Former Walking Dead cast member Michael Cudlitz makes his directorial debut with this week’s episode. He should probably stick to acting.
I’m probably being unfairly snarky and mean by saying that. The reality is that the problems with this episode (and there are many) are almost entirely the fault of the scripting, not the directing, which is bland but functional enough for TV. The long and short of it is that absolutely nothing of interest happens this week.
Did you expect some sort of answer regarding the mysterious talking zombies that ended the last episode? If so, you must be new to the show. That’s not how The Walking Dead works. Instead, we see Rosita running through the woods, all alone, with no Eugene trailing her. She’s very tired and passes out from exhaustion next to a tree while the whispering voices rise in volume to a loud murmur. She’s also dehydrated, which we know because she holds up an empty water bottle and makes a frowny face. How long exactly has she been running through the woods? It takes more than a few hours without water before a person’s body will collapse from dehydration.
Somehow, despite being unconscious, Rosita shoots off a flare from a gun she just happened to have on her. Rather than attract the attention of the Walkers, it catches the notice of Jesus and Aaron, who were frolicking in the woods nearby and were seemingly just on the verge of making out when she interrupted them. Aaron has gone full steampunk and has a mechanical metal arm now. They rush to Rosita’s aid and drag her to a horse. All Rosita can say to them before passing out again is that she left Eugene in a barn somewhere. They take her to safety at the Hilltop.
Mmmm, Snake Soup
Carol and Henry follow Daryl to his sad little camp in the swamp. Daryl does not appear to have taken care of himself very well, and his only companion is a dog rather imaginatively named “Dog.”
Carol asks Daryl to go with them to the Hilltop in order to keep an eye on Henry for her while the boy trains to be a blacksmith. Daryl balks at the idea of being a babysitter.
Carol and Henry decide to stay the night. Daryl makes them a disgusting dinner. Carol insists on cutting his hair. Unbelievably, I think she makes it look even worse.
In the middle of the night, the dog gets caught in a trap that Daryl left to stop Walkers, and a bunch of legless zombies slowly crawl toward it. Daryl rather stupidly puts himself in harm’s way to save the dog, and of course gets grabbed and drops his knife. Henry runs to his aid, but injures his foot in another trap. The two of them wind up having to respectively save each other. Once the Walkers are cleared out, they agree not to tell Carol about any of this, but Carol was watching from a distance and smiles at how well the boys have bonded.
The next morning, Carol pretends to have slept through the whole event, and smiles slyly when Daryl tells her that he’s decided to go with them to the Hilltop after all.
The Top of the Hill
Michael Cudlitz’s main directorial flourish with this episode is to introduce the Hilltop with a music video montage that is embarrassingly cheesy. At first, it looks like Tara may be in charge of the place, but we soon learn that she’s actually second-in-command to Jesus, who just won an election. He’s a very reluctant leader. Through their conversation, it’s revealed that Maggie took Georgie up on her invitation to join another community. We also find out that Alexandria has declined to participate in the upcoming fair at the Kingdom.
Slingshots and Arrows
Michonne, Siddiq, and a guy named D.J. lead a wagon train bringing the Newbies to the Hilltop. Siddiq questions why Michonne wouldn’t just let them stay at Alexandria, but she’s firm in her decision. The Newbies talk to each other in sign language and bicker about whether they should continue on with Michonne or break out and fend for themselves. Magna in particular is grumpy because she wants her knives back, but Michonne doesn’t trust any of them enough to let them have weapons.
On the way, the entire group makes a pitstop at the Newbies’ former camp in the middle of a field. The place is totally trashed. The Newbies collect a few things and have a cry about their friend Bernie, who was killed when the camp was overrun by Walkers. Of particular note, they reminisce about how he used to wear a hideous paisley shirt just to annoy Magna. (Foreshadowing alert!) Michonne announces that she’s not going all the way to the Hilltop with them. She’s going back to Alexandria while Siddiq and D.J. will bring the Newbies the rest of the way.
Before that can happen, they take shelter in an abandoned building for the night. On watch duty, Michonne sees Luke (Dan Fogler) sneaking around and acting suspiciously. Assuming that he’s up to no good and has a weapon, she takes a swipe at him with her sword, only to slash a precious Stradivarius violin clean in half. Luke, the music teacher, is distraught. He delivers a lecture about the importance of preserving art and culture that’s so over-the-top even his friends all roll their eyes at it.
Come morning, Michonne once again declares that she’s leaving… yet doesn’t. It turns out that she’s had some sort of major falling out with Maggie and doesn’t want to run into her at the Hilltop.
Suddenly, a herd of Walkers moves toward their building. Everyone freaks out. Breaking Michonne’s instructions, D.J. gives the Newbies their weapons back. Yumiko is like Wonder Woman with a bow. She takes out about thirty Walkers with a single well-placed arrow shot, saving their horses in the process. Connie and Kelly pick off more Walkers with slingshots – yes, freakin’ slingshots! We’re supposed to believe that zombie heads are so soft that flinging pebbles at them will shoot straight through their skulls.
As they just about finish clearing out the herd, a final Walker lumbers up to them wearing a paisley shirt. Yup, it’s their friend Bernie. The Newbies cry as Michonne puts him down.
After that, Michonne sticks with the group a little longer, but once again claims that she’s not going all the way to the Hilltop. Siddiq finally breaks the news to tell her that Maggie left some time ago, which Michonne clearly didn’t know. Just then, a pair of armed riders from the Hilltop approach on horses. One of them is ’80s heartthrob and Side Out star C. Thomas Howell. He tells Michonne that they were heading to Alexandria with news that Rosita was rescued and is recuperating at the Hilltop. Grudgingly, Michonne asks them to return back where they came from and announce that, yes, she’s on her way, dammit.
Before they start moving again, Connie thinks she saw something in the woods watching them, but dismisses the idea after a moment.
The Search Party
Maggie, Daryl and Henry arrive at the Hilltop, where they’re greated to hugs by Jesus and Aaron. When Aaron tells him that they’re about to ride out to search for Eugene, Daryl volunteers to go too.
Despite Tara nagging him the entire episode about how he needs to stay at the Hilltop and be a proper leader to his people, Jesus thinks it will be more fun to join the search party. Tara stays behind to hold things together without him.
So, yeah, Jesus is definitely gonna die in the mid-season finale next week. No doubt about that.
Let’s not pussyfoot around it. This episode is a waste of an hour. Nothing important happens, and the tiny tidbits of useful information we learn could have just as easily been sprinkled into the next episode instead. This is a placeholder, plain and simple. Worse, we’ve got characters behaving like idiots again, and I can barely express how stupid the thing with the slingshots is.
I started this season with hope that it would move away from useless episodes like this. It’s dispiriting to see the show fall back into old habits.