A Look at The Walking Dead #164: “A Fallen House”

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This issue fascinated me for a variety of reasons.  We’re still in the middle of dealing with the roamer herd making its way through Alexandria, Rick and Negan get a chance to bond in the strangest of ways, and Carl is slowly growing into more of a leader with the Hilltop residents, among other reasons.

For now, and I could be wrong, it looks like the survivors will be able to thin out the herd in no time at all.  Not in “No Way Out” speed, but judging from how quickly Andrea and the others are working, they’re able to draw away the herd in massive chunks.  It could be enough to draw out the residents, in addition to Rick and Negan, so they can help further cut down the roamer herd.

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So I’m guessing either the Hilltop residents covered a lot of distance or it doesn’t take that long to get from there to Alexandria, because Maggie and company arrive in no time at all. Good because this draws Maggie into the fray and towards a possible confrontation with Negan, but also puts Carl in a leadership role in Maggie’s absence, which I’ll touch on again later.

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The bulk of issue #164 revolves around Rick and Negan stick in one of the Alexandria buildings while they’re surrounded by the roamer herd.  This could’ve gone down two ways: one is that they’re at each other’s throats because of all the shit Negan has put everyone through, or the two could have the smallest semblance of a conversation while they wait out the danger around them.

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We get the latter.  Part of that is because there’s no way in hell that Negan will shut the fuck up, especially when he’s stuck with Rick Grimes of all people.  He’s saved Rick’s life twice now and since he’s trapped with him, the least they could do is attempt to talk.  It helps that Negan has seen the fear in residents when they fled for their lives, versus him and Rick, who ran, but managed to remain calm.

Of course, Rick has no reason to indulge Negan.  As he says, if there was a point when he and Negan could have been friends, that time has passed.  Even at this point, I imagine it’s hard to forgive Negan for killing Glenn, among other things, but he’s proven his worth to Rick, Andrea, and the others, and after saving Rick’s life, the least the two could do is talk.

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And talk they do.  Here I was thinking Rick would name a specific kill or moment where his life changed- something like Lori’s death, Carol’s suicide, or Carl almost getting raped, for example- but no, it’s something much more tragic.

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As strange as this sounds, Rick and Negan are more alike than we realized.  Rick admits that the worst thing he did was just survive when other people who should have lived ended up dying.  For all the suffering Rick has seen, it’s changed the man he is today, but now we see he carries this guilt, as if he also should’ve died like the others.

Was it fate that did those people in or were they just weak?  Who knows?  Either way, we see just how much Negan hates weakness in people.  As we learned during his introduction, he gets off on people fighting against him.  Spencer was a coward who tried to work with Negan while screwing over Rick.  Rick was willing to comply with the Saviors’ demands, but he still despised Negan and let him know it.

Some people are just not equipped to handle this new world, and Negan knows that.  He’s seen his share of cowards lose their lives because they lacked the will to live or just knew how to find trouble.  In Negan’s twisted way, it becomes easier to kill people who he believed would get themselves killed anyway.  This isn’t an excuse for what he did to Glenn, but I get Negan’s perspective, especially after seeing what he’s been through.

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I don’t know if this was an intentional move on Robert Kirkman’s part, but this issue and Negan baring his soul to Rick are both given more weight through “Here’s Negan” and watching him grow increasingly frustrated with the people he ran into getting themselves bitten or killed.  You can read and enjoy this without reading “Here’s Negan,” yes, but I think looking at it helps you understand Negan’s case.

There, we saw him leave his wife to rot and it’s eaten away at him ever since.  Unlike his recently departed bat, Negan never got to give his wife a proper burial.  And should he live through all of this, I’d be curious to see if he would ever return to the hospital to see if there’s anything left of his wife to bury.

To veer off-topic for a bit and put on my speculation hat, I’m curious how the Saviors came to be.  We know how much Negan hates cowardly people, so how did he come to convince a large group of people, some of whom couldn’t have been as brave as others, to follow him?  That’s more a discussion for “Here’s Negan,” but with Negan talking about how he hates spineless people, I’d like to know more about the beginning of the Saviors.

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For now, though, I’m excited to see Rick and Negan working together.  With the folks outside able to thin out the numbers, this should give the two an opportunity to either escape or at least kill a few roamers and make their way through Alexandria.  But with Rick having lost his cane and Negan still able to do…well, anything, there’s no telling what could happen.

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Anyway, the rest of the issue deals with the groups on the outside still drawing away as many roamers as possible, but there are some character moments.  We get Eugene and Heath talking about how being outside the walls makes them feel complete.  It keeps them busy.

This is what the residents of the Alexandria Safe Zone lacked before Rick and company arrived.  They grew complacent because of their supposed safety within their walls.  Not that Heath or Eugene are weak.  Not at all.  But I like how dealing with this herd and being in the middle of this unpredictable sea of the dead gives them value. As the two admit, it’s fucked up, but I love it all the same.

And again, this is what the Alexandria residents would have benefited from if they didn’t close themselves off from the world.  Rick and company are battle-ready and more than willing to step into danger because they’ve lived and survived that lifestyle for so long while they’ve been on the move.  As was the case when they first arrived in Alexandria, taking a step back would make them soft.

Plus, we see how much Eugene specifically has learned not just from working with Rick, but dealing with roamers so much that he can pick up on subtle details that will help him lead away the roamers that he sees as simple creatures.

This is such a short scene and I didn’t expect to talk about it as much as I did, but that’s how much it stuck with me.

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Meanwhile, we have Dwight, Laura, Andrea, Magna, Yumiko, and the others also leading away the herd through noise, and it’s great that they’re making such good progress, but hopefully they don’t get surrounded, as Laura feared.

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Now back to Carl.  He’s rallying the Hilltop folks to fight against the dead now that the herd is thinning.  I don’t know if this the best idea since Maggie did tell him to stay behind.  She said get ready to move if it gets unsafe, but the situation looks like it’s getting better unless the herd heads his way.

But the good thing is that this shows Carl’s continual growth into a position of authority. Though far from the oldest person here, he’s assuming the role of leader and convincing the Hilltop people to help finish off what remains of the herd.  Through this, I can see more Hilltop folks warming to Carl not just because he’s Rick Grimes’ son, but because of his determination and leadership.  Hopefully he’s not leading some folks to their deaths.

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No, that honor might fall to Sherry.  I’m not sure if this plan has been thought out that well, but what do the Saviors expect will happen when they enter Alexandria?  Rick and the others will be too tired to fight?  Hell no.  If anything, they’d be more than willing to indulge the Saviors again.

In addition, just how many Saviors are left, anyway?  I imagine there’s still a sizable number at the Sanctuary, but Sherry doesn’t have a lot of people with her at the moment. Between Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom, the other communities eclipse them by a wide margin and Rick is already anticipating an attack from them.

Not to mention the Saviors would still have to contend with the roamers as well.  It sounds like a suicide mission, but hey, maybe the Saviors can squeeze out a victory.

Either way, “A Fallen House” is a good issue with its biggest strength being the conversation between Rick and Negan as the two realize, that for how different we may think they are, they’re more similar than we realize.  The herd is beginning to thin out, so here’s hoping the survivors can stamp out the Whisperers’ plan before it gets worse.

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 #163: “Conquered”

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The Whisperer War arc is over.  But the long-lasting effects of the Whisperers and their massive herd are still being felt with the massive heard unleashed on the Alexandria Safe Zone residents.  Beta and the remaining Whisperers don’t even need to engage Rick and company right now.  The roamer herd will do the work for them.

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There’s no time to breathe or blink in this issue.  Right from the start, Rick and gang are mounting an offensive to stop this oncoming rush of the dead.  That by itself is an uphill task, and this herd eclipses what the residents had to deal with back in “No Way Out.” There, the numbers were huge, sure, the survivors could contain and gradually thin out the swarm of roamers.  Not so much here.

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So of course we’re gonna be concerned about anyone going out to try and take this threat head-on, but I love the fact that Andrea, Eugene, Dwight, Michonne, and Jesus- did I miss anyone?- are going to the herd to try and split it apart.

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It’s not a bad idea in theory, but in execution, even though it’s the best this group can offer right now.  And this squad does figure out early on that there’s almost no way to lead this many roamers away from Alexandria, especially when the herd is headed in a straight line.  It would take precious time that this group doesn’t have when the herd is already within striking distance of Alexandria.

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With that in mind, I like the idea of divide and conquer.  Every little bit lessens the impact the herd will have on the Safe Zone, and if anything, this lets Michonne and Jesus be the badasses we know them for as they get to work cutting down a few roamers at a time.

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It hacks away at the herd even further and gives this group an opportunity to eliminate some of the roamers instead of just leading them away.  I’m still concerned for this group, though.  Eugene was exhausted last time, but he tells Rick that he’s ready for this battle. And I’m hoping the energy Michonne and Jesus are exerting while cutting down roamers doesn’t inhibit their ability to escape.

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Now let’s get to the Safe Zone itself.  There’s some great tension and fantastic imagery here.  Between Cliff Rathburn, Stefano Gaudiano, Charlie Adlard, we get some good visuals of the herd pressing towards Alexandria.  It’s much more claustrophobic, I feel, than the herd in “No Way Out” just due the size and volume of the herd ready to break down the gates.

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But Alexandria has defenses to keep the roamers at bay, and while it’s good that Alexandria has spikes to impale roamers, I wish the residents here took a page from the Saviors.  Remember, roamers are kept in place in traps right outside the Sanctuary, and that particular scent of the dead keeps away other roamers.

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Enough about that, though.  Let’s talk about Negan and his rallying call.  Here’s a guy who has brought terror to the Alexandrian residents, but now, after proving to Rick that he wants to change and going as far as killing Alpha, there’s no fucking way Negan will sit out a battle.  I wager they would have rallied behind Rick and stabbed the walkers anyway, but Negan gave them that extra push.

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And the look on Rick’s face right he implores the residents to “Listen to the man” is beautiful.  Thinking back on what these two have been through and done to each other, it’s a new development for them.  Even if Rick hates Negan for what he’s done, he did go to Negan for advice on convincing the residents to crush the Whisperers, and Negan had many opportunities to screw over Rick and leave, but he hasn’t.

Perhaps he’s changed.  Maybe he could turn over a new leaf.  As much as we want to hate Negan for what he’s done, the man has shown that he has a calmer side, as we saw with how he treats his wives, apologizing to Carl after making him cry, or how he bonded with Alpha…before he killed her, anyway.  Point is, in this one moment, Negan, not Rick is the one who led the charge.  And rather than shirk away, the people listened.

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Obviously it wasn’t enough, but it was one of two things I didn’t think I’d see from Negan. The second came from Negan rescuing Rick.  Again, he saved Rick.  This is the same guy who is responsible for breaking Rick’s leg in the first place and now he’s goddamn saving his life.  That is just great.  And I love how in-character it is, as Negan still says “You’re a hard fucking man to please, Rick Grimes.”

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And watching this all from the outside are the Saviors, who are still in wait to pick up the pieces once the herd is done with Alexandria.  What I wonder is how long the Saviors will keep up this stand.  I’m sure Sherry is a competent leader, but she’s not Negan.  And do the Saviors want to risk losing more of their numbers by escalating another battle between them and the other communities?

That’s not to say the Saviors, like the remaining Whisperers, couldn’t just slip into the background and reappear at an inconvenient time for the survivors.  Hell, the reason the Saviors aren’t striking out at Rick now is because they’re letting the Whisperers wear him down.  Whether they’ll have a similar impact to when they were led by Negan, we shall see.

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“Conquered” was a good read and over pretty quickly, now that I think about it.  But it was a fun one nonetheless and with the herd breaking into Alexandria, Rick’s group is now separated from Andrea’s as they continue to combat the sea of roamers.  Negan stepping up and not just helping, but saving Negan’s life was a surprise, but after all he’s done to prove he’s changed, it felt earned.

And now, these two enemies have no choice but to join together and deal with a mutual threat.  Complimented by some great artwork, issue #163 was an enjoyable issue.  And hey, for only 25 cents this time around, you can’t go wrong with this one.

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 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 #158- “The Whisperer War: Part 2 of 6”

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The second issue of The Whisperer War has a lot going on, but Kirkman manages to balance it all out by giving us a look at the many communities. But the main focus is still the war with the Whisperers.

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And he still manages to tug at the heartstrings by taking away another main character. Gabriel’s death might seem out of nowhere, especially since he’s stepped up to become a part of the army. And I agree, but at the same time, at least he got some development instead of remaining in the background.

It still sucks that he’s gone because, with Glenn dead, I think Gabriel was one of the few remaining characters that maintained his principles instead of becoming molded by this new world.

Glenn remained optimistic and held onto his humanity, while people like Rick give into their dark urges, doing whatever it takes to survive by any means necessary. To Rick, killing is just another way of life, though he’s seeking a better way now. But Gabriel kept his faith and served the community well. He will be missed. But damn, what a gruesome way to die.

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Moving along with the issue, we see what’s left of the Saviors basically telling the other communities to go fuck themselves. And this shows, I feel, how little the Saviors wanted to help in the first place. They followed Dwight because he took charge and offered another way to lead. He’s done that, but how he’s working under Rick.

If the Saviors were against Rick before, there’s no need for them to be for him now that Dwight isn’t there to lead them. It feels like there’s a power vacuum within the group. They’re adamant about not helping, but some realize that the Whisperers could just as easily come to their community as they could to another location. And they didn’t need to go as far as taking the horse.

So I’m curious to see what becomes of the Saviors because it’s only a matter of time before this war reaches them.

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Briefly in Alexandria, we get Rick catching up with Eugene, who doesn’t yet reveal that he’s been in communication with someone else on the radio. I wager that Eugene is weighing his options and contemplating how to best reveal this. You know people wouldn’t be too pleased if Eugene gave away any critical information about the community.

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Over at the Kingdom, we still have William and Zachary talking about helping out with the war, with Zachary still not wanting to aid the other communities. We’ll get back to the Kingdom in a second.

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Negan still doesn’t get a weapon, and I get that. I did enjoy his talk with Dwight over Sherry and this further emphasizes how Negan offers, at least to the women, protection, not necessarily coercion. He’s giving the women a shot at a better live than scavenging and fighting for good. That’s it. Sherry was one of those women who took that option.

But even once Rick locked Negan up, Sherry still didn’t remain with Dwight. As twisted as this sounds, Negan has a point. He’s not making the women stay with him- they’re free to go whenever they please. But life would be much simpler under him. And under him, too. I doubt Dwight still holds this against Negan, but for the sake of the conversation, Negan had a good argument.

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So the battle with the Whisperers begins with humans hiding among the walkers, which is no easy task, I’m betting. Negan soon gets his hand on a weapon, but just when it looks like Dwight’s group will be overrun, reinforcements from the Kingdom arrive.

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And this is what I like: even though folks like Zachary don’t want to aid in the war, this battle is about more than crushing the Whisperers.

Ezekiel led the Kingdom with great power and presence. He became an unfortunate casualty, but even before he chose to help Rick take down Negan and the Saviors, he was well-trusted within his community. To not at least attempt to avenge his death would be disrespectful, so I love how the Kingdom backup arrives not just for their community, but to avenge their fallen leader.

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We briefly revisit the Hilltop and I’m curious where this story is going to take Maggie and Dante, since she’s paying so much attention to him. Meanwhile, you’ve got Lydia telling Carl that even if he spots the Whisperers arriving, it won’t matter.

I agree with Lydia. The number we see at the battle in this issue is nothing compared to the roamer herd that Alpha showed Rick in issue #143. If they arrive in full force, the Hilltop could be overrun due to the sheer number.

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Back at the battle, we get Michonne and Jesus arriving to help out in a moment that feels very reminiscent of Littlefinger arriving with his army in “Battle of the Bastards” on Game of Thrones.

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They charge in to lend much needed support. Charlie Adlard’s artwork of Michonne and Jesus rushing towards the battle just makes me eager to see how this will all play out on the show.

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Then we wrap things up with Negan confronting Beta. And Kirkman ends the issue in a way that is 100 percent Negan. Though Negan just killed Alpha. Would Kirkman put the Whisperers in even further disarray by offing Beta? Or maybe there’s a Gamma lined up to take Beta’s place? Either way, a great issue from start to finish.

We say our goodbyes to Father Gabriel, but now await the rest of the Whisperer War ahead in issue #159.