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 #161- “The Whisperer War: Part 5 of 6”

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It’s funny if you think about it: we’re at part five of the Whisperer War, yet by issue’s end, the war seems all but over…for at least one community.  The bulk of this issue dealt with the battle between the Whisperer and their roamer herd versus the Hilltop community, and damn it was an amazing sight to read.

This issue showcased just how much of a fight the Hilltop can put up when they band together, helped cement why Maggie is the true leader of this group, and left the community in a precarious position by issue’s end.

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Speaking of cementing, this issue set in stone that Lydia has rejected the Whisperers for good.  She’s switched sides and now sees herself as one of the survivors that we’ve followed.  I mean, she blew one of the Whisperers straight to hell at the end of issue #160, so there’s no question about her allegiance, but it’s so satisfying that she’s ended up here, given what she’s endured.

We know that Alpha let random Whisperers rape Lydia, in addition to any other sort of trauma or abuse she endured while a Whisperer, and that alone was an incentive to get out.  If I had to guess, I think that there could be potential friction from neighboring communities if they learn that Lydia has chosen to stay with the Hilltop folks.

Hell, part of the reason Rick and Andrea had Lydia leave Alexandria was for her own safety, so hopefully feelings have cooled and people outside of the Hilltop are more receptive to Lydia.

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Something else I liked about the Hilltop attack was Carl, against Maggie’s wishes, going to alert other residents during the fire instead of escaping while Maggie, as leader, informed the others.  Carl tells Maggie not to argue with him and that she’s more important.  Even though Carl is still a kid and can be pretty ruthless at times, when the time calls for it, he’ll rise to the occasion and help during a crisis.

And this shows just how much he respects not merely as a friend, but as a leader.  And he’s right, in this moment, Maggie is more important.  What good is saving everyone else and protecting the Hilltop if the leader ends up dying in the process when they could have avoided that fate?  It’d be like if Rick died during “All Out War” for some careless error.

But here, Carl acknowledges that getting Maggie outside and to safety is the priority. Even though she’s more than capable of saving the residents, she needs to be outside and on the front lines in battle.  But Carl has also endured his fair share of trials during this and past conflicts, so he’s more than willing to risk his life as well if it means saving or informing other Hilltop residents.

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For a second there, I thought Carl was going to…maybe not die, but come close to it. That fire got pretty damn close to him and were it not for Aaron also putting himself at risk to save Carl, things might have gone down different for him.

Outside of that, this was a damn impressive battle with some great artwork from Charlie Adlard that shows the scope of this clash and felt very similar to “No Way Out.”  Here, have a look.

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And this.  This, just wow.  Now this is a badass moment not just for Maggie, but for any character period.  It’s the kind of image that feels good enough to be blown up as a poster. Just the visual of this worn out, exhausted Maggie standing triumphant, Hershel at her side, the Hilltop residents standing tired, but triumphant, while their home burns in the background is a strong image.

They’re victorious, but they’ve now lost their home.  And not only are there still both roamers and Whisperers still out there roaming, as seen when Beta indicates that this is far from over, but they have to find a new location.  Given how many people are at the Hilltop, coupled with long-distance travel, moving from the Hilltop to a new residency will be challenging, more so if the group travels at night.

But then, what choice do they have right now?  They can’t just stay at the Hilltop not just because it’s burned, but they would leave themselves open to another assault if the remaining Whisperers try to launch another attack.  Either way, it’s great to see the Hilltop residents band together and force the Whisperers into retreat.  Their home is now lost as a result, but this is still a major win for the survivors.  For now.

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Moving along to the other survivors, it looks like Connie was bitten off-panel.  Sucks, but hopefully Magna was able to sever the hand in time.  Like the Hilltop, it’s another case of a group having what looks like a success against the Whisperers, but not without a loss.

You’ve also got Dwight chastising Negan for losing Lucille, but can you really blame Negan for mourning his loss?  We’re talking about a fucking baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, but she has a special place in all of our hearts and some of our skulls.  It was a bit meta, I think, for Negan to tell Dwight that he didn’t understand how he felt, but us readers do, given the ongoing “Here’s Negan” backstory we’ve been getting.

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We’ve got Eugene making his way in the middle of the night with his ammunition, saying that this is the good he can do.  It’s an interesting contrast to where Eugene is in the television series right now, where you’ve got Rosita saying that he’s a coward.  Here, he’s willingly putting himself in harm’s way by traveling at night instead of waiting until day because these bullets are what he contributes to the battle.

So here’s hoping Eugene doesn’t run into any trouble on the road.  I mean, if that happens, he does have a bunch of bullets he could use, but given how much can go wrong when traveling at night, he better watch his ass.

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Same with Rick and Andrea, who are all but ready for some normalcy in their lives.  I hope that Kirkman isn’t setting one of them up to be axed off because their conversations have been very warm, and there’s always the calm before the storm when it comes to Kirkman. We’ve had a fair share of big deaths and I hope that these two make it through, so maybe I’m just looking too deep into this.

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But at least they’re alert of the looming situation because we’re seeing that the war is not only far from over as far as the Whisperers are concerned, but Sherry is plotting a comeback for the Saviors.  Rick and company are fighting for their lives against the Whisperers.  Their resources are divided in several places and the Hilltop is now lost.

Soon, as Sherry points out, battling the Whisperers will leave the other communities tired and exhausted.  Never mind that there may be other Whisperers out there, but the Saviors would be in a prime position to attack once the Whisperers have drained the survivors of their fight.  Not that they’d be unable to fight against another attack, but they wouldn’t be at full strength.

And that’s the advantage in Sherry’s plan: why attack Rick now when his people are ready for anything?  Even though they already know about the Saviors’ plans, their priority is dealing with the Whisperers.  Sherry knows that Rick will triumph in the end.  Hell, that’s what she wants.  But if she’s leading the Saviors to a resurrection or to pick up where Negan left off, she’s in a prime position to do so.

And so that is the fifth part of the Whisperer War.  The Hilltop has won the battle, but not the war as their community is now in flames, so now they must seek new shelter. Meanwhile, the Kingdom is set to enter the battle, so keep an eye on them as well.  Hell, maybe they can provide support for the Hilltop folks now that they’re without a home.

The Whisperers have faced a setback, but with Beta still lurking and the Saviors planning a comeback, this battle is far from over.

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.

A Look at The Walking Dead #157- “The Whisperer War: Part 1 of 6”

The Walking Dead #157- Cover

So we are indeed headed to war with the aptly named “The Whisperer War.”  Right off the bat, I’ll say that this was a fun read.  It once again managed to balance multiple storylines and give us just enough of different locations without making the issue feel stuffed.  And the meatier parts, namely Negan’s talk with Rick and Andrea, held more weight because Negan will likely play a key role in this war.

The Walking Dead #157- Beta and other Whisperers

But we’ll get to that in a bit.  I’ll start off with the Whisperers themselves since we get a snippet of what they’re doing in light of Alpha’s death.  Despite losing Alpha, Beta remains fiercely loyal to her, which I like because it would have been easy for him to step into that leadership role.  But no.  He shuts down any possibility of someone taking Alpha’s spot and rejects the notion that Negan was ever one of them.

So more than ever, Beta has motivation to retaliate not just against Negan, but all of the survivor communities.  We know that he has the roamer army to do so and the Whisperers have already shown how they can blend in, so an attack is inevitable.  And like Alpha, it’s a nice change of pace to see the Whisperers grieve and show emotion.  At the same time, they still don’t show much to keep up appearances.

The Walking Dead #157- Negan approaches Dwight's group

Meanwhile, we get a brief moment of friendship between Dwight and Magna, which I like because it helps develop Dwight’s character since his turn to the allies and it gives Magna something to do since she and her team still haven’t been featured all that much.

I also liked Dwight’s immediate reaction to Negan approaching him.  Don’t even give the guy a chance to talk- just shoot on sight like he’s a roamer.  Nice moment of levity right there, followed by his dripping gift for Rick.

The Walking Dead #157- Negan negotiates with Rick and Andrea

And despite all the terrible things that he’s done, Negan makes a damn convincing case to Rick and Andrea.  Has the man changed for the better?  It’s better for Rick to assume not, but at the same time, Negan has had now two opportunities to break free or strike back at the survivors.  He stayed in his cell when it had been left open for a bit.  He didn’t take charge of the Whisperers to lead a revolt against Alexandria and other communities.

Even if Rick and Andrea may hate Negan, he’s shown that he deserves the smallest bit of trust because, hell, he literally gave Rick the head of the Whisperers.  And given what Alpha did, you couldn’t ask for a better present.  So maybe Negan is biding his time to rise again or he does now believe there’s a better way to survive than how he lead the Saviors.

I don’t think Rick has any choice but to trust Negan at this point.  It wouldn’t be like him to have Alpha’s head delivered to him by Negan, and then just throw him back in jail without a thought.  This is the same man who sought out Negan’s advice for how to lead his people.

So even if it’s minimal, I believe that Rick is slowly changing his tune towards Negan. He offers Negan the bare minimum to survive and promises that he won’t lead another group, so Negan won’t have much when this is all over, but it’s better than nothing and preferable than a jail cell.

The Walking Dead #157- Dwight and Rick talk about watching Negan

Whether Negan stays on his best behavior, we’ll see later, but I find it fitting that Rick would assign Dwight to watch Negan.  Not just because of their past during Negan’s reign, but this shows Rick’s trust in Dwight, as well as how much Dwight has changed since his time with the Saviors.  I think he may hate Negan more than Rick, and he has every reason to, but for Rick, he’s willing to put that aside to keep watch.

This is the same man who, under Negan’s orders, took part in attacking the survivors, but years later, he’s proven himself reliable and trustworthy…now that I think about it, this is exactly like Negan’s situation right now.  Huh.  Suppose this ends up being the case: Negan has already delivered Alpha’s head, but he could go further and be a key asset in the war against the Whisperers, thus setting him up to be a true ally to Rick.

Hey, it worked for Dwight.  Anything is possible.

The Walking Dead #157- Hilltop group plans to head out

Keep an eye on the Hilltop, by the way, because while they’re gearing up to help out with the impending war, Maggie tells Michonne that she can’t give up more people.  So I’m wondering if this means that the Hilltop’s defenses are weak right now.

Maggie isn’t stupid enough to give away her best or all she has, but the fact that she says she can’t give up more makes me wonder if the Hilltop could have saved those men to defend the community.  But even then, she’s still got Carl, who is more than ready to fight, even Michonne won’t let him come with her.  There’s also Lydia, who has lived among the Whisperers, so she can probably provide intel for Maggie in case the Hilltop is attacked.

The Walking Dead #157- Kingdom residents discuss the war

We haven’t spent a lot of time at the Kingdom since the time skip, but we get enough here to see that there’s some inner conflict and how some residents haven’t warmed up to Michonne.  It makes me wonder whether the Kingdom will defect or decide to stay on the sidelines during this war.  Since Ezekiel’s death, they still seem to be in disarray, so now we’ll hopefully see how they factor into the Whisperer war.

The Walking Dead #157- Eugene on the radio

Then you’ve got Eugene still talking on the radio to Stephanie and giving away his location. Could be problematic.  Could be even more problematic if Stephanie is lying about where she’s based.  There’s no indication that she is, mind you, though it doesn’t hurt to be cautious all the same, like Rick and Daryl initially did with Jesus on “The Next World” from Season Six, when they at first said they didn’t have a camp.

The Walking Dead #157- Andrea and Rick discuss Negan and the war

Back to Rick and Andrea, who are taking a backseat approach with this war.  Well, more so Rick than Andrea since she’s still an excellent sniper.  To be honest, Rick has earned this.  Not just with his injury from Negan, but he’s given orders and been on the front lines so many times that he should dial it back for once.

And even though he’s second guessing himself, he’s always got Andrea to snap him back to reality.  But even still, the two of them realize that they need to be extra cautious about Negan.  He’s proven he can be reliable at times, but they know Negan too well to just accept him with open arms.  But like Andrea said, she may not know if she can trust Negan, but she can at least trust Rick.

The Walking Dead #157- Calm before the storm

But with the war coming, this issue was the calm before the storm.  That final panel of the various communities, coupled with Rick telling the people at Alexandria that there is no cause for worry goes against Gabriel spotting that approaching herd of roamers and possibly Whisperers.  And that could just be the start.  Either way, get ready, because we’re headed to war.  Great issue.

Also, keep an eye on Aaron and Jesus.  Something may be brewing there…

A Look at The Walking Dead #154: “Led to Slaughter”

The Walking Dead #154- Cover

Issue #154, “Led to Slaughter,” was a fun read that, like #153, had a lot going on, but Kirkman did a great job at balancing all of the separate storylines.  While it followed up on Negan entering Whisperer territory, it gave some character development moments for Carl, Andrea, and Maggie, but also put Michonne and Aaron in a difficult position as they continue their pursuit of Negan.

The Walking Dead #154- Andrea and Maggie talk about how far they've come

But let’s go one at a time: Andrea and Maggie’s conversation.  It was nice just to have them catch up and talk about how things have been going on their lives.  I found it noteworthy for Maggie to talk about how far they as a group have come.  Keep in mind that, as Andrea pointed out, probably less than half of them have actually survived this long.  No mention of beloved ones like Dale or Glenn, but the message is still clear.

Sure, it’s important to acknowledge that they’ve survived this long in an increasingly ugly world that’s trying to rebuild itself, but I’m glad Andrea points out that there have been losses on their side.  And she’s not an asshole when she talks about less than half making it.  Great little conversation between these two.

We get a snippet with Michonne and Aaron finding Brandon’s body, but neither one of them puts him down.  You don’t just have that without there being any sort of payoff, even though they agree to do it later.  After all, why not just do it now?  It’d take no time at all.  So I would wager that we’ll see a reanimated Brandon down the road.

The Walking Dead #154- Negan speaks with some Whisperers

Then we get Negan in Whisperer territory and his dialogue crackles from start to finish.  The man has no virtual fear and I’m still curious what he wants.  Is he indeed going to join the Whisperers just for shits and giggles?  I mean, there’s no reason for him right now to go to the Sanctuary or Hilltop, if not just to throw a wrench in people’s plans.

The Walking Dead #154- Negan meets Beta and other Whisperers

Even though he’s outnumbered and, to my knowledge, hasn’t faced the Whisperers before, he’s cracking jokes and talking shit to this new character, Beta.  Saying this and watching the Negan we got on the television show aren’t enough, though.  I’d suggest picking this issue up and seeing Negan at his finest.

The Walking Dead #154- Eugene learns that the person he's talking to is named Stephanie

Eugene and the mystery woman, who we can now call Stephanie, was important for a few reasons: one, the communication between the two has opened up a bit to the point that Stephanie finally tells us her name.  Second, we learn that she’s not trying to be judgmental of people doing weird things like wearing roamer skins to survive.  It’s like the people who cover themselves in roamer guts in order to mask their scents.

But Eugene has a personal stake in this due to the death of Rosita and her baby, and I like how this personal impact is what gets Stephanie to open up to him a bit more.  I get that Stephanie, like Eugene, is wary, but strange that it took mentioning a girlfriend’s death to convince her to finally say her name.

The Walking Dead #154- Carl tells Maggie that he's not leaving the Hilltop

There’s a little bit with Carl telling Maggie that he’s decided to stay at the Hilltop, and to be honest, it’s to be expected and it feels earned.  We’ve been building up to this since Rick and Carl went to the Hilltop and Carl decided that he wanted to become an apprentice.  He’s not a kid anymore and now has a budding relationship with Lydia, so this is his home now.

The Walking Dead #154- Andrea rants about propaganda before finding an injured Rick

Back in Alexandria, you gotta give it to Andrea for cutting through the bullshit and recognizing the problems that come with the Whisperer propaganda.  But once she sees an injured Rick, all that anger dissipates.  However, Andrea’s anger has already been proven to be warranted, based on Paul shooting Marco because he didn’t recognize him.

The Walking Dead #154- Beta stabs Aaron

There’s this running theme in The Walking Dead, comic and television show, where if we spend a significant amount of time with a character and they start reflecting, it’s a red flag that they may meet their end soon.  This isn’t always the case, but Aaron getting stabbed after he talks with Michonne about relationship woes makes me wonder about his fate.

But Michonne and Aaron kind of dropped the ball by thinking the Whisperers would be diplomatic.  The border has been established, so of course the Whisperers are going to attack any invaders.  Granted, Aaron and Michonne might not have known if the Whisperers would attack, but given their previous actions, they should have cut the talk short.  Plus, it was a quick stab from Beta, though, so maybe Aaron’s not a goner yet.

The Walking Dead #154- Negan meets Alpha

And then we got the ending.  Man, Negan and Alpha would make for one fucking hell of a fascinating power couple, but it depends, again, on what Negan wants, and how Alpha will respond to him.  Is Negan just going to give away all the information he has about the other communities?  Is he actually interested in a relationship with Alpha?

Plus, either way, would Alpha even give a damn?  The Whisperers have already killed people from the other communities and it’s easy for Whisperers to hide among the people when they’re not wearing walker skins, so what would she have to gain from Negan telling her what she might already know?  Either way, it opens the door for great, entertaining possibilities and I cannot wait to see what Kirkman has planned for Alpha and Negan.