Rick's group takes a trip to Oceanside, while Sasha sits in a cell.

By Nick Romano
March 26, 2017 at 10:02 PM EDT
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How far along has The Walking Dead really progressed this season? Like, if you look back to the fates of Glenn and Abraham, or just as far as the midseason return, how much has really happened? Characters lost and then found themselves, sure. New colonies were introduced, relationships formed and dissolved, and now we’re on the brink of war. But, after all this time, even with the winter break, I feel like I’ve spent far too long watching these characters search for guns. Come for the walkers, stay for the just-as-intense scavenging. So when this week’s penultimate episode came and it was another mission to track down guns for junkyard Jadis, it just felt like more razzle dazzle to make you think we’re finally reaching the boiling point when you’re left wondering if it’s just more talk and no action.

It seemed like a filler episode to further prolong what Norman Reedus promises will be the Braveheart of the season. Characters we haven’t really spent much time with — Aaron and Eric, Carl and Enid, for instance — pop in with their one-liners about what needs to be done to survive as Rick leads the group to Oceanside. Meanwhile, Maggie is teaching the Hilltoppers how to sustain their crops with tarps (fun stuff) while Gregory looks on, suspiciously scribbling in a notebook, and Sasha is sitting in a closet cell at The Sanctuary. No, she wasn’t instantly killed after she ran in guns blazing. She was captured, and Negan hopes he can get her to come over to his side.

Where’s the villain who brutally bludgeoned Rick’s friends to death before his eyes, the man who further broke Rick by throwing him to the wolves and disgraced him in front of his people? I miss that guy. I understand why Negan chose less violent methods with Carl (whom he used as a tool to further torment Rick) and Eugene (who so lacked the fortitude to challenge Negan in any capacity). But why does he barely apply pressure to Sasha — someone he recognizes from Rick’s camp, someone he ordered Rick to get under control, someone with enough strength and wherewithal to launch a solo mission that left a number of his people dead? Yes, one of his own attempted to rape Sasha — an act Negan vehemently abhors — but it seems odd his only form of punishment for her actions is to hand her a knife and say, You can kill yourself, attempt to attack me, or kill your would-be rapist before he comes back as a walker. The fact that he wants her to help quell Rick’s opposition — which he now knows about, by the way — doesn’t feel like a significant enough reason. The guy who tortured his enemies to their psychological limits isn’t there.

While all this is going on, Gregory corners Maggie when she’s digging up a blueberry bush outside the boundaries of Hilltop. He apologizes for escalating their animosity to the level that it is at and wants them to become a united front. Though she can smell some of the B.S. oozing off of him, she promises to come by later and talk if he’s actually serious about it.

Before he leaves, she asks if he can keep a watchful eye out in case of walkers while she finishes digging up the plant. As he does, you see him consider stabbing her in the back, but the spineless mayor of Hilltop thinks twice. Instead, he shrivels at the sight of a walker coming around the bend. He tries to kill it himself, claiming to have killed walkers before, but he becomes overcome with terror and asks Maggie to do it. But another walker creeps up and pins him down as he screams for Maggie to save him. He’s trying not to vomit from panic when a group of Hilltoppers spots them from the road. Maggie shouts that he hasn’t killed a walker yet and is just getting used to it, when one of them reveals that’s not what he told them. Feeling emasculated, Gregory returns to his office to drink whiskey, lick his wounds, and plan his journey to The Sanctuary to take Simon up on his offer — you remember, the one where he said he’d squash any signs of rebellion.

NEXT: Hostile takeover

Back at Oceanside, Michonne is hiding in the trees and Jesus and Daryl have helped prep explosives when Tara surprises Natania in her cabin with a gun. She forces the colony leader to stay quiet and sit at the table, and when Cindy (the girl who saved her during the first visit) walks in, Tara demands the same. Still brandishing her gun, Tara frantically tells them that Rick and her friends will invade Oceanside and steal all of their weapons, but that nobody has to get hurt if they just let them take the armory. Better still, why don’t they join the fight? The biggest surprise is that Tara somehow thinks this course of action could actually work in convincing them to join the fight and not, as one would guess, infuriate them over the fact that the prisoner they let go has now returned to steal from them. A little foresight, like any foresight, would’ve gone a long way here. While Cindy is somehow willing to hear her out, the clock runs out and the dynamite explodes as Rick and his team raid the armory.

As they gather the women and children of Oceanside together with the promise no harm will come to them if they just cooperate, Natania and Cindy overpower Tara and take her weapon, which, it turns out, was empty the whole time. Natania then leads Tara to Rick at gunpoint, threatening to kill her if they don’t disperse. At this point they finally have some semblance of a conversation, with Rick explaining that they’re going to take their guns and fight Negan with or without the help of Oceanside. While some of the women are nodding their heads, wanting to join Rick, Natania is willing to be killed then and there to prove how costly such action would be to their group. The standoff is put on hold for the time being as Davy Jones-looking walkers, who shambled off of a beached ship in the opening sequence, come stumbling through the trees. Both the Alexandrians and Oceanside colony are forced to work together to subdue them. Perhaps the craziest part, after all of this, is that Oceanside peacefully gives up their weapons — though they won’t fight with them unless everyone is on board — and Cindy even thanks Tara for doing it.

At The Sanctuary, Sasha decided to kill “rapey Davey,” as he’s called, and tells Negan “he wins.” He still has some wits about him and says she still has a ways to go before he’s convinced she’s on his side. But he says he’ll give her proper accommodations for her to enjoy, because the next day will be “a big day.” Later, Eugene comes to Sasha’s cell, speaking from behind the door. She says she was wrong to have agreed to go along with Negan because the thought of hurting her friends is eating her up. She pleads with Eugene to bring her a glass, a knife, anything she can use to kill herself because she’d rather be dead than turn on the ones she loves. Eugene returns later with the poison he initially made for Negan’s wives, but it leaves Sasha in tears; she was trying to trick Eugene into bringing her a weapon, but now she only has a means of killing herself.

As we’re left to ponder what she’ll do next and what tomorrow will bring for Negan’s “big day,” Rick’s group returns to Alexandria and finds Rosita. I was completely wrong in thinking that shadow that appeared as she was rushing out of The Sanctuary was Daryl, because it turns out it was Dwight. He’s been sitting in a prison cell waiting to tell Rick he wants to help end Negan’s reign, to which Rick replies by pointing a gun to his head and demanding he get on his knees.

With one episode to go in season 7, we’ll probably be left with another massive cliffhanger hanging over our heads all summer long. There’s not a whole lot of time to bring the guns back to Jadis and rally all the colonies together, because Negan is on his way to Alexandria. If the finale is Braveheart, then it’ll be the rallying cry for the war next season.

Episode Recaps

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
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