This week’s Walking Dead seems to indicate that the showrunners have learned from at least a few of season 7’s early mistakes: there was more than one storyline! They didn’t make us wait forever for what we wanted to see! No Negan!
Okay maybe that last point is me projecting my own personal feelings onto the situation, but two weeks in a row without Negan is a win in my book.
The episode opens at the Kingdom. A group is waiting to meet the Saviors for their weekly (or however often it is) tithe. At first they make some noise about the tribute being short, but on second glance they agree that it’s right. Then Richard (aka, Rando-Kingdom-Dude) and Rando-Savior-Dude who got into it before get into it again. And so then the Saviors are making noise about there being “future problems” between their two groups, and honestly Ezekiel is gonna have to give in and fight.
Richard recruits Daryl to help him ambush some Saviors, and as he explains his plan, he reveals Carol’s whereabouts—and that he’s set Carol up to take the fall for the attack. Needless to say Daryl flips his shit. He beats Richard up and threatens to kill him if anything, ever, happens to Carol. Then he goes off to find her.
Meanwhile Rick & co. are being lead through the junkyard by (I gotta be honest) a very weird, creepy, cult-like group who all apparently forgot how to use scissors because every one of them has long hair. Except her:
Her name, we learn later, is Jadis (yes, like the witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), and she’s the leader. Rick tells them about the Saviors and asks them to join the fight, but she rejects his offer out of hand. Father Gabriel, their prisoner, convinces them to give Rick a chance. He says Rick “can do anything,” and if they want something “just ask for it.” Rick’ll make it happen.
So Jadis takes Rick up a big pile of trash and knocks him off of it into this little pit where he has to fight THIS guy:
Rick wins, because duh, and after making him promise to bring them bunches of guns, Jadis agrees to join their fight against the Saviors. Yay! A weird, crazy group vs. a weird, crazy group! Fun times seem to be in the offing.
Okay back to the good stuff. Carol is settling down with a good book when there’s a knock on her door. Ezekiel and some of his subjects had just been there, and this damn woman wants to be left alone like the hermit she is, so she’s a wee bit annoyed when she opens the door. Only it’s not Ezekiel! It’s not Morgan! It’s DARYL!
Inside, Carol explains why she left, and why she’s living all on her own: she says that if the Saviors came and hurt even one of them, she would have to fight. She would kill them all, and that would destroy her. When she asks Daryl if they came, and if anyone got hurt, he tells her they did, but they killed them all. Everyone back home is fine.
Earlier in the episode, Daryl argued with Morgan that if Carol knew about Glenn and Abraham she would lead the charge against the Saviors herself. But when Daryl heard her reasons for leaving, he knew he had to lie to her. He couldn’t let her destroy herself when she was just rebuilding.
So is there a quota for nuanced female characters on one TV show? Once you hit your limit, that’s it.
Last week I said I wanted “Valkyrie Carol” leading the charge. I still want that, because I don’t 100% buy this new Carol, but…I guess I get it? I mean, she became a stone-cold badass for a while, and that takes a toll. I want her to know about Glenn (and sure whatever Abraham), but I understand why Daryl didn’t tell her. I even support his decision. What I don’t like is this idea that it’s either “stone-cold psycho killing machine” OR “bleeding-heart softie”.
Another contrast the show has been setting up is between Tara and Rosita. Since the Saviors did their thing in 7×01, Rosita has been “fight fight fight!”
Tara, on the other hand, is the show’s only true Cinnamon Roll. She didn’t tell the group about Oceanside, she believed in Father Gabriel when Rosita assumed he’d up and run, and this week she argues with Rosita that they all need to stay together, per Rick’s orders.
It’s understandable that Rosita would chafe under Rick’s leadership. She joined the group late, was used to taking orders from Abraham (a much different leader than Rick), and it’s partially Rick’s decisions that got Abraham smashed and bashed.
My problem isn’t Rosita’s belligerence; it’s more that the show wants me to have a problem with it. She’s presented as this angry bitch ready to take on the world (foolishly, judging by her botched assassination attempt in the mid-season finale), and while I’m not sure how we’re supposed to feel about Tara’s loyalty to Oceanside (mostly that it’s a good thing, I think), it looks like we’re heading for a showdown between Rosita’s “take what we need and fuck anyone who stands in our way” attitude and Tara’s “all you need is love” point of view.
Why is it so black and white? Why does Carol have to hide out in a house by herself, because any fighting at all would make her lose her soul? Why does Rosita have to be the voice for War, capital W, while Tara is for Peace? Isn’t there a middle ground?
Look at Michonne: she has room in her heart to love Rick, Carl, Judith, etc, but she’s also a total badass who’s always argued for standing up against the Saviors. Maggie loves her husband and her baby and is ready to give Negan a Lucille enema. So is there a quota for nuanced female characters on one TV show? Once you hit your limit, that’s it. They’ve got Maggie and Michonne, so they’re done. Everyone else has to be a bit cardboard. Easily categorized.
Personally I applaud Tara’s decision to keep Oceanside’s secret—it’s her own form of strength—but I have a feeling Rosita, especially, won’t see it that way. I’m not looking forward to some intra-group showdown when there’s so much pressure from the outside already, but I feel like that’s what we’re building to. They’ve taken such pains to put Rosita and Tara at odds, especially these past two weeks, and I just know Rosita’s gonna flip her shit when they find out Tara’s secret.
The episode was pretty good. It moved well, it had TWO WHOLE STORYLINES, and we got lots of Richonne. I do wonder how Rick manages to get his hair QUITE so wet when he sweats. I mean, I know it’s hot out, but geez.
Next week. From the previews. Looks like all Negan in Savior-land. So look for lots of eye-rolling when we meet again. In the meantime, 7A is redeeming at least a few of the mistakes of 7B, but I’ve been on this ride too many times to have much faith.
Episode Grade: B+? Not an A just because…the new group fell a little flat for me. So far.
Images curtesy of AMC