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 #162- “The Whisperer War: Part 6 of 6”

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Before jumping into issue #162, think back to the ending of All Out War: Negan had been taken down, the communities seemingly had a new ally with the reformed Dwight leading the Saviors, and for the first time in a long time, it appeared that the communities could be at ease without some looming threat outside of the occasional roamer.

Fast forward to today and the ending of The Whisperer War might be the end of The Whisperers trying to overtake the survivors, but they don’t have to do the heavy lifting anymore.  You saw the herd that Alpha showed Rick.  A string of small victories against The Whisperers is nothing when they still have a massive weapon to unleash.

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But we’ll get to that later.  We start off with Negan laying Lucille to rest…which is funny and somewhat tragic at the same time.  The Lucille that we’ve known since issue #100 has been a staple for so long, so to lose her is a huge deal for Negan.  It makes sense that he’d want to bury her.

At the same time, this is his chance to say goodbye to Lucille for real.  As “Here’s Negan” has shown us, Negan never got a chance to bury his actual wife, Lucille, so this is a way for him to pay his respects to his wife and the bat for which she’s named.  Serious of a moment as this is, I did get a laugh out of Negan hoping that Lucille is in Heaven getting her brains fucked out and in by someone special.

Who thinks that?

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William and his entourage from the Kingdom finally arrive at what remains of the Hilltop. While it’s unfortunate they were too late, Maggie is correct to tell William that it’s not his fault.  Who could’ve predicted such an attack?  Like Maggie says, the Kingdom could’ve been hit.  There’s no telling how long it would take reinforcements from other communities to arrive.

But regardless of what’s happened, I like that William isn’t an unwilling leader.  He’s out on the frontlines and offering whatever services he can to Maggie.  But Maggie is already looking towards the future.  I don’t expect the Hilltop to be rebuilt overnight, and with both the Whisperers still out there and the time it would take to remake this community, even without interruption, I’m very curious to see what comes next for the Hilltop.

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And it looks like Lydia is here to stay, despite how disturbed she is by what’s happened. As a Whisperer, she and her group would ravage a community and leave.  She never had to deal with the aftermath, but now she’s seeing firsthand what her people did and that bothers her.  She knows that she’s done terrible things to strangers who didn’t deserve it, and she feels that would make Carl hate her.

But this is Carl Grimes we’re talking about.  We can’t count the number of terrible things Rick’s merry band of survivors have done to get to where they are, whether their actions were warranted or unprovoked.  Carl knows what it’s like to commit atrocities, even if it’s just to survive, but the point of getting to where they are is to not live like that anymore. You remember where you came from and that makes you a better person.

It’s a nice way for the two to bond in the wake of what they’ve endured and shows that, despite where Lydia came from, she has more in common with Carl and his group than she knew.

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This conversation is in stark contrast to what Rick and Andrea discuss, as they acknowledge that killing other human beings is their world now if they’re to survive.  While Carl talks of moving past those dark moments to be a better person, you’ve got these two accepting that this is their life and there may be no coming back from this.

By the way, the shooting system used to indicate who is arriving at Alexandria…I get why it’s useful, but it’s brought up here, used when Dwight and company arrive, but when Eugene arrives with the ammunition, someone just yells out that he’s there.  My question is do you need both?  The gunshots could just alert roamers much more than someone’s voice.  Just something on my mind while reading this.

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Anyway, Dwight and company return and it is a good feeling when the groups reunite, but the moment is short lived.  There’s this false sense of security with Dwight telling Rick what happened.  Beta nearly beaten to death, the plan to mix among the Whisperers…it all sounds like Dwight’s group took care of business no problem.

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Therein lies the problem: Rick knows better because he’s seen it.  I’ve gotta wonder who else knows about the massive roamer herd that Alpha showed Rick.  I would assume that Lydia knows of it, but aside from her, does anyone else know that the Whisperers have a trump card with that herd?  Not that he would intentionally withhold it, but it would help to keep people aware of what the Whisperers may unleash down the road.

So even if the communities get comfortable after managing to thin out a hundred or so Whisperers and their roamer hordes, they’re always aware in the back of their mind that there’s an even bigger threat on the horizon that would take days to clear.

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And that’s just what’s heading their way.  Sweet merciful crap, that is a terrifying sight. Rick called the herd “a sea of the dead that roared like an ocean” and it’s an apt description.  The scope of this enormous herd, I feel, eclipses what Alexandria endured during No Way Out and it spells impending danger for the survivors.

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What’s more, the Whisperers don’t have to lift a finger right now.  Their war is over, as Beta says, so now they can just leave the dead to finish what they’ve started.  The Whisperers can recuperate and heal while the roamers lay waste to Alexandria.  Plus, remember that the Saviors are still out there and waiting to make their comeback, so this conflict will no doubt continue well after this arc.

The Whisperer War is over, but the survivors are nowhere near done with fighting just yet.

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 #160- “The Whisperer War: Part 4 of 6”

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From all accounts, Dwight’s plan should fail.  After all, in addition to being in Whisperer territory, he and the other survivors are infiltrating the roamer herd in order to thin out the Whisperers from within.  In addition, they wouldn’t be able to distinguish the roamers from the Whisperers unless they heard someone speak.  In addition to presumably never having done this before, this plan had the potential to fail.

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But these survivors are more than capable of dealing with a disadvantage.  You’ve gotta wonder just how many Whisperers there are, given that it took one a second to recognize that Michonne was not a member of their group.  And it’s not like Michonne made an effort to conceal her dreads.

Any Whisperer behind her would have noticed that, not to mention her sword.  We’re so used to seeing the survivors pick off roamers at a distance or do what’s necessary to keep them at bay, but there have been instances where they have to get in up close, like in “No Way Out.”

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But hey, the plan worked and it helped the group weed out the herd.  In addition, I liked Dwight’s conversation with Laura about wearing the roamer skins.  There’s a practical advantage to this, yes: by wearing the skins, you conceal yourself and are able to hide among and influence the massive herds.  It’s about as doable of a plan as covering yourself in roamer guts to mask your scent.

However, it’s still pretty fucked up when you consider, as Dwight says, that you’re still wearing the skin of what was once a human being.  The Whisperers already do some pretty depraved things and have an outdated stance on rape- they’re a primitive folk.  And that’s not the kind of mindset or group that Dwight wants to be a part of, even with all of the horrible things he did as a Savior.

Not that Laura was trying to persuade Dwight, because she wasn’t.  I think she just saw the practical advantages since, hey, it has worked for the Whisperers thus far.  But yeah, aside from that, it’s still a pretty fucked up thing to do.

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Speaking of the Saviors, I expect them to resurface and cause more trouble soon.  That or they’ll be confronted for their non-confrontational stance during this war.  Tara came to kill Vincent, and Heath saw right through her bullshit guise about wanting to return the horse.  As we’ve seen in the past, the Saviors have numbers and would be a great contribution to the war effort, but right now, they’re staying on the sidelines.

It makes me curious how this will impact their relationship with the neighboring communities, more so because you have Saviors like Dwight and Negan trying to do some goodwill and contribute to help the survivors.  Either way, once this war is over, I feel like there’s another skirmish coming between the communities and the folks at the Sanctuary.

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By the way, I’m wondering if Beta may be a bit overconfident.  After all, he couldn’t have anticipated Negan getting the better of him or know about Dwight’s plan to also wear roamer skins in order to kill Whisperers.  We know that the Whisperers have a huge number of followers and roamer herds, so we will see if his confidence pays off.

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Maggie’s admission to Dante felt very genuine and heartfelt for her character.  She likes Dante, yes, but her heart will always belong to Glenn.  If she entered another relationship, she doesn’t feel that it’d be fair to the other man because her mind would still be on Glenn. And she has a child now.  Part of Glenn will always be with her.

I like that this doesn’t end in an aggressive or confrontational manner, because that would have been the easy, cliche way to handle things.  Again, Maggie admits that she cares for Dante, but he’s not her husband and no man will be able to take Glenn’s place.  I like that. She’s not staying committed out of obligation, she’s doing it because she doesn’t have room in her heart for someone else.  Doing so would just be conflicting.

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And speaking of conflicting, the attack on the Hilltop.  From images like the fiery arrows shooting out of the dark or Carl alerting the survivors that they’re under attack, it’s a well-drawn sequence of events from Charlie Adlard.

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Like in “No Way Out,” it feels like an ongoing invasion that, as of now, looks to have no signs of stopping, given the massive herds of roamers that we’ve seen.  And with the gate coming down, this battle could rage on for an interminable amount of time.  I am very excited to see this fight continue.

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Then we have Lydia making her stand.  She’s told Carl before how dangerous the Whisperers are, and while I don’t believe she knows what happened to Alpha, she has moved past them.  “The time of the Whisperers is over,” she says, and that is a great line to end the issue.  I want Lydia not only to prove her worth in battle, but to stick around for a long period of time.  It would be tragic for her to die in this war.

This was a great issue.  Dwight’s plan to break the Whisperers from within is working at the moment, but the waves of attacks continue as the Whisperers begin their attack on the Hilltop.  Can’t wait for part five.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7 Premiere: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

We have been waiting for this moment.  The sixth season finale of The Walking Dead, “Last Day on Earth,” introduced Negan to Rick’s group as a menacing threat and the episode itself ended with Negan picking and beating an unseen member to death with his barbed wired bat, Lucille.  After a lot of buildup and momentum in the longer than normal episode, “Last Day on Earth” had a lot of people excited going into it.

To say that a chunk of the fanbase was dissatisfied, disappointed, or downright angry because of the cliffhanger ending would be an understatement.

Whether it was Greg Nicotero trying to justify the cliffhanger, the cast saying they themselves had no idea who had been picked, and Robert Kirkman himself even sort-of apologizing for the cliffhanger in a Letter Hacks section of The Walking Dead comic, it’s clear that someone heard the backlash.  Even without the cliffhanger, the show remained on people’s minds.

Fast forward to Season 7 and here we are with “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.” There were a lot of promises going into this premiere, expectations from viewers, and hopes that the cliffhanger was worth it.

I myself was more disappointed than anything with the decision, but wouldn’t just leave the show because of a creative decision.    That’d be petty.  Would the premiere satisfy? Would we even learn about Negan’s pick?  And would it be worth the wait?  Oh, let me stop wasting your time.  Let’s jump right back into the world of The Walking Dead.

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The season begins sometime after we left off on “Last Day on Earth,” with a frightened Rick, now with blood on his face, declaring that he will kill Negan.  Not today or tomorrow, but someday.  Negan, though, wants to hear that again, as he isn’t impressed.

He asks Simon, Steven Ogg’s character, what weapon Rick had- it’s a hatchet.  Plus an axe.  Negan’s far from impressed.  Simon, turns out, is Negan’s right hand man, and one of those is important.

Without one, you’re left without work.  Negan wonders who Rick’s right hand man is, or whether that’s the one who met a now bloodied Lucille.  Negan claims Rick’s axe, stares Rick down, and pockets the weapon.  He then drags Rick with him into the RV for a little trip.  We then pan down to a bloodied mess on the ground.

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Negan forces Rick into the camper, but it doesn’t start.  Negan mocks Rick’s declaration to kill him, especially given what just happened.  Rick’s best chance is to use the axe to kill Negan right now.  Maybe he’ll get lucky.  Negan isn’t impressed with Rick’s bravado.  Once Rick grabs the axe, Negan is ready with a machine gun.  He socks Rick right in the gut for extra measure and then sees that dawn is breaking.  It’s a brand new day.

Still, Negan wants Rick to consider what can happen if he keeps acting this way.  The RV finally starts and the drive begins as Negan plows down walkers, all while Rick is reminded of his friends through convenient, black and white flashbacks.  The camper comes to a stop as Negan sits next to Rick, saying that he is his, as are the others.  Hell, even the axe belongs to Negan.  He wants damn near everything, didn’t you know?

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He opens the door and tosses the axe onto the roof of the RV, but still wants Rick to get it.  Rick refuses, but he eventually gives in, Negan forcing him out to retrieve the weapon.  In the thick fog, Rick fends off walkers while still having flashbacks-I mean, memories.

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He’s soon forced to climb the camper and spots the axe.  And then he looks out at the land ahead, filled with walkers and realizes he’s back at the spot where the man was hanged.  As Rick falls to his knees, he hears Negan taunting him for his optimism.  The world doesn’t work like that.  It’s time to think about what matters.

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We flash back to earlier that night as Negan is left unable to decide.  He goes one by one to pick his victim as Rick watches.  He finally lands on his choice: Abraham.   Negan goes to town and bashes Abraham’s head over and over.  Though Abraham was defiant in his final moment, telling Negan to suck his nuts, Negan continues the beating long after Abraham is dead.  His head is nothing but a bloody mess.

An overjoyed Negan wants everyone to look at his dirty girl as Lucille is bloody beyond belief.  He guesses that Rosita was with Abraham, but there was a reason that Abraham was picked.  He took a beating for the team, so Negan orders Rosita to look.  This is what leads Daryl to lash out and punch Negan.  The Saviors restrain him, but Negan doesn’t want them to harm him.  That lashing out is a no-no.  That shit doesn’t fly.

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Dwight is ready to kill with the crossbow at the ready, but Negan tells him to stand down, saying he doesn’t kill Daryl until he tries.  That’s now how this works.  The first one was free, and Negan will shut any other shit down.  Negan doesn’t know much about Rick’s group, but he’s a man of his word.  First impressions are important.  As such, he needs Rick and company to know him.

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So back to it, as Negan turns Lucille on Glenn.  With his face fucked beyond belief, Glenn attempts to call out for Maggie, but it doesn’t come out clearly.  Negan is sorry that the group is taking this so hard, but no exceptions.  So he gets back to work and beats the fucking shit out of Glenn, even long after he’s no longer has a head and his body is nothing a twitching mess.  Lucille is thirsty, as she is a vampire bat.  Timing, Negan.

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In the present, Rick and his axe remain on the camper, which is still surrounded by roamers.  And Negan still wants the damn axe.  He gives Rick one more try to get the axe, but then gunfire rains out across the roof of the camper.  Rick runs and grabs onto the hanged walker- risky move, but cool nonetheless, which begins to give way.  Before the walkers can claim Rick, Negan opens fire from the camper and kills the walkers.

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Rick crawls away from the walkers and retrieves the axe, all while having flashes of Lucille meeting the rest of the group.  He returns to the camper to find the door locked. Negan kills some of the walkers, which gives Rick an opening to enter the camper and return the now bloodied axe.  The journey continues until Negan arrives at the destination.  He knows that this is hard for Rick, losing two of his own and in front of his son.

He picks up Rick’s axe, saying that Rick must have been addicted to being in charge.  However, Rick can still lead a productive life of giving to Negan.  He then returns the axe to Rick, saying that he may need it.

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Negan dumps Rick out of the camper and brings him back to the spot where the murders took place.  He tells Rick that this was all because of the way that Rick looked at him.  Negan wanted Rick to understand, but he doesn’t like how Rick is still looking at him.  So Negan wonders whether he should give Rick another chance, and Rick does want one.  What happens next will determine if this is everyone’s last day.

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The Saviors put guns to everyone else’s heads.  Negan summons Carl to his side, and it takes some prodding to get Carl to comply.  He asks if Carl is left-handed, and he isn’t, so Negan ties his belt to Carl’s left arm.  He increases the pressure, but it doesn’t hurt.  He tosses Carl’s hat and orders him on the ground next to his father.  Negan then asks Simon for a pen.  When given one, Negan draws a line across Carl’s arm.

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Rick begs Negan not to do anything, but Negan isn’t doing shit.  Instead, he wants Rick to cut off Carl’s left arm.  Or else everyone else around him dies, as well as everyone in Alexandria, and eventually, Rick himself.  He’ll get to live long enough to understand what he’s done.  Michonne tells Negan that the group understands, but Negan wants Rick to understand.  And this job needs to happen or Negan will just kill Carl instead.

Then Rick offers himself to Negan, but this is the only way.  And not making a decision is still a decision.  When Rick refuses, Negan begins to count.  Rick cries that this can be him instead of his son.  Carl pleads with Rick to just do it.  Rick picks up the axe, but Negan stops him.  Rick answers to, provides for, and belongs to Negan.  Negan finally gets the look that he wants from Rick.  With that he, takes back the axe.

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Negan congratulates everyone for a productive day.  He hopes that, for everyone’s sake, they now understand how things work.  Things have changed.  Whatever the survivors had before is now over.  Negan then orders Dwight to bring Daryl along, so Dwight forces him into the van.  At least, in Negan’s eyes, Daryl has guts.  And he belongs to Negan.  If Rick gives Negan anymore shit, he will cut Daryl into pieces or have Negan do it.

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Welcome to a brand new beginning, Negan tells the survivors.  He leaves the group a truck that they’ll use to bring him supplies.  They’ll be back in a week for their first offering.  Until then, ta-ta.  With that, Negan and the Saviors leave.  As they depart, the survivors are left at an absolute low point with Glenn and Abraham now dead.

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They sit in absolute silence until Maggie stumbles over and tells Rick to get ready to fight the Saviors.  Well, of course.  Rick counters that the Saviors have Daryl and an army, so it would be a suicide mission.  Still, Maggie wants to go to the Hilltop on her own while Rick and others go back to Alexandria.  Rick tells Maggie that there’s still hope.  And yet Maggie still wants everyone to leave.

Michonne refuses to let Maggie leave, but Maggie insists.  However, Sasha jumps in, saying that she’ll escort Maggie to the Hilltop.  The group coalesces around Maggie, Rick even begs Maggie to let them help her.  Maggie hugs Carl as the others begin moving the bodies.

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As Negan’s words go through Rick’s mind, we get a dream vision of the group having an outdoor dinner in Alexandria, Glenn is even holding his future child.  Back in the present, Rick grabs the axe and heads into the camper.  He starts it up and drives off as a walker feasts on a pile of blood left by one of the bodies.

I’ll give the showrunners of The Walking Dead this: they know how to, for the most part, maintain tension and suspense.  My reservations and issues with the cliffhanger aside, because you can’t undo that, I found myself as tense as I was while watching “Last Day on Earth” back in April.  Most of the time.  These people know we want to have our expectations met and, if possible, surpassed.  Was that the case here?

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Well, yes and no, but I’ll get into that later.  Because the cliffhanger brought the momentum of “Last Day on Earth” to a screeching halt, this episode had to recapture all that momentum, build on it, and make the wait worthwhile.  I was hesitant going into this that the episode would just tease the death until the very last second.  If the show really wanted to troll us, the ending could have cut to Morgan and Carol arriving at the Kingdom.

Hey, it’s not like The Walking Dead is above dick moves.  But no, it didn’t do that.  It just stalled the same way I’m stalling in discussing how I felt about the episode as well as jumping all over the place.  So before getting into mixed territory, I do want to talk about what I enjoyed about this episode.

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To start, the acting.  Whether it’s the group crumbling as two of their own are killed or the hopelessness on Andrew Lincoln’s face as Rick finds himself defenseless against Negan, pleads to take his son’s place, or even trying to maintain some bravado in the face of death, the acting was stellar all around.

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And Lauren Cohan’s performance as Maggie in those final moments further sets her up to develop into the leader that we know she will become later.  And you gotta feel bad for Maggie.  She’s lost most of her family, and now her husband is gone as well.

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Next up, the brutality.  My word, the brutality.  You’ve got those hyperbolic folks who called the deaths disgusting or too much to bear, so I’m guessing people have forgotten what show they’ve been watching.  Or that, if they’ve ever watched something like Game of Thrones, this kind of violence and brutality should be nothing by comparison.

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Watching Negan brutally beat Abraham and Glenn to death in all its gory detail, with guts and all spilling out, it was vicious, and call me a sadist all you want, I was grinning as well as shaking.  Negan’s introduction isn’t meant to be toned down.  He’s got a bat wrapped in barbed wire.

On top of the cliffhanger, if The Walking Dead didn’t give us the brutal deaths, it would feel like a cheat.  It’d be like cutting to black before someone is shot in the head.  You feel robbed of the moment, more so after the episode had to regain its momentum.

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So yes, I am a proponent of the violent deaths.  Some call it torture, but this is a show where the dead eat the living, a young, psychotic girl like Lizzie can kill her sister without remorse and later be justifiably executed while her back is turned, and people like the Hunters prepare, cook, and eat other human beings.  So seeing someone’s head bashed in should be easy to handle.

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Maybe I’m just desensitized to the violence of this series- though the comic still knows how to shock me at times- but this solidified how much of a threat Negan is and the violent lengths he’ll go to in order to make his point.  So I doubt those turned off by this moment will quit the show or turn them off altogether.  Like those who were enraged about the cliffhanger, I’m certain that they’ll return, at least out of curiosity.

The Walking Dead #100- Glenn's still alive after being hit with Lucille

And in a refreshing change of pace, Glenn actually got his comic book death.  That’s a rarity for this show.  Lori, Abraham, Dale, Shane, and even the Governor, just to name a few, have been killed in ways different from their comic book counterparts.

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But here, from the close-up of Glenn’s bloodied face to the way Negan looms over him, it was literally Issue #100 brought to life.  Details like that, coupled with Negan’s dialogue throughout, leave the comic fan in me very satisfied, on top of the death itself being very gruesome.

As with the previous episode, much of this has to do with the group’s bravado.  They were certain that they could stop Negan and the Saviors in their tracks by attacking a base and killing them in their sleep.  These two deaths are, to me, a welcome change of pace and from a character perspective, I think it’s necessary to see them suffer a loss.  And comparably speaking, they’ve only lost two people to the number of Saviors killed.

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But seeing the group and Rick especially look so defeated is crucial.  Their overconfidence led to them underestimating Negan.  And this gives Rick proper motivation to spur the group into action and launch a counterattack.  Before, it was just Rick trying to stop Negan before he could do something.  Now, he and the rest have motivation to get revenge against their fallen friends.

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And I enjoyed Rick’s interaction with Negan, if just to see Negan establish how threatening he is while trying to be cordial with Rick.  All while still breaking him down and after he’s just killed two of his friends.  It was tense, funny at times, and again, it’s interesting to see Rick at such a demoralized state after he’s been confident for so long.  A far cry from the Rick Grimes that towered over Gareth and the Hunters before butchering them.

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That said, like “Last Day on Earth,” my issues with this episode have to do with the execution of the…well, executions.  Let’s start with picking Abraham.  I know that some people say they saw this coming based on Negan saying last season that the victim took it like a champ.  The theory turned out to be right, so good on them for figuring it out, and I will say that he wasn’t my pick.

In fact, based on conversations between him and Abraham, part of me thought that Eugene would have taken the hit. But then, the Saviors already roughed him up when they captured the camper, so maybe that took him out of the running.

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Had Abraham been the only victim, Negan still would have gotten his point across, and we aren’t given much time to process Abraham’s death.  Not just because there’s more to the scene, but because of Daryl’s interference, which led to the second death.

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And this is my problem: Glenn’s death, while comic-accurate, only seems to have happened because Daryl interfered.  In addition, Negan picking Glenn felt like an afterthought.  Not to mention it’s as if the show wanted to top the comic.  Negan only picked Glenn there, so how does the show surpass that?  Pick two for double the impact. But would Negan have done that had Daryl not tried to be the hero?  I don’t know.

But it rubbed me the wrong way that now it appears that Glenn’s death is not because Negan picked him at random, but because Daryl, unlike Rick, wanted to make a vain attempt to stop Negan.  That’s not necessary and it speaks to Negan’s restraint that he doesn’t have Dwight kill Daryl when he has the chance.

However, if we’re meant to grasp how much of a threat Negan is and how he has no mercy for the survivors, then he proved his point.  Glenn’s death felt like the emotional punch to the gut, but he’s the second to die.  We get more of the group’s reaction to him dying and there’s even a score in the background that plays against his demise.  Whereas with Abraham, it’s stark with no music.  We get the death as is and nothing more.

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So then why have both of these deaths place at the same time if the show is only focusing on one of them?  Sure, Glenn has been with us since the beginning and we know more about him than Abraham, but then why not have his death come first and then have Negan drive the point home by kicking the group when they’re doing and selecting a second person to die?  If the show was, without a doubt, going to have two deaths.

Last Day on Earth- Negan picks his victim, the cameraman

Or better yet, “Last Day on Earth” could have ended either with Abraham’s death or viewers seeing Negan pick him, rather than having the season end with a point of view shot.  Then, in-between Season 6 and 7, as we process who will die, assuming it will just be Abraham, the show throws a curveball by killing Glenn as well on the premiere, long after the multiple fakeouts where he ended up surviving.

The Walking Dead #100- Negan picks Glenn to die

See, here’s the the thing.  In the comic, Negan picking Glenn was a surprise because it did come out of nowhere.  Glenn hadn’t gone down the dark path that Rick walks and, as far as I know, no one predicted that he would get the bat.  After losing Abraham just a few issues before this, for an unassuming guy like Glenn to die was a major loss.

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But on the show, Glenn’s death comes due to Daryl’s actions, not because of Negan picking him at random.  And I don’t like that because, in a way, it kind of makes Daryl responsible for Glenn’s death.  Whether Daryl blames himself for what happened to Glenn remains to be seen, but I imagine it’s going to stick with him since he did prompt Negan to, as he said, shut that shit down, no exceptions.

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It didn’t help that the deaths kept cutting back and forth between Negan taking Rick with him to retrieve that damn axe.  We get that Rick is broken, but between going from the past to the present, not to mention those shots of Negan hitting everyone with the bat, broke up the flow a bit.

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Just have the two deaths play out in one long sequence.  Don’t make Rick have flashbacks or visions of everyone just to pad out the episode.  “Last Day on Earth” already didn’t need to be 90 minutes. This episode could have flowed better by having all of Rick and Negan’s moment take place at once after the deaths.

I don’t have a problem with nonlinear storytelling, but when this episode has to rebuild the momentum from Season 6, cutting from Rick and Negan to the murders was distracting at times.

And the dream sequence of everyone together at Alexandria was too heavy handed.  We know everything that’s going through the survivors’ minds just by Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan’s performances alone.  We don’t need a vision of what life for them could have been had things gone in a different direction for them.

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Oh, and it seems there are those who still felt that Rick would lose his right hand to Negan since the show’s version of the Governor didn’t follow through on the same actions as his comic counterpart.  But what works in the comics doesn’t translate to reality, and if Rick hasn’t lost his hand yet, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

With all that said, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” is a good episode and return to The Walking Dead.  The pacing issues and decision of killing two victims keeps me from enjoying the episode as much as I would like, but the acting, brutality, and leaving the survivors in an absolute low state made for an enjoyable watch.  Who knows?  I may grow to love it on repeat viewings.

And now that Negan has made his demands, I am very anxious to see how the group progresses from here and how this tragedy pushes them to strike back.  What becomes of Daryl and will he blame himself for Glenn’s death?  Does Rick have a plan yet to fight back against Negan?  If it wasn’t for a few issues, this would be a fantastic start for the season.  But these issues are enough to make it more good instead of great.

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.