The Walking Dead recap: 'Dead or Alive Or'
Attack of the swamp walkers
The Saviors are out in full force. After receiving another impulsive call from Rick, Negan wants to know what happened to all those Alexandrians who magically vanished during their fire-bombing assault. Turns out, they’re literally right on top of them and didn’t even know it. Daryl, Tara, and Rosita are leading the group through the woods to Hilltop, while just overhead on a bridge is a group of Saviors getting a call about Dr. Carson and Father Gabriel, whom we saw escaping from The Sanctuary with a little help from an unseen friend.
Tara, the chosen problem child this week, isn’t all too concerned with the safety of the group or the mission at hand. She’s fuming over the fact that Dwight, the man who killed Denise, is now apparently on their side. Instead of just huffing and puffing, she throws a walker in his direction and waits on the sidelines for him to take care of it himself. For a group that’s proven to be a cohesive unit, they sure let grudges and resentments outweigh the true goals at hand.
Meanwhile, Carson and Gabriel are lost. The good father, going blind from the virus attacking his system, can’t read the map properly. His solution? Let God be their guide. Carson, however, isn’t so eager to let Jesus take the wheel just yet. Like a broken George Michael record, Gabriel teaches him you’ve gotta have faith, faith, faith — and he somehow is able to mystically know exactly where to go. Except maybe not.
He claims to hear a bell and leads Carson to a remote cabin surrounded by netting to keep out walkers, so you know it’s a place that’s likely guarded. Gabriel claims this could be their salvation. (Spoiler: It may seem that way, but it’s not. Whaddya know? I mean, Gabriel’s blind, but Carson has two eyes, right?)
At Hilltop, the death of Gavin still weighs on Morgan and Henry. The child sits by the Savior pen, trying to figure out which one of them killed his brother. Morgan is contemplating telling him, until Carol comes up to relieve them of watch duty. Good news for the Saviors, since the kid is creeping them out.
As we switch to Negan talking to Eugene about who could have possibly assisted Carson and Gabriel’s escape and commanding his bullet maker to do the job he enlisted him to do, the once shadowy, sinister villain has effectively lost his bite. Normally, a few well-placed words from Negan would send others whimpering with their tails between their legs, but now I don’t believe it. Since we’ve come to know man behind the curtain, if you will, Negan seems to have lost his bite. He tells Eugene to run his own outpost for the purpose of making bullets, and even the resident coward doesn’t seem to be as afraid of him anymore. But I digress…
The cabin Gabriel and Carson find is a radio post. It seems to have been for one lonely resident who was radioing hopeful messages into the void. (According to the radio log, he never got a signal.) They find the walker that used to be this person lying on a bedroom floor with a plastic bag over its head, one arm handcuffed to the bed frame, and pill bottles surrounding it. Daryl, Rosita, and Tara are still trying to navigate the woods while avoiding the Saviors boxing them in, when Dwight suggests they go through the place even Negan dare not tread: the swamp.
Tara is still distracted by the mere presence of Dwight, but it leads him to admit that he can’t go back to The Sanctuary because when he turned on Negan’s men there was one person who fled. So if he returns, Negan will know of his treachery and kill him — which makes the ending of this episode kind of annoying. Just another thing we’re gonna ignore at this juncture. Tara does have a good point, though: Why risk bringing their people, including baby Judith, through a walker-infested swamp?
The scene cuts from the Hilltop, to inform us food rations are dwindling at a faster-than-expected pace, to the cabin, to inform us those pill bottles are actually antibiotics that can help Gabriel, and back to the woodland trek, to inform us that Sherry was the one who let Daryl escape The Sanctuary before fleeing into the woods. She’s probably still out there. And by the way, Tara, Daryl isn’t so trusting of Dwight either — he refuses to give him a weapon while the rest go to clear out the swamp of walkers — but he at least recognizes that there’s a greater mission at hand.
Maggie’s conundrum with the Saviors is only getting worse. The nice one — a.k.a. the hot one (played by Callan McAuliffe, if you’re interested in Instagram stalking) — is asking for recreation time to stretch their legs outside the pen…for good behavior, of course. But food and Maggie’s patience are coming to an end, so that’s a no for now. And it’s a hard no for Gregory.
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By this point, Daryl & Co. have entered the swamp. Yes, thank god, this seems like an opportunity for a real tension-building walker battle. The dead here are covered in mud and weeds, and are resting out of sight just beneath the murky water’s surface, ready to pop up at any time. There are only so many episodes of talking and walking that I can take.
Just kidding — it isn’t that suspenseful. One walker pops up to attack Rosita, but she feels it emerge when she steps on it. The others present themselves to Daryl and Siddiq and don’t move from their places as the pair go in. We don’t get to see them cut them down either. The scene cuts away to Tara forcing Dwight away from the group under the guise of taking care of stray walkers hobbling through the trees, and back to the cabin, where Gabriel performs another miracle by accidentally smashing a piggy bank to reveal the car keys and map within.
While Dwight and Siddiq are presumably having a thrilling match with the swamp walkers off camera, Tara is leading Dwight to slaughter. Leaving the others in the group alone, she marches Dwight at gunpoint while he kills the walker stragglers. He apologizes for killing Denise, which catches Tara off guard. But even still, she decides to ignore what Rosita and Daryl said was best for the group and tries to kill him. A brief chase ensues, with Tara easily catching up to Dwight, whose arm is still injured, but they’re forced to hide before she can finish the deed when the group of Saviors seen on the bridge at the beginning of the episode emerge in a clearing nearby.
Carson and Gabriel’s good luck is running out. Gabriel, the man who still can’t see beyond the pinhole of his declining vision, is somehow able to glimpse a side that warns of traps surrounding the cabin, but Carson walks obliviously into a bear trap, his screams and ensuing gunfire signaling more walkers close by. Channeling the power of the lord almighty, Gabriel whips out a gun, and his bullet is able to save Carson from imminent death as it perfectly strikes down a walker in the head.
Back in the woods, Dwight hops out of the trees to, I guess, keep Tara hidden — even though it didn’t quite look like the Saviors were going to find them. But whatever. They don’t know of his betrayal, so he weaves together a lie about getting ambushed and fleeing through the swamp, which, again, is the most dangerous area that the Saviors know about. They all nod their heads as they listen like, Yup, yup, that’s totally reasonable. He then asks about Laura, the Savior who witnessed his betrayal, and — whaddya know?! — no one has seen her. So problem solved for the time being! Dwight can go back to the Saviors and not get killed.
Now, conveniently, Tara’s cool with Dwight and Daryl’s ready to kill him, as he starts screaming when they all regroup. It all just seems like an easy way to have Dwight back at The Sanctuary so he can learn of Negan’s plan and maybe tip off Rick and the others.
Wrapping up what felt like yet another filler episode — I’m still torn up about the missed opportunity that could’ve been the swamp walker fight — Saviors return to their cabin. One of them impulsively shoots and kills Carson as he’s ready to drive off with Gabriel, so bye bye, doctor. Gabriel is then taken back to Negan, who puts him to work at Eugene’s new outpost to help make bullets. Daryl’s group makes it to Hilltop, where the news of Carl’s death hits the colony in a quiet, slo-mo reaction scene, Maggie ultimately makes nice with the prisoners and offers some recreation time, and Morgan takes Carol’s advice by telling Henry that Gavin was the one who killed his brother.
We’re left with Negan formulating a new plan of attack. With Eugene unable to expedite the bullet-making process, the brainiac of The Sanctuary suggests using walker limbs to fling at their enemies like a catapult, which leads Negan to another idea. If “something from them gets in you, you die, you join the club,” he says. Cutting open a walker strung up on his gate, he coats Lucille in its blood. So now all he needs to do to is “touch” or give a “big red kiss” with Lucille to someone, and the virus will do the rest.
Does this mean next week will actually bring more action, more…anything? There are five more episodes left, so it’ll probably be strung out over three of them.