I honestly had given so little thought to ‘The Walking Dead’ that I didn’t even realize until about mid-Saturday that the show would be coming back from its winter break the next day. The first thought that went through my mind was: “Does it have to?”
Looking up the details, the show’s last episode was on December 11th. Nevertheless, I feel like I haven’t had nearly enough time away from it and could use another month or two. Or three, frankly.
As we last ended things, Rick had finally gotten his balls back and decided to do something about Negan. He gathered his friends and headed to the Hilltop to join forces and form an army to resist the Saviors.
Gregory, the leader of Hilltop, is having none of it. A dick as always, he flat-out tells Rick that he wants nothing to do with this plan and will not get Hilltop involved. As Rick, Daryl and the others walk away grumbling, Enid runs up and shows them that she has personally recruited a handful of volunteers who don’t care what Gregory says. It’s not much, but it’s something. Jesus also reveals that he’s stolen a long-range walkie talkie from the Saviors, so they can listen in on Negan’s plans. He then says that it’s time he introduced them to King Ezekiel.
Jesus brings Rick and his group to the Kingdom. At the entrance, they’re confronted by Richard (Ezekiel’s right-hand man) and another guy playing Ren Faire knights. Richard knows and is friendly with Jesus, who requests an audience with the king. Once inside the Kingdom walls, the group runs into Morgan. He lies (or tells a half-truth) and claims that Carol had been there but left. Looking around, Rick is impressed by the size of the community. “They have the numbers,” he says. Numbers are what he desperately needs to fight Negan.
Right off the bat, Ezekiel is upset with Jesus for bringing strangers into the Kingdom, and worse, for telling them about his arrangement with the Saviors, which even most of his own people don’t know about. This is awfully hypocritical of the guy who revealed that same secret to Morgan and Carol within hours of meeting them.
Rick pleads his case for wanting to form an alliance and revolt against the Saviors. Richard likes the sound of what he’s hearing and urges the king to accept, but Ezekiel is wary of breaking the peace he’s forged, however tenuous it may be. He asks Morgan for his opinion, and predictably gets a wishy-washy response. Rick tells him a parable about a little girl who removes a rock in the road that nobody else wants to touch, only to find a treasure hiding beneath it. Ezekiel gets the point but says that he needs to think it over. He’ll give them an answer in the morning. That night, he also speaks with Ben, the smart kid he’s been grooming as a protégé. Even Ben thinks it’s time to fight back against the Saviors.
Unfortunately, Ezekiel ignores everyone else’s counsel and tells Rick the next morning that he can’t get involved. His first responsibility must be to keep his own people safe, and he doesn’t want to drag them into the middle of somebody else’s war. However, because Rick had told him about Daryl escaping from Negan, Ezekiel offers Daryl asylum. He says that the Saviors never come inside the Kindgom walls. Daryl grunts, asking how long that will last. On their way out, Rick tells Daryl to stay. It’s the smart move, and perhaps he’ll eventually convince Ezekiel to change his mind.
Slice and Dice
Negan isn’t seen at all in this episode, but Rick and the others listen to his voice over the walkie talkie, eulogizing Fat Joey, the lackey that Daryl killed during his escape. As the group drives away from the Kingdom, they’re stopped by a roadblock of empty cars lined up across all lanes of the highway. Clearly, this was left by the Saviors. They push a couple of the cars out of the way and drive past, planning to then push the cars back as if nobody’d been there. In the process of this, however, they also discover a steel cable tripwire stretched across the road, held by cars on each side of the highway. Attached to it are bundles of dynamite and some of the RPGs the Saviors had stolen from Alexandria.
This is too valuable to leave behind. Rick instructs everyone to carefully remove and collect all the explosives. Rosita doesn’t like the look of one bundle of dynamite and sets it aside. As they work, they hear Negan on the walkie talkie ordering a search party to go look for Daryl. As if that weren’t reason enough to move quickly, a large herd of zombies begin shambling down the highway toward them. Not only are the zombies themselves a threat, but if any of them stumbles through the tripwire it would set off the remaining explosives.
Rick sends Sasha and Jesus away on foot to run to the Hilltop and warn Maggie that the Saviors may be coming. Everyone else continues to collect explosives. They finish just as the herd is about to overrun them. Rick and Michonne hop in the two cars holding the cable and both race in the direction of the zombies, the cable still stretched between them. Conveniently, the majority of zombies have shambled into the median strip. The cable slices through them and mows them down. At a certain point, and for reasons I’m not really clear on, Rick and Michonne hop out of their cars and fight their way through the remaining zombies to join Rosita and Carl in the SUV they came in. As they drive away, that bundle of dynamite Rosita had left behind goes off.
Even before Rick met with Gregory, the episode began with a teaser in which Father Gabriel, all alone on watch at night, abandons his post on the Alexandria wall, steals all the food from the community’s pantry, and takes off in a car.
Rick’s group barely makes it back to Alexandria before a couple trucks full of Saviors, led by Negan’s henchman Simon, pull in right behind them looking for Daryl. Rick plays dumb and says he didn’t know Daryl escaped. Simon orders the Saviors to ransack the community anyway. Obviously, they don’t find him. Rick has to suppress his surprise that the pantry is completely empty. Aaron makes up an excuse about having too many mouths to feed.
Eventually, Simon leaves. Aaron tells Rick that Gabriel stole all the food. Strangely, he left his Bible behind. Rick flips through it and finds a note scrawled at the back: “BOAT.” Reasoning that this must mean the boat that Rick and Aaron found a bunch of food and supplies in, Rick asks how Gabriel even knew about that.
Rick, Aaron, Michonne, Tara and Rosita form a party to go back to the boat and search for Gabriel. As they arrive on the property, they’re suddenly accosted and surrounded by a huge number of scraggly strangers wielding guns and other weapons. Rather than be concerned, Rick smiles. These people may not know it yet, but he just found the numbers he’s looking for.
After everything Alexandria has been through recently, are we really supposed to believe that the community would only have one person alone on watch at the wall all night – and Gabriel at that? This seems ridiculous.
Also, I know that the show is struggling at this point to find new and more creative ways to kill zombies each episode, but the big horde mow-down scene is pretty silly and pointless.
This isn’t a very exciting return for the show from its break. The only deaths are all zombies. While I don’t necessarily expect major characters to get killed off every episode, this one feels very fragmented and has no real conflict. Once again, the episode also runs extra long (about 75 minutes with commercials this time), yet offers no compelling reason to do so. This episode has plenty of flab that could easily be trimmed.