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 2: “The Well”

I imagine it’s hard for many to progress with and process The Walking Dead after watching Negan bash Glenn and Abraham to death.  But it’s time to put Rick and friends on hold so we can find out what happened with Carol and Morgan after “Last Day on Earth.”  And it involves a man and his tiger.

It makes sense in context.  This is “The Well.”

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The episode begins with Carol and Morgan being led by their two new companions.  As Morgan makes marks on the trees, Carol continues to rest on the carriage.  Soon, Morgan and the two armored men fend off walkers.  Carol, though, becomes frightened at the sight of walkers and heads for the woods.

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As she passes a house, other folks arrive on horseback and eliminate the walkers with ease.  Carol, though, sees not walkers being killed, but humans.  Morgan continues to make markings on the way to guide a path for those who may follow behind.

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Carol later awakens, now bandaged, and learns from Morgan that she’s been asleep for about two days.  Morgan takes her around this new community and tells her that they’ll be sticking around until they’re ready to leave, which could be at least a week.  As for this community?  Folks call it The Kingdom.  Carol worries if Morgan told the members about where they’re from, but Morgan wasn’t specific.

Anyway, Morgan is taking Carol to meet the group’s leader, who calls himself King Ezekiel.  As Morgan wheels Carol into an auditorium, we meet him.

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Sitting on a throne with his tiger, named Shiva, at his side, is King Ezekiel, played by Khary Payton.  Ezekiel feels his tiger’s concern since neither of them have met Carol, but if she’s a friend of Morgan, then both are a friend of the realm.  Ezekiel formally introduces Carol to The Kingdom.

Carol remains silent.  Ezekiel senses her skepticism, so he asks what she thinks of the Kingdom.  Carol finds it all amazing, as she has no idea what the hell is going on in the most wonderful way.  Ezekiel encourages those who come to the community to enjoy it for as long as they like, as long as they contribute.

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Drink from the well and replenish it in return.  Ezekiel’s right hand man, Jerry, played by Cooper Andrews, offers Carol some fruit, but she refuses.  Not even a pomegranate.

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But all Carol would like is some rest and a hairbrush.  With that, Morgan wheels Carol out.  Naturally, Carol is skeptical.  She calls the place make-believe and refuses to stay.  She’ll wait, and when Morgan isn’t there, she’ll leave.  And the decision isn’t up to him.  Morgan knows what he’s started, but he won’t let Carol die.  But to Carol, it doesn’t matter what Morgan does.

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Ezekiel brings Morgan along to accompany him and some Kingdom followers out for work. The group herds some pigs into a room with a tied-up walker, which Morgan finds problematic.  This is to fill the pigs up with rot.  The group takes care of some approaching walkers, with Ezekiel delivering the final blow since Benjamin, played by Logan Miller, can’t bring himself to do it.

They tell Morgan that the folks back home don’t need to know any of this, whether it’s pigs eating the dead or anything else.  As Morgan spots another caravan heading off, he’s only told that they’re going somewhere else.

Now there’s a reason that the pigs are feasting on a walker, but we’ll get to that later.

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Ezekiel compliments Morgan’s skill with his staff and asks where he learned.  The two talk, with Ezekiel talking of pessimists and optimists.  The realist, though, looks look forward.  He thinks that Benjamin’s path needs adjustment since he’s not good with munitions or blades, so hopefully Morgan can train him.

Morgan tells Ezekiel that the man he shot to save Carol wasn’t killed by the staff.  True enough, but it has saved Morgan.  Ezekiel is confident that Benjamin will become a vital member of his court, but he needs to be trained and survive.  Morgan soon agrees.  The Kingdom is favored by Morgan’s presence, apparently.

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As life in The Kingdom continues, Carol remains skeptical.  While Morgan trains Benjamin, Carol wheels herself around and grabs a blade.  Later, she talks with one of the community members about different kinds of cobblers.  Did you know that there’s lunch cobbler?  Carol still finds it all hilarious.  Lunch cobbler is hilarious.

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Benjamin asks Morgan about his philosophy book and asks if he can borrow it since he’s read every book in the community.  Ezekiel approaches and tells the two men to follow him for an important matter.

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Ezekiel later tells Morgan that the secrets he keeps from the community are also burdens. And we learn just why the pigs feed on walkers, as the Kingdom folks are joined by a group of Saviors who are ready to pick up their eight, well fed hogs that totally didn’t just feast on a walker.  Ezekiel, you sly son of a bitch.

One of the Saviors picks a fight with one of the Kingdom members, Richard, played by Karl Makinen.  A fight breaks out, but Ezekiel orders his troops to lower their weapons. This is not how they act.  So the Savior gets in a few free shots at Richard.

But the leader of this small Savior group orders his man to stop, saying that the Kingdom has been good to the Saviors.  Ezekiel tells Richard that they will discuss this later.  The Saviors will be back in seven days for produce week.

If they don’t deliver, Richard will come first.  Morgan tells Ezekiel that the man he killed was also a Savior.  He then asks if he’s been brought to the Kingdom because he can kill Saviors again, but Ezekiel says that isn’t why he’s here.  In fact, it’s the opposite.

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Later, Benjamin reminds a kid, Dutch, to clean his plate before he goes off for Movie Night. When Dutch leaves, Benjamin admits to Morgan that he doesn’t what he’s doing raising him.

Ezekiel was close with Benjamin’s father, who was one of the Kingdom’s best fighters.  One year ago, Ezekiel sent some members to clear out a building, but there wasn’t enough backup.  Eight men didn’t make it out, and Benjamin’s father was one of them.

But Ezekiel is much more careful now.  He told Benjamin that he’s keeping his deal with the Saviors quiet because he thinks that people will want to fight.  That’s a fight the Kingdom would lose and Ezekiel doesn’t want to lose any more people.  Morgan wonders if the community shouldn’t fight.  Benjamin asks about a hand-written inscription in the book- not written by him, though.

It’s not about what Morgan thinks, though.  People can set you in the right direction, but they can’t show you the way.  You have to figure that out for yourself.  Morgan thought that he had it, but he didn’t.  Sometimes, we change our minds, and right now, Morgan is fumbling.  Anyway, Morgan heads off to talk with Carol.

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But when Morgan goes to check on Carol, he finds the room empty.

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That night, Carol picks some fruit when Ezekiel spots her.  He had the area re-purposed into a garden and it’s his favorite place in the Kingdom.  He’s glad that she’s seen the area before she chooses to leave.  Carol apologizes, but she feels that she’s no good here.  Ezekiel excuses Jerry, who overstays his welcome, and reminds Carol to not bullshit a bullshitter.

He sees right through Carol’s sweet and innocent act- it even worked on him for a bit.  She blends in and get people to trust her, and then she leaves, as if she wasn’t there.  It turns out that Carol’s guns in her pack belong to The Saviors.  Though she won her fight with them, she remains skeptical of the Kingdom, as she calls it and Ezekiel one big joke.  Outside is real.

Carol thought she could just be, but in her mind, Ezekiel is selling people a fairy tale.  Ezekiel takes a seat next to her and tells her that people want someone to follow.  It’s human nature that people want someone to make them feel safe.  If they see a man with a tiger, people star to tell stories about how he wrestled it into submission and turned it into his pet.

So yeah, Ezekiel became something larger than life.  Who was he to burst people’s bubble?  Next thing he knew, people treated him like royalty.  So Ezekiel gave the people someone to follow and faked it until he made it.  He was just a damn zookeeper.

One day, Shiva fell into a concrete moat and her leg was ripped open.  She would have bled out.  Ezekiel knew the risk, but he had to try, so he wrapped his shirt around her leg and saved her life.  After that, she never showed as much as a toot in his direction.  Keeping a tiger isn’t practical, though, yes.  Ezekiel has lost a lot, just like everyone else.

When the world went to shit, Shiva was one of the remaining animals at the zoo- trapped and alone, just like him.  She was the last thing in this world that Ezekiel loved and she protected him.  She ended up making him larger than life.  Ezekiel also used to act in community theater.  At the very least, Ezekiel is his real name.  But he does want Carol to keep all this to herself for the sake of the community…and a little bit for himself.

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And yet, Carol doesn’t care.  Ezekiel can do what he wants, but she wants to leave.  As Carol leaves, Ezekiel apologizes for whatever shit she’s been through.  There’s far too much of it out there.  It can feel even worse when you’re alone.  The thing is, though, it’s not all bad.  It isn’t.  Life isn’t, and where there’s life, there’s hope, heroism, grace, and love.

Carol may be walking around lost, but Ezekiel found a way to deal with all the bad shit.  He embraced the contradiction and, yes, went overboard.   Carol could do the same- she could leave and not leave.  Crazy as Ezekiel sounds, he’s willing to help if Carol lets him.  Why does Ezekiel even care?  It makes him feel good.  He then offers Carol to help her if she is indeed leaving.

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The next day, Morgan escorts Carol to a house just outside the walls of the Kingdom- the same house we saw earlier in the episode.  Morgan admits that the decision should have always been up to him and calls Carol his favorite person that he’s ever knocked out.  Well, that’s high praise.  The two bid each other a sort-of farewell.  As Morgan leaves, Carol enters the home and kills the walker.  She later buries it in the yard.

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Later, she tends to a fire when there’s a knock at the door.  It’s Ezekiel and Shiva, with Ezekiel insisting that Carol try one of the pomegranate.

Remember how, right after the very serious “No Way Out,” we got the fun and comedic adventures of “The Next World” where Rick and Daryl engaged in a comedy of errors while chasing down Jesus?  And how that episode ended with Jesus confronting Rick and Michonne, who were ready to fight him completely naked?

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“The Well” is that kind of light-hearted fun in the aftermath of Negan showing Rick and the others that he means business.  It opens up the world of The Walking Dead and introduces viewers to another community, but reminded us of the seriousness of dealing with the Saviors.  It was fun when it needed to be, but also serious when the situations called for it.

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We aren’t given a clear indication of when this episode takes place compared to the previous one, but given the timeline of “Last Day on Earth,” I’m thinking that Carol and Morgan must arrive and spend their first day at the Kingdom around the same time that Rick and company are captured by Negan.  That’s my best guess, anyway.

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In addition, the presence of Saviors could either be other members that came from the Sanctuary, or these could be part of the group that captured the survivors.  They could have just gone to the Kingdom after leaving Rick’s group.  Even if not spelled out, it’s an interesting juxtaposition to have Morgan and Carol living in this supposedly carefree community while their friends have been brought to a low point by Negan.

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And even though he himself is not here, Negan’s presence is still felt by Saviors arriving to collect their tribute.  On the Saviors for a second, they seem to have established some kind of rapport with the Kingdom to the point that the leader of the group tries to avoid a fight.  Little do they know that they’re being fed poisoned pigs, which, I’ll admit, is a pretty damn clever plan, even if it doesn’t work in the short or long term.

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I’ll get to the inhabitants of the Kingdom in a second, but as for Carol, I’m mixed on her at the moment.  I like that she keeps up the innocent act so she can, as Ezekiel pointed out, blend in, and it shows how wary she remains of something that looks too good to be true. Given what the group has seen and endured from other communities so far, I can’t say that I blame her.

But while Alexandria felt like a safe haven, the Kingdom is too good to be real.  A thriving, seemingly carefree community ruled by a man with a tiger?  Lunch cobbler?  A choir? Yeah, it does smell like bullshit.  Unlike Rick, though, Carol doesn’t just come off as antagonistic or go up and punch a stranger in the face.  She is, in fact, the alert Mama Bear, and despite her condition, she doesn’t drop her defenses.

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By episode’s end, she seems to have warmed to Ezekiel after he gets straight with her, but this is where I don’t know what to expect from Carol.  At the start, she still appears out of it.  I can’t tell whether she’s snapped out of her desire to die or if she’s still against killing.  At least, killing the living, since she took care of the walker in the home.  But is she back to normal or still hiding something?  Time will tell.

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Morgan has come a long way since Eastman’s teachings due to spending time with Carol. He doesn’t want to kill, but realizes more than ever that when put in a dangerous situation, he may not have a choice.  As the world continues to change, so does he, and hopefully this means he’s becoming someone more willing to kill instead of neutralize when he’s threatened.  His outlook on life is changing for the better when it comes to survival.

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While Eastman showed Morgan a better direction, he’s been finding the way himself, and I believe that he’s learned from his mistakes.  Him letting the Wolves escape is what led to them almost killing Rick.  And allowing the Wolf leader led to him taking Denise hostage. But when put in a situation where Carol almost died, Morgan made the ultimate choice. His staff has saved his life many times, but it was the gun that saved Carol’s.

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I think Morgan connects more with the people of the Kingdom than the folks in Alexandria. Under Rick’s rule, the people of Alexandria must be ready to fight. But the people of the Kingdom, while they may have a desire to fight, don’t necessarily want to, more so if the odds are high that they would lose.  I look forward to seeing how Morgan will mentor Benjamin.

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The Kingdom itself is what the Alexandria Safe Zone wishes it could be.  Even if unprepared, the inhabitants are ready to fight.  More than that, they’re well aware of the dangers from both walkers and other people like the Saviors.  And while Deanna was interested in community building, Ezekiel, though putting on an act, gives off the vibe of a capable leader willing to lead his people into battle.

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And chalk this up to The Walking Dead once again nailing a casting.  Khary Payton makes a great first impression as Ezekiel.  He walks and speaks with an air of confidence, but not arrogance.  He participates in hunts and dealings with other communities, can handle himself when dealing with walkers, and has given the people of the Kingdom someone they can trust.

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He’s active in training his followers and is very welcoming to Carol and Morgan, but despite how kind he appears, Ezekiel is no fool.  And I like how he sees right through Carol’s bullshit.  This isn’t a role that Ezekiel wanted.  But when an urban legend gets out of hand, in a world where hope seems lost, what choice is there but to embrace the fantasy and restore optimism to survivors?

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Hearing Ezekiel’s backstory helps humanize and makes him very relatable because, just like Carol, he’s wearing a mask.  Behind that bravado and tiger is a man who was just a zookeeper and community theater actor.  He didn’t tame Shiva- just loved her.  And while this humanizes Ezekiel, it also allows him to gain some of Carol’s trust, as she was ready to walk away from the Kingdom.

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I don’t know yet where the show will take these two.  Is the show setting them up for a relationship of sorts?  It’s too soon to tell, but since Michonne is currently with Rick, it doesn’t look like she’ll follow her comic counterpart and enter a relationship with Ezekiel. At least, not yet.  Again, there’s not much to go off of yet, but there seems to be something there

“The Well” is solid, light-hearted episode that opens up the world of The Walking Dead even more through the introduction of Ezekiel and the Kingdom, progressed Morgan and Carol’s character development, and showed that despite the likes of the Saviors terrorizing and antagonizing other communities, the Kingdom is a sign that there’s still hope in the world.  Ezekiel had a strong debut and I can’t wait to see more of him.

A Look at The Walking Dead #145: “Blood for Blood”

The Walking Dead #145- Cover

#144 was no doubt a game-changer for The Walking Dead.  So Issue #145: “Blood for Blood,” is an appropriate follow-up that is less about action and more on reflecting, reacting, and regrouping in light of what Rick and company have discovered.

And one of the better ways to do that is by having almost no dialogue in the issue’s first few pages.  We can read the horror and sadness on the characters’ face, particularly Michonne.

The Walking Dead #145- Michonne reacts to losing Ezekiel

She, I feel, had the most impactful reaction because she realizes what she’s lost.  After spending so much time as a loner and even more time denying herself the happiness that Rick said she deserved, Michonne didn’t accept how good she had it until she saw Ezekiel dead before her eyes.  One of the few times she would have been willing to drop her defenses and pursue a relationship, and now, she will never have that chance with Ezekiel.  She had a great life, all things considered, but she didn’t truly appreciate what she had.

The Walking Dead #145- Michonne accuses Lydia of knowing about the murders

And with that bond gone, it makes sense that Michonne would lash out at Lydia.  But I’ve gotta give credit where it’s due: Lydia handled that situation well.  We know how much of a cold killer Michonne is, and Lydia knows next to nothing about what Michonne is capable of, but she’s ready to defend herself and kill Michonne nonetheless.  Even though Lydia has pulled this innocent routine so far, it’s nice to see that she isn’t helpless.  And it’s interesting to learn from Lydia that even this level of brutality is far from what she expected of The Whisperers.

The Walking Dead #145- Rick and Andrea debate how to counter the 12 murders

Again, this could potentially ruin the peace and stability Rick has fought hard to maintain.  The three communities may not see eye to eye on everything, but they’re a lot better now than before the time skip.  These 12 murders will lead to people wanting to retaliate.  Rick is trying to be diplomatic about this because he doesn’t want to start another war and he knows that Alpha has a massive swarm of roamers waiting for him.

But I like how Michonne calls out Rick’s double standard, and Rick even agrees: if it had been Carl or Andrea’s heads on one of those spikes, he’d be more willing to take a stand, and he knows that.  But he has to consider what he stands to lose, particularly his position of leadership and respect he’s earned from the people.  People like Michonne and Andrea just want to act on instinct- not because it’s right, but because it will make them feel good for what The Whisperers did.  That temporary bliss would lead to more suffering when, not if, The Whisperers retaliate.

The Walking Dead #145- Maggie checks on Eugene

And just like how Maggie hasn’t told Rick about what happened to Gregory, this revelation is sure to cause a split in their friendship.  But then, no one knew just what The Whisperers were capable of- Lydia even points out that they’d never encountered a group of Rick’s size before.

The Walking Dead #145- Rick addresses the people to delivre bad news

So now Rick is about to deliver some of the most devastating news he’s ever had to tell a group of people who will no doubt be thirsty for blood.  Everything: community stability, the peace, and cooperation are now in jeopardy of collapsing in wake of The Whisperers’ crime.

How will this affect things?  We’ll find out next time.  “Blood for Blood” did not need to be fast paced or have any action.  After the discovery at the end of #144, this issue needed to just give us character reactions and let them take in the full weight of their current circumstances.

The Walking Dead #145- Rick has terrible news

The twelve murders have already put people at odds, with Michonne and Andrea wanting revenge, Rick trying to maintain some calm, and a group of townspeople unaware of what has happened to twelve of their loved ones.  Sure, Negan and the Saviors were a force to be reckoned with, but the surrounding communities managed to band together to overtake them.  Here, all of said communities have been affected and Rick’s leadership, like Maggie, is sure to be called into question.

Looking forward to September when we return.  If the previews are any indication, it looks like Rick and Maggie will come to blows.  That’ll be fun.

A Look at The Walking Dead #144: “…”

The Walking Dead #144- Cover

How do I sum up The Walking Dead: #144: “…” in one word?  Shocking?  Evil?  Bummer?  What about all of the above?

If you needed proof that Robert Kirkman knows how to entice viewers with a stunning surprise that not only ups the stakes, but can keep readers enticed for the next issue that isn’t due out until August, look no further than this issue.  It hasn’t been out very long, but already you can see how this has affected the community.

Rick has told many others that he wants to make this world work.  He doesn’t want to be Negan or the Governor, he wants to be a leader that people look up to and trust.  To do that, he can’t always leap to violence as his first response when things get tense.  That may be what he wants, but he avoids it to prove that his way works, even if folks like Negan think that he’s just fooling himself.

But things do happen before we get to what I’m talking about, so let’s work our way up to it.  Now we learn that Alpha does have control of the roamer horde, but only because there are Whisperers among the horde that can steer them a certain way- I don’t know how The Whisperers managed to pull this off, but again, Alpha has a massive weapon at her disposal, but it’s one that even she can’t fully control.

The Walking Dead #144- Alpha doesn't approve of Rick's way of life

The conversation about different ideals between Rick and Alpha, I feel, boils down to order and stability versus chaos and pathos.  Since the time skip, Rick and company have settled into their various communities and are working hard to live a life that has some semblance of the world they knew before the outbreak.  They aren’t naïve to the threats around them, as was the case for the people who lived in the Alexandria Safe Zone before Rick’s group arrived, but they have worked hard to neutralize the threat of roamers.  They’re proud of their hard work.

But Alpha sees it as one giant façade.  In her eyes, Rick is a human who longs for a world that won’t return.  He doesn’t embrace the reality of the situation like Alpha and The Whisperers do.  In effect, The Whisperers are the people with true freedom: they do as they like, roam as they like, and live as they like, even when you consider that they wear the skin of the dead.

The Walking Dead #144- Alpha tells Rick about how the Alpha must assert itself to prevent chaos

And Rick cuts through what he sees as a mountain of bullshit.  To him, The Whisperers aren’t free.  Not when they wear walker skins and sleep in the cold.  And especially when they don’t have complete freedom because there’s still an Alpha.  So there’s still some level of order among The Whisperers, and it makes me wonder a. how Alpha rose to power in the first place, and b. what does she mean when she says that the next presumptive leader would have to take the leadership role from her.  Is it a battle to the death?  Who knows?  But now I’m curious how these people came to follow Alpha, given how she said that the Alpha must assert itself to avoid chaos.

The Walking Dead #144- Alpha discusses rape

Alpha sees the world and the people in it as primitive, and this extends to her attitude towards rape.  For her to downplay the power rape has over a potential victim is maddening, but it falls in line with her philosophy that people should just act out their natural tendencies, not live a fake life, as she feels Rick does.  I mean, calling rape a part of nature older than the word itself may be valid in her eyes, but this kind of warped thinking wouldn’t fly with, I’m guessing, a lot of people- be it before or after the outbreak.

Rick could have just ignored the situation altogether, even though Carl insisted that he wouldn’t leave.  After all, he wouldn’t consider any of this to be his problem since he has his own people to look after, but this is the kind of crime that he can’t just overlook.  Remember that Rick still served for years as a sheriff and does retain the need to protect those who need help.  Despite knowing next to nothing about Lydia, Rick won’t let Alpha’s warped view of life keep him from intervening.

The Walking Dead #144- Alpha threatens Rick, says this world is for the strong

And Alpha is so nonchalant about Lydia being raped until her daughter starts showing signs of emotion.  She’s no longer dead, but has come alive.  But this show of emotion makes Lydia an unfit for the world, in Alpha’s eyes.  Emotions are a sign of weakness to her.

The Walking Dead #144- Alpha tells Rick that he can offer Lydia the life that she needs

Yet we still see that Alpha does want Lydia to have a life, which makes me wonder how much of her own talk does she really believe.  She whispers that she can’t offer Lydia the life she needs.  She’d be contradicting her own philosophy and could possibly destroy The Whisperers’ way of life if she starts becoming soft.  As such, she passes her daughter to Rick.  It’s a sad moment, I will admit, because Alpha, despite her thinking, does care for Lydia.

After all, she came all the way out to the Hilltop to negotiate for her rescue when she could have just left her to strangers.  Perhaps all Alpha wants for her group is stability.  That and the desire to be left alone.  Maybe The Whisperers wouldn’t resort to violence, so long as they can be left to themselves.

The Walking Dead #144- Rick realizes that something is wrong

Oh, but we are far from done.  I gotta say that the buildup to the big moment was well done.  Sure, Rick managed to get Carl, but he still has to meet up with Andrea, Michonne, and Dante, and still get back to Alexandria alive.  He doesn’t know what happened to them since he went to the Whisperers’ camp, but he does know that Alpha had a bloody blade.  There wasn’t much time to dwell on this since Rick had to confront Carl, but the mood going into the reveal was tense because I had absolutely no idea what Kirkman would have in store for readers.

The Walking Dead #144- Rick finds the border

And then, he does it.  This panel alone is just haunting because the border seems to just stretch onward for miles.  And because we’re learning this at the same time as Rick, we share his horror upon finding the heads.

The Walking Dead #144- Olivia, Josh, and Carson's heads

I think what makes this scene even more horrific is that we’re seeing the victims’ heads at the same time that others discuss their whereabouts.  It’d be one thing to just have Rick, Lydia, and Carl’s reactions, but seeing everyone else discuss the victims is hard to see, because they are completely unaware of what has happened.

I mean, let’s rattle through the list, without giving away probably the two biggest deaths that will hit fans the hardest: Olivia, Josh, Carson, Tammy, Luke, Erin, Ken, Amber, Louie, and Oscar.  Two more, but we’ll save them for later.  Now some of these characters are people that, quite honestly, I didn’t know much about or may have forgotten.  I remember Tammy from the incident involving Carl, Sophia, and the boys at the Hilltop, and characters like Amber, Ken, and Olivia I remember, but despite me not knowing much about every character, this is a big deal because no area was spared.

This incident impacts all of the surrounding communities: Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and even the Saviors don’t walk out of this unharmed because they lose Carson.

The Walking Dead #144- Tammy, Luke, and Erin's heads

And then we lose Luke as well?  Yeah, admittedly, I don’t know much about him either, but that’s part of my point: if you recall, Luke was a member of Magna’s group, and they only just arrived in Alexandria after the time skip.  We haven’t spent enough time with these characters, but already one of them is a casualty.

The Walking Dead #144- Rosita among the dead

But now we get to one of the big two deaths: Rosita.  This surprised me.  Obviously no one in The Walking Dead is completely safe, but this death hit me hard for two reasons.  For one, Rosita has been with the group for such a long time than I didn’t expect her to die at this point and in this fashion.  She’d become a close friend and ally to Rick’s group and even developed a relationship with Eugene, which leads to my other reason: Rosita was pregnant at the time of her death.

Keep in mind that Eugene promised to love the child, no matter its father.  He was going to be there for that child that will never see the light of day.  And like the other characters, Eugene is completely unaware of what has happened, as of now.  It’s also worth noting that Rosita’s head isn’t the first or last one we see, as if to draw particular attention to it.  She’s just one of many victims in the middle of this massacre, and this means Eugene, the coward, is the last survivor between himself, Rosita, and Abraham.

The Walking Dead #144- Ezekiel's head

Then there’s Ezekiel as well.  The leader of the Kingdom, Michonne’s romantic interest, key ally of Rick’s during the war with the Saviors, and he’s dead.  Ezekiel was ready to try and make amends with Michonne, something that I had hoped would happen, but he is now another victim.  It’s a strong moment because Ezekiel wielded so much power and influence, but to be taken down like this is a reminder that this dangerous world doesn’t care how strong you are, because you can be taken down like anyone else.

So…who did this?  I know, it would be quick and easy to point the finger at Alpha.  After all, she did have a bloody blade because as she told Rick, she ran into trouble on the road, and we did see her at the fair.  Alpha and Lydia, to my knowledge, are the only Whisperers that we’ve seen unmasked.  We don’t know what the rest of this clan looks like, so they could be anyone, which is what makes them such a big, looming threat, in my opinion.  I don’t doubt that Alpha could carry this out on her own, but I don’t find it too realistic that she could lure all of these people away, murder them, and then set up this boundary without anyone noticing.

But this is where things get foggy for me.  If this was Alpha, what are her motivations?  She’s already said that she just wants to be left alone and she only went to the fair to get a sense of the community where Carl lived.  Did she just decide to pick these people out at random?  Was it retaliation for Lydia being held as a prisoner at the Hilltop?  And is she doing this just to prove that she’s not fucking around with Rick?  If so, she already has the massive herd, which is a very strong trump card.  Even if Rick wanted to retaliate, he knows that there’s a horde of roamers that Alpha could unleash at any time.

And what happens from here?  This is going to cause a ripple effect throughout the communities and is, for my money, one of the biggest game-changers for this series.  Despite not knowing key details about some of these characters, this is such a big deal because of the sheer number dead shown at one time and in such a disrespectful fashion.  Negan may be a cruel motherfucker, but I think he’d be fine with just torturing people instead of sticking their heads on pikes.

The stability that folks like Rick and Maggie have worked towards is on the verge of collapsing due to the actions of a group that they don’t and probably won’t ever fully understand.

This is a very powerful issue of The Walking Dead, one of the best in a long time.  We’ve seen deaths here before, but so many at one time and these all being characters that we’re familiar with make this a big deal.

Lori shot

When Lori was shot through the stomach while carrying Judith, it was a big deal.

Abraham takes an arrow

When Abraham was killed, it was a big deal.

This issue is right up there with this those moments.  I wouldn’t say it’s as impactful as a certain other character death that I’ll address later down the road, but it comes very close.  The Walking Dead can often surprise and shock me, but this is an issue that stunned me into silence when I was finished, which has only happened once before this.  This is how you hook readers into waiting for the follow-up to this.

The Walking Dead #144- Andrea to Rick, 'What do we do now'

And to echo Andrea’s question to Rick at issue’s end, what do we do now?

A Look at The Walking Dead #139: “From the Edge of the World”

The Walking Dead #139- Cover

The Walking Dead #139: “From the Edge of the World” is a good way for Robert Kirkman to slowly expand the universe he’s created as society slowly begins to rebuild itself and to show how the world has changed since the time-skip.  It’s not complete normalcy and we do get some roamer killing in this issue, but I felt this was a good way to catch us up to speed on what’s going on in the rest of The Walking Dead world since we’ve spent a considerable amount of time at The Hilltop.  Plus, the introduction of The Whisperers kept our focus on The Hilltop.

The Walking Dead #139- Maggie's reaction to Carl's disappearance

Actually, let’s start with The Hilltop, as this isn’t the main story this time.  Maggie seems to be doing just fine for the moment, but maybe it’s the adrenaline of her concern and anger over Carl’s disappearance.  Given how cordial the exchange was between Maggie and Alpha, she wouldn’t want Carl to ruin any chances of the groups coexisting.  Again, though, that’s a gray area since there don’t appear to be any established territory zones for The Whisperers.

The Walking Dead #139- Dante talks about Carl getting a piece of ass

Oh, and for a series that’s as grim as The Walking Dead, I did like Dante’s brief line about Carl chasing a piece of ass like Lydia, not just because the humor is inappropriate, but because he immediately realizes that he’s killing his chances with Maggie, not that he ever had any.  Plus, there’s no way that anyone would know at this point that Carl and Lydia had sex.  I don’t think either one of them would go around boasting.  But the look Maggie gave Dante after his less than well-timed line was priceless.

The Walking Dead #139- The Whisperers find Carl

As for Carl, though, the boy had better consider himself lucky that The Whisperers are being so cordial with him.  Even if he came of his own accord, Carl is still outnumbered, outgunned, and probably doesn’t know the terrain as well as The Whisperers do.  Again, I feel he’s motivated more to get Lydia back and less than getting to the bottom of who The Whisperers are.  At the very least, he seems to be in safe company, but this already isn’t going over well with Maggie, not to mention how it would go over with Rick since he placed Carl under her responsibility.

The Walking Dead #139- Ezekiel mows down roamers with Michonne's sword

So onto the main plot of this issue, starting with the reintroduction of Ezekiel, Heath, and another character we’ll get to in a second- it’s great to see these characters doing well and just nice to see them at all.  We’ve had slight references to the folks outside of the Alexandria Safe Zone and The Hilltop, but this is, I believe, the first time we’ve seen them or spent a significant amount of time with them since the time skip.

It’s also nice to just see how much these characters have progressed.  For example, we learn from Rick that they’re stockpiling ammunition.  This is a very big deal.  For the longest time, ammunition on The Walking Dead was to be conserved.  You find ways to take care of roamers so you can preserve as many bullets as possible and save guns for worst case scenarios.

It’s something that both the comic and the show have kept true to, but if we’re at the point where the characters have more ammunition than necessary, they’re pretty much able to neutralize any roamer threats they come across for the moment.  It’s a useful advantage that is sure to be a benefit for anything or anyone the characters come across now that they’re able to manufacture bullets at this rate.

The Walking Dead #139- Much more fish in the sea

The same applies to the fact that there’s so much fish in the river since there are less humans to explore the water and the roamers, presumably, keep away from it.  It’s morbid to say, but the lack of humanity means much more fish to catch.

The Walking Dead #139- Rick tells Ezekiel that they're stockpiling ammunition

In addition, it’s nice that the three communities have found a way to cooperate and trade resources in a much more civil way than Negan tried with his system, if you can even call it that.  I say three communities because, in addition to seeing characters like Ezekiel and Heath again, we get a reference to Dwight, who is apparently able to provide the neighboring communities with lumber.  So it appears that Dwight has managed to reform The Saviors and turned them into a much more productive under his leadership than under Negan.  I’m glad Dwight turned into an ally, as it would have been easy to keep The Saviors as antagonists even if they weren’t being led by Negan.  Now they’re of use to the other communities.

The Walking Dead #139- Michonne returns

Of course, the big moment of this issue was the return of Michonne.  It’s been a long time coming: twelve issues since the time-skip began and all we’ve had so far has been a brief reference to the character.  Now we see her, she looks great, and has had plenty of time to think while sailing the seas.  I’m looking forward to The Walking Dead spin-off series where Michonne decides to become a pirate.

But the free time on the sea has allowed her to do a lot of thinking and working.  Since her introduction, we’ve known Michonne as the loner, but she’s slowly integrated herself into the group.  However, that doesn’t mean she’s lost her sense of self.  We learn that she just up and disappeared, which concerned Rick, but it still bothered Michonne just as much.  Her relationship with Ezekiel became strained, so she just needed to get away.

The Walking Dead #139- Michonne talks to Rick about her family

As we dig into Michonne’s backstory, we learn that she’s been holding onto a lot of guilt- survivor’s guilt, to be specific.  She grew distant from her family and when the outbreak happened, she wasn’t there.  Sure, everyone has lost someone or something because of the roamer outbreak, but what separates Michonne from someone like Rick is that he saw their loved ones die before their eyes: it’s no speculation- Rick watched Lori and Judith get shot and killed during the Governor’s assault.  There’s no doubt that his loved ones are gone.

But not with Michonne.  Because she wasn’t there, she’s left with the nagging question of whether her family survived, though she’s positive that they’re dead.  There’s no way of knowing it, but this has eaten away at her for so long.  This is a very interesting development for Michonne and I like that Kirkman has given her this added dimension, as we know she’s had a lot on her mind since we last saw her.

The Walking Dead #139- Michonne talks about getting a do-over and being happy

This is something that has plagued the characters even before arriving at the Alexandria Safe Zone: is it right to have a do-over at life?  If so, does that mean you’re trampling all over your past life?  Michonne doesn’t want to allow herself to be happy because that would mean she’s disregarding her former life and allowing this new one to take place.  It’s as if she’s died, but would prefer to stay dead instead of having another chance to live.

Michonne could have the opportunity to start fresh, but what good is that life if she’s burying her past life?  I imagine this is something that many of the characters have grappled with as they try to maintain any sort of connection with their past lives.  Think about Rick talking with Lori on the phone.  Sure, he knew that she wasn’t there and it was all in his head, but he had some sort of connection to her.

“From the Edge of the World” was a very good issue that balanced multiple plots very well.  It continues The Hilltop storyline and put Carl in a potentially dangerous place as he travels with The Whisperers and put Maggie in a difficult position.  The world is slowly rebuilding itself and the three communities are working together to keep that revitalization going.  Michonne’s return is a welcome one and I’m glad she’s been able to do some thinking while out to sea.  Hopefully we learn what else she and the others have been up to.

But seriously, when are we gonna get that Michonne pirate spin-off series?