by Billie Doux
The Walking Dead just made me happy again. How about that?
We have another faction: the quiet but threatening inhabitants of an extremely large landfill that has its own Thunderdome. (What are they called in the comics? Hey, I don't read them, I have no idea.) Even though the organized, symmetrical junk landscape had a CGI flavor, their attempts at decor made me smile: the metal animal sculptures, the concealed storage containers as tunnels through the muck, the area rugs on the ground delineating the pathways through the carefully organized mountains of junk.
Their leader Jadis with the bizarre bangs spoke in words of one syllable like the zombie apocalypse had made her forget how to talk. It's funny how Rick was already in salesman recruiting mode about the Saviors ("They'll kill you or they'll own you") before he got dumped into the Thunderdome situation with the gladiator walker (or actually, Winslow) who was certainly one of most creative altered walkers they've ever done. And ouch. And immediately I'm thinking about infection and tetanus.
Experienced fighter Michonne was (unsurprisingly) helpful instead of panicked while her lover was in danger, yelling at him through one of the conveniently placed observation tubes that Rick should pull down the garbage bag walls to survive, which worked. And the fact that bleeding, limping Rick picked up that cat sculpture on the way out as a present for her made me laugh out loud. How freaking adorable can a television ship be? Please keep giving us a little Richonne in every episode because I'm loving it.
And now Alexandria has yet another tentative ally, nearly a hundred intimidating, black-clad silent warriors who want a whole lot of guns right the hell now and a cut of the Saviors' goodies. Even though I bet they fight well, this whole thing felt like Rick was recruiting cannon fodder.
Which takes me to the Kingdom, where King Ezekiel is still making secret payoffs to Negan, even though tensions are rising. Or more accurately, it is becoming obvious that Ezekiel's man Richard has had enough and is spoiling for a fight. Gavin, the Savior-in-charge who appeared to be slightly more rational than Negan and Simon, was not oblivious and he did specifically threaten Richard, saying he was now first in the batting line-up. Okay, yes, but Negan always punishes someone other than the perpetrator so I'm fairly certain it's going to end up being someone else, probably the adorable young Benjamin, Ezekiel's heir apparent. The Walking Dead likes to hurt us. Losing Benjamin would hurt a lot more than losing Richard.
Since he lost his gun, Richard moved on to bow and arrow, a scene that made me really happy because Daryl just re-acquired a crossbow, his weapon of choice. Richard thought he could recruit Daryl to set off an incident with the Saviors and that might have worked if he hadn't chosen Carol as the sacrificial lamb. That entire Richard/Daryl fight took place in front of a massive eighteen wheeler decorated with a picture of a masked cowboy pulling a stagecoach robbery. Gee, no symbolism there.
The other part of the episode that I enjoyed to the very last drop was Daryl dropping in on Carol. Gold acting stars for Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus, because they were crying, I was nearly in tears, it hit me where I lived. I don't know if I agreed with Daryl's decision not to tell Carol what the Saviors did to Glenn and Abraham, but I understand why he did it. Daryl realized that Carol is incredibly fragile right now. If she has to kill one more person, it could be too much for her.
And yet, leaving Carol alone in that house when Richard was plotting to use her as a diversion for the Saviors felt so, so wrong. Did Daryl think that Richard took his threats seriously, that Richard wasn't desperate enough to risk incurring Daryl's wrath? Plus, while I loved the visual of Daryl looking at Shiva in her cage and clearly remembering his own recent imprisonment, I was again frustrated with Morgan's refusal to consider fighting. Even though Gavin's goon Jared took Eastman's stick away from Morgan and smacked him upside the head.
There was another good moment in this episode: the final scene between Rick and Gabriel acknowledging that they were formerly at odds but are now friends. (Rick was smiling at the end of the previous episode because he saw Gabriel in the crowd.) But I'm getting frustrated with Rosita, who is turning into this season's Sasha after the loss of Bob and Tyreese. Rosita wants to fight, and she wants to fight now, even though her last foray at revenge got Olivia killed. Wake up, Rosita. Be smart. Before you cause someone else's death.
-- The cat sculpture was a callback to the Morgan episode "Clear" where Michonne was enchanted by a colorful and incredibly ugly wooden cat sculpture, a really wonderful little character moment for her.
-- While mostly amusing, the metal sculptures in a junkyard reminded me of poor Sam and his owl.
-- Diane, one of the Kingdom's soldiers, is a good shot. I liked that bit about the walker wearing a dress that her sister had.
-- Jerry brought Carol some cobbler. Wow. I love the Kingdom.
-- When Rick asked Tara about what she'd found out on her travels, it was the perfect time to tell him about Oceanside and their massive armory. Not yet. Eventually, I'm certain.
-- Pointless observation: Norman Reedus looked really good in that dark shirt with the sleeves rolled up. It's a nice change from how awful he looked while the Saviors had him.
-- Daryl is now on his way to the Hilltop. Please don't get caught, Daryl.
-- On Talking Dead, the actress who played Jadis said that Jadis's group is referred to as "The Scavengers."
Gavin: "Things might need to get a little... visceral."
Daryl: (to Richard) "She gets hurt, she dies, if she catches a fever, if she gets taken out by a walker, if she gets hit by lightning, anything -- anything happens to her, I'll kill you."
Richard: "I would die for the Kingdom."
Daryl: "Why don'tcha."
Jadis: "Time's passed. Things are changing again. So maybe we change."
Daryl: "Jesus took us to the Kingdom. Morgan said you just left."
Again, with the unintentional religious punnishness. I love stuff like this.
Rick: (to Gabriel) "Someone showed me enemies can become friends."
Daryl: "I figure any guy that has a pet tiger can't be that bad."
Another good one. Three out of four gladiator walkers,
Billie Doux loves science fiction but hates horror, and is confused about why she loves The Walking Dead so much.