue to replace the damn gorgeous one that Michonne lost.

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Back at Carol’s place, she tells Daryl that she couldn’t lose any of the others, including him.  She could have killed if any of her people were hurt, but then there’d be nothing left of her after that.  Daryl confirms that the Saviors came.  When asked if they hurt anyone, Daryl, after thinking over his response, tells her that the Saviors are no more and that everyone at home is fine.  The two then eat.

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Later, Daryl leaves, but warns Carol to watch out for herself.  He then sits outside of Shiva’s cage and tells Morgan- who is impressed with how Shiva warms to Daryl- that he found Carol and understands why Morgan lied to protect her.  However, they still need the Kingdom on their side, but Morgan doesn’t believe he can persuade Ezekiel.

Daryl tells Morgan that whatever he’s holding onto is gone, but Morgan believes that the two of them are the same.  After all, if Daryl had told Carol what really happened between their group and the Saviors, she’d be with him right now.  For that, Morgan is glad.  They’re all holding onto something.  Daryl ends this by telling Morgan that he’s headed back to the Hilltop tomorrow morning.

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Indeed, the next day, Daryl departs as the episode comes to a close.

So if negotiations broke down last week between Rick and the Kingdom, this week focused on terms slowly deteriorating between the Kingdom and the Saviors, but also allowing Rick to somehow find a new alley in the junkyard that time forgot.

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But let’s start with the Kingdom.  We saw on the first encounter that Ezekiel is being very patient when the Saviors humiliate or abuse his followers, but he’s refusing to let them fight back.  Doesn’t matter that the Saviors instigate an incident, he disciplines his followers.  I get that keeping this deal a secret from the Kingdom as a whole is for their own good, but he has to know that his followers have a breaking point.

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We know how much Richard is itching to fight, Benjamin is getting better and got in a strike during this week’s encounter, and now Morgan has lost his stick.  The Kingdom members aren’t trying to start a scuffle- they’re just defending themselves.  If Ezekiel is going to continue having problems with that, then it’s only a matter of time before the simmering tensions explode.

Hell, we now know just how far Richard is willing to go to bring down the Saviors, even if it means sacrifice.  His plan is foolish.  I can’t even call it a desperation tactic because if that were the case, he’d be willing to sacrifice himself, not someone else.  But why try and lure the Saviors to Carol and assume that her death would convince Ezekiel in going to war?

As far as Ezekiel knows, Carol keeps to herself, so he’d have to be suspicious why the Saviors would target Carol in the first place.  At least Daryl realized Richard’s plans and put a stop to it.  For the time being.

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The reunion between Carol and Daryl was warm, heartfelt, and earned, given the strength of their bond.  When Daryl asked Carol why she left, that was an emotional moment for them both, made stronger by the great chemistry between McBride and Reedus.

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But then the moment goes further when Daryl refuses to tell Carol about who the Saviors killed.  He’s doing it because he sees Carol’s state of mind and doesn’t want to bring her any more suffering.  More than that, Carol mentions that if she killed again, there’d be nothing left of her.  Why add an extra level of heartache to someone who is already in pain?

At the same time, Daryl not revealing the truth makes me think that Carol is going to find out eventually.  Most of the time in television, if a character is keeping a secret, then the big revelation is going to hurt even worse because someone was kept in the dark about the news.  And I’m curious what could become of Carl and Daryl’s friendship should she find out that Daryl lied, even if to protect her.

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But let’s move onto the Garbage Pail Kids, and I know I’m not the first one to refer to them as that.  Their English seems old-fashioned, they don’t talk often despite having so many people, so recruitment must be a test of patience, and they don’t look like they can put up much of a fight in hand-to-hand combat, anyway.

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However, there’s still strength in numbers and Rick knows that these people could be of some use, even though he doesn’t know them, has little to offer, and isn’t in a position to negotiate.  There’s something humorous about Rick being so confident and optimistic that he can arrange a guaranteed deal with this community when they could be more a hindrance than help.  But crazier things have happened.

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Like that spiked walker.  That was a thing of inspiration from this show’s production team. It felt like a mini-boss you take on before reaching the final challenge of any video game. And I liked the way in which Rick had to defeat it.  He didn’t have a weapon, and despite looking pretty scared when he first saw the walker, he fought and survived a challenge that apparently some people have lost.

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That being said, can we talk about the shitty green screen effects?  I’m not an expert on green screen, CGI, or really anything in general, but when Rick stood atop that trash heap, it looked very distracting, especially when what looked like a plane flew by Rick in the background.

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But onto the character stuff, I’m glad at how far Rick and Gabriel have come.  Here’s a preacher that Rick didn’t trust from the start, but now, after all they’ve endured together, Rick never believed that Gabriel would abandon him and the others.  It really does show how Rick, despite hating Gabriel for a period of time, can come around and soon call the man his friend.

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Speaking of friends and enemies, Rosita is saying and doing anything it takes to make enemies among the group.  Between Sasha, Morgan, thinking Gabriel stole from them, and now quarrel with Tara, Rosita is going to piss off the wrong person and I would bet that the next confrontation she has could get physical.  I expect that if Rosita gets under another person’s skin, that person is going to throw a punch.

“New Best Friends” gave Rick some new allies from the reject Mad Max cosplayers and gave Daryl and Carol the reunion that they deserved.  With Daryl now headed to the Hilltop and Rick’s group now looking for weapons, the lead-up to war with the Saviors continues.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 9: “Rock in the Road”

So our main characters have had more than enough of living under the Saviors’ rule.  With the second half of the season underway, it’s time to rise up, gather resources, and prepare for war.  Let’s jump back in with “Rock in the Road.”

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The episode begins in Alexandria.  After flipping through his Bible, Gabriel abandons his post and visits the pantry.  We hear a crash and then see Gabriel loading up as many supplies and cans of food as possible.  He packs up, leaving his Bible behind in the process, gases up a car, and drives off…with someone in the passenger seat.

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Over at the Hilltop, Gregory declares his deal with Rick’s group null and void since they failed to eliminate the Saviors.  As such, they aren’t trade partners and never met. Hell, Gregory feels Rick owes him for taking in Sasha and Maggie…the same people who helped save the Hilltop while Gregory hid.

Rick insists that they can defeat the Saviors.  It’s a better alternative than living under the Saviors’ thumbs while people die.  Gregory would rather continue his arrangement with the Saviors, so Maggie steps in and asks how many people the Hilltop can spare.  Tara insists that people will step up and fight if given the chance, but Gregory doesn’t believe the Hilltop residents are untrained fighters.  They just grow things.

Even though Gregory agrees that life would be better without the Saviors, he’s unwilling to lend his assistance.  Hell, as far as he’s concerned, Rick and his group didn’t even visit the Hilltop today.

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Though Gregory’s bullshit is difficult to bear, it turns out that the survivors may not need him after all.  Enid has told a group of Hilltop residents all about Rick’s plan and if there’s a chance that they beat the Saviors, then they’re willing to fight.  It’s a start, but even if Rick’s group found more weapons, they still lack the numbers.  The distance and geography work against them since Negan has so many outposts.

More than that, the Saviors will no doubt come to Alexandria in order to find Daryl, so it’s imperative that the survivors return.  However, Jesus reveals that he has one of the Saviors’ long range two-way radios, so they can listen in on anything happening at the Sanctuary.  There’s no rush to get back to Alexandria.  Instead, Jesus says that it’s time he introduced the group to Ezekiel…King Ezekiel.

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So Jesus leads them to the outer edge of the Kingdom, where they meet Richard and Alvaro, played by Carlos Navarro.  Jesus tells Richard that he’d like an audience with Ezekiel. Richard is skeptical of these newcomers, despite Jesus’ insistence that they’re good people who want to make the world less dangerous.  Richard will allow the group entrance, but only if they surrender their guns.  All two of them.  No big deal.

Though Richard is glad that Jesus, and not Gregory, has a backbone and a brain to boot, he doesn’t believe these trades or protection pacts will matter until they start dealing with the Saviors.  In response, Jesus believes this is the day that Richard will finally smile.

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So the survivors are brought into the Kingdom, which does have adequate numbers. They reunite with Morgan, who updates Rick and Daryl on Carol’s situation after she left Alexandria.  She’s fine, but just wanted to get away from everything, so after getting patched up at the Kingdom, she left.

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So Jesus brings Rick’s group to Ezekiel and his tiger.  It’s not often you see a tiger, more so in the apocalypse.  Rick states his case- Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom all have one thing in common: they all serve the Saviors.  Alexandria fought them once and won, but taking out one outpost didn’t eliminate the entire threat.  So…can you really call that a win, Rick?

Okay, whatever.  Ezekiel is upset that Jesus told others about his deal with the Saviors.  And that only became known after Jesus told Ezekiel about the Hilltop’s travails with the Saviors.  This arrangement isn’t known to the public for a good reason.  In Jesus’ defense, he broke the Kingdom’s confidence so Ezekiel could hear Rick’s plan.

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Ezekiel is hesitant in joining Rick’s fight against the Saviors, but the group points out that they’ve lost good people to the Saviors.  It’s here that Morgan finds out the fates of Abraham, Glenn, Spencer, and Olivia, not to mention Eugene being taken hostage.  And though Daryl escaped, he’s still a target.  Jesus thought this arrangement with the Saviors was manageable, but that’s changed.

For all the strength of Rick’s group, they lack the numbers and weapons.  If they strike first, together, they can win.  Richard likes this idea, as he doesn’t want to wait for things to get worse.  The time to strike back is now.  Ezekiel asks Morgan for his input.  Morgan admits that a lot of people on both sides will die, so he wonders if there’s another way to do this, like capturing Negan.

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Rick then tells a tale that I think he’s been itching to share for weeks: there was this road to a kingdom, and there was a rock in the road.  People would avoid it, but horses would break their legs on it and die and wagon wheels would fall off.  As such, people would lose the goods they wanted to sell.  For example, this one little girl’s family had a cask of beer that fell off.  As her family had no money, this was their last chance to get food.

The girl cried and wondered why the rock was there to hurt others.  So she dig and dug so deep and hard that her hands bled, but she after hours, she managed to remove the rock. However, just as she was prepared to fill the hole, she saw a bag of gold in that hole. The king put that rock in the road because he knew the person who dug it out deserved a reward that would change their life forever.

A bit of a shitty king, but I suppose he had a point.  Anyway, after Rick’s monologue, Ezekiel invites everyone to stay until tomorrow, when he will deliver his decree.

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Out in the woods, Benjamin runs into Carol, who heard him from a mile away because Carol has super hearing.  He explains that he didn’t run because he’s training to be a better fighter.  Carol tells Benjamin not to wander around alone at dark, but he tells her that Ezekiel will keep checking on her to make sure she’s okay since he looks out for the people he cares for, after all.

Benjamin offers her some food and water- he carries extra in case he runs into someone who needs it.  After all, there’s not a lot of people left and you have to help each other.

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That night, Benjamin tells Ezekiel that he’s getting better with the stick, as he managed to take out two walkers.  During his unaccompanied trip, he ran into Carol and said that his reason for carrying food and water is the same reason the Kingdom should work with Rick.  These visitors are willing to risk everything.  If the Kingdom doesn’t help, then Rick’s group may not win.

But on the off-chance that they do, they will have saved everyone and the Kingdom would have done nothing to assist.  And Ezekiel did say that he wants Benjamin to be ready for anything.  With this in mind, Ezekiel thanks Benjamin for his sage counsel.  The king is pleased.

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The next day, Ezekiel tells Rick and company that life at the Kingdom came at a cost, as he sent people to battle the dead when he didn’t have to.  He wanted to expand and create more places like the Kingdom.  Rick counters that the dead don’t rule them.  The world beyond the Kingdom isn’t as good and some people don’t have it good at all. Understatement of the century, Rick.

Ezekiel has to worry about his people.  He’s trying to hold onto this uneasy peace with the Saviors.  He won’t offer aid now, but he does offer Daryl asylum for as long as necessary since the Saviors don’t enter the Kingdom.  Daryl, though, wonders how long that would even last.  The group leaves unsatisfied and empty handed.

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Sasha tells Rosita that saw this coming, but she’s still upset.  Rosita doesn’t see why Sasha is telling her this, though.  Just because they both had sex with Abraham doesn’t make them friends.  Okay, does Rosita have a bug in her ass or something?

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Morgan wants Rick so he can hopefully change Ezekiel’s mind.  Richard, though, is more on board with Rick’s plan.  It doesn’t help the communities are just making the Saviors stronger by giving them food and arms.  Also, Daryl won’t be leaving.  Rick wants him to stay at the Kingdom.  That way, he can hopefully convince Ezekiel or, even better, stare him into submission.  That’s actually not a bad idea, Rick.

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On the road, the group overhears Negan’s eulogy of Fat Joey- apparently without Fat Joey, Skinny Joey is just Joey- and soon arrives at a blockade of cars in the road.  With a base not too far, they figure that the Saviors want to make it hard for people to reach this outpost.  The plan is to move the cars around and move them back so the Saviors don’t know others entered this area.

As the group gets to work moving the cars, they notice some explosives and steel cables needed for dealing with a walker herd.  The group welcomes themselves to these explosives, but they need to disarm them first.  Backing up won’t make a difference if the explosives go off.  At the same time, the group hears on the radio that Negan has ordered a search party to go find Daryl.

So now the survivors need to get the explosives and get to Alexandria before the Saviors. Good thing Rosita is an expert at disarming bombs.  Do you remember when Rosita was a pro at this?  I don’t.  Anyway, they need to unwrap the secondary explosives and make sure the casings aren’t messed up.  The explosives still need to be triggered to be set off, though there’s one in particular that Rosita doesn’t like.  She’s particular like that.

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Then, in the distance, Carl spots some approaching walkers.  There’s still time to disarm them and get the cars back on the road.  Sure, the Saviors will know that their bombs are missing, but this herd needs to stay on the highway.  The group may need it later.

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Jesus and Sasha head back to the Hilltop on foot.  As the others move the cars, Rick and Michonne cut through the wires and try to get as many weapons and explosives as possible.  They soon head to and hotwire two cars connected by the wiring and, in a set piece I’m sure most of us loved, they mow down the herd as the wire cuts through as many walkers as possible.

I guess it’s a good thing there was no rock in the road.  Rick and Michonne soon rejoin the others and head out just as the walkers are engulfed by an explosion.  Nice going, Rosita. But hey, they made it.  As Michonne tells Rick, they’re the ones who live.

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They return to Alexandria in no time.  Rick tells Tobin that everyone needs to get ready, but there’s no time for that, as Simon and a group of Saviors have arrived not for a tribute, but to find Daryl.  And Simon isn’t dumb enough to believe that Rick doesn’t know about Daryl’s disappearance.  So Simon wants everyone to partner up and search for Daryl.  That way, they can all watch him die if he’s found.

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The Saviors go through every nook and cranny of Alexandria, leaving a mess in the process, but don’t find Daryl.  In the now empty pantry, Aaron tells Simon that  but no sign of Daryl.  In the now empty pantry, Aaron tells Simon that it’s getting harder to find things for their community when they spend so much time gathering for Negan.

Again, Simon isn’t here to collect, but that day is coming.  Simon thanks Rick for his cooperation and tells him that if Daryl shows up, there’s no statute of limitations.  Well, at least Simon acknowledges that there’s still a statute of limitations in the post-apocalyptic world.  Tobin and Aaron tell Rick that Gabriel has disappeared, the pantry has been cleared out, and he stole a car.

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Aside from Rosita, no one wants to believe that Gabriel would steal from them.  Not to mention that Gabriel left his Bible, and Rick finds that curious.  He then sees the word ‘Boat’ written in a notebook.  So how would Gabriel know that Aaron and Rick were out there?

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As Aaron packs up, Eric confesses his concern, as Aaron did get the shit kicked out of him.  Eric doesn’t want Aaron to go after Gabriel, but after everything the community has endured, Gabriel is one of them and has proven his worth.  Despite the fear of what could happen if the Saviors returned while Rick and the others were out, Aaron is still set on leaving.

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After Rick and Aaron lead the group to the lake, Rick spots some footprints.  The group follows them and ends up in a clearing where, all of a sudden, they find themselves surrounded by a group of armed men and women.  And through it all, Rick eventually smiles.

So we’re back for the second half of the season and off to a good start as the main survivors get to work building an army to take down the Saviors.  Sure, they don’t make much progress since both Gregory and Ezekiel aren’t on board with this plan, but it’s only a matter of time before Rick has his united coalition to combat Negan.

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Before, when he decided to go for one of the outposts, Rick thought his plan was foolproof.  Attack the Saviors before they made the first move.  And despite doing that and more, the Saviors struck back and hard, so Rick needs to dial back his overconfidence. Rather than do it alone, he’s hoping that the Hilltop and Kingdom are just as fed up with Negan’s reign as they are.

Rick and company have proven time and time again that, when committed, they can overtake any challenge.  Hell, upon first learning about Negan, Rick said that confrontation has never been something the group has had trouble with, and then he met Negan.

So brute strength and heart alone won’t do it.  There’s strength in numbers and like the girl who dug out that rock in the road, Rick has to overcome obstacles in order to get back to some semblance of peace.

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Not just with Negan as that obstacle, but also in convincing the other communities that this is a fight they can win.  At this point, Gregory’s opinion is irrelevant since people at the Hilltop trust Maggie’s leadership and are already willing to put their lives on the line if there’s even a one percent chance that the Saviors can be defeated.

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And Ezekiel has every reason to be concerned.  He’s already kept his arrangement with the Saviors a secret and he doesn’t want to send more people to their deaths.  Why take the risk when there’s no guarantee of victory?  He’s sympathetic to Rick’s plight, yes, but not at the cost of his people.

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While Richard and Benjamin are already on board with fighting, I wager it’s going to take a major incident to push Ezekiel into joining Rick.  As Daryl asked, how long will the Saviors agree to not enter the Kingdom?  Someone is going to get hurt, killed, or the Saviors will break the peace because they can.  And that will what be what convinces Ezekiel that the Saviors must be removed from the equation if there is to be true peace.

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Also, I’m glad we got to spend a bit of time with Morgan, not just to get his reaction to who has been killed, but to see that he’s still keeping Carol’s location a secret.  And he’s still grappling with his stance on killing.  He did it to protect Carol, but despite hearing what the Saviors have done, he’s still looking for alternatives rather than going to war.  But like when he saved Carol, he may have to kill again to protect those going into battle.

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And even though Carol wants to stay out of the conflict- for now- she’s still a skilled warrior, as seen when she tells Benjamin about how to stay stealthy.  I’m unsure if she’s going to remain on the sidelines, but I imagine all that’s happened to her friends will at least get a reaction out of her.  Enough to draw her back into combat?  No idea.

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I like that we don’t spend an entire episode’s worth of Rick and company trying to recruit. It would’ve been easy to spend half the episode at the Hilltop, the other half at the Kingdom, and just end it there.  But these people have to keep moving because despite needing the numbers, they still have to contend with the Saviors, more so now that Daryl is a fugitive.

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Not to mention the fact that they’re desperate for weapons, which made the sequence on the road more hectic…even though these characters have such thick plot armor that we know they were never in any real danger, despite Rick and Michonne being surrounded.

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Plus, The Walking Dead has good set pieces when it comes to eliminating batches of walkers, but cutting through them with wire and two cars?  That’s some inspired ingenuity right there.  A bit ridiculous, but fun as hell all the same.

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Onto some character bits.  I can do without Rosita being such a prat to Sasha.  Where’s this coming from, by the way?  They seemed to be on good terms, last I checked.  If anything, I would think they’d be drawn closer since they both loved Abraham.  But no, she brings up that shared connection as a way to be cold to Sasha, who only expressed her disappointment about the situation.

More than that, she’s quick to throw Gabriel under the bus when he was the one to tell her that she didn’t need to sacrifice herself if it meant killing Negan.

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If I had to guess, maybe Rosita’s just salty that she couldn’t kill Negan from a few feet away.

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But what is Gabriel doing, anyway?  I wonder if it has to do with this new community we see at the end of the episode.  And though Rosita has turned her back on Gabriel, I’m happy that the others, especially Rick, trust that Gabriel wouldn’t just betray them.

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As for this new community, just who the hell are they?  At a first, quick glance, it’s easy to think these were Oceanside residents, but we saw men among them, so that rules them out.  But judging from Rick’s smile, he sees some advantage in this group.  Potential cannon fodder-I mean, soldiers for the war against the Saviors?  Who knows?  Here’s hoping we find out next time.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 8: “Hearts Still Beating”

From bottle episodes to multiple plots, it’s time for The Walking Dead to end the first half of its seventh season, and if anything, it solidifies in Rick’s mind by episode’s end that things need to change and fast.  This is “Hearts Still Beating.”

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The episode begins at the Hilltop with Maggie sitting at Abraham and Glenn’s graves.  She later climbs the walls when Gregory tells her that people are saying nice things about her, Sasha, and how they saved the community.

Gregory doesn’t want it going to her head, but Maggie wonders if this bothers Gregory, who is about to eat an apple.  Then another Hilltop member, Eduardo, mentions that Maggie is pregnant, so goodbye Gregory’s apple and hello Maggie’s apple.

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We then cut to Alexandria, where Negan puts the finishing touches on a clean shave while Carl and Judith watch.  He then gets to work cooking up a storm.

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Outside, Tara gives Olivia some lemonade that’s intended for Negan.  Tara offers to take over, but Olivia refuses since she promised Rick that she would watch Judith.  She tells Tara to leave.

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Over at the Sanctuary, Daryl makes his escape from his cell.

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Meanwhile, Aaron and Rick find a boat riddled with bullet holes.  Rick wants Aaron to stay back, but Aaron refuses, saying that he’s seeing this through. Instead, he gets some wood to use as paddles and the two then set out on the water.

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As Carl sets the dinner table, Negan tells him to get another setting, but he soon gets tired of waiting for Rick.  Lucille, though, is hungry, so Negan orders Carl to pass the rolls.  At least he said please.  Lucille doesn’t have a pussy, but she apparently has a mouth.

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As Eugene enters the Safe Zone, the Saviors make good of Spencer’s supplies and are glad that he got messy for them.  One of the Saviors, Laura, played by Lindsley Register, tells Spencer that if he plays his cards right, they may show him where she lives.  Laura then tells an eavesdropping Eugene to fuck off and mind his own business.

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Back by the Kingdom, Carol reads from a book when she spots a package from Morgan on her doorstep.  Carol calls out to Morgan and tells him that the package of fresh food is unnecessary because Ezekiel is keeping her well-stocked.  Morgan promises to leave Carol alone, but she did call him over in the first place to ask how he’s doing.

Morgan is good, so now he can go.  He tells Carol that she may be going soft.  Morgan won’t be going anywhere, as he and Carol receive an unexpected visit from Richard, who wants to talk to the two about something important.

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On the water, Rick and Aaron continue their trek and take out as many walkers that are drawing close to their boat, which is taking on water.  They manage to reach another boat, but a walker has already made it her territory.  And then another walker grabs Aaron and drags him into the water.  After a bit of time passes, he resurfaces unharmed.  Sorry, Bob.

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However, Aaron and Rick come up short, as they find food and tons of guns, but no ammunition. Just a less-than-pleasant note from the owner.

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Back at the Sanctuary, Daryl sneaks into another room where he feasts on peanut butter and changes into a new set of clothes.

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As the two pack, Rick tells Aaron that he didn’t mean to imply that Aaron couldn’t help out.  It’s just that people don’t agree with Rick scavenging for the Saviors, so Rick wouldn’t blame Aaron if he backed out.  Aaron reminds Rick that he was with him on the road.  What they’re doing is going to keep people alive.  It doesn’t matter what happens to them, even if Michonne doesn’t see this as living.

After Alexandria lived free, it’s hard to give up what you have, but either your heart’s beating or it isn’t.  Same for your loved ones.  You take what’s given to you so you can live.

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Michonne is still on the road with Isabelle, who is continuing her drive presumably towards the Sanctuary.  Michonne asks how long she’s been with Negan and why she was out there alone, but gets no response.  Whether Isabelle believes that talking won’t change how this ends for her remains to be seen, but for now, Michonne won’t kill Negan today. She just wants to find a way to win and change how this ends for her.

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Back at the Hilltop, Sasha and Maggie get an apple pie as a gift for their work in saving the Hilltop.  Enid asks if Maggie is President yet, but she isn’t.  Also, Jesus hasn’t returned yet.  Enid knows that Sasha is lying to Maggie about Jesus, given that he left yesterday, not today, as Sasha said.  Sasha says this is for Maggie’s own good.  Enid knows that Sasha wants to kill Negan.

If Sasha had help, she wouldn’t have to keep this from Maggie.  But Sasha doesn’t want Enid helping or talking, even though this effort to take down Negan goes well beyond Sasha.

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Richard speaks with Carol and Morgan about communities that once banded together, but are now gone.  He lost hope in people until he found the Kingdom and met Ezekiel.  But now the Kingdom is under threat by the Saviors.  A few months back, some Saviors met Ezekiel and, recognizing his capabilities, cut a deal.  In exchange for food and supplies, , the Saviors wouldn’t hurt anyone or enter the Kingdom.

And since Ezekiel both trusts Morgan and likes Carol, Richard needs them to help convince Ezekiel to fight the Saviors.  There’s peace with the Saviors now, but Richard fears that something will go wrong or the Saviors will just stop honoring the deal.  Once that happens, the Kingdom will fall.  Richard lost his family to this world and he’s afraid that if nothing happens now, more will die.

He knows what the Saviors can do and does not trust them.  In essence, Richard wants Morgan and Carol to convince Ezekiel to launch a preemptive strike against the Saviors.

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Over at Alexandria’s church, Rosita admires her handcrafted bullet when Gabriel asks if it’s for her or Negan.  She’s not worried about dying so long as Negan is killed in the process.  Gabriel agrees, but he doesn’t see why does Rosita has to die.  And there’s no need to lie if this is their last conversation.

Rosita believes that Abraham was still alive, they could fight.  If Glenn lived, Maggie’s child would have a father.  Michonne and Carl have Rick, Aaron has Eric, Eugene knows things, and Daryl is strong.  Gabriel mentions Sasha as well and tells Rosita that it shouldn’t have been her or anyone else.

He is convinced that they will win, but they need to wait for or create the right moment together.  Rosita is a part of that, so she shouldn’t do this because everyone needs her.

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Richard knows that the Saviors outnumber the Kingdom, so they need to attack first while they have the advantage and, hopefully, the element of surprise.  Though a capable fighter, Carol wants no part of this and would still prefer to be left alone.

Morgan knows people will die, and he only killed to save Carol.  In Richard’s mind, there’s no difference between that and killing other Saviors to protect everyone else.  Richard tells While Morgan would rather build on the peace that exists now, Richard tells him that he’ll have to choose to kill one day because things aren’t going to get easier. He should choose now before losing someone close to him.

But Richard knows that there’s no reasoning with the Saviors.  He believes that the Saviors will turn on the Kingdom, and when blood is shed, it will be on Morgan and Carol’s hands.  With that, he leaves.  Carol tells Morgan that she doesn’t want anyone else knowing where she is, but he never meant for anyone to see her.

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Spencer enters his home and finds it turned upside down, but it’s soon cleaned up as he gets himself nice and ready for a confrontation.

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Back in the woods, Richard enters a hidden home and collapses to the floor as he eyes his supplies.

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Rosita then asks Spencer if he’s on for a date, but he just wants to get close to Negan, as he figures that he’s got good momentum with the Saviors.  Spencer asks why Rosita ended or even started what the two of them had, given that he felt they had something good.

Truth is that Rosita was trying not to think about shit. finds Spencer sweet, sure, but she admits that she just used him.  At the very least, she does agree to dinner with Spencer, no strings attached.

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Daryl again manages to find a motorcycle when he’s confronted by Fat Joseph, who surrenders and offers to let Daryl leave right now.  He tells Daryl that he’s just trying to get by, but Daryl just beats him to death just as Jesus finds him.  Daryl retorts that it’s not about getting by, but getting it all.  Before the two leave, Jesus pockets one of the walkie-talkies.

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After being refused entry by Arat, Spencer is eventually allowed to pass and officially introduces himself to Negan.

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Michonne and Isabelle companion are still on the road when they come to a stop. Isabelle tells Michonne that Negan is up ahead.   You know, because they’re all Negan. She says that whatever Michonne is planning won’t work, but she still has some choices. As her final move, Isabelle informs Michonne that there’s a silencer in the glove compartment…

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Meanwhile, Rick and Aaron return to Alexandria, when they learn that Negan is waiting for Rick.  The Saviors then check the truck for supplies, among them the note that Rick and Aaron found on the boat.  Why the hell do they still have that?  Anyway, the Saviors think that the disparaging note is meant for them, so they start beating the shit out of Aaron and stop Rick from interfering.

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Negan is overjoyed about Spencer’s housewarming gift, but the only thing missing is a pool table.  Luckily, the house across the street has one, but Negan has a better idea.

With the pool table set, Spencer tells Negan that he understands what Negan is trying to build with this network.  It makes sense, but Rick has a history of not working well with others.  More than that, Rick wasn’t the original leader and wasn’t as good as Deanna.  Negan finds that a sad story, but lucky for him, Rick isn’t in charge.  Even still, Spencer knows that Rick’s out-of-control ego will lead to him trying to screw things up.

With the Alexandria residents now gathered at the pool table, Negan asks what Spencer is proposing, and Spencer offers to be the leader that Negan needs.

But Negan has been thinking about how Rick, despite hating him, is out gathering things to make sure no one else is hurt.  He’s swallowing his hate to get shit done, and that takes guts.  Then there’s Spencer, who waited for Rick to leave so he could get Negan to do his dirty work.  After all, if Spencer really wants to be in charge, why doesn’t he just kill Rick himself?

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Negan says it’s because Spencer has no guts.  And with that, he plunges a knife straight into Spencer’s stomach and guts spill out everywhere.  Negan is beyond embarrassed, as Spencer did have guts after all- they were inside him all along.  The residents are left shocked, but Negan orders someone to get this mess cleaned.  He asks if anyone wants to finish the pool game, but no takers.  Rosita pulls out her gun and fires.

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The other Saviors finally let up on beating Aaron and Rick is allowed to help him.  They hear a gunshot ring out and it turns out that Lucille ended up taking a hit from Rosita’s bullet.  Negan demands to know about the bullet that he correctly guesses is homemade.

Since Lucille’s beautiful surface won’t look the same, Negan figures that Rosita’s shouldn’t either…unless she tells him who made the bullet.  Arat then places a blade to Rosita’s face.

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Rosita says that she made it, but Negan figures that she’s lying.  Negan orders Arat to kill someone, so with fucking perfect aim, she turns around and kills Olivia.  And this is where Rick and Aaron arrive just in time for Negan to ask for a thank you.  Even though this relationship started off tense, he just showed how reasonable how he was.  After all, Carl gunned down two Saviors, but Negan brought him home and fed him.

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Not to mention Spencer plotting behind Rick’s back, but now he’s dead.  Again, thanks to Negan.  And Rosita shot Lucille, so now there’s one less mouth to feed in Olivia’s death.  Negan wouldn’t have killed her- that’s all Arat’s doing.  Rick tells Negan that his shit is waiting for him at the gate, so he can leave.  However, Negan still wants to know who made the bullet.

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Eugene admits that he was the one who made the bullet, and Negan believes him.  Negan orders Lucille to give him strength and Negan will now relieve Rick of Eugene.  Whatever Rick scavenged is no good because after today, he’s in deep shit. Also, Negan loves Rick’s kitchen.  With that, the Saviors depart.  Spencer soon reanimates just as Rick puts him down.

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He later sits in the cell that Morgan built as he looks over a note when Michonne joins him.  The two embrace because, let’s face it, they’ve had one hell of a day.  Michonne confirms that she found what she was looking for, as she had to go her way instead of joining Rick and Aaron.  But when she found it, she realized that she didn’t want it to be her way, but theirs.

There are more Saviors than anticipated, but that doesn’t change how Michonne how feels or how things are.  There’s so much that they’ve lived through when they should have died and they will keep standing, so now they’re left wondering how they make that mean something.  After all, Rick once said that they’re the ones who live.  That’s why they have to fight: not for themselves, but for everyone.  They can find a way to beat the Saviors.

And Rick now knows that.

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Back at the Hilltop, Maggie again climbs the walls when she calls out to Sasha and Enid.  Turns out that Rick, Michonne, Tara, Carl, and Rosita have arrived at the Hilltop.  Rick tells Maggie that she was right from the beginning, as they need to get ready to fight.  Rick couldn’t have listened back then, but now he can.

Oh, also, Daryl and Jesus are at the Hilltop and he returns Rick’s colt.  Now reunited, the group heads towards the mansion as the first half of The Walking Dead’s seventh season comes to a close.

But wait, there’s more!  In a stinger at the end, Gabriel takes his post atop the Alexandria walls while the same individual who spied on Rick and Aaron watches him from a distance.

Well, that’s it for the first half of Season Seven and the wheels are in motion with the communities heading towards taking on Negan and the Saviors.  “Hearts Still Beating” is a very good episode and finisher for the first half that balances different storylines and communities very well.  It was all well-paced.  We’re at Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Sanctuary, or the Kingdom long enough to get the gist of what’s going happening.

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While I haven’t had a big issue with the episodes dealing with one community, it makes sense, given the situation, that things are ramping up, so of course we’d head back to multiple plots and catch up not just on how the communities are doing, but how they’re planning on dealing with Negan.

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And a big part of that has to do with being unified, as Michonne concludes when on the road and as she tells Rick in a very good speech about working together.  Making the most of this situation with the Saviors doesn’t work if everyone isn’t banded together.  Hell, even Gabriel tells Rosita that creating the right moment comes from working as one as opposed to going at it alone.  Hopefully Sasha and Jesus have let Maggie in on their plan.

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But a team won’t function as well without its leader, and it looks as if Rick has finally come around to fighting back as opposed to biding his time.  And that’s through a combination of the people who have either suffered or been killed up through this point, watching Aaron be beaten, Michonne’s speech to him, and how his own son went right to Negan’s stronghold, killed a few Saviors, and could’ve gotten himself killed.  Again.

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Rick had been brought down, but he’s not out.  And while Maggie instantly wanted to fight, it took him more time to come around.  Now that he’s ready for war and has reunited with the others at the Hilltop, now it’s just a matter of formulating a successful attack that won’t lead to more deaths, impossible as that sounds.  Instead of just taking the fight to Negan ahead of time, he needs a better strategy.

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He also needs to be more trusting of his new allies, as it was unnecessary for him to suggest that Aaron sit out the boat mission, even though he didn’t mean it.  Despite the tense, first encounter, Aaron has proven himself loyal and willing to help when necessary.  He was there when Glenn and Abraham died, so he knows the cost, but damn the consequences, he’s proving to Rick why he’s a vital member of this coalition.

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Over at the Kingdom, Richard is falling into the same trap that Rick did with his plan of a preemptive strike against the Saviors.  He knows that the Saviors can’t be trusted and he wants to take the fight to them ahead of time, but if he was aware of what happened with Rick, chances are he would be more cautious about wanting to get a potential early advantage against the Saviors.

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By the way, what’s going on with Carol?  Seems like she’s still in her funk about not wanting to kill or be involved with this conflict at all.  That’s fine, but for her to say that she doesn’t want anyone to know where she is and that she’d rather be left alone isn’t helpful at this point.  I doubt this is long term.  Maybe once she learns what happened to the others, she’ll go back to killer Mama Bear Carol.

At the very least, the seed has been planted in Morgan and Carol’s minds about the Kingdom playing a part in an offensive against Negan.  And as Richard said, Morgan will have to kill again eventually to protect the people in his life.  Once Rick arrives at the Kingdom, I wager he’ll do a better job of persuading the community to fight than either Carol or Morgan.

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Now let’s get to Spencer’s death, another comic moment come to life in a beautiful, bloody way.  The moment played out, note-for-note, like you remember it from the comics and it really showed what Negan sees in Rick.  For all his hatred for Negan, Rick, as far as Negan knows, isn’t a schemer.  He’s swallowing his pride and working for Negan in order to protect Alexandria.

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By contrast, Spencer would take the coward’s way out and, like Gregory, suck up to the opposition in order to get in their good graces.  Problem is that Negan gets off on and likes when people fight against him.  What Spencer’s doing requires very little thought because there’s no guarantee that Negan would accept him with open arms.  As broken as Rick has been this season, Negan at least knows that he has a spine.

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Oh, but Spencer’s not the only one making stupid decisions.  Rosita took a prime opportunity to kill Negan and had a perfect shot, and not only did she almost get herself killed- and she seemed ready to die- but she got Olivia killed in the process.  Why now?

Daryl punched Negan in the face, which led to Glenn getting killed. Rosita took a shot and missed, but despite that, her actions got someone killed.  Clearly Rosita never watched The Wire or she would have remembered Omar’s words: you come at the king, you best not miss.

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Perhaps it was impulsive thinking, but what made her believe she could pull off what amounts to a suicide mission?  She didn’t even land her target, and now not only is Olivia dead, but Eugene has been taken captive.

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That’s another thing: why does Negan decide to take Eugene?  Aside from the knowledge of how to make bullets, what could Negan get from him?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to take Rosita?  He took Daryl hostage and said that he had guts.  Take the woman who almost killed you instead of the guy whose skill is making bullets.  Or, hell, just take them both.  Rick wasn’t about to stop Negan.

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Credit where it’s due, that was a fantastic shot on Arat’s part.  The woman didn’t even give it much of a thought- she just spun around and killed Olivia on the first try.  It’s more impressive given how far away Olivia was when Arat could have just killed anyone in the crowd around her.  By the way, I love Arat.  Or rather, the intensity of Elizabeth Ludlow’s performance.  Like Daryl, she’s not a comic character, but is enjoyable all the same.

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The reunion at the end felt very earned, especially seeing Rick and Daryl reunite after Negan refused to let the two so much as talk or look at each other.  I would assume that Daryl and Maggie are on good terms as well.  Our group is down, but they’re not out.

And with most of our survivors back together, the time has come for the communities to combine their resources and slowly build a strong coalition capable of taking on their common enemy in Negan and the Saviors.  Will everyone answer the call? Will there be any holdouts?  And who the hell is spying on Alexandria?

“Hearts Still Beating” was a very strong outing for the first half of the season.  It balanced multiple communities very well and was both fun- mostly through Negan’s actions- and suspenseful to watch at the same time.  As we head towards war, I am very excited to see how things go in the second half of Season Seven.  See you then.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 7: “Sing Me a Song”

So after that slight detour to check in on Heath and Tara, it’s time to return to some multiple plots and see just what happens when Carl pays Negan a surprise visit at the Sanctuary. The comic fan in me cannot wait for this one.  Welcome to “Sing Me a Song.”

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The episode begins with Michonne on the road as she again comes across the burned mattresses.  Doing her best impression of Omar from The Wire, she whistles “The Farmer and the Dell,” and soon puts down two approaching walkers.  Setting down the radio and her katana, she begins dragging one of the walkers away.

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Elsewhere, Rick and Aaron awaken just past 5:30.  Rick contemplates radioing into Michonne, but doesn’t.  As the two prepare to head out, they make a new discovery.

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On another part of the road, some Saviors talk of how something is still going, but it might be the end of them.  At least Negan is smart enough to not let that mess anywhere near them.  Fat Joey also apparently rigged the herdway.

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When the Saviors finally depart, they are unaware that Carl and Jesus are also on this truck.  While the drive continues, Jesus pours syrup onto the road in order to leave a trail, thinking that they’re close.  Jesus wants to bail and follow the rest of the way.  The trucks are slow enough, so he and Carl will be in the blind spot and can race behind the other cars.

However, only Jesus jumps out and is left on the road as Carl continues towards the Sanctuary.  As the truck approaches, Carl loads up one of the machine guns and overhears Negan’s voice.  One of the Saviors tells Negan that the redirect has been screwed up.  They’re on it now, but there’s still a mess.

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As the Saviors check the truck, Carl opens fire and manages to gun down a few of the Saviors.  He demands that the rest lower their weapons, saying that he only wants Negan. Negan indeed presents himself, calling Carl adorable, even though he scares the shit out of him.

Dwight tackles Carl and confiscates his knife, but Negan orders him to back off.  After all, it’s no way to treat a guest.  Negan is all ready to give Carl a tour of the place, and Carl eventually relents and takes Carl’s hand.  Negan tells Carl that, like Daryl, he’s lucky, as both of their lives and jobs would be tougher with just one hand or arm.

As Dwight takes Daryl instead, Negan laments that he’ll maybe have time to screw just one of his wives today.  As for what’s in store for Carl, two things: Carl can’t shatter the badass image that Negan has of him, so Carl can’t show any fear.  Second, Negan sure as shit isn’t about to ruin the surprise..

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Negan brings Carl inside the Sanctuary, where he greets a waiting crowd of Saviors.  He tells his followers that they have gone out into the world, fought the dead, and come back with some good shit.  That shit can be theirs if they work hard and play by the rules.  As such, everyone, regardless of points, gets fresh vegetables at dinner.  Negan tells Carl that this is a sign of respect, as the people are still kneeling.

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Back in Alexandria, Rosita and Eugene have the first of many arguments this episode, this one over whether to gather supplies for the Saviors or ways to fight back.  Spencer, though, believes the three should travel together, but Rosita says that she’s fine with Eugene.

Spencer can grovel to the Saviors all he wants, but he still believes this is all Rick’s fault. Even if Spencer can do better, Rosita isn’t so confident that he’s capable.  If Spencer wants to provide for the Saviors, he can, but he’ll do so alone.

You know, Spencer certainly has a way with women.  Those that don’t end up in harm’s way can’t get far enough away from him.

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Negan pops by his harem and tells Carl that the women won’t mind if he stares at their tits.  He shares a drink with Sherry and wants to know what happened with Amber and Mark, but Sherry says that’s none of Negan’s business.  Fair enough, but Negan wants to know if it’s true that Mark skipped out on redirect duty to be with Amber.  After all, there are rules for a reason and nothing matters if you’re dead.

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Sherry is with Negan because she gets that.  She admits that Amber made a mistake and wants Negan to go easy on her, but Negan reminds Sherry that he’s never hit any of the women.  True, but Sherry knows that there’s worse to Negan.  This tale is to be continued.

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Negan then goes to Amber, played by Autumn Dial, and tells her that he doesn’t want anyone in his harem that doesn’t want to be there.  If Amber wants to go back to Mark, she can, but what she can’t do is cheat on Negan.  There are other women who would love to take Amber’s place.  If Amber wants to return to Mark and her mother, Negan can put all three of them on the same job.

Though Negan accepts Amber’s apology, but Negan reminds Amber that she knows what’s coming next.  It’s all going to work out fine for Amber, though.  Negan then tells Sherry to go fetch Carson.  Negan knows that he’s an asshole, but Sherry still likes him anyway.

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Then Dwight and Daryl just as Negan is kissing Sherry.  Daryl, as the help, brings in a plate of food, which is sad to see, I will admit.  He demands to know why Carl is here, but that’s none of his business.  If Daryl isn’t careful, a toothpick will go through Carl’s good eye.  Negan then tells Dwight to fire up the furnace.  It’s time for a little déjà vu.

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Back on the road, Rick and Aaron approach a gate with only a day to find supplies.  They climb the gate, which warns approaching people that the only thing beyond the gate is trouble, and head off to find supplies.  You’d think that, based on Terminus, Rick would be more wary of areas with signs.

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Elsewhere, Spencer asks Gabriel if hating someone is a sin, and it’s not since it’s a thought.  Actions matter more in the end.  Spencer admits that he hates Rick.  He was a cop, but shouldn’t be in charge.  Deanna, though, served in Congress and brought out the good in people.  However, Rick did the same for Gabriel through his inspiration.  More than that, Rick, despite not being perfect, kept people together and alive.

And neither Deanna nor Reg’s deaths were Rick’s fault.  Before Spencer contemplates what would have happened if things went differently, Gabriel only looks towards the future. No point in speculating on ‘What ifs.’  But Spencer sees no future as long as Rick is in charge.  The only good thing that could happen is if Rick doesn’t make it back to Alexandria.  Gabriel then orders Spencer to stop the car.

He tells Spencer that what he’s saying doesn’t make him a sinner, but a tremendous shit.  For now.  It doesn’t have to be terminal, though.  Fuck yeah, Father Gabriel.  Anyway, Gabriel then gets out of the car and decides to walk back.  Spencer soon also exits the car and heads into the woods.  He soon finds a walker up in a tree with a compound bow nearby.

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Back at the Sanctuary, Negan brings Carl to his quarters and confirms that yes, all of those women are his wives.  After all, why settle for just one?  Negan wants to get to know Carl better, as he’s fascinated by this kid.  He figured a kid like Carl would mope around and cry about missing things like prom, but Carl instead went on a mission and killed two Saviors.  And Carl is smart enough to know that Negan won’t let this slide.

Negan then orders Carl to take off his bandage.  Carl refuses, but Negan reminds Carl that two of his men are dead.  This is punishment, and Carl probably doesn’t want to piss off Negan right now.

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Carl soon relents and removes his bandage, revealing the socket where his eye used to be.  It is indeed disgusting as shit, but Negan finds it glamorous, even if won’t get Carl a girlfriend anytime soon.  An impressed Negan wants to touch it, but Carl soon gets very upset by this.

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Negan pulls back and apologizes for hurting Carl’s feelings.  He was just fucking around.  Soon, there’s a knock at the door.  Fat Joseph returns Lucille to Negan, as he left her by the truck, which never happens.  Negan reclaims Lucille from Fat Joseph and asks if he treated Lucille kindly like a proper lady.

And that includes if he patted Lucille’s pussy like a lady, but Negan is just fucking with Fat Joseph.  After all, a baseball bat doesn’t have a pussy.  That’s just Anatomy 101.  This is what Rick should be teaching Carl.  Negan then asks Carl to sing him a song.  Carl can’t think of any, so Negan asks Carl what his parents used to sing or play for him.

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Eventually, Carl begins singing “You Are My Sunshine” while Negan takes random swings.  Negan loves it, as does Lucille- the one thing she loves more than bashing in brains.  When asked about his mother, Carl doesn’t answer, so Negan puts two and two together.  More than that, Carl admits that he was the one to put her down.  Negan then orders Carl to get up because the iron should be ready.

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Negan tells his Saviors that what’s about to happen is hard to watch.  He can’t ignore the rules and let it slide because, as the Saviors say, the rules keep us alive.  The Saviors provide security and bring civilization to the world, but they can’t do that without rules because the rules make it all work.  Negan knows that it’s not easy, but there’s always a cost.  Here, if you try to cut corners, then it’s the iron for you.

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Negan heads down and receives the red-hot iron from Dwight.  He apologizes in advance for what’s about to happen to Mark, played by Griffin Freeman, but it is what it is.  With that, he presses the iron to Mark’s face as Mark lets out a horrible scream.  When Negan removes the iron, Mark passes out from the extreme heat.  With the ritual done, Negan orders Daryl to clean up the mess and tells Dr. Carson to get to work.

But everything is cool.  Mark’s face should be a daily reminder to everyone that the rules matter.  Plus, Negan doesn’t want to do this again.  He then leaves with Carl in order to figure out what to do with him.

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In the woods, Spencer manages to secure a rope to the platform the walker is situated on and gets it loose enough for the compound bow to drop.  He retrieves it just as the walker drops, losing its arms in the process.  Spencer pick-pockets the walker and, among the items he finds, comes across a note.

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Eugene and Rosita arrive at the munitions factory, though Eugene has no desire to be here.  He refuses to help, even though he did initially agree to do so.  Since then, Eugene has considered other options and is wondering whether this option even makes sense.  He’s not trying to stop Rosita so much as slow her roll.  And Eugene is seeing clearly.  As Abraham said, the Saviors have numbers and a single bullet won’t do it.

Someone has to pay the price, and even if Rosita is willing, it’s still an uphill battle.  Rosita reminds Eugene that she owes both him and Abraham.  If there’s a price, she’ll pay it. She lashes out at Eugene, calling him a weak coward and saying that he’s only alive because people feel sorry for him.  So for once, he needs to do something useful and make her a goddamn bullet.

Rosita, you’re being a real cunt right now.

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We return to the Sanctuary where Dwight and Sherry again have a smoke.  Dwight tells Sherry not to beat herself up, as he figures that she sold out Mark and Amber.  Sherry says that isn’t what happened, but Dwight sees through her lie.

Sherry says that this deal with Negan was only meant to affect them, but Dwight believes that Sherry is just standing on someone else’s back.  The two could be spotted, but Dwight isn’t worried since they’re not doing anything.  Sherry agrees with that much.

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Negan still won’t let Carl wrap up his face because Negan isn’t done with him.  Carl demands to know why Negan hasn’t killed him, Rick, or Daryl yet.  Negan has plays for Daryl, saying that he’ll make a good soldier.  Rick is already gathering for Negan, but as for Carl, that remains to be seen.  It’s better and more fun for Negan to break him.  So Negan asks Carl what he should do with him, since he can’t release him.

He could do a number of terrible things, but Carl suggests that Negan jump out the window to save him the trouble of killing him.  If Negan was going to do anything, he would have done it.  Carl doesn’t even believe that Negan would kill him, and maybe Carl is right.  As Negan gathers Lucille, he tells Carl that they’re going for a ride.

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As the trucks leave the Sanctuary, Negan is unaware that Jesus is atop his truck.  Negan tells Daryl that he’s taking Carl home and orders Dwight to take Daryl back to his box.  Back to Easy Street it is.

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So while Daryl stews in his cell, he gets a key under his door and a note that tells him it’s time to go.

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On the road, a lone Savior happens upon a roadblock of corpses when she’s soon approached by Michonne, who orders her to lower her gun and knife.  She orders the woman to take her to Negan.

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And just where is Negan?  Well, he’s back in Alexandria with Carl as he pays Olivia a surprise visit.  He wants to speak with Rick, but he’s out scavenging and might not be back today, so Negan will wait.  Olivia tells Negan that Alexandria is low on supplies, particularly with food, but Negan takes one look at Olivia and figures can’t be the case for everyone.  This makes Olivia cry.  A dick comment, but it’s Negan, so I’ll allow it.

Negan apologizes for being rude and offers instead to fuck Olivia’s brains out if she agrees, and that gets Negan a slap in the face instead.  That just gets Negan 50 percent more into Olivia.  He orders Olivia to make him a drink.

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So Carl gives Negan the grand tour of the house as we get a montage.  He even gets to meet and picks up Judith.

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Rick and Aaron- you remember them, right?- happen upon a sign telling them about an armed person who has supplies and ammunition.  The only way for someone to have reached this point is that the person who wrote the sign must apparently be dead.  Indeed, Rick and Aaron find what looks a houseboat.

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Rosita thanks Eugene for her bullet and apologizes for what she said, though Eugene rejects it because he knows Rosita meant what she said.  As the two make their way back, they happen upon Spencer, who found a list of caches from a dead man with a plan.  However, Rick is going to do more than just hand this over to the Saviors..

Well, Spencer won’t have to wait long to deliver the goods, as he, Eugene, and Rosita find that Negan is already at Alexandria.

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In fact, Negan, Carl, and Judith sit on one of the porches and unwind.  Negan likes it so much that he’d like to stay, and knows that it’s probably stupid to leave Carl and Rick alive.  Maybe he should just bury kill and later bury them in the flower beds.  He says this while holding Judith, which is creepy as fuck.

Now I’m no professional or a doctor, Jim, but I’ll just come right out and say it: I fucking loved this episode.  The Walking Dead has been going through a tough period right now with the ratings.  Perhaps people are tired, maybe the bottle episodes have gotten on their nerves, maybe the entertainment factor has dried up for some.  I don’t know.

I’ll admit that the bottle episodes have been somewhat slower, but at the same time, they’ve allowed for some very good world building and character development.  Plus, when done well, like the excellent “Clear.”  I wouldn’t personally say any of the bottle episodes we’ve gotten have been as good as that, but I’ve enjoyed them nonetheless.  But I can understand some criticisms when people say they’d prefer multiple storylines.

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We sort of get that here, to a point, but I dug this episode not just for its fun factor, but as a fan of the comic book, this felt like a treat as we got to see a lot of comic moments come to life.  And we didn’t even spend the entire episode at the Sanctuary, so those wanting several plots to play out at once hopefully got what they wanted.

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As for me, having comic moments on screen was the real joy of this episode to me.  We got the iron ritual, we saw Negan’s harem, and Negan bonding with Carl.

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Actually, let’s start there, because some of the stuff with Carl was a bit weak.  I don’t blame the acting because I do think Chandler Riggs did a good job, but I have to wonder how these scenes would have played out if this Carl was as young as his comic counterpart was at this moment.

I sympathize with Carl because of the position he’s put himself into, but it didn’t feel as uncomfortable as it was originally because Carl, though a badass in both interpretations, was just a kid.  Here, he’s already been hardened through things like putting down his own mother.  If anything, I just wish that we had more scenes that allowed Carl to show his vulnerable side.

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Having said that, I’m not really complaining.  I like how Carl, despite crying in front of Negan, maintained his composure, not to maintain a front, but because he’s not intimidated by Negan.  Hell, he went as far as telling Negan to jump out of a window and questioned whether Negan would even follow through on killing him.  Carl is tempting fate, but I think he knows that Negan wouldn’t kill him at this moment if he hadn’t already.

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But as Negan indicated, it’s more fun to try and break him.  And given the shit that Carl saw this episode, I would agree.  Even though this is the second tour us viewers have had of the Sanctuary, there’s something different about seeing it with Carl as opposed to spending most of the time in Daryl’s cell.  Here, we saw more of the Saviors and their devotion to Negan.

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As he tells his followers, there are rules.  Break them and you get the iron, which was a pretty disturbing scene.  I had hoped that the show wouldn’t cut away when the iron made impact, but we did eventually see it, so I’m not angry.  It showed how strict a stickler is for the rules, but also the lengths he’ll go to make sure his disciples stay in line because, as he told them, he didn’t want to have to do this again.

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The strange thing is, as evil of a man that he is, we see that Negan has standards.  He reminds Sherry that he’s never hit any of his women.  He previously offered Dwight a chance to bed any woman as long as she said yes.  And he’s not forcing any of the women to stay with him, even though their lives are far better living with him than scavenging for points.

And we see his softer side not just with Carl, but in Alexandria.  He tried to apologize to Olivia after making fun of her weight, and though he got slapped for his troubles, we’ve seen how much Negan gets off on people fighting against him.

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Though I maintain that seeing him hold Judith while talking about how he would kill Rick and Carl is one of Negan’s creepier moments.  Hell, just seeing Negan hold Judith was still creepy as shit.  He’s like the demented dad who loves fucking with you, but there’s some small part of him that still cares about your feelings.

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Negan’s a guy you should hate, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance makes him as eccentric and likable as he is in the comic, even though you’re also rooting for his death at the same time as laughing with him.

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But enough about Negan, because I could talk about him all day.  There were plenty of other great character moments this episode.  I loved Gabriel calling out Spencer on his shit.  Not only was he right, but this shows how far Gabriel has come since his introduction and some of his time in Alexandria.  This is the same man who warned Deanna that Rick and his group are dangerous people.

Now, even though he’s maintaining his faith, he’s not afraid to call someone a tremendous shit.  He’s witnessed Rick’s ability as a leader and even though Rick has made some bad decisions, he’s also shown why he deserves to lead Alexandria.  Deanna was a good leader, sure, but she saw something in Rick, and Spencer should realize that.

But he still doesn’t acknowledge Rick’s leadership, so chances are he’s going to do or say something that could lead to disaster.  I say that not just as a fan of the comic book, but the fact that he thinks things would be better if Rick didn’t return to Alexandria shows that he’s plotting.

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Not sure what to make of what Michonne’s doing.  Like Sasha and Rosita, she wants her revenge against Negan and perhaps she’s heading right to him, but I assume this will play out more in the mid-season finale.  And at the same time, she’s being proactive in her mission, and she’s better at this than trying to be Alexandria’s resident sniper.

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As for Rick and Aaron, I wager they may come across some weapons and the two may grapple on whether to keep them for themselves or, as Spencer is doing, hand over their items to Negan.  It would be nice for them to have an extra stockpile of weapons on standby in case needed.  The area they found looked pretty isolated, so chances are they could even leave the arms there, take down the sign, and keep quiet about the spot.

There’s a lot I liked about this episode and I’m very anxious to see how this will all play out in the mid-season finale, especially with Negan back in Alexandria, but before wrapping up, I’ll just go through one negative I have.

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The one part of this episode that I wasn’t a fan of was Rosita, or rather, her attitude towards Eugene.  I get her rationale.  She wants her revenge not just for herself, but for Abraham as well, and she’s not going to let anything stop her, especially if it’s possible for Eugene to manufacture a bullet.  What I didn’t like was her calling Eugene a coward and saying that his survival is due to other people’s actions.

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Rosita is way out of line here.  Yes, Eugene isn’t as gung-ho as her, but ever since “No Way Out,” Eugene has stepped up and done a lot to help the survivors.  He bit Dwight right in the dick, giving Abraham the opening he needed to attack the Saviors, and in “Last Day on Earth,” he was the one who ended up taking the camper, even though he ended up getting his ass kicked by the Saviors.

My point is that this even though Eugene is no Abraham, he has made significant development and has proven that he’s a changed man.  And for Rosita to call him weak felt like a step backwards.  He’s just hesitant to taking on the Saviors, and that’s understandable.  He was there in the lineup right along with Rosita.  Who could blame him for not wanting to just jump into this bullet plan?

Otherwise, “Sing Me a Song” was a great episode that allowed us to spend significant time at the Sanctuary as Negan bonded and became great buddies with Carl.  As we head into the mid-season finale, there are a lot of pieces in place to make for hopefully a great episode: Jesus may be of help to Daryl at the Sanctuary, Michonne is on the warpath, and Negan has made another surprise visit to Alexandria.  No one is on Easy Street right now.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 6: “Swear”

You remember Tara and Heath, right?  While Rick and the others left to further attempt dismantling the Saviors, Tara and Heath left to go on a run after the events of “Not Tomorrow Yet.”  Now it’s time to catch up with The Walking Dead’s two most exciting characters.

I kid, but there’s been a lot of speculation about this episode.  We’ve had bottle episodes this season that deal with, for the most part, one community.  But given how the Saviors are the major threat, it’s easy to write off Tara and Heath’s time as filler.  However, that’s not the case here, as we get an episode that focuses a good amount of time on Tara and introduces us to a new community that could be vital to the battle ahead.

This is “Swear.”

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The episode begins by the water.  A couple of girls: Cyndie, played by Sydney Park, and Rachel, played by Mimi Kirkland, make quick of walkers lying dead in the sand, though Rachel is more eager than the other.  They then stumble upon Tara’s body.

Rachel wants to kill her, but Cyndie says that they don’t have to, even if that’s their responsibility.  Rachel won’t snitch, but she’s not going to help Cyndie, either.  With that, Cyndie drags Tara onto the shore.

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Then we cut back to the camper as Heath and Tara go through what they’ve found so far.  They two went further than they were supposed to, but as Glenn once said, there’s nothing in the world that isn’t hidden, so they just need to keep looking.  But there’s not enough gas to keep going, as it’s already been two weeks.  Tara maintains that they need ammo and medicine, so she doesn’t want to leave without fulfilling her end of the bargain.

But Heath is still rattled by the amount of people killed at the Savior outpost.  Sure, maybe they all had to do it, but Heath reminds Tara that the people of Alexandria lived a certain way before Rick’s group arrived.  Now Heath gets it: you take what you can, kill who needs to be killed, and keep going because no one is in this together.

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Tara calls bullshit on that and knows even Heath doesn’t believe his words, but Heath disagrees.  That’s not just him, but it’s Tara and everyone who wants to stay alive.  After today, Heath declares that the two will push towards the shore, but head back after that, even if they just have rusty cans.  Tara picks up the gun with a bat scrawled onto it.

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In the present, Cyndie, after looking over a map, returns to the shore and leaves Tara two bottles of water, a fish, and a spear before leaving.  Soon after Cyndie is a good distance away, Tara awakens and begins to down the water.

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As Cyndie goes through the forest, Tara follows her from a considerable distance and winds up in a small village.  She finds the people working under the cover of mesh, which also is used to cover their homes.  Soon, the members then all fall in, grab their guns, head off…and start opening fire on Tara.  But they have Stormtrooper aim, so of course they all miss.

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Tara manages to take down one woman, Beatrice, played by Briana Venskus, and knocks her out with the butt of her gun, but she’s soon cornered by Rachel, who still wants to kill her.  Tara finds herself surrounded and then meets the group’s leader: Natania, played by Deborah May, who warns Cyndie to get away from Tara.  In response, Tara feebly offers to leave.  A bit late for that, Tara, isn’t it?

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We flash back to Tara and Heath heading to the bridge, where they find a cavalcade of vehicles .  The two wait to see if any human or walkers are waiting to strike, but soon head towards the cars.  They then happen upon an overturned truck filled with sand.

Just as Heath finds some shells in the ground, Tara pulls loose a backpack that sends down all of the sand.  Walkers begin to crawl out of the sand.  As walkers surround Tara, Heath falls back.

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Back in the present, Natania introduces brings Beatrice and Kathy, played by Nicole Barré to speak with Tara.  Natania explains that the bells and horns that Tara hears are in place to redirect any dead.  The area is clear, for the most part.  When asked where she’s from, Tara explains that she came from Atlanta and stayed on the move with her friend, whom she worked with on a fishing boat apparently called a larder.

Then Tara is asked why she’s here, as the community gets nervous when newcomers arrive.  Tara explains finding the settlement on the bridge when, during the walker attack, she got knocked off the bridge and ended up in the water.  She only snuck around to see if the area was safe.  If she’s pointed in the right direction, Tara will leave.  However, Tara knows too much about the community.

Normally, Tara would have been killed because strangers are killed on sight, which I find hilarious since these women can’t aim for shit.  But anyway, Tara spared Beatrice at least, so that has to count for something.

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That evening, Tara is invited to dinner, which is fish stew.  Natania then formally introduces Cyndie to Tara, who thanks Cyndie for saving her life.  Cyndie is trying to show Rachel a certain way, as she hasn’t had to kill yet.  Natania explains that living so close to the ocean gives the village access to fish.  She’s hopes that Tara can stay so the village stays a secret.  Plus, Natania believes that Tara is a skilled fighter and is a good person.

When Natania offers a chance for Heath to stay as well, Tara asks the million dollar question: where are the men?  The women explain that their group got into a fight with another group and none of the men made it.  After that, the women decided to protect themselves and kill whomever they met on sight.

Again, ladies, your aim is shit, so I don’t buy that claim.  Anyway, the women found the village with the intent to stay hidden and alive.  Tara could have hurt them, but she didn’t.  Natania hopes that Tara can be honest about where she’s really from since a larder is not a boat, but a room for storing meat.  Silly Tara.

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Tara talks about her community, her girlfriend, and how her group has done bad things like this village, like kill this group of people at a satellite station.  In Tara’s eyes, the people her group killed got what they deserved, but that’s not why they were killed.  Tara’s group did it to stay alive, just like these women.  In fact, she hopes that the communities can work together, but the women shoot down that idea.   After all, they want to stay hidden.

Tara says that, eventually, the village will need friends.  If they see everyone as enemies, then enemies are all they’ll find.  Natania offers Tara a guide so she can find Heath and so the women can check her community.  Beatrice will go, but Natania refuses to let Cyndie leave as punishment for breaking the rules.  Though Natania does tell Cyndie that, if this works out, there will be plenty of other chances.

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The next day, Natania bids Tara farewell as Kathy and Beatrice escort her away from the village.  When the three happen upon a walker caught in some branches, Tara goes to kill it right when she finds herself under fire from Kathy and Beatrice.  But again, their aim sucks, so they miss as Tara makes her escape.

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Tara soon hides in a ditch and eventually engages Beatrice in another fight until Beatrice gets her gun.  Tara pleads for Beatrice to let her go, given that Tara could have killed her.  Beatrice retorts that Tara’s group had no idea what they started by killing the people at the satellite post, and she calls mentions the Saviors by their name.

Even if Tara’s group got one small win, Beatrice tells her that there are more Saviors and outposts, and if they know about Tara’s group, it’s too late for them.  Beatrice explains that the Saviors executed every man and boy over the age of 10.  Jesus.  The remaining people were supposed to keep working for the Saviors, but they decided to just leave.  And Beatrice won’t let Tara lead the Saviors back to them.

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Before Beatrice can open fire, given her many chances, Cyndie tackles her.  Tara continues her escape, knowing that Cyndie won’t shoot her since she saved her already. Cyndie wants Tara to swear that she’ll never return or tell anyone about this village, but Tara sees no reason do so in the first place.  Cyndie tells Tara that her group didn’t have to kill the Saviors at the outpost.  No one is evil- they just decide to forget who they are.

Again, Cyndie demands that Tara swear that she’ll keep the area a secret, and Tara soon does agree not to talk about the village.  Cyndie gives Tara a backpack of food and water before taking her to the bridge.

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The two return to the bridge, with Cyndie not willing to leave until Tara makes it to the other side.  Tara asks why Cyndie isn’t like the others, but Cyndie simply asks why Tara isn’t as well.  That’s not an answer, Cyndie.

The two make their way past the vehicles and take out as many walkers as possible. Cyndie picks off as many as she can, but she soon runs out of ammunition.  As luck would have it, Tara soon makes it to the other side.

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After a flashback of Tara and Heath’s final moment before the two were separated, Tara spots Cyndie being hauled away.  She continues her trek when she spots a pair of broken glasses and begins following a path in the dirt.  She then finds a key card in the dirt, hoping it was Heath, and heads off.

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She later happens upon a fishing boat because payoff and then winds up at a supply shop where she eats the fish that gave her.  With a new pair of sunglasses, Tara soon returns to the Alexandria Safe Zone, where she reunites with a crestfallen Eugene.

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Having been briefed on what’s happened, Tara later talks with Rosita, who asks if she has any leads on guns or ammunition, no matter how dangerous of an area she found. She’s ready to take this fight to the Saviors and needs any way to make this right, but Tara that they can’t.  The episode comes to a close with Tara telling Rosita that she didn’t see anything while on her run.

Well, here we are.  There’s been a lot of talk and anticipation about this episode.  Many had believed it would be filler or just a much slower paced episode.  Given how we’ve spent the past few weeks dealing with how communities deal with or combat Negan, to go from that to catching up with Heath and Tara felt like something that wouldn’t factor into the overall plot.

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Not to mention the fact that Tara and Heath probably aren’t topping many people’s favorite character lists, and how we were meeting this new community, “Swear” had the makings of what could have been an episode that people could write off as irrelevant to the season.

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But, to my surprise, that wasn’t the case.  While this wasn’t anything great, this episode did two things: first off, it introduced us to Oceanside, a community I never thought we’d see this early on the show.  More than that, the show fleshed the community out in a way that I don’t believe the comic did, certainly not this soon or prior to “All Out War.”

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However, instead of the TV version of Oceanside having any generic backstory, the show managed to tie them into the main storyline by connecting them to the Saviors.  Granted, if you removed the Saviors from the equation, Tara’s time with this group probably would seem more like filler, but this was a good way to make the community more relevant right now as opposed to later.

And while Tara may have been cocky enough at first to think that the outpost attack was enough to derail the Saviors, the Oceanside community knows all too well what happens when you fight against Negan.  And wow, the repercussions paint Negan as even more of a villain than he already is.

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This is a lingering questions I have regarding Oceanside’s conflict with the Saviors: what in the world did they do to warrant all of the males over 10 being executed? Hell, Rick’s group killed an entire outpost and Negan planned to kill just one person in retaliation- two due to Daryl’s interference.  But the Oceanside group must have screwed up or fought back long and hard to lose the majority, if not all, of their male population.

Either way, even if we don’t know, this further showed the consequences of trying to fight against the Saviors and took some of the wind out of Tara’s confidence.  Tara was in cahoots with the Governor and now sides with Rick: she’s now allied with two leaders willing to kill who needs to be killed in order to survive.

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Sure, Tara is nowhere as hard or cold as Rick or the Governor, but she still understands the need to strike early.  But between learning how both Oceanside and Alexandria suffered at the hands of the Saviors, I think that Heath’s words about killing have left a mark on Tara and she may not want to take part in or possibly be the catalyst of another incident.

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After all, she didn’t tell Rosita about what she saw on her run, but keep in mind that Tara only promised to not reveal anything about Oceanside.  She didn’t promise anything about the bridge.  We saw all of the shells in the sand, and between that and Rosita wanting Eugene to make her a bullet, there’s nothing stopping Tara from at least telling the others about the bridge.  So the door’s still open for Oceanside to meet our survivors.

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As for the Oceanside folks themselves, I’m curious to see whether they play a part in the coming conflict with the Saviors.  Given how we see all of those guns just after Negan has deprived Alexandria of their weapons, I expect some sort of follow-up.  You don’t introduce a community like this that has a shit ton of guns and there not be any sort of payoff later.

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That said, I’m of two minds about the inhabitants.  They seem like decent people when you get to know them and they have every reason to be suspicious of anyone they meet. But for all their talk of killing strangers on sight, Tara walked out relatively unharmed.  Not even so much as getting popped in the knee for even sneaking around the village.  It’s hard for me to think Oceanside’s inhabitants are ruthless when they couldn’t subdue one person.

But at least they were smart enough to see through Tara’s ruse and invite her to stay to help grow the community.  I get the sense that Oceanside would prefer not to engage in battle, but if necessary, they will defend themselves.  Of the residents that we meet, Cyndie comes off as the most welcoming to Tara, given how she saved her multiple times and helped her cross the bridge.

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And I got the vibe that she’s one of the residents who is still willing to fight the likes of the Saviors.  The others seem reluctant, but ready, to take part in another clash, but Cyndie admitted that she’s a good shot and she’s not against breaking the rules to help out someone else.  If the other communities had a battle ready ally in Oceanside, I would put good money on Cyndie stepping up first to lend a hand.

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It was nice to see Tara handle this new situation on her own.  While I like Alana Masterson in the role, Tara has never been a character I’ve had an attachment to, and while I’m still not her biggest fan here, it was good to see her prove how useful and good of a fighter she is outside of the main survivors.

Though she could use work on her storytelling, since she was exposed on not knowing a larder, followed by her coming right out and admitting what her friends had done to the Saviors.  Then again, as far as I can tell, she hasn’t told them the name or where her community is located, so she didn’t play her entire hand.

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The problem with this episode was the pacing.  More so the cutting back and forth between the past and present.  It wasn’t done as well as “First Time Again,” I feel, and not like the flashbacks were frequent, but I would have rather we had all of Tara and Heath’s moments played out as one long sequence.

You can start out with Tara washing up on the shore, sure, but then just start with Tara and Heath’s conversation, end with Tara falling into the water, and then play out the rest of the episode in the present.  The problem with cutting back and forth is that we knew where Tara ended up before we saw the scene of her ending up in the water.

And once more, going back to “First Time Again,” those flashbacks filled in the blanks of how the community dealt with the deaths of Pete, Reg, and the new set of circumstances. Those flashbacks were complimented by them still addressing those issues in the present. Whereas here, Heath and Tara have a conversation before heading to the bridge and dealing with walkers.  That’s about it.

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I hope that Heath’s fate being unknown isn’t just a way for the show to remove Heath from the equation right now since Corey Hawkins is also going to be on 24: Legacy, but for now, where Heath went to is anyone’s guess right now.

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By the way, getting real tired of these fake-outs.  It would have been pretty damn cliche if the walker Tara saw on the bridge was indeed Heath, but it wasn’t.  Just a fake-out.  Was it necessary?  No.  Was it effective?  Also no.

So “Swear” was a good episode.  Not as bad as people expected it to be, but not as engaging as the others, in my opinion.  The introduction of the Oceanside community and the reveal that they have had a run-in with the Saviors helps connect this village to the greater, ongoing story.  Even though Tara swore not to tell anyone about what she saw, I’m hopeful that we see more of Oceanside this season.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 5: “Go Getters”

Right, so last time we were at the Hilltop, Rick killed one of the members and acted like he hadn’t done a damn thing.  Well, things have changed now.  As Maggie and Sasha have finally arrived at the Hilltop, the two become more direct in their confrontations with Gregory and their plan to strike back at Negan.  But not before an unexpected visit from the Saviors.  This is “Go Getters.”

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The episode begins with Maggie awakening at the Hilltop.  Carson informs Maggie of her condition, detached placenta and such, and trauma she endured, but despite that, she didn’t lose the baby.  Carson advises her to take it easy for a few days so she can recuperate.  Maggie asks Carson to repeat everything he said.  God, Maggie, start listening.

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She’s soon released and reunites with Sasha, who takes her to the grave sites of both Abraham and Glenn.  Sasha hands Maggie the pocket watch that was in Glenn’s pocket.  Maggie then rests her father’s watch where her husband now rests.  Sasha feels that everything is wrong now, but to Maggie, not everything has gone to shit.  Given Carson’s instructions, Sasha insists that the two of them stay.

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Jesus approaches and places flowers on the graves.  Blue flowers apparently inspire strength, and green mean release.  Gregory joins the two and asks whether the rest of their group eliminated Negan, but it was just the folks at the outpost.  He wants Sasha and Maggie gone and isn’t going by Carson’s instructions.  Also, Gregory informs Sasha and Maggie that the dead at the Hilltop are burned, not buried.  Keep that in mind.

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Gregory tells Jesus that he’s recuperating just like anyone else is.  Stab wounds can make you do that.  Maggie promised that her group could take care of the Saviors, but the Hilltop is still at risk.  If the outpost was attacked, Negan may think it was Gregory’s idea.

But if Maggie and Sasha leave, then Gregory has plausible deniability.  He concedes that the two can stay the night and leave in the morning.  And though Jesus wants to talk about this later, Gregory won’t have that.  So it’s settled, but not to Sasha.  And Maggie’s pregnancy isn’t Gregory’s problem- it’s Maggie’s problem.  Well, shit.

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Over at the Alexandria Safe Zone, Rick wants Carl to come with him on a supply run for the Saviors, but Carl still doesn’t like this arrangement.  He’ll stay behind to take care of Judith.  As Aaron heads downstairs, Rick gives Michonne a walkie-talkie and tells her that he’s headed north.  The two have a goodbye kiss before Rick departs.

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Carl later asks why Michonne didn’t join Rick, but she has to figure out how the community can do this, if possible.  Carl doesn’t see a way and thinks that his father is wrong about this deal.  Even still, Michonne doesn’t know.  She cautions Carl to change his bandage and be nice to Olivia.  What the hell did Carl do to Olivia?

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He heads outside and finds Enid preparing to scale the walls again, as she’s planning to see Maggie at the Hilltop.  Enid assures Carl that she will be fine, and has better aim than Carl.  Enid, don’t be a dick.

Carl tells Enid that he won’t be saving her anymore.  He claims that he did as much in the armory.  Plus, not sorry about what he had to see on the road, either.  Enid then heads over the wall.

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Jesus helps Sasha set up in her room, but she wants him to get Gregory to change his mind.  She asks Jesus why he isn’t in charge, but he doesn’t see himself as a leader.  The people need Jesus there.  If it was just Gregory, things would be worse.  Sasha offers to scavenge for the Hilltop as long as Jesus can keep Maggie safe.

Jesus doesn’t want that, though, so Sasha asks what he wants the Hilltop to be.  Jesus responds that he just tries to help, so Sasha says that he may need to start doing more. He then pulls out Abraham’s necklace that he dropped in the dirt during in “Knots Untie.”  You remember that fight, right?

He gives it to Sasha just as Maggie arrives and tells Jesus that she won’t be around much longer.  Jesus promises that he’ll do what he can to help.  When Maggie asks Jesus why the dead are burned, Jesus says that it’s just to keep going.  Their memories remain in the people who are still alive.

Sasha suggests that the two of them stay.  After all, Gregory is an idiot and coward.  True as that is, Maggie suggests that they sleep it over so their minds will be clearer in the morning.

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So Enid finds a bike and spots a walker approaching her.  It’s soon decimated by an approaching car that quickly crashes into a post.  The driver backs up and slams the walker into a wall.  Turns out that it’s Carl, who tells Enid that he likes to drive.  I don’t see how.  He’s a worse driver than Lori.

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That evening, Maggie and Sasha hear whistles, music playing, and spot fires across the Hilltop.  With the windows locked, Sasha slips out on top of the trailer just in time to spot walkers streaming into the Hilltop.  Maggie alerts Jesus that Sasha needs backup, as well as tells two Hilltop residents to close the gates.  Sasha approaches the source of the music: a locked car.

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Then, the badass she is, Maggie enters the battle with a tractor that she uses to mow down walkers because that’s how Maggie rolls.  While Jesus and Maggie continue taking care of walkers, Maggie backs the tractor over the car and stops the music.

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The next day, Carl and Enid, now on foot, talk about killing for the ones they love.  Carl counters that it’s not for them and he apologizes for locking her in the armory.  Enid is still concerned about Maggie.

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Jesus tells Gregory that he won’t turn away Maggie and Sasha, but Gregory maintains that he’s in charge.  However, if Jesus says the word, he can have the Hilltop and all the shit that’s happened with the Saviors.  Then Sasha and Maggie enter just as Gregory informs the two that they can leave and take Jesus with them.

Sasha offers to leave, but Maggie stays in exchange for what happened last night.  She asks Gregory what can be done to make this right.  For that to work, Gregory wants to meet one-on-one with Sasha, and Maggie gets the wrong impression about that.

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The conversation is interrupted by the sound of a truck arriving.  While Jesus puts Maggie and Sasha into hiding, Gregory watches as Simon leads a large group of Saviors into the Hilltop as they converge on the mansion.

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Back on the road, Carl finds a backpack that actually contains two pairs of roller skates that miraculously fit both him and Enid.  Now what are fucking odds of that?  The two join hands and skate down the road like something out of a 1980s movie.

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The Saviors enter the mansion with Simon surveying the place.  He tells Gregory that the two of them need to talk in his study.  See, Simon wants to see Gregory’s painting.  He then brings up that the Saviors that Gregory used to deal with have been removed from play, hence the need to talk.

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In the study, Simon does indeed admire the painting.  Gregory received last night’s message loud and clear, assuming that the Saviors were just showing who is in charge.  Simon, though, is transfixed on the painting, seeing it as management by example.  Simon figures that people in the Hilltop probably forget what the corpses look and smell like.  He offered to kill the walkers, but Gregory already cleaned up the mess.  Simon likes that.

But Gregory says that the Hilltop picked up skills from the Saviors.  He’s a team player, which is why the people chose him.  But Simon brings up the other people who apparently got spoiled dealing with Gregory.  Gregory is surprised to learn that these other Saviors are, in fact, extremely dead.  And the people who killed them work for the Saviors now.  They’re real go-getters.  Roll credits.

Gregory wants Simon to tell Negan that he understands the benefits in crossing the aisle, but Simon sees no reason for that.  Right now, Simon is Gregory’s Negan.  It means a lot that Gregory sees what the Saviors can offer.  It’s why he’s still alive and others aren’t.  Simon asks if there’s anything else he should be aware of, and Gregory eventually says that there is.

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So he takes Simon to a closet to reveal…alcohol.  Unfortunately, Simon hates scotch- it tastes like ashtrays and window cleaner to him.  How he knows what those taste like, I don’t know.  Anyway, Simon is a gin man.  Negan will love it, though, and Simon will say that it’s from him, so he takes the whole damn box of booze.

Simon thanks Gregory for the gesture, and he then tells the Saviors to go through and only take half of what’s needed.  Also, Simon is taking the painting.

Then Simon has one last task for Gregory: he wants him to kneel.  And Gregory does just that.  Simon gets down to his level and tells Gregory to remember his solid kneel for next time.  As the Saviors get to work, Jesus stares down the Hilltop leader with disgust.

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Back to Carl and Enid, it turns out that the two have made it to the Hilltop in record time.  Carl wants Enid to come with her since, hell, they both want to kill the Saviors.  It would be for them, but Enid says that it wouldn’t be for Abraham, Maggie, or Glenn.  Carl is doing this for himself.  However Carl does it would still matter to Enid.  Enid begs Carl to return with her, but he refuses.  And she knows that she can’t stop him.

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Gregory is livid that Maggie and Sasha were hidden in his closet, not the hallway closet. He maintains that the Saviors attempting to kill him was a misunderstanding.  At last, Jesus puts his foot down: Sasha and Maggie are staying.

Jesus won’t be in charge, it’s just that Gregory won’t be.  That or the public can learn of the deal with Alexandria and Gregory’s plausible deniability.  Jesus, Maggie, and Sasha are staying so they can be one big, happy, and dysfunctional family.  Gregory says that he will keep things going.

If the Hilltop plays nice, the Saviors will play nice.  And that’s when Maggie slugs Gregory before taking Hershel’s watch, which he took because he felt a fine watch didn’t need to be outdoors and left in the rain.  Going forward, though, Maggie wants to be called by her proper name: Maggie Rhee.

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Later, Jesus tells the two that when he arrived at the Hilltop, Gregory was already in charge.  He didn’t like how Gregory operated, but couldn’t imagine anyone else in his place.  Now, he can.  Who?  Well, more on that later.  He apologizes for not talking to Maggie sooner and promises to make it up to her.  Also, the gates are finally closed.  Sasha tells Jesus that if he wants to make it up to her, find out where Negan lives.

With one of the trucks going back to Negan’s stronghold, Jesus may be able to do that.  Sasha asks if Jesus can keep this between them, and neither she nor Jesus like the sound of that.

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Maggie goes out and finds Enid at the gravesite, which now includes some green balloons.  Okay, did Enid scale the Hilltop walls or just walk right through the gates?

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Whatever.  Anyway, Maggie tells Enid that she couldn’t stand by and watch walkers invade the Hilltop.  It wasn’t hard or her first time.  She ran over this guy’s Camaro- Maggie is a dick to Camaros.  Then Sasha enters the trailer and learns that Enid came, alone, to help.  She asks about the balloons, but ultimately sees nothing wrong with them.  Plus, there was nothing marking the graves.  Maggie then gives Hershel’s watch to Enid.

After all, she doesn’t need anything to remember him by because they have each other.  Maggie then prays over the dinner, even though Jesus isn’t in their presence.  How rude.

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Meanwhile, the Saviors load up and leave the Hilltop, unaware that they have new travel companions in both Jesus and Carl.

Well, we were bound to end up here sooner or later.  While we’ve dealt with Alexandria, the Sanctuary, and the Kingdom in previous episodes, “Go Getters” lets us catch up with Maggie and Sasha in the aftermath of Negan killing Abraham and Glenn.  It’s not a complete bottle episode, mind you, as we do cut to the Alexandria Safe Zone for a bit, in addition to Carl and Enid’s adventures on the road.

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But for the most part, this was our chance to see how Maggie and Sasha have been, and I love every second of it.  Unlike Rick trying to make the most of Negan’s terms for now, right from the gate, we see that Sasha and Maggie are ready to fight.  Their bond, strengthened by the people they’ve lost, has elevated them to start calling the shots at the Hilltop.

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Yes, Maggie was the one who brokered the deal with Gregory, and in addition to Rick saying that his group has never had trouble with confrontation, she’s seen the consequences of her confidence.  But even with that and her pregnancy problems, Maggie is not going to sit on the sidelines and be a bystander.

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In addition to taking Glenn’s name, Maggie is rising as a leader at the Hilltop.  When the colony comes under attack, she springs into action and gives orders to the Hilltop members, who were just watching the walkers, to defend the community.  Despite her condition, she gets into a fucking tractor and crushes both walkers and the car to get rid of the sound.  Regardless of being hindered, Maggie still has a voice.

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And it helps that she and Sasha push Jesus to step up and become more outspoken. Even if Jesus does believe that he can’t be a leader, he’s vital support.  He can hold his own in a fight, we’ve seen how nimble he is, and he sees Gregory for the coward that he is.  I sort of see Jesus as a person who could lead, but might not want that responsibility.  As an adviser, maybe, but he has no desire to be in charge.

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But that’s not good enough for Sasha and Maggie because they’ve seen what he brings to the table as far as support.  So it’s great that the three of them have banded together to bring about a change at the Hilltop.

This extends to their plan of gathering information about Negan.  While Rick is trying to avoid pushing Negan’s buttons again for now, Sasha and Maggie are already brewing for war and have taken the first step towards that by asking Jesus to find out where Negan lives.  Even though Rick doesn’t want anyone else to die, Maggie and Sasha are being more proactive by learning whatever they can about Negan.

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They’re willing to fight back against him, unlike Gregory, who would rather keep his head in the sand to save his own ass.  I love how Xander Berkeley is handling Gregory, as he’s ripped right from the comics and brought to the life in a great way.  He’s mean, slimy, and doesn’t seem to have an ounce of integrity- proven when he tries to sell out Maggie and Sasha or when he takes the pocket watch.

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He kneels to the Saviors because he’s unwilling to fight.  He would prefer to stay fed and protected as long as he doesn’t piss off his oppressors, even though that paints him as a weakling.  He blames the Hilltop’s problems on Rick, Maggie, and their negotiation, as he refuses to take responsibility and lead the community.

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And I get the sense that he’s not interested in paying respect to the dead.  In addition to taking Hershel’s watch, he doesn’t dwell on the memories of those lost.  He prefers to burn them and move on rather than honor them with a proper burial.  Now this is a callback that I love.

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Remember back in Season One when Glenn told Daryl and Morales that they don’t burn their friends and comrades, but bury them instead?  This really shows the disconnect between the survivors we know versus Gregory.  Back then, they chose to honor the people they knew by giving them the burial that they deserved. Sure, Maggie wasn’t around back then, but I imagine she feels similar.

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But not Gregory.  He’s the opposite and would sooner burn the dead members of his community and deal with the next obstacle instead of giving the Hilltop a way to remember their fallen.

Not that there’s any sort of mandate on how to dispose of the dead, mind you, and Jesus does tell Maggie and Sasha that the living will preserve the memories of the dead. That’s acceptable, sure, but a burial still helps honor them as well.  And with Maggie passing Hershel’s watch to Enid, she acknowledges that she doesn’t need anything to remember Glenn by because she has friends who will no doubt remember him.

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As far as the Saviors go, I’m curious how much, if at all, the group as a whole know about the Hilltop’s involvement or the arrangement with Rick to deliver Gregory’s head to the outpost Saviors.  I say ‘as a whole’ because based on what Simon says, it seems like the Hilltop only dealt with the Saviors at said outpost.  With them dead and Simon taking charge, I will be very interested to see if the remaining Saviors know of the deal.

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And this is another casting I’m loving, by the way.  Steven Ogg is great as Simon.  In addition to being charismatic in the role, Ogg still manages to make Simon come off as intimidating.  Despite how cheerful and funny Simon can be, he’s just as scary, as we see in his exchanges with Gregory.

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The one part of this episode I wasn’t a big fan of was the subplot involving Carl and Enid. Perhaps it’s the writing or some of the chemistry between Chandler Riggs and Katelyn Nacon, but some of the interactions between Carl and Enid felt…odd and awkward.  I suppose that’s the point since they’re still kids, and it’s nice to see the two bond, but you could have trimmed some of this down.

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And you know, a big part of that has to do with the skating sequence.  Seriously, the stars aligned in their fucking favor that they found not one, but two pairs of skates that fit them no problem.  That’s not convenient- that’s just dumb.

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Adding to that, they find the Hilltop in no time without any issues.  They didn’t even have to skate away from walkers.  Carl didn’t go to the Hilltop in “Knots Untie” and I’m guessing that Enid has never been there, yet the two arrive there before the episode even ends. I suppose the roller skates were outfitted with rockets.

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Wait…

But that’s my only real gripe with the episode.  Otherwise, I loved it.  Great acting and character development, a well done action sequence at the Hilltop that allowed Jesus to kick ass and Maggie to show how time on a farm will make you handy with a tractor when dealing with walkers.

At the same time, “Go Getters” also allowed for smaller, more intimate moments, such as Rick and Michonne’s farewell and the reunion between Enid, Sasha, and Maggie.  Lauren Cohan continues to do a great job as Maggie and I’m happy that we’re watching Maggie rise in leadership at the Hilltop.

Going forward, though, we’re getting a clear divide between our protagonists.  Rick is playing a long term game with Negan, but Maggie and Sasha are ready to take the fight to him.  With both Jesus and Carl headed to the Sanctuary to gather information- or in Carl’s case, to kill- Negan is in for a surprise.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 4: “Service”

So you’ve lost two of your friends to a madman with a bat, you’re given a week to prepare him an offering, and even though everything may not be in preparation for his arrival, he decides to give you a surprise by strolling right up to your doorstep early because he loves you so much.

If the weak residents of the Alexandria Safe Zone have already had rude awakenings about life outside the walls before, they’re in for a real nightmare when Negan arrives.  Welcome to “Service.”

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The episode begins in Alexandria as Michonne awakens before Rick does.  As she’s ready for the day, with her sword on her back, she retrieves a sniper rifle from the fireplace.  No one ever thinks to check the fireplace.  She stuffs the gun inside a bag and exits without saying a word to Rick, who watches her leave.

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Michonne then stakes a post at an abandoned truck in the middle of an empty field and waits.

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While Rick cares to Judith, Rosita and Spencer return to Alexandria and ask Eugene to open the gate so they can find things for their offering.  Eugene, though, is busy working on a radio and isn’t into joining them.  He’s repairing the radio for the Saviors- that’s his part.  However, no one will be leaving anytime soon.

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The sound of many approaching vehicles gets their attention.  From the other side, Negan marches up and bangs on the gates of the Alexandria Safe Zone, demanding entrance.  Spencer isn’t familiar with Negan, but then Rick arrives.  He’s hesitant to open the gate at first since Negan has arrived earlier than expected, but Negan just missed Rick.  Negan then makes quick work of an approaching walker for the sport of it.

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As the Saviors unload, with Daryl in tow, Negan says that what he did was service.  Despite Spencer not knowing him, Negan killed a walker that could have killed him.  As Negan enters, he hands Lucille over to Rick and walks right into the Alexandria Safe Zone.  He calls it an embarrassment of riches and tells Rick that there will be plenty to offer.  Also, Negan doesn’t allow Rick to speak with Daryl.  Same for the others as well.

In addition, Rick doesn’t decide what the Saviors take- that’s up to Negan.  One of the female Saviors, Arat, played by Elizabeth Ludlow, calls the others into action and they make their way into the area to search the houses and keep the process moving.  The residents seem stunned, but are unable to act.  Rick then begins showing Negan around the zone.

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Dwight relieves Rosita and Spencer of their firearms, both on them and in the vehicle they planned to use for travel.  With that settled, he has a job for Rosita- find Daryl’s bike.  It’s not there, but if that’s the case, Rosita must know where it is.  Dwight then, for some reason, also relieves Rosita of her hat.  Now she’s good to go.  To pour salt in the wound, Dwight even empties out Rosita’s water.  Best not to take long.

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Back in the field that time forgot, Michonne spots an approaching walker, but misses with every shot that she takes.  So she takes out her sword and does this the old fashioned way.  Could’ve saved yourself a lot of bullets, Michonne.  She later heads into the woods and finds a dead deer on the ground.

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As the Saviors get to work taking what they want, Negan tells Rick that he and his people are indeed reasonable people.  One Savior gives Negan the video camera containing Deanna’s video interviews.  Negan finds it hard to believe that Rick had such a beard and never would have messed with that man.  As he turns the camera on Rick, Negan says that the Rick on that interview isn’t the Rick that stands before him.

Negan then asks about Maggie.  That gets under Rick’s skin, but he has to be careful how he looks at Negan.  Widows like Maggie are special.  Right after the husbands go, they are empty inside, but not for long.

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Then Gabriel out of nowhere, who asks Negan if he wants to pay his respects.  Negan asks if Maggie didn’t make it, and Gabriel confirms that the worst happened.  To prove it, he even takes Negan to the cemetery, where he sees three new graves.  A shame, as Negan would have asked Maggie to come back with him, despite what he did to Glenn.  Then a gunshot rings out.

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Carl holds a gun to some Saviors who are taking all of the medicine instead of half.  When Negan arrives, Carl tells him that he needs to leave before he finds out how dangerous everyone is.  Negan isn’t about to let Rick help his son.  In fact, he likes Carl and tells him that half is what he says it is.  He asks Carl if he wants him to prove how serious he is. Again.  With that, Carl lowers the firearm.

This reminds Negan that Rick has a lot of guns, and given how Rick took a lot of guns from Negan’s outpost, this must mean that Rick has even more guns.  And as Carl’s outburst has shown, Negan can’t allow that.  Those guns all belong to Negan.

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So Rick brings Negan and a group of Saviors to Olivia, who takes them to the armory.  While the Saviors head with Olivia, Negan tells Rick that he’s not taking any food.  It’s slim pickings and if Rick starves to death, Negan won’t get anything, so for now, Alexandria gets to keep its food.  Rick is unsure how to respond, but all Negan wants is a thank you.  The two got off to a rough start, yes, but Rick forced Negan’s hand.

Negan knows the two started off on the wrong foot, but he’s reasonable as long as Rick cooperates.  He asks if Rick is cooperating, and Negan knows what it looks like, but he’s wondering if Rick may have some hidden firearms.  Rick says that they’re all indeed in the armory.

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On the road, Rosita and Spencer find Daryl’s motorcycle by the train tracks.  Spencer realizes that the Saviors outnumber the Alexandrian community and accepts that this is their way of life due to Rick’s actions.  Spencer believes that things might have been different and some people wouldn’t be dead if Rick rethought his actions.  Now, though, they have to learn to live with this.  Rosita, though, heads into the woods.

As the Saviors load the guns, Negan picks up one to find out if Rick has taken care of his guns…and finds out by firing into one of the windows.  Then another Savior brings out the rocket launcher- the same one that Daryl used to take out some Saviors on the road.

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Arat informs Negan that the group is short two firearms.  Rick acknowledges that some people left for a run and took the guns with them.  Olivia maintains that the inventory is correct, but  she’s still two handguns short.  To Negan, this means someone isn’t on board and he can’t have that.  He tells Olivia that he doesn’t like killing women.  Men, that’s no problem, but at the end of the day, this is Olivia’s problem.

Negan is going to work this out right now.  Olivia screwed up at keeping track of guns, and that shit is life and death.

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Later, in the church, Rick tells the community that he thought of hiding some guns since he did it before.  What if the Saviors found those guns, though?  Someone could die.  It doesn’t matter how many bullets the Alexandrians have because the Saviors will still win.  Hiding a few guns isn’t the answer.  No one has to like it, but the guns have to be given to the Saviors.  He then asks the group about the two missing guns.

If those guns aren’t found, Olivia will die.  One of the residents asks Rick why the Saviors care since two guns shouldn’t mean much to them.  Rick responds that most of the community didn’t see what Negan did to Glenn and Abraham.  They can look away or help solve this now.

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Eric asks what the way out is if they find the guns, but Rick says there is no way out.  And with that, he tells the group that he isn’t in charge- Negan is.  Eugene then notes that everyone isn’t present at the meeting.

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Back in the woods, Rosita tries to approach the walkers and stealthily take them out, but Spencer calls out to her, attracting the roamers.  Nonetheless, Rosita is able to take out the walkers because that’s how Rosita rolls.  She then finds a gun, but the clip is empty.  She knows that Negan will take all of the guns and isn’t afraid of Spencer ratting her out.  Unlike Spencer, Rosita doesn’t believe that this has to be her life.

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So Negan is enjoying some lemonade with Olivia at his side since she doesn’t really have a choice.  Rick searches Spencer’s home to find the missing guns, but just ends up making a damn mess.  Gabriel tells Rick that he feels that this will work out and that they will find the guns.  Rick doesn’t believe that there’s a way to beat this, but Gabriel has faith in Rick.  Things change.  After all, Rick and Gabriel weren’t always friends.

Rick doesn’t believe that Michonne has the guns, and he thanks Gabriel for the makeshift grave he made for Maggie.  Aaron tells Rick that he found nothing at Rosita’s spot.  Even still, they will keep looking for the guns.  As Aaron and Gabriel leave, Rick pulls up an air vent and, after finding a few items, pulls out two firearms.

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In a bit of an uncomfortable scene, another Savior relieves Enid of her balloons and tells her to say please if she really wants them.  When Enid complies, the Savior returns them.  Well, he drops them.  Carl doesn’t like this shit one bit, but Rick assures his son that the Saviors will be gone soon.

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Negan is pleased to have the two guns back.  He asks which resident held the guns and this matters very much since everyone needs to be on board.  If not, the two sides end up back at square one.

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The Saviors are soon ready to depart just as Spencer and Rosita return.  Rick asks Negan for a second, and Negan eventually grants it.  Rick heads over and meets with Michonne and tells her how Rick made him hold Lucille.  He then tells her that he needs the rifle and knows that she’s out there practicing.  Michonne refuses to give up her gun, but Rick isn’t about to lose anyone else.

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Michonne does concede as Rick hands over the rifle to Negan, who is glad that Rick gets the message.  Now that Negan knows he can follow the rules, Rick asks if Daryl can stay.  Negan isn’t sure.  He wants to see if Daryl can sway him.  Daryl, though, doesn’t speak.

Now Negan tells Rick to start trying harder because the Saviors will be back.  If Rick doesn’t have something interesting for the Saviors, someone is going to die.  And no more magic guns.  Negan is also glad that Michonne brought a deer.  Good to have a woman hand over food without expecting him to put out.

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Now that Dwight has Daryl’s motorcycle, he gives Rosita back her hat.  He hopes that Rosita can find a place to lay her head tonight.  When asked if she found anything else, Rosita responds that she only found Dwight’s dead friends.  Nothing else.

Dwight tells Daryl that he can have his motorcycle back if he just says the word.  Daryl, though, still doesn’t respond.  Well, nobody died.  Negan thinks that he and Rick will find his understanding.  He then asks Rick if he wants him to leave.  Rick thinks that would be good, so he thanks Negan.  Another walker approaches, so Negan takes it out with a candlestick.  Rick’s grip on Lucille tightens, but nothing comes of it.

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Before Negan leaves, he remembers Lucille.  Negan thanks Rick for being so accommodating.  Also, Negan tells Rick that he just slid his dick down Rick’s throat and Rick thanked him for it.  Very important to know.  With that, the Saviors depart.

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With the Saviors gone, Rick tells Spencer about the guns he took from his house since there were two missing.  Rick calls Spencer weak for hoarding guns and food, but he just got lucky.  Spencer counters that the group should have made a deal with the Saviors when they had a chance.

This doesn’t get to Rick until Spencer says Glenn and Abraham were lucky. This prompts Rick to warn Spencer that if he says any shit like that to him again, he’ll break Spencer’s jaw and knock out his teeth.

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Rosita is also pissed that Spencer had guns, but Spencer’s justification is that he doesn’t trust Rick.  He worried about him being in charge and admits that Rosita was right- this doesn’t have to be their way of life. As Spencer leaves, Rosita pulls out another gun hidden under one of the car’s wheels.

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With the mattresses gone, Rick fixes himself a makeshift bed.  Michonne tells Rick that the rifle was from the outpost and more guns could have been hidden, but she apparently didn’t hide anymore.  Hmm.  Michonne tells Rick that everything they’ve earned came from them fighting for it.  Rick doesn’t believe that they have the numbers, even with the Hilltop.

Rick’s plan is to play by the rules and have some sort of life.  He then brings up how Shane got Lori and Carl to safety after the outbreak started.  Since Lori and Shane believed Rick was dead, they got together.  Rick knows and accepts that Judith isn’t his, but he loves her as a daughter and will do what it takes to keep her alive.  He’ll die before she does and Rick hopes that’s a long time from now so Judith can learn how to survive.

This is how Rick lives now.  Michonne tells Rick that it’s not his fault when people die, but Rick says that sometimes it is.  He needs everyone to accept these terms or this won’t work.  As Michonne gets to work helping Rick with the mattress, she tells Rick that she’ll try.

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Sometime later, Michonne returns to the field and climbs atop the truck once again. However, something in the distance gets her attention.  Soon enough, she finds the smoldering remains of the now burned mattresses.

Okay, that’s just a dick move, Saviors.

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That evening, Rosita, after coming across a shell casing, comes to Eugene and asks him to make her a bullet.

“Strategy” is a good episode with a few minor issues I have that don’t hinder my enjoyment, but do stand out enough to be noticeable.  However, it was a change of pace to see the residents of Alexandria get a taste of what Rick’s group had to contend with on the road and comply with the Negan’s demands.

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As Negan said in the premiere, it’s a brand new beginning for everyone.  He and the Saviors swarm the Alexandria Safe Zone and hover over it like hawks for as long as they please and I was on edge at times to see how the residents would react, who might break, and how they would deal with this gang coming in and ransacking their homes.

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It didn’t help that Negan changes the terms by saying that he dictates what half is.  Again, I can watch Jeffrey Dean Morgan all day and never tire of his performance.  Negan strolls into Alexandria like he owns the place and gets off on degrading Rick to where he is now. Negan tests Rick, handing him the very instrument that was used to kill Glenn and Abraham, and gives Rick many opportunities to retaliate, knowing that Rick won’t.

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Despite how Negan strips Rick and Alexandria of what they have, the man is willing to barter.  He says often that he’s reasonable as long as everyone else cooperates, and that’s the case when he allows Rick to keep the food.  What good are servants if they’re starving, after all?  As we saw at the Kingdom, though the Saviors are bullies, they will work with people who bend to their power.

But there are times when I can’t help but wonder if the Saviors take it too far.  Sure, that’s part of the point, but things like that one Savior taking Enid’s balloons, Negan taking all of the guns instead of some, and burning the mattresses feels like the Saviors are doing this just to fuck with Alexandria.  And not only are they doing that, but they can do that and get away with it.

These are the kinds of actions that give people like Michonne and Rosita a reason to retaliate, not keep the community docile, because we’ve seen Negan let Alexandria keep their food.  I would imagine he’d be willing to let them keep at least a few guns, but he did say that he determines what half is, as if he’s more than happy to change his own rules.

It’s not that the Saviors need the guns, chairs, mattresses, or other supplies they take from Alexandria- it’s that they can take them and know that Rick Grimes isn’t in a position to lead another attack on the Saviors.  Negan refusing to hand over Daryl or talking about how he slid his dick down Rick’s throat- it’s all to taunt Rick, as if tempting him to fight back.

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But like “Last Day on Earth,” I find it refreshing to find Rick stopped right in his tracks. This was a man who thought he could get the jump on the Saviors and crush Negan, but he learned the hard way that wasn’t the case.

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Now he’s made to watch the community members look on helplessly as they’re stripped of what they own and he can’t do anything about it.  But he managed to fool Negan in regards to Maggie ‘supposed’ death, so if anything, Rick has that card up his sleeve since we know that Maggie intends to fight.

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One of the better examples of this was when Negan goes through Deanna’s interviews- a callback I liked.  The Rick on video openly admitted to killing and wasn’t ashamed about it. This Rick is left red-eyed, neutered, and can’t raise his voice in opposition because he won’t let anyone else die.  It’s maddening to see Rick in a vulnerable state and Andrew Lincoln’s performance sells how complacent Rick has become.

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Another callback I liked was how Rick’s attitude towards Negan circled back to his relationship with Lori and Shane.  He knows that Judith isn’t his child, but he’s willing to accept that because he wants her to have a chance at survival.  Her parentage doesn’t matter because right now, Rick is all she has.  And right now, this arrangement is all that Rick has.  He may not like it, but he’s not about to let someone else die due to his actions.

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While we’ve seen Rick as a man who is more than willing to let his rage fly, it’s interesting to see how him biting his tongue and holding back his rage ends up coming out towards others.  Granted, Spencer should have known better than to bring up Glenn and Abraham, but also, Rick telling Spencer to say ‘yes’ felt the same as Negan demanding that Rick say ‘thank you.’

Segueing off of Spencer to Alexandria as a whole, I’m curious just how much the community knows about their new way of life.  Rick’s speech to the residents felt like something he said for the first time and some seemed surprised and confused when the Saviors walk into the Safe Zone without confrontation.  But I imagine someone has to know what happened to Rick’s group when they were on the road.

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Spencer obviously knows something since he brings up Abraham and Glenn, and Gabriel knew enough to make the fake graves.  And while Negan arrived ahead of schedule, I thought, given how he only gave Rick a week, he would give Alexandria as much notice as possible.  But hey, two of their comrades were just beaten to death.  They may not want to discuss this matter.

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While Rick may be willing to keep his head down for now, that’s not the same for everyone else.  Carl shows no weakness in front of Negan, Michonne kept a rifle despite the risk, and Rosita are still willing to fight.  Rosita is hiding guns and will no doubt follow-up on Eugene’s plan to make bullets, which we first learned of when he and Abraham found the factory in “Twice As Far.” Also, hope we get follow-up on Michonne learning to shoot.

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By the way, after “The Cell” softened Dwight, he looked to be back as a regular hard-ass with him taunting and, for some reason, hitting on Rosita, but given how there’s clear animosity between him and Negan, it could all be a front.

So while the survivors may have lost a bit of their bite, they aren’t defeated altogether. “Service” showed the residents of Alexandria at a low point as Negan waltzed in, pulled down their pants, leave them in vulnerable state, and serviced them with his dick while they thanked him for it.  At the very least, he didn’t feed them Lucille.  While this episode didn’t need to be as long as it was, it was enjoyable and tense all the same.

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Oh, and someone let Enid out of the closet.  That’s good at least.