‘The Walking Dead’ is a big tease this week, promising one thing and failing to deliver on it. I suppose that’s pretty much just the way the show goes these days, isn’t it?
At the Sanctuary, Negan welcomes Dwight back. Although he seems a little suspicious of where Dwight’s been and what he’s been doing, he tells him that it’s time to get to work and then gives a rallying speech to his little army. Negan is very excited about the idea of infecting the enemy and letting them turn on each other. He orders the troops to deliver flesh wounds with gore-soaked weapons only, no direct killing. He’s confident that this will scare the rebellious Alexandrians and Hilltoppers shitless and bring them back in line.
Simon isn’t so convinced of this plan. Riding with Dwight, Simon gets awfully chatty. He says that the one thing he’s learned over and over about Rick’s people is that, “They don’t scare.” If he were in charge, he wouldn’t waste his time trying to discipline people who will never break. He’d want the Saviors to focus on expanding their territory outwards.
On lookout duty, Rick spots the Savior convoy heading toward the Hilltop. As soon as he sees Negan in one of the cars, he decides not to sound the alarm, but rather to jump in his own car and give chase. While the convoy is driving through a town, Rick cuts down a side street and t-bones Negan’s car. Negan pulls away from the convoy and drives off in a different direction. Rick follows after him.
Simon brings the rest of the convoy to a halt and orders the Saviors to stay put, allegedly because they might be heading into an ambush. He and Dwight will go alone to look for Negan while the others hold their ground and wait for new orders. Simon doesn’t seem particularly worried about Negan.
We next find Negan and Rick’s cars both crashed. (I guess the show didn’t have enough budget this week to actually show the stunt.) Rick gets out of his car first and unloads onto Negan’s with an assault rifle. Negan runs and Rick chases him into a building. A group of Walkers are drawn to all the commotion and follow them in.
Rick catches up to Negan but has conveniently run out of bullets, so he tosses his hatchet at him instead. As Negan dodges, he nearly falls over a balcony, dropping Lucille in the process. When Rick retrieves the hatchet and takes a swing at Negan’s hand, Negan lets go and drops down a couple floors.
Negan of course survives. He scrambles around in the dark searching for Lucille. Rick stalks after him and the two men taunt each other back-and-forth. Negan offers Rick a “one-time deal,” where Negan will let all of Rick’s people live and will cut his own take of their possessions and earnings down to 25% if only Rick agrees to bend the knee to his rule. That he’d make an offer like this is a tremendous sign of weakness, but it’s not like Rick would ever take the deal anyway. Unsurprisingly, he refuses. In the process, he points out that Negan’s people wiped out all the Scavengers. This is news to Negan. He had no idea.
Dwight and Simon find Negan’s crashed car. Disenchanted with Negan’s rule, Simon suggests that they should just walk away and let fate take its course on Negan. To signal his agreement, Dwight lights a cigarette and flicks it at the car, igniting the leaky fuel line.
Rick finds Lucille before Negan does. He also finds a very handy can of lighter fluid. He soaks the bat and lights it on fire. Enraged, Negan charges at him and knocks Rick through a boarded-up door. Inside are a mess of Walkers. Rick and Negan wail at each other while the Walkers gather around them. Rick hits Negan with the flaming bat at least one. Eventually, they’re forced to turn their attention to the zombies. Rick sets a couple of them on fire, and Negan uses the distraction to get Lucille back and escape through a window. Rick chases and gets to safety, but Negan is gone by the time he gets outside.
Simon and Dwight return to the Savior squad and report that it looks like Negan may have died in the car fire. Before the troops despair about the loss of their leader, Simon reminds them that they are all Negan, every last one of them. He gives a stirring speech about how Negan would have wanted them to follow through with the attack on the Hilltop. However, he says that they need to go even further than Negan wanted. Teaching the Hilltoppers a lesson will no longer be enough. It’s time to eradicate them completely. Dwight looks shocked. He had naively assumed that all of Simon’s talk about moving on meant giving up on the Hilltoppers and leaving them alone.
Negan wakes up (when did he pass out?) in a moving car. Jadis is at the wheel with a gun aimed at him. Negan laughs.
For the Record
While all this is going on, Maggie is distracted when she finds a package outside the walls of the Hilltop with a note asking for a meeting to discuss a trade. She doesn’t know who left it and is naturally suspicious. Maggie’s first inclination is to ignore it, but Michonne believes it’s worth investigating. After some discussion, the two of them plus Rosita and Enid drive out to the meeting site.
They find a van in the middle of the road with two female bodyguards standing outside it. An older woman steps out and introduces herself as Georgie (Jayne Atkinson from ’24’ and ‘House of Cards’). She has a pleasant demeanor and seems friendly enough. She says that what she’s looking for are crates filled with record albums – music only, no spoken word. (She’s very clear about that.) In exchange, she offers knowledge that is currently only in her head. “Fill the crates, get the knowledge.” She doesn’t specify what this alleged knowledge is, but she also isn’t asking much for it. Nonetheless, Maggie is very skeptical. Upon finding that the van is filled with food, she takes all three of them into custody and brings them back to the Hilltop. Georgie takes this in stride and doesn’t seem overly bothered by it.
Later, after debating with Michonne, Maggie fills a crate with albums and tells Georgie that they have a deal. Pleased, Georgie offers some food as a good faith measure. The prize of the trade, however, is a notebook (so the knowledge wasn’t all in her head?) filled with plans for how to build windmills, waterwheels, and various other pieces of medieval technology that will help the Hilltop to build a viable, thriving society. Georgie then takes her leave, promising to return at some point in the future to make an even better trade.
Rushing off to chase Negan on his own without telling anyone else is exactly the sort of dumb decision that Rick previously criticized Daryl for making when he attacked the Sanctuary. Running off half-cocked like that makes him both an idiot and a hypocrite. Rick seems to have a death wish this season, and quite frankly, the show might actually be better off without him at this point. Maybe it’s time to move on from Rick.
The episode seemingly promises a final confrontation between Rick and Negan, but ultimately lets Negan slip away yet again. Essentially, the episode accomplishes nothing.
The introduction of Georgie appears to signal a big upcoming storyline, but it’s too soon to tell what it will be about or where it will go. Her request to collect record albums suggests that she comes from someplace that has the electricity to play them. (I suppose there are battery-powered turntables, but how many batteries has she collected?) She also implies that her community, wherever it may be, is much further advanced than the Hilltop or Alexandria were. In her first appearance, Georgie comes across as smug and a little annoying. Knowing this show’s modus operandi, she’ll probably turn out to be another evil dictator. That’s basically the only card the writers of this show know how to play.
My wife also brings up a good question: What does Georgie really offer Maggie that Maggie couldn’t have gotten herself by going to a library? Libraries are about the last places likely to have been scavenged in the apocalypse. They surely have thousands of untouched books, including encyclopedias and how-to construction manuals for all sorts of useful things. Why has no one thought of this?