Although last week’s episode revealed Carol’s decision to leave Alexandria, “East” delves into just how she snuck away unnoticed and how that spins the town into a frenzy. But Carol isn’t the only one to head out of town as Daryl takes what is intended to be a less-permanent trip to chase after the Saviors that killed Denise.
Suffice to say, while trouble looms on the horizon in the form of Negan’s inevitable introduction, there’s plenty to put the Alexandrians’ lives at risk even before the man and his bat properly arrive on the scene.
Carol’s excursion is the one that takes most immediate prominence in “East,” which traces her steps to pack supplies, leave a note, and venture out in the middle of the night at just the right time to ensure undetected passage.
She steals one of the cars protecting the front gate from walkers, a freshly placed one that’s difficult to see from the guard posts, and so Carol rides away, spears sticking out from her ride as she heads off to…anywhere but Alexandria.
Her trip eventually forces her to cross paths with a truck coming in the opposite direction, one saddled with five men and plenty of firepower. They shoot her truck out of commission and enter standoff mode with the wandering Carol.
Even as she comes up with a fake identity and backstory, the men aren’t inclined to let her go. They believe she has information, and she seems well cared for enough that they suspect, especially considering her driving direction, that she’s coming from Alexandria.
She tells them, through tears and shallow breaths, that no one has to get hurt as she fiddles with her hands inside her sleeves, one still clutching her cross. The men move toward her, and she takes that time to unload some lead on them from a gun hidden in her sleeve.
Not all of the men are killed, however, and so Carol has to do some cleanup, tricking one of the men and piercing straight through his chest with one of the car’s spears to end his pursuit.
Grabbing some extra firepower, Carol heads out, but she isn’t the only one to make it away alive. One of the men inside the truck played possum until she disappeared (or at the very least was knocked out for a short while). He woke up to the bloody carnage left in Carol’s wake and finds one of his fellow men gasping for air on the ground, but he believes it’s best for him to give up his futile fight for life.
Carol’s escape, while a stealthy one, does not go unnoticed once her letter is discovered, and Rick, despite her parting words, decides to go out and find her. So, too, does Morgan, making for quite the awkward car ride full of embittered discussions of who is right in their beliefs, or even if there is a right.
The duo eventually comes across the scene of the crime, where Rick does indeed kill the man in the road whose end was already close while Morgan surveys the scene. They assume these men must be Saviors because they carry weapons just like those the blacksmith at the Hilltop produces.
But their biggest takeaway is a dissonant one between the two of them. Rick looks at this spot of road and is proud of what Carol accomplished. Morgan sees it and fears what it could mean for Carol’s fate. She left because she couldn’t kill anymore, but she did because she had to, Rick argues. Yet the two remain at odds, following a trail of blood into the field in search of their lost friend (and followed closely behind by the survivor of the firefight, who was hiding in the trees as they arrived).
The two continue following the trail of blood, debating the merits of Carol leaving and, at the heart of it all, the merits of killing versus not killing. Morgan brings up Rick’s decision to send off Carol seasons ago because she killed some of their people and wonders if he would have just killed her today. Rick argues he’d thank her — she would have had good reason for killing them, and he probably would have had to kill them anyway had she not.
She was right to do it, Rick suggests. But this was back then. Carol came back and saved people, and Morgan wants to emphasize that idea — people can come back. It all harks back to the teachings of Eastman, which Morgan still holds onto: all life is precious.
All that talking eventually takes them into sight of a barn, from which they hear noises. They spot and kill some walkers, but there is a living human hiding in the building, who they call out to show his face. He promises he’s just looking for his horse, but he eventually flees as more walkers appear on the scene. Rick and Morgan handle the walkers and notice yet another Hilltop weapon, but Morgan is less interested in chasing down and killing the guy than Rick is. Morgan even stops Rick from shooting him down as he flees because — say it together now — all life is precious, no matter what that life is.
NEXT: Morgan owns up to his actions while more Alexandrians find themselves in trouble [pagebreak]
Morgan than reveals his decision to keep and attempt to rehabilitate that Wolf, and while he may have tried to kidnap Denise, in the end he saved her life, which in turn allowed Denise to save Carl when he was shot in the eye. ”Everything gets a return,” Morgan says, but he knows he still jeopardized everyone by letting the Wolf live.
So, in turn, Morgan wants Rick to go home and take care of his people. Morgan will continue to search for Carol, but if he doesn’t come back, he doesn’t want Rick sending a search party out for him either. Begrudgingly, Morgan even takes a gun from Rick, who also informs him, in what are hopefully not their final words to each other, that Michonne was the one who stole his protein bar all those weeks ago.
And Michonne herself runs into some trouble along the way in “East.” She heads out with Glenn and Rosita to find Daryl, who has decided to risk his life for…well, at first everyone’s unsure. But Rosita has an idea as she leads the group all the way back to the train tracks where Denise died. (Rosita, it should be noted, had plenty of reason to leave after being forced to watch Abraham and Sasha flirt casually with each other while she stands guard RIGHT THERE at the gate.)
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Once they arrive at the spot, they find Daryl’s bike, and head off into the forest until they eventually run into Daryl who fires a warning arrow in their direction to indicate how serious his quest is. He considers what happened to be his fault, and he wants to make it right.
Glenn would rather they figure this out at home. No matter how much he regrets not originally killing Dwight, Daryl may not be able to take everyone on, and Glenn worries it’ll go wrong out here. But Daryl has to go, and so does Rosita, who leaves Glenn and Michonne to their own devices.
And as they ponder what’s befallen their group — the Hilltop, the Saviors, everything larger at play — they unfortunately run into a group of men spreading out like a fan around them, guns raised. Dwight is among them and takes the two hostage, tying them up for the long haul as the Saviors make camp.
Hoping to save their companions, Daryl and Rosita edge toward the temporary campsite, even as Glenn tries to nod them away. Despite his best attempts, Daryl and Rosita prepare to strike…just as Dwight pops up behind them.
They’re surrounded, and as Daryl turns to face him, Dwight fires off a round. Blood splatters on the screen as the episode comes to an end. (Are we in for another Glenn situation? Hopefully not, what with the season about to come to an end. Going through frame by frame, the shot looks to hit Daryl somewhere in the shoulder or upper chest, which would keep him alive but badly injured — after everything that’s happened this season it’s unfathomable the show would kill off such an important character like this. All the same, it leaves a sour taste heading into the end.)
So Alexandria finds itself stretched thin in the final hours of the season. Some of them trapped, some of them injured, some lost to the wind, and others in unexpected pain. Maggie, after receiving a haircut from Enid, finds herself in horrific pain, clutching her stomach as the episode ends, with her beloved once again far away. Rick will return to find some of his best fighters still not at home (and in so much more peril than he could imagine), making his claims at the episode’s onset that “the world’s ours” look like a momentary lapse of hubris.
And of course, there’s that pesky Savior leader lurking somewhere in the shadows. With Alexandria in such distress, it might be time for Negan to finally introduce himself.