by Billie Doux
I have not been that happy with The Walking Dead this season for obvious reasons: the premiere was simply way too painful, and the rest of the episodes have been too fragmented.
Well, I'm over it. Instead of a painful midseason finale, which was what I was expecting, we got -- okay, there was some heavy stuff. But the ending was actually uplifting and heartwarming. That's not something The Walking Dead does that often.
Each character has been undergoing a journey this fall, attempting to deal with their new reality. Rick probably thought he was adjusting to slavery. Sasha and Michonne both thought they could find a way to kill Negan on their own; so did the griefstricken Rosita, who made Eugene create a bullet that unfortunately, only wounded Lucille and pissed Negan off. It's twisted and perverse that Negan punishes others instead of the perpetrator for an offense. It's a disciplined way to enforce his dictatorship -- although note that he hasn't punished Carl yet for killing two of his guys -- but somehow, it's more cruel, isn't it? Rosita was literally begging him to punish her but instead, it was Olivia.
But Negan also chose to execute Spencer out of the blue, in a particularly poetic and gruesome way. I could almost like Negan for it. Almost. No, not really. But Negan was absolutely right that Spencer was trying to charm Negan into killing Rick for him. Spencer thought he could be the leader and diplomat that his mother Deanna was. Unfortunately, pick your sports metaphor, Spencer was a lightweight, never in Deanna's league, and was easily outplayed by Negan. In truth, Negan could have probably kept easier control over Alexandria if he put Spencer in charge, but you know, I think Negan respects Rick. That, or he thinks that controlling Rick is more exciting and fun than controlling a transparent and selfish idiot like Spencer.
Showing his superiority as a leader, Rick managed to retain control of his temper, even though he was completely infuriated and frustrated when the Saviors were beating Aaron for the stupidest of reasons. (I was worried twice in this episode that we were going to lose Aaron, but no, thankfully.) And that was the point of the episode, what Richard from the Kingdom was telling Carol and Morgan. Rick, like the Kingdom's Richard, had to come to the realization that Negan and the Saviors will never play fair, that there was nothing to keep them from deciding to kill someone on a whim. They're evil bullies, with absolute power that has already corrupted absolutely. Negan was even a bit unhappy that Arat picked Olivia for that bullet, but those are the breaks. At least he got in one more fat joke to denigrate her in death.
This entire fall season was made meaningful and worthwhile for me by two scenes. The first was the one between Rick and Michonne in the dark and empty jail cell, this week's Most Obvious Symbolism, with their mutual realization and affirmation that a simple violent act would never be enough to take Negan down.
The second was that final, absolutely beautiful scene at the Hilltop, when Rick and company arrived and found Maggie, Sasha, Enid, Daryl and Jesus waiting for them. Although Rick embracing Maggie was lovely, and I was touched by how Rosita and Sasha nodded and smiled at each other, the way Rick cried when he hugged Daryl, and when Daryl handed Rick his gun, that truly got to me. Honestly, it may be my favorite scene in the series, at least so far.
Our people have all come to the same place in the end -- they have to fight. They know it will take cleverness and guile, planning and courage, and probably a whole lot of luck to beat their cruel and formidable adversary. And they need allies, of course. Hilltop, if they can get rid of the cowardly Gregory and install Maggie as leader; the Kingdom, if Richard can help convince King Ezekiel. Possibly Oceanside and its arsenal too, since they certainly hate Negan and the Saviors as much or more than the rest of these communities. And if Oceanside wasn't going to be important, why give it an entire episode?
This is what I want for the second half of the season. I don't want a tragic season finale in May. I want what we got when Carol stormed Terminus, when Glenn launched the green balloons. I'm ready for our survivors to win.
-- Maggie visits Glenn's grave every day, doesn't she? And I think she is now wearing his baseball cap. I'm glad she has her appetite back; it was a pleasure watching her eat.
-- It was Jesus who left the note for Daryl. Loved the peanut butter. Would Daryl have let Fat Joey live if he hadn't had Rick's gun in his belt?
-- Negan showed Carl how to shave as if he were Carl's dear old dad. How dare he?
-- Negan has a large white bandage on his left wrist. What's it for?
-- The Rick and Aaron adventure through the lake full of walkers in a boat full of bullet holes was like a new and depressing sort of amusement park. That was where we first saw the guy with the oddly spotted boots, whom we also saw later in Alexandria. Is he a Savior spy? Maybe he's a stranger from yet another community scouting Rick and company out. That would be better.
-- Carol simply wants to be left alone on the outskirts of the Kingdom. I bet that will change.
-- Richard has a hidden RV. Is he stockpiling? I thought I saw empty bottles and gasoline. Maybe not the safest thing to hide in a hot RV, though.
-- Did Michonne kill that redheaded woman and hide the car, as the woman instructed?
-- Tara took the blame for the bullet even though she had nothing to do with it.
-- Eugene and his brains was one of their biggest assets. So Negan has another hostage, one as valuable as Daryl.
-- Spencer did end up like his mother in one way: as a walker.
-- The next episode will air February 12, 2017.
Rick: "Michonne doesn't think this is living."
Aaron: "Committing to a choice like this, after living how we did, free? I get it. It's hard. It's giving up everything right up until your own life. But either your heart's beating or it isn't. Your loved ones' hearts are beating or they aren't. We take what they give us so we can live."
Michonne: "I'm gonna find a way that we win. I'm gonna change how this ends for me."
Gabriel: (to Rosita) "There's no need to lie to me if this is our last conversation."
Again, and I know I've said it before, but I love the change in Gabriel. He's actually a spiritual leader now, as well as an absolute hardass.
Richard: "Carol, I imagine that violence and fighting is something you haven't been a part of."
Carol: "You're wrong."
Morgan: "You're very wrong. She's probably the most capable fighter in this room."
Aaron: (beaten and bleeding)"My heart's still beating. Right?"
Negan: (to Spencer) "You did have guts. I've never been so wrong in my whole life."
Negan: "Your kid, he hid in one of my trucks and machine gunned a bunch of my men down, and I brought him home, safe and sound. And I fed him spaghetti."
Michonne: "We're the ones who get things done. You said that. We're the ones who live. That's why we have to fight."
Four out of four apples,
Billie Doux loves science fiction but hates horror, and is confused about why she loves The Walking Dead so much.