Rick takes a major turn for the dark on ‘The Walking Dead’ this week. Is that supposed to be surprising? How many times do we have to go through this storyline?
In a flashback, we learn how Jadis survived the Heapster slaughter. It turns out that Simon didn’t let her live intentionally, as I’d previously assumed. Instead, she played dead and covered herself in another victim’s blood until the Saviors left. (Still seems pretty dumb that they didn’t check her closely or shoot her again for good measure.) Later, in a flash-forward to the present timeline, we see that Jadis lives inside a clean and spartan apartment fashioned out of a shipping container. Negan’s bat Lucille rests against a wall as her only decoration. Negan himself is tied up in a sweatbox.
When Jadis pulls Negan out and straps him to a rolling dolly cart, he tells her that he didn’t order the massacre and actually apologizes to her. The rest of this storyline makes so little sense that even network cheerleader Chris Hardwick and his guests on the ‘Talking Dead’ aftershow seemed baffled by it and could offer no explanation.
Jadis wheels out another cart with a growling Walker welded into it. I assume her plan is to torture Negan or force him to fight in a weird gladiatorial combat. She leaves him within rolling distance of a gun and a flare, and for some reason a collection of photographs that she cherishes. Negan gets an arm free and lights the flare (with one hand, neat trick), then threatens to burn the photos. Jadis panics and threatens to destroy Lucille in turn, which prompts Negan to reveal a bit of personal info about himself. He says that Lucille was the name of his wife, the only person who helped him survive through the apocalypse. After she died, he named the bat after her and now has an unhealthy emotional attachment to it. I guess this is supposed to be a major revelation, though it doesn’t really tell us much.
The helicopter that appeared in a previous episode flies over the dump, leaving Negan dumbstruck. He drops the flare into a puddle. A panicked Jadis runs to get another flare, but by the time she gets back, the helicopter has turned around and flown away.
Negan tells Jadis that he can make things right and promises to “settle it” so long as she doesn’t hurt Lucille. She eventually frees him and lets him go, though won’t answer his questions about the helicopter. Negan says that Jadis has set him on a new path and offers to bring her back to the Sanctuary with him. She refuses, so he tells her that he’ll swing by again to check on her.
On his way back to the Sanctuary, Negan stops his car and picks up someone we’re not allowed to see. By the time he gets back, he’s alone in the car again. He tells the Saviors at the gate to keep quiet about his return because he has a surprise planned.
Morgan and Carol
Ezekiel wants to go chasing after young Henry, but Carol resists. She’s already written the boy off for dead. That appears to be enough discouragement for Ezekiel, because he does nothing for the rest of the episode.
When Morgan announces that he’s going to hunt down the Saviors who escaped captivity, Carol decides to go with him. In the woods, Morgan spots Henry, but it turns out to be another delusion. He’s convinced the boy is dead and haunting him. Carol sees Morgan talking to himself and admits that she tagged along with him because she’s worried about him. He tells her to stop trying to save everybody.
The two of them later encounter a Walker with Henry’s staff stuck in it. At this point, Carol changes her mind about the boy and wants to go searching for him after all. Morgan is determined to see his own plan through, so they part ways.
Carol eventually hears Henry screaming and rescues him from some Walkers. They hug and cry. As they return to the Hilltop, Ezekiel is relieved to see both of them still alive. Carol tells him about her daughter Sophia and cries again.
Daryl and Rosita
Tara hasn’t gotten sick from her injury and it appears that she’s not going to. She feels confident that Dwight only hit her with a clean arrow, and in doing so he saved her from being killed by the other Saviors. Daryl isn’t convinced and still wants to kill him.
Pointing out that the Saviors are now using hand weapons, Dwight suspects that they must be low on ammo. Rosita reminds everyone about Eugene’s plan to make bullets. She knows where he’d have to go to do that. Later, she and Daryl spy on the Saviors’ foundry outpost and start planning how to kill all the Saviors there without damaging the equipment.
Morgan and Rick
Rick can’t bring himself to read the letter that Carl wrote to Michonne. He asks the friendly Savior defector named Alden where his buddies would have gone after escaping, and Alden points him toward an old dive bar on the way to the Sanctuary. Alden asks Rick not to kill any more of them than he has to. He says that most of them are just people who made a poor decision in the heat of the moment and can be brought around to realizing their mistake.
While searching for the Saviors, Rick catches up with Morgan, who admits to him that he’s not right in the head anymore. Rick doesn’t seem bothered by that. He offers to help him hunt and kill the Saviors.
As Rick and Morgan scope out the bar that Alden mentioned, someone sneaks up behind and knocks them both out. They wake up inside the building, tied up. This group of Saviors are a sad bunch. Some of them are sick and wounded, and others (primarily asshole Jared) want to cut them loose and leave without them. Jared is also very eager to turn Rick over to Negan in order to get back in Negan’s good graces.
Rick makes a counter offer to bring the Saviors back to the Hilltop with him and let them join the community. He gives them his word that they won’t be harmed, and their wounded will be treated. He says they’ll need to make their decision quickly, though, because a herd of Walkers are incoming and the building isn’t fortified to keep them out. The Saviors argue amongst themselves about this. Some of them like what Rick is saying, but Jared insists that Rick is lying about the Walker herd.
Almost as soon as he says this, Walkers come lurching into the building and chaos ensues. The other Saviors turn on Jared and free Rick and Morgan. The two of them help kill some of the Walkers, but as the battle dies down, they turn and start indiscriminately murdering all the Saviors too, even the ones on their side. Jared sees this happening and tries to run, but doesn’t get far. Morgan stalks him and traps him behind a gate until Walkers eat his face off.
A dying Savior asks Rick why he’d do this after giving his word. Rick coldly responds that he lied, then puts the man down.
Their mission accomplished, Rick and Morgan return to the Hilltop. Alden sees them covered in blood and intuits what must have happened. Morgan skulks off and cries. Rick reads Carl’s letter and also cries.
There’s a lot of crying in this episode. Everybody’s sad about their lot in life, or about what they’re turning into. None of this feels very revelatory to me. We’ve already had storylines like this before and the repetition is tiring. It’s just another sign that the show’s writers have run out of ideas.
The stuff with Jadis and Negan is particularly dumb. If she had a plan for him, it doesn’t make any sense at all. The whole storyline is just an excuse to tease viewers with the possibility of Negan dying, only to let him slip free again for entirely contrived reasons. I don’t believe for a minute that he’s had a change of heart and is a good guy all of a sudden.
I find the suggestion that Negan and Rick have changed roles and now Rick is the real villain to be kind of galling, honestly. Negan isn’t a good person and can’t be redeemed. I fear that the writers’ intention here is to keep him around for another season. The character is far too played-out to sustain that.