The Walking Dead returns from its mid-season respite this week. Will the promise of a creepy new villain group be enough to perk up the season’s storyline (not to mention stem the show’s declining ratings), or must we continue to resign ourselves to diminishing returns?
Cries and Whispers
Jesus is dead. There will be no resurrection in three days for him. Picking up right where the mid-season finale left off, Michonne, Daryl, Aaron, and the others in their group grab Jesus’ body and fight their way out of the foggy cemetery, escaping from a bunch of both real Walkers and some Whisperers disguised as Walkers.
On the way home, they encounter another group of zombies heading toward them across a covered bridge. Daryl comes up with the clever idea of shooting a couple in their legs. The first Walker continues to lumber forward as if it didn’t even notice the injury, but the second screams and falls to the ground. After a quick battle, our heroes mop up some dead foes and a few living ones. They leave one alive and unmask her, revealing a scared teenage girl who cries a lot and begs them not to kill her. Daryl shouts at her and demands to know how many people are in her group. When she doesn’t give clear answers, he and Michonne decide to take her prisoner.
Before long, they arrive at The Hilltop. Everyone is very sad about Jesus – especially Tara, who seems to be in charge and isn’t sure what she’s going to do next. The prisoner gets locked in a dungeon cell next to Henry, who’s been confined for a couple days due to public drunkenness. Michonne and Daryl interrogate the girl, who swears that there were only a few people in her group and they’re all dead now. She also claims that none of them ever used names. Neither Michonne nor Daryl believe her, but they don’t have any luck breaking her yet.
Afterwards, Michonne tells Daryl that she has to leave and warn Alexandria about this new threat. She leaves it to Daryl to decide the girl’s fate, and confides that she wants him to take over leadership of Hilltop. Before she goes, Aaron tells Michonne that he’s come around to her way of thinking and believes her policy of isolationism is right. The previous plan to unite the various communities was naïve wishful thinking.
Daryl continues yelling at the prisoner and threatens to drag her into the courtyard to publicly execute her. Finally, the girl appears to break down and offers some vague answers. Daryl lets her remain in the cell, though he’s still skeptical. He concocts a scheme to make Henry seem sympathetic to the girl, earning her confidence, so that he can eavesdrop on their conversation. She tells Henry that her name is Lydia.
Through some immense carelessness on Gabriel’s part, Negan has escaped his cell at Alexandria. He skulks around the community at night acting creepy, and sneaks into Michonne’s house. Finding no one there, he steals a compass locket from Judith’s bedroom.
As Negan attempts to climb over the community wall to freedom, he gets caught by little Judith, pointing her father’s gun at him. Negan slyly talks her into letting him go, promising not to hurt anyone ever again. Judith stands down, but warns him that, “There’s nothing out there for you,” and threatens to shoot him if he ever tries to come back to Alexandria. She allows him to keep the compass.
Negan makes his way out in the world, seemingly aimlessly at first. He encounters some Walkers he has to kill, soon runs out of food, and gets sick after drinking water from a stream. (Episode director Greg Nicotero pointed out on The Talking Dead that the clearing where Negan pukes is the same spot where he murdered Abraham and Glenn.) While scrounging through an old clothing store, he’s delighted to find a leather jacket in his size, but gets chased out of the place by a pack of feral dogs.
Eventually, Negan arrives back at his old home, the Sanctuary. The place is long abandoned. He sledgehammers open a wall to find a motorcycle (Daryl’s?) hidden behind it. He also recognizes a Walker roaming about as a former henchman named Big Richie. Rather than kill the poor sod, Negan allows him to stumble around outside, harmlessly making noise but unable to get in.
Initially pleased to make himself at home again, Negan soon comes to realize how pathetic the situation is. He has nothing, and his only friend is a zombie. After killing a few other Walkers, he puts Big Richie down and hops on the motorcycle, riding back toward Alexandria.
Apparently expecting this, Judith is waiting for Negan on the road and shoots at him, forcing him to crash the bike. He gives the girl back her compass and tells her that she was right about there being nothing for him. He was driving back to turn himself in and return to his cell. He’s pretty convincing as he says it.
Two for the Road
Before Michonne and company return to the Hilltop, Tara asks Alden to go out looking for them. Hoping to make himself useful, Luke (Dan Fogler) volunteers to go as well. In the woods, they follow a trail of arrows that Luke identifies as coming from his friend Yumiko. However, the trail gets cut off by a big herd of Walkers.
As the two of them attempt to circumvent the herd by taking another path, they spot a lone Walker in the woods. Feeling cocky, Luke moves forward to take it out, but is deeply unnerved when the zombie stops moving and just stares at him. When he and Alden look around, they realize that they’re surrounded by more just like it. Then the lead zombie walks toward them brandishing a sawed-off shotgun and demands that they get on their knees. Yikes!
While recovering from his injured leg, Eugene decides that life is short and tries to blurt out his feelings to Rosita. She cuts him off and runs out of the room to puke. Way to send a message, girl!
Standing right outside Eugene’s infirmary window, Rosita tells Siddiq that she’s pregnant and he’s the daddy. Eugene of course overhears the whole conversation and is crushed. I don’t imagine that Gabriel (Rosita’s current boo) will be too pleased when he finds out either.
This isn’t the most exciting episode for the show to return from its mid-season break with. Not a lot happens in it and, to be honest, Negan’s field trip is kind of boring. I’m not sure I like the idea of a rehabilitated Negan in the first place. There shouldn’t be any redemption for someone who’s done all the awful things Negan has. He should have died last season.
That said, I’ll admit that the banter between Negan and Judith is some of the best stuff in the episode.
I like the idea of the Whisperers and hope they turn out to be interesting antagonists. That’s still to be determined. We know so little about them at this point that the storyline could go either way.