Rick is thrown into the gladiatorial walker arena and makes a 'New Best Friend'

By Nick Romano
February 19, 2017 at 10:06 PM EST
Gene Page/AMC

Rick has his groove back, and now it seems the show does, as well. It may not (probably won’t) last forever, but the story has more continuous movement since returning for the back half of season 7. Things are happening, there seems to be more of a purpose, everything feels more contained and concise, and the momentum is complemented by moments of walker bloodshed. This week’s carnage is brought to you by Winslow. So, let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

Elsewhere, The Kingdom is ready to fight, but Ezekiel isn’t.

What could’ve been a routine drop off with The Saviors quickly escalates because of Jared. You remember Jared, right? That jerk who engaged in fisticuffs with Richard during their last encounter and who would’ve gotten his butt handed to him if it wasn’t for Ezekiel? He instantly approaches the Kingdom guard and demands his gun because “bad boys” don’t get guns. Well, guns inevitably get drawn, and once again Ezekiel commands Richard submit. He does, but not before landing a verbal jab, which sets off Jared. In a surprising turn, Morgan, one who’s been onboard with the status quo, blocks Jared’s incoming blow, which loses him his staff. It does, however, give Benjamin the permission he needs to intervene.

Again, Ezekiel calls off his men and tries to soothe things with The Saviors, but Gavin, the troupe’s leader, says “things might need to get a little visceral” because they can’t have a repeat of this encounter anymore. It’s exactly as Rick’s group warned last episode — Negan’s people can’t come inside The Kingdom, but how long will that last if tensions continue running high? Even Diane’s prowess picking off a walker with a bow may be an indication that people are honing their skills in case of a fight. Upon their return, Ezekiel tells Benjamin to keep a head about him at all times, which highlights the biggest difference between the two — yes, Ezekiel is using his head and trying to create a future for his people with The Saviors, but Benjamin is the heart and he can’t watch others be tormented and do nothing. Knowing Ezekiel isn’t exactly the man he says is a constant reminder that perhaps the reason he won’t attack The Saviors also has to do with keeping up the facade, the fantasy of peace.

Morgan goes to speak with Daryl, who figures they went to see The Saviors and tries to convince his friend to wake up and do something about it. It seems like Morgan wants to act but is still conflicted over his monk-hood. Daryl points out that if Carol were still here with them and knew about the deaths of Glenn and Abraham, she’d be leading the charge against Negan — which will come into play later. But Morgan says that’s exactly why she left. Though he storms off to argue another day, Daryl gets his crossbow back — well, not his crossbow, but a crossbow — from Richard for a job he wants done.

Richard’s actions have been slowly escalating, from speaking out of turn in front of Ezekiel and Rick to now sparring with a Savior during the drop off. He’s looking for something to provoke a response from his king, and he hopes his next plan will do that: armed with guns and homemade explosives he hid away in his trailer, he hopes to ambush a Savior convoy and when others eventually come to investigate the scene, lead them back to a woman who recently joined The Kingdom. Since she’s close with Ezekiel, Richard hopes her residual death with be the push he needs. The unforeseen issue here is that Daryl now recognizes Richard is talking about Carol and physically stops him from exacting his plan. Richard says he would die for The Kingdom, but Daryl points to his contradicting behavior: “Why don’t you?”

NEXT: Meet Rick’s “New Best Friend”

When we return to Rick, we get answers to a few lingering questions. Who is the “New Best Friend” Rick meets? Jadis, a tall, thin woman, overly confident but slightly novocained in her lack of general emotion, which makes her scary. Who was the mystery figure in the midseason finale post-credits scene? One of her people. Where did Father Gabriel go? Jadis took him hostage. It doesn’t seem like this group was extracted from the comics, so it’s uncharted territory here. Rick’s group is led into a junkyard maze, where Jadis and her people have been since the outbreak. The whole colony moves as one: Jadis directs her pack with gestures and the rest fall silently, stoically in line. They think they’re preying on another defenseless herd that’s wandered into the lion’s den, but Rick tries to recruit them for the war on Negan.

She initially rebuffs the request and tries to kill them all, but it’s Gabriel who makes their case. Grabbing a knife and holding Jadis’ righthand woman, Tamiel, hostage, he pleads with the leader, saying Rick is able to do anything and get anything for her, so all she needs to do is make a demand. Intrigued, Jadis takes Rick to see the “Bop pop”? “Pob bop”? “Bob Bop”? Whatever it is, that turns out to be a gladiator walker. She, Tamiel, and another man named Brienne, lead Rick to the top of a hill of trash. Jadis admits times are changing, so her group may have to change, as well. But she has to know what Rick’s made of, so she hurls him down into a pit, where a snarling walker coated in armor and spikes emerges. Bob Bob? We learn later his name is Winslow, but Bob Bob has a better ring to it.

Every one of Rick’s attacks cuts himself deep — he fights back pain as he pushes the walker away with an impaled hand. He can’t climb out, he can’t find a weapon to fight back, but Michonne shouts for him to use the wall around him. Rick is able to bury the walker with a series of trash avalanches, giving him enough time to grab a glass shard and stab it to death. Having proved himself, Rick is released from the pit and learns what Jadis wants: guns, and lots of them. She admits her people were waiting a long time for someone to lift the cache of supplies on the boat to then steal them away. So if she gets more guns, she’ll fight their war against Negan. If not, there will be serious consequences.

As Rick hobbles back to tell his group, Carol finds King Ezekiel at her doorstep with Diane, Jerry, a few men, and peach cobbler. They were trying to clear the area without disturbing her, but, as she says, they tripped her wire. She goes back inside to finish reading her book but is disturbed again by a knock on her door. She’s overwhelmed to see Daryl standing on her porch.

Back at the junkyard, Rick speaks with Gabriel, who answers another question: Why did he steal all the supplies and run off? Turns out, he heard something from inside the wall and went to the pantry to investigate. He found a woman from Jadis’ camp who was angry about losing the boat supplies to Rick and Aaron, so she made him pack everything else and come with her to the camp. Why was Rick smiling at the end of the last episode? Definitely not because he recognized anyone, as I initially thought. It was because he was reminded that enemies can become friends under the right circumstances, and he saw that future for their new friends.

NEXT: Caryl reunion

A few feet away, Rosita is now picking a fight with Tara. She wants to go off on her own to search for Jadis’ guns, despite Rick’s orders to return first to Alexandria. Tara doesn’t understand why Rosita is picking a fight when everyone is preparing for a much larger one, and she makes an almost bratty excuse by saying everything is a fight and that Tara needs to grow up. At the risk of overanalyzing this interaction, it’s upsetting because I have a feeling this new path for Rosita is preparation for her demise. It’s just a theory, but her behavior is becoming more and more reckless, even though she’s the poster child for why teamwork matters. Her solo attempts to attack Negan keep backfiring and putting the group at risk.

As they prepare to roll out, Rick asks Tara to tell them where not to look for Jadis’ guns since she’s been farther out than any of them — meaning we should expect a visit to Oceanside soon. First, Rick grabs a cat statue made from wire for Michonne as both a trophy and a replacement for the rainbow cat statue that she lost.

Back at Carol’s, she explains to Daryl by the fireplace that she couldn’t bear losing anyone else, so she left. She knew she could still fight The Saviors, but if she did, there wouldn’t be much left of herself afterward. She tearfully asks Daryl if everyone made it back safely, and despite what he mentioned to Morgan earlier, he lies about Abraham and Glenn. The two sit down for dinner before Daryl solemnly makes his way back to The Kingdom.

I assumed his presence in Ezekiel’s domain was meant to move Carol, but it seems he’s meant for Morgan. Daryl, found bonding with Shiva in front of the tiger’s cage, tells Morgan he needs to sway Ezekiel into joining the fight. He doesn’t know what it is that Morgan is holding onto, but he says it’s already gone and he needs to wake up. Morgan says he and Daryl are the same, since Daryl clearly didn’t tell Carol about the deaths of Glenn and Abraham. Daryl, nevertheless, plans to head back to Hilltop and prepare for battle.

Morgan glances over to Richard as Daryl leaves through the gates in the morning. It wasn’t a speech, but those words seem to have made an impact. I’d be surprised if Morgan is now all of a sudden ready to strike, but he’s getting there. He’s a more reactive person, assuming the good in others until they prove otherwise, but The Saviors are becoming harder for him to ignore.