The Walking Dead: The Key

"The dead have brought out our best and worst, and the worst has been outpacing the best lately, but that won't last forever."

When I saw the infamous, faux-artsy "face montage" at the start of this episode, I thought we'd be in for a slog not unlike the mid-season finale. However, I was wrong. I'm happy to say this episode was a marked improvement, even if it did have some of the same problems that have been plaguing The Walking Dead like a zombie virus for a while now.

Simon and Dwight were the best part of the episode for me, as they searched for Negan with less than world-crushing enthusiasm. The Walking Dead doesn't do tense scenes very well anymore, since we as an audience know how much value they place on shock value and that awareness makes things predictable. Yet, as Simon kept trying to sell his evil plot to a largely silent Dwight, I found myself on tenterhooks. I had no idea what would happen: would Dwight kill Simon? Would Simon kill Dwight? Would Negan turn up and kill either one of them? I genuinely didn't know.

Negan's two most trusted lieutenants both want him dead, albeit for different reasons. Dwight's motives are rooted in revenge and rage; Simon is impatient about the war, but he's also very aware that his actions with the Scavengers will have consequences. He needs to get out ahead of Negan, and by now, his desperation is palpable. Of course, Simon has always been impatient and bloodthirsty, so maybe he really does want to slaughter the Hilltop more than he cares about his own survival. Come to think of it, impatience might be Simon's most defining trait. He tried to be subtle in winning Dwight's support at first, but quickly grew irritated that Dwight was such a stone. And I don't think Simon's stupid, not by a long shot, but he's not any kind of long-range schemer. He was clever enough to hedge his bets and make himself out to be a Negan loyalist to his fellow Saviors even in the face of the big man's death, but too impatient to actually find and finish Negan. Or maybe he was too scared. Whatever the case, clearly Dwight thought his dream had come true. Simon was suggesting that the Saviors move on, which Dwight took at face value to mean that the war would just... end. Just like that. Negan ousted, Simon in charge, and the Saviors departing for new pastures. Unfortunately, Dwight underestimated just how vicious Simon is, and didn't realize that Simon's idea of 'moving on' involves a lot more genocide than he initially implied.

Dwight is perhaps the most fascinating character on The Walking Dead right now, and he's certainly a favorite of mine (partially because I despised him so thoroughly at the outset and I like when a show can change my opinion on a character). It's always interesting to see a character caught between two worlds, and that's where Dwight is now. The Saviors might trust him and only Negan seems to mistreat him, while our survivors view him with disdain. His only true friend in the world might be Daryl, since I don't believe for a second Daryl will kill him. They understand each other too well. Austin Amelio got the best moment of the episode when Simon suggested that Dwight must have wanted to kill Negan at some point, and he responded with bitter sarcasm, because how else would anyone respond? Negan all but killed his sister-in-law, turned Dwight's wife into a sex slave and took pleasure out of tormenting Dwight with that fact, and that came after he permanently disfigured the poor bastard. It's always baffled me that Negan kept Dwight in such a position of trust after all the torture he's been put through. Is Negan really so dense that he can't see the threats on all sides? Or is he just convinced that he's invincible?


I know I'd think I were invincible if I were Negan. The guy gets his plot armor from the same shop as Jon Snow. It's always irritated me that a show that prides itself on depictions of realistic brutality stretches reality to allow Negan to survive. Much like Game of Thrones (although not to the same nihilistic extent) The Walking Dead likes to cheat to make sure the bad guys win. However, despite managing to survive yet again, the show actually made me feel like Negan might be in real trouble. That's quite an achievement, considering how it almost never feels like Negan is in actual danger. I loved seeing the old, dangerous Rick that once freaked out every single resident of Alexandria. I got a huge charge out of seeing Rick going into full-on Terminator mode, and it was pretty cathartic to see Negan in a position of weakness. For once, it was Negan who was being given a cruel little speech, and what made it even better is that Rick is right. Nobody was coming for Negan, and what he's built won't last. And it got to him, didn't it? This is a side of Negan we've only ever glimpsed, and even in those cases, it was more of an acting choice than a writing one. But here, we got see Negan genuinely afraid for his life, and it was joyous. He was downright pleading with Rick, promising him forgiveness and janitorial duty. And now Jadis has him. Why do I get the feeling she wants to trade Negan for Simon?

Georgie seems like an interesting character, although I admit that the Garbage Pail People have really put me off such self-conciously quirky types. The humor was groan-worthy, but Jayne Atkinson's likable performance saved Georgie from being completely irritating. Her twin sidekicks didn't fare as well. I very much liked her claim that, as bad as things have been, they will get better. It almost felt like the writers saying that to the fans: stick with us, Gimple is out, we can recover. However, Enid had one hell of a good point; how have they been surviving? I don't buy it. They must be part of a larger community. That's the only thing that makes sense. A well-organized, civilized community that wants to test the Hilltop, maybe? See how they do with the valuable information given to them? Maggie, Michonne and Enid talked about how things don't just work out, and I'm not sure the little debate made a lot of sense. Things don't just work out, but good things do happen. You just have to work for them. Sometimes it seems like The Walking Dead only wants to present two options for survival: doomed idealist or remorseless sociopath. I like to think it's possible to be a good person and pragmatic.

It looks like we're set for a Maggie vs. Simon showdown. For the first time in a lot of episodes, I actually can't wait.

Bits & Bobs

- The cast all got a chance to flex their talents this week. Andrew Lincoln is so good so consistently that sometimes I forget just how stellar he can be; he was genuinely frightning in this episode. Jeffrey Dean Morgan gets better as the writing for Negan gets better, and he actually made me feel for the loss of that stupid bat. Top marks go to Austin Amelio. He's so good at communicating without saying a thing. I could tell that he wanted to keep his mouth shut just as much as he wanted to scream about how enraged he is at Negan.

- Arat, Negan's loyal muscle, returned and she actually had some lines. How about that?

- Negan calling Rick 'prick' is so obvious yet brilliant that I'm tempted to forgive the entire show and declare it a masterpiece going forward. Great delivery by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

- Dwight and Rick had a little talk about not much, but they both seemed to come to the conclusion that being a remorseless sociopath is the way to go.

- Negan didn't take your wife, Dwight. He raped her. That's an important distinction to make and I don't want the show to forget it. Negan is a rapist, regardless of what he says. Rape is not something that just happens down dark alleyways, it can be coercive and Negan's wives are the definition of coercion.

Quotes

Simon: Come on, D. Let's rap here. Let's get candid. Let's get weird. You're weird enough, Simon.

Simon: We've thrown a lot at Rick, the widow, the King, and they just keep coming, keep fighting. You've seen it, I've seen it. Tallying it up, I keep seeing the same answer. They don't scare.

Rick: You still alive?
Negan: I'm a goddamn cat.

Simon: You must've thought about it, clipping him yourself.
Dwight: You mean when he took my wife? Or burned my face? No. Never thought about that. Not once.

Rick: What you have, oh, that was never gonna last. Sooner or later, you were gonna meet someone like me. You can't save me or my people or even yours. You can't save anyone, because you don't care about anyone. You use people to bring food... to sleep with you... to protect you. The only thing you care about is this bat. You can't even save that. I'll make you a deal. I'll let you kiss her goodbye.
You tell 'im, Rick.

Three out of four end-of-the-world knowledge bibles.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

How about the Negan v. Rick fight? For a moment there, I thought something was actually going to happen. :) And when Negan found out about the Scavengers, I thought for certain that Simon was toast. Not yet. Although I doubt somehow that Jadis will kill Negan. It would be fun if she made him her nude art model or something.

I loved Dwight's sarcastic response to Simon's mention of those little, unimportant issues, like Dwight's face and what Negan did to Sherry.

Patryk said...

Was a suprise that the attack did not happen in this episode. The best part was Simon and Dwight, seeing the inner workings of the Saviors is actually the best part of this season.

I was also glad the stupid faces at the beginning did not singla a boring episode.