We’re just a couple episodes away from the mid-season finale of ‘The Walking Dead’, and I’ll be damned if anything at all has happened on the show since the sadistic season premiere. We’ve had five episodes since then and the series is clearly going nowhere. This week’s entry spends nearly 70 minutes devoted entirely to a character I had honestly forgotten even existed.
Remember Tara, the kind-of annoying lesbian who was introduced during the Governor story arc and never really had much to do after that? She was written off the show at the end of last season due to actress Alanna Masterson’s very visible pregnancy. Rather than kill off this basically useless character that nobody cares about, the writers decided to send her out on a two-week scavenging mission, never to be seen again. Or so we thought.
Guess what, she ain’t dead… yet. (Being the sole focus of an episode is often a sign that a character’s about to get offed.) She and… hold on while I look this guy’s name up because he’s so inconsequential that he never made any impression on me… oh right, Heath… She and Heath stayed out longer than planned and have had no luck finding anything useful. Tara remains optimistic, but Heath is having a hard time getting over the wholesale slaughter that their group perpetrated on the Savior outpost. Because they left soon after that, neither of them knows what happened to Alexandria afterwards. They assume that the Saviors were completely wiped out.
After some bumbling dumbassery, the two of them are attacked by zombies on a bridge. Tara falls off the bridge and is separated from Heath. She washes up on shore somewhere downriver and is found by a psychotic little girl who really really really wants to stab her in the head with a spear. Tara is spared this fate by a young woman (potential future love interest!) named Cyndie, who drags her behind a pile of driftwood and leaves her with a couple bottles of water and a salted fish.
Tara was just faking being unconscious. She stalks Cyndie through the woods and follows her to a hidden community called Oceanside, which is populated entirely by women and girls. This looks like Tara’s kind of place! Unfortunately, aside from Cyndie, they’re not terribly friendly. They’re well-armed and, as soon as somebody spots her, they immediately open fire on her. Tara fights with a woman named Beatrice, but doesn’t kill her even though she has a chance to. Nonetheless, she’s quickly captured by others. Cyndie intervenes before anyone kills her.
The community leader is a woman named Natania. She questions Tara, who tells her some half-truths and some outright lies about her past. She claims that she and a friend were separated (true), but that they worked together on a fishing boat and have been on their own since the zombie apocalypse. She’s smart enough not to tell them about Alexandria yet, but isn’t smart enough to craft a convincing lie. Natania sees right through it.
Natania explains that they value their privacy and have a policy of shooting strangers immediately on sight. It seems that all of their menfolk were killed in a conflict with another group (I wonder who that could be?) and they’ve been a wee bit cautious ever since. Now that she knows about them, they have to decide what to do with Tara.
Eventually, Natania offers to let Tara stay with them at Oceanside. At this point, Tara spills the beans that she comes from Alexandria, and tells them about how they just killed off a group of very bad people called the Saviors. She proposes that their groups could make an alliance and help each other. Natania is wary of this, but agrees to let Tara leave in the company of two scouts, who will go with her to Alexandria, scope out the situation, and return to decide whether an alliance is something they want.
The scouts in question are Beatrice (the woman she fought earlier) and another woman named Kathy who hasn’t exactly been friendly to her either. Because Tara’s not a total moron after all, she figures out that these two are really just hiking her out to the middle of the woods to execute her. She makes a break for it and they shoot at her. (Luckily, they’re pretty lousy shots.)
Tara has a face-to-face showdown with Beatrice, who reveals to her that they know all about the Saviors, and explains that the Saviors are a much bigger threat than she understands. It was of course the Saviors that her people had a conflict with. They marched into their community and murdered all the men and boys. The women were forced to work for them for a while, but later made an escape and formed a new community hidden in the woods where the Saviors couldn’t find them. It’s awfully nice for Beatrice to lay all this exposition out for Tara at such a critical moment, especially if she plans to kill her now.
Cyndie (who we found out is Natania’s granddaughter) once again comes to Tara’s rescue. She helps her escape from Beatrice, then makes Tara swear to keep Oceanside a secret. Tara asks, “Why would I tell anyone about this place?” Quite frankly, that’s a question the writers of this show should have asked themselves.
Cyndie leads Tara back to the bridge where she was separated from Heath and helps her get across by sniping zombies for her. (Unlike everyone else from Oceanside, Cyndie is a good shot.) Tara doesn’t find Heath, either alive or undead, but she notices fresh tire tracks and hopes that he somehow got away. She also finds a card with the letters “PPP” written on it. What that means isn’t revealed yet. As Tara looks back across the bridge, she sees Cyndie being dragged back toward Oceanside by Beatrice and Kathy.
Tara has to hoof it all the way back to Alexandria. She arrives, happy to be home again, only to be greeted by a blubbering Eugene, who has to tell her that both her girlfriend Denise and her best friend Glenn were murdered. Bummer.
The episode ends with Tara talking to Rosita, who’s itching for payback against the Saviors. She asks Tara if she came across any possible sources for a new supply of weapons during her scavenging. Tara hesitates for a moment, debating whether to tell her about the armory at Oceanside, but then keeps her promise to Cyndie. She lies to Rosita and says that she never encountered any other people or guns while she was away.
This will almost certainly go down as one of the worst ‘Walking Dead’ episodes. I’ve spoken to a few people who are ready to declare it the worst, but I think that’s going a little far. The early seasons of the show had some real clunkers that make even this one look good.
Nevertheless, it’s a big, pointless waste of time. No offense to the actress, but Tara’s not an interesting enough character to carry a whole episode by herself. This diversion to Oceanside seems like a needless distraction when all viewers really care about is how Rick’s going to handle Negan. Obviously, the only purpose of the episode is to serve as plot setup for the Alexandrians eventually finding Oceanside and taking all those guns. Did we really need a whole episode to establish that? One, maybe two scenes in the middle of a better episode could have sufficed to get the same point across.
The worst part is that the tire tracks at the end make me suspect that we’re going to get a whole episode about Heath soon. Why the hell would anyone care about friggin’ Heath?