The Walking Dead has fully immersed us into every aspect of the war on the Saviors — including all the downtime these soldiers face while waiting for battle.
Another hour of this story has gone by, but it seems we’ve still barely moved from where we left off the week before. Rick finally made it to the next phase of his mission — meeting with Jadis, who’s busy working on her junkyard art project in the nude — but he barely gets a few lines in before he’s locked up as a prisoner. Ezekiel is still recovering from the emotional toll of the Saviors’ surprise attack, Maggie finally makes a decision regarding Jesus’ prisoner haul, Carl reunites with that stranger from the first episode, and Michonne and Rosita finally get some action as they go off on a side mission that reveals very little about the overall predicament. Again, it seems like we’ve barely made any headway toward a conclusion to this arc.
Perhaps the children will be able to snap these prattling adults out of their funk. That was the biggest takeaway: the little ones. Maggie is reminded that the whole point of this war is to try to secure a future for their communities, while the kid characters end up being the ones leading by example.
Carol still has no luck in waking Ezekiel from his depression, but when he doesn’t answer her summons, a child approaches: Benjamin’s younger brother, Henry. With a wooden staff in hand, he says he wants to fight, despite his peanut size. But Carol shuts him down…in so many words. Henry later follows her into the woods anyway, and she saves him when he’s barely able to fend off two walkers. She calls him stupid, but he points out she’s the one trying to go back to fight the Saviors by herself. Reluctantly, she gives him a gun and brings him back to the Kingdom, where she again attempts to incite Ezekiel to action.
Carol is ready to blast open the door to his throne room, but Jerry mentions that it’s not locked. (Goddamn it, Jerry!) She finds Ezekiel sitting on the theater’s stage with Shiva’s chains draped over his huddled form. He’s no longer speaking with the flourishes and zeal of King Ezekiel, but instead he asks her to lead the people herself so he can be alone. Carol and Ezekiel shippers might want to perk up, because she asks him why he kept visiting her when she initially wanted to be left alone, and he admits that she made him feel real, not like the fictional persona he pretends to be. As tears drip down her face, she says, “You are real to me, to the Kingdom.”
Carol implores him to act the part if he can’t be the part, to pretend like everything is normal until things actually become normal. That’s his gift. Yet he says he can’t do it.
Aaron returns to Hilltop with the infant Savior and presents Maggie with a letter. Carol and Rick have also received notes, updating them all on their individual progress and their losses. Just outside the Hilltop fence, Jesus is tossing some of the extra turnip supply to the prisoners. (By the way, if you’ve been wondering, as I have, about the cute and good-hearted Savior, it’s actor Callan McAuliffe as Dillon.) Maggie storms toward Jesus with Gregory and Enid at her back about this waste of their resources. Gregory is still advising Maggie to kill them all, and although she once again commands him away, she admits to Jesus that every option for dealing with this situation is on the table. She says, “We have to end this.” He says, “We have to make sure what’s left is worth what we lost.”
Maggie sits on her new throne at Hilltop, fiddling with Glenn’s watch in her hands as Gregory offers his guidance on the prisoner situation. She says he’s only in the room with her so she can keep an eye on him, but he thinks she wants someone to give her the okay to follow her gut. As night falls, Jesus and the prisoners can hear the colony at work building something. They fear it’s the gallows, which Gregory first suggested when he was mouthing off. Dillon further stokes Jesus’ fears as he tells his tale of being someone “good with his hands.” He remained under the radar building things while others killed each other to be the leader of whatever group they were in. Under Negan, he was sent to build a fence at the outpost when Jesus’ forces attacked. Now, here he is, a seemingly innocent man caught in the crosshairs.
The next morning, Maggie calls for the prisoners to come inside the walls. There aren’t any gallows, but instead a pen to hold the Saviors for the time being. She says the colony will feed them and not mistreat them, but they won’t accept anything except total cooperation. Gregory once again objects to this action, then finds himself thrown into the pen. As he said himself, Maggie can’t have someone they don’t trust walking about freely within their walls.
As two men drag a kicking and screaming Gregory into the cage, Jared makes a go for Dianne’s gun. Maggie is quick to bash him in the head with her rifle, but he warns that she’ll get all of Hilltop killed. Later on, Dillon finds Jared trying to use a rock to cut the ropes around his wrists and knocks it away. Dillon doesn’t want everyone to end up dead on account of his behavior, but Jared says again how the Hilltop will be theirs if they just bide their time.
Inside the Hilltop mansion, Jesus walks in as Maggie, holding the infant, is listening to Aaron grieve Eric’s death. Jesus wants to thank her for making the decision she made, but she says the Saviors could prove to be bargaining chips down the road — and if they don’t need them, she can’t let them live.
Taking Maggie’s advice — grieving feels better when you’re doing something about it — Aaron prepares to head out on a side mission that only he seems to know about. Enid chases after to join him, and he tells her to get food and supplies because they might be gone for a while.
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Rick approaches Jadis in the hopes of striking another deal — but why? He shows her polaroids he took of the fallen Sanctuary and says to switch sides (again) or die. She turns him down and locks him up, which seems like that was his initial plan all along. His true goals are still unclear though, even as he later closes out the episode peering out a bullet hole in his cell while also in the nude. His son, though, is trying to make better decisions.
Carl finds Siddiq, the man Rick almost shot, in the woods to offer him food, water, and the Alexandria entrance quiz: How many walkers have you killed? (About 237.) How many people have you killed? (One, because the dead tried to kill him but didn’t finish the job.) Siddiq explains how he sets traps for walkers because his mother believed that by killing the dead it would free their souls. Carl, too, keeps his mother’s teachings alive by trying to do the right thing, even when it’s not so obvious.
Walking back toward Alexandria, Carl helps Siddiq kill more walkers to honor his mother, resulting in a poorly staged fight. Case in point: Carl is pinned down by two walkers, and he’s able to grab his gun to shoot them. There are no effects beyond the sound of a gunshot. Carl just flinches his hand to simulate the ricochet from the pistol, and the undead assailants fall away with no blood splatter. It’s not the quality we’ve all come to expect from this show.
Carl then explains that Siddiq is his responsibility now and, despite what his father might think, “sometimes kids have to find their own way to show their parents the light.”
Michonne and Rosita, too, ignore their orders and set out for The Sanctuary. Michonne needs to see it for her own peace of mind; she was one of the few who started this whole thing and it didn’t sit right with her to sit out the first wave. Rosita is following along. On the way, they stop to investigate some choral music coming from somewhere in the woods. They find a building in which two Saviors, a man and a woman, are planning to ride a truck strapped with speakers toward The Sanctuary to lure away the walkers with music.
Michonne gives away their element of surprise when she accidentally kicks a tennis ball towards the Saviors, and in the ensuing gunfire, Rosita drops her pistol. Still wounded from an earlier battle, Michonne struggles as she’s forced to fight the woman, while Rosita tries to stop the man from absconding with the stereos. In one of the few redeeming moments of this episode, Rosita finds a spare missile launcher and holds her target at gunpoint. As soon as he says she won’t use that on him, she does and blows his body to pieces.
The explosion distracts Michonne, and the other Savior escapes in the truck. But as she’s about to get away, Daryl and Tara smash her off the road with a garbage truck and shoot her to ensure she’s dead. The duo had met at Alexandria as Michonne and Rosita were leaving. They spoke about wanting to kill Dwight together once all this is over and how they might not have to wait long. Turns out they were heading in the same direction as their comrades anyway. They take Michonne and Rosita to see The Sanctuary before stating they’re going to end this all right now.
Among Daryl and Tara, Aaron and Enid, and Jesus, everyone seems to be diverting so much from the main plan that it’s a miracle they’re all still coming out on top. But the pieces are in place for this good luck to unravel. If that happens, not even the children’s model behavior will be enough set them on the right path.