The Walking Dead recap: 'The Key'
Has a new community from the comics already been introduced?
I’ve been cooling on Negan for quite some time. I think it was the lack of mystique. Sort of like how knowing the backstory of the Joker in Batman takes away the character’s bite, I’ve come to not care about Negan as much these days. His words aren’t as snappy, his glare isn’t as menacing, and his threats seem more empty. So when the look on Simon’s face gives off the same “I’m over this” vibe, I feel somewhat validated.
After a montage of character close-ups that mimic the montage that kicked off this whole season, Negan comes to Dwight’s room. We get a bit of eye candy as the camera lingers on this double agent, sans shirt, contemplating the wedding ring he keeps tucked inside a cigarette pack. But, let’s be real, it’s still no shirtless Andrew Lincoln or Norman Reedus.
Pretty much as soon as Negan starts mentioning how happy he is to have his boy back, his boy puts his foot in his mouth. He weaves the same fictitious story about how he was ambushed beat for beat, except for a few stammers. Shut up, Dwight. You’re a bad liar and you’re tipping him off. He didn’t even ask!
Negan shrugs it off and mentions they have work to do, which consists of cutting open walkers and coating their weapons (arrows, knives, axes) in their blood. To recap, they hope to give Rick’s group a few scratches to turn as many of them into walkers as possible. It’s a plan so simplistic you wonder why nobody has ever tried this before.
Instead of riding solo on his bike and maybe going ahead to warn the Hilltop, Dwight is forced to ride with Simon in his truck. Negan, meanwhile, is bringing up the rear of the convoy, with Lucille sitting in a bucket of walker guts in the passenger seat, soaking up all the nasty innards.
The same somber piano music that commonly plays over contemplative scenes begins again, this time as Rick and Michonne arrive. Emotionally withered by the death of Carl, Rick considers the pen of Savior POWs before his attention quickly turns to Judith. Later, as Rick kneels before the graves of his fallen friends, Daryl comes over, and the two reconcile after their tumble. (They had a physical tussle when Daryl wanted to ignore the plan and try to take out the Saviors all at once — a plan that ultimately didn’t pan out.) He apologizes, and Rick resolves to worry about his own people from now on, all in a fragmented, highly explain-y way that doesn’t even sound like how actual people talk but is indicative of the writing problems on this show.
Maggie has already stationed lookouts at half-mile intervals beyond Hilltop in the event the Saviors roll up, and Rick wants to go out and join them. Despite Daryl’s offer to come with, this is something Rick wants to do alone. Maggie and Rosita spot his car driving off from a lookout post and questions whether Rick will ever recover from Carl’s death — which is a question we’ve had to ask ourselves too many times already in seasons past. Some fresher material would be nice. Thankfully, we don’t linger on this question for too long because Maggie spots something in the distance.
On the way to Hilltop, Simon tries to get Dwight to open up and maybe express concerns about their leader so he can then use that to orchestrate some sort of coup. His first few probes don’t pan out, and Simon is forced to clarify that while he has doubts about Negan, it’ll all work out because it’s the big man’s plan. But he mentions the Hilltoppers are resilient and don’t scare easy.
Meanwhile, that thing Maggie spotted was an empty crate, one of many that were left by someone. An attached note reads, “If you fill the crates with food or phonograph records, I will gladly exchange them for a key to your future,” adding coordinates for a meeting spot. Cryptic. Maggie and Enid are skeptical, since the colony is running out of food as it is and, also, this could be a trap that gets them all killed. But Michonne wants to go, unwilling to pass up the opportunity to make a new friend in times of war. Ultimately, they’re going to check it out.
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Rick is sitting on the roof of his car when he spots the Savior convoy riding along the street, but instead of alerting the other lookouts, he hops in his vehicle to chase down Negan. Simon spots Rick’s car barreling through a side street but doesn’t say anything, allowing Rick to plow right into Negan. A car chase ensues, while the remaining Saviors block off the street with their cars. Simon tells everyone to stay put while he and Dwight go check on Negan, setting off some suspicions, but no one is willing to question him further.
When the camera catches up to Negan, his car has been flipped on its side, and he’s drenched in the blood from Lucille’s bucket. Rick storms out of his car and generously fires at his target, alerting the walkers nearby. Soon he runs out of ammo, and while Rick is switching to his handheld gun, Negan runs into a brick building for cover. Negan tries to get the drop on him with Lucille but misses, and with the walkers now in pursuit, the battle is pushed deeper into this building. Rick runs out of ammo again — for a former police officer, he always seems ignorant to the fact that his weapons hold a finite amount of bullets — but he’s able to catch Negan off guard when he hurls an axe and forces the Savior leader over the side of the stairwell. Dangling off the edge, Negan seems to be at the mercy of Rick’s attack, but he drops down through the hole in the floor to the basement below.
Maggie, Michonne, and Enid, too, are on the offensive. They arrive at the meeting spot where two militarized women stand guarding a van, out of which comes a third, smaller woman with short hair, glasses, and a blazer. She goes by the name Georgie, while the other two bodyguards are Hilda and Midge. (Spoilers from the comics…) Despite their names, this crew is giving off vibes of the Commonwealth, a new community of elitists that were introduced in the New World Order story line. Not much is known about these people, as they’re new to the page. Georgie, who’s played by House of Cards actress Jayne Atkinson, certainly looks a lot like Commonwealth leader Pamela Milton. Further supporting the argument that these folks are from the Commonwealth is that helicopter Rick spotted in the sky earlier in the season, as the Commonwealth is the only recognizable community in the comics at this point in the timeline that could feasibly have a chopper. But all of this is a guess.
Georgie isn’t a fan of spoken world records; she’ll only take music. But before she can get too deep into these discussions, Rosita comes up from the side with her gun drawn. Maggie then commands Enid and Rosita to strip the women of their weapons with the intent of taking their supplies. Georgie mentions that all she has to trade is knowledge and she’ll only give that up through bartering. “The worst has been outpacing the best lately” in this new world, she says, and “an act of benevolence” is sometimes needed. Instead, Maggie has them all escorted back to Hilltop with plans to take the supplies hidden away in the van.
Rick continues to stalk Negan in the dark of the basement. (“Are you still alive?” “Like a cat.”) Lucille rolled away from him during the fall though. Rick makes note of a door labeled “eaters” as Negan starts monologuing — he’s willing to return to their original arrangement in honor of Carl, and this time he’ll only take 25 percent of their supplies. But Rick mentions how the Saviors slaughtered the Scavengers, which is news to Negan since Simon was only supposed to kill one of them. Rick then finds Lucille in the dark as his enemy is realizing Simon’s intentions.
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In the interim, Simon continues to push Dwight to admit something is wrong about their leader, going so far as to bring up Sherry and the facial scar Negan gave Dwight. He then suggests that if he were heading the Saviors, they would just “move on” from this war — a turn of phrase that will come back to bite (pun intended) Dwight. So, Dwight, going along with Simon’s plan to presume Negan’s dead or just M.I.A., goes to smoke a cigarette, which he then flicks at Negan’s car, setting it ablaze.
Georgie and her two guards are sitting comfortably on a bench outside of Hilltop’s headquarters, while Maggie and Michonne are debating the best course of action. Michonne is forced to take Enid’s gun when she becomes overwhelmed by the reminder of Carl’s death, and she suggests they shouldn’t give up on who Carl wanted them all to be. Therefore, they should offer Georgie food and records in the hopes of gaining a new ally.
Back with Rick, he sets Lucille on fire and declares Negan can come say goodbye to her, which then sets a fire within Negan to reclaim his signature weapon/stand-in for his dead wife. Rick knocks open the door of eaters, and Negan leaps out of the dark as they both fall into the room of the dead. Each walker Rick strikes with the bat becomes enflamed, lighting the battlefield as these men struggle with both each other and the snarling impediments. Eventually, Negan reunites with Lucille and leaps out a glass window. Rick follows, but by the time he gets outside, his target has fled the scene — not shocking anyone.
By this point, Maggie has sided with Michonne and come out with a crate full of records, with more on the way. Georgie gives her a scare when she says she’s changing the terms of the original agreement, but Maggie’s annoyance is quelled when Georgie instead says she’ll give Hilltop some of their food, as the colony clearly needs it more than they do. In addition, she comes through with her promise to offer a “key to the future,” which is actually the name of an instructional manuscript that comprises excerpts from other books Georgie transcribed from memory. It contains plans for constructing windmills and watermills, guides to refining grain, and the like — once medieval methods of revolution that can now offer a technological renaissance to Hilltop. She mentions it’s been “an evolving document since the coffee shop.” But the book comes with additional criteria: The next time Georgie returns to Hilltop, which will be at an undetermined time in the future, she hopes they’ll have cheese for Hilda and pickles for Midge.
As Georgie’s crew departs Hilltop, Enid, sitting on the lookout post with Michonne, reveals she killed Natania at Oceanside, still hung up over Carl’s death and what he would have wanted for their people. Michonne reasons that while Carl wouldn’t want them to stop fighting for a future, there still has to be a future when all this is over — and the end is approaching soon-ish.
Simon returns to the Savior convoy with Dwight and reveals Negan is missing. But, to Dwight’s surprise, he declares they’ll all “move on” with their lives and honor their responsibilities to Negan by eliminating Hilltop altogether.
Finally, we see Negan, resting his bloodied head on the passenger seat of a moving car. A woman is driving. Is it Laura, the Savior who witnessed Dwight’s betrayal? No, it turns out to be Jadis, who’s holding a gun to Negan’s head. She’s got plans for the man she thinks ordered the slaughter of her people.
As Negan says when he comes to, “Well s—.”