Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers…
Abraham’s back, everyone! No, he hasn’t somehow recovered from Death By Negan, but Michael Cudlitz directed this one. There are always episodes of The Walking Dead that feel a little like the writing team putting the pieces into place for finales, and with the mid-season break coming up after next week’s instalment, Stradivarius certainly had that whiff about it, as it made it possible for characters to converge in Hilltop down the line. It was also concerned with filling in more about new characters Luke, Magna, Connie, Yumiko and Kelly. Which it went about in the broadest of strokes possible. There was even an example of Chekov’s Shirt, as chatting about a paisley shirt worn by their late off-screen companion Bernie reared its walker-modeled head as he showed up in undead form. Hands up who thought that might happen, at least either finding the shirt or for Bernie to stumble into the story? All of you? Carry on.
Another big storyline was the Carol/Daryl reunion, with Daryl still living off the land as what we’re officially calling Daragorn. He’s not exactly taking care of himself, but he is surviving, and he’s none too pleased at the idea of helping safeguard Henry, but at least it made for a decent few moments between the C&D duo, which we’re sure makes Carol and Daryl fans happy. Did the story itself work? Sort of, though it was couched again in very basic terms: lots of chatter about how people see the world.
While Judith, Negan and most of the Alexandria crowd were off screen this week, we still got inter-community drama as Jesus, uneasy in the role of leader of Hilltop. He’s never exactly wanted to command anyone, and keeps sneaking off to have practice fights with Aaron, trying, in his words, to keep the lines of communication open between Hilltop and Alexandria. Mostly, though, it was a chance for the show to address the gaping hole that is Lauren Cohan’s absence as Maggie from the story, her contract negotiations (and other gig) meaning she’s effectively been written out, present only in letters she sends. We say “effectively” written out, but it still seems like a huge contrivance to have her off with Jayne Atkinson’s Georgie.
The Rosita rescue was largely an excuse to further introduce the concept that someone – rather than something – is talking among walker hordes. And she made for a convenient plot complication to have Michonne head to Hilltop. Poor old Eugene, meanwhile, has to make do with hiding in a barn until his friends can come get him.
The show is still trying to find truly interesting things to do with the drama between the communities, and it doesn’t paint Michonne in the best light that she didn’t even know Maggie was away. Communication breakdown, bad (or awkward blood) whatever, it just felt like a lazy excuse to push people into place.
Stradivarius wants us to accept that everything is still moving on in the post-Grimes era, but it’ll take a while for the newbies to really make much of an impact, and aside from a few fun details, they’re not exactly compelling yet. While we’re not yet ready to have another big threat pop up, the narrative will need to be a little interesting to fill the spaces between notable turns. Still, if nothing else we have a compelling new character to replace Rick. He’s a little impulsive, but always ready to fight. Remind you of Mr. Grimes? That’s right… the new lead should be Dog!
Highlight: Michonne and co. versus the walker swarm.
Lowlight: Music as metapor and a key to Luke’s character, no matter how funny they let Dan Fogler be.
Kill of the week: Daryl’s snake dinner.
Quote of the week: “Maybe for my sanity, you don’t” – Michonne to Siddiq, who has found is about to play some music. She might be kidding, but wouldn’t the noise attract walkers in the area anyway? Silly Siddiq.
Zombie of the week: The one that Connie stomps on. As if the poor thing didn’t have enough trouble being trapped under the storage container.
The big question: The mid-season finale will likely go big (and long). So, are we about to meet the new villains properly? And is no one else suspicious about how dog “accidentally” got caught up in the trap?
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The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC in the States and Mondays at 9pm on Fox.