Last week, The Walking Dead’s mediocre return ended with a couple cliffhangers, the most pressing of which was Rick & Co. surrounded by a horde of new survivors…
…so of course we start with another supply exchange between The Saviors and The Kingdom. Just like last time, The Saviors show up, act like complete dicks, and start a fight. Also like before, the conflict comes to a head when Kid Rock cosplayer Jared decides to wail on Richard’s already mangled nose.
This time, however, Morgan and Benjamin (his young bo staff protégé) fight back. Just when it looks like we’re about to have an honest to goodness brawl, Ezekiel tells his men to stand down and accept their place under The Savior’s ill-tempered whims and mercy. Just to make sure they all know who’s boss, Jared takes Morgan’s bo staff with him.
When Ezekeile and his drop off crew return to The Kingdom, Daryl is there remind Morgan what Carol would do if a group of thugs were terrorizing them—and what a dumbass Morgan is being for his continued refusal to fight unless it’s for self-defense.
“How’s that pacifism thing working out for you so far, Donatello?”
Later, Richard recruits Daryl (thanks in no small part to his enticing offer of a new crossbow) to get Ezekiel to go to war with The Saviors.
His plan? A false flag operation in which he and Daryl lead a group of Saviors to “some loner” Ezekiel cares about, make sure she gets killed, and hope it pisses the king off enough that he wants to retaliate.
To the surprise of no one, Daryl quickly deduces that the “loner” is actually Carol, causing him to go full on redneck and beat the hell out of Richard. After wailing on his face for a bit, Daryl warns Richard that if anything happens to Carol—death, injury, ingrown toenail, etc.—he will kill him.
Meanwhile, Rick & Co. are herded into the middle of a giant garbage heap that would make for a blockbuster episode of Hoarders. They are then surrounded by a large group of people who look like they’ve been exclusively raiding Hot Topic stores for their clothes.
After the group walks in circles for a bit, their leader finally emerges to confront Rick. In addition to speaking like a morphine-addled version of Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller, we later learn her name is Jadis…which just so happens to also be the name of the evil witch/queen from the Chronicles of Narnia (in case her characterization wasn’t quite on the nose enough for you).
Through a series of vaguely connected words, she admits that her people have Gabriel and offers Rick & Co. a chance to “buy back their lives.” When Rick explains that they don’t have anything to barter (due to them taking it all), she holds firm, demanding that they offer something in return for not being killed.
“I will require a stylist…one who does not judge me for my bangs or my roots.”
Rick counters with an offer to join forces and go after The Saviors. Jadis refuses and a fight breaks out. Just when it looks like all hope is lost, Gabriel grabs a knife off one of The Scavengers (what the show’s writers said they are called) and holds it to the neck of one of Jadis’ lieutenants.
Jadis appears nonplussed, but allows Gabriel to speak. The knife-wielding clergyman proceeds to tell everyone how awesome Rick is. He also claims that if they let him and the Alexandrians go—and help fight The Saviors—Rick can get The Scavengers even more stuff to add to their colossal trash heap.
Jadis decides to test Gabriel’s glowing review of Rick’s leadership abilities by pushing him into a giant garbage pit with Winslow. Winslow, by the way, is a walker covered in armor and metal spikes.
Okay, say what you want about how bad this season has been, but Winslow is by far the coolest walker we’ve ever seen on the show. He also provides Rick a much needed moment of victory/badassery via a brutal fight sequence.
Something Rick also needs: A tetanus shot.
Having proven himself to Queen Weirdo, she decides to join the fight with The Saviors….AFTER Rick & Co. find them a bunch of guns, of course. Rick confidently replies that they’ll take care of it. Jadis also demands a large percentage of the spoils of victory, which Rick reluctantly agrees to.
If you ask me, they’re both being delusional.
Later, Gabriel thanks Rick for believing that he was forced to steal the supplies and hadn’t just run out on them. He then asks why Rick smiled when The Scavengers ambushed them. Rick replies by saying that the show’s writers realized they had to start making him look confident again if he was going to continue to carry the show…er…that Gabriel had proven to him that enemies can become friends. Yeah, that’s it.
Cat Got Your Tongue
After an impromptu visit from Ezekiel and his crew (and some food from the always-awesome Jerry), Carol makes it clear that she doesn’t want to be disturbed. When someone knocks on her door again a few minutes later, she prepares to yell at them only to find Daryl standing on her door step. They stare at each other for moment before locking into a warm, long awaited embrace.
Look, I may absolutely hate how we got to this point, but the Daryl/Carol reunion is truly a great moment. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there. As the two have dinner together, Carol explains why she left—the same B.S. about how she was “losing herself” and couldn’t “lose them/him” so she had to go, etc.
Not to be outdone in the bad judgment department, Daryl lies and tells Carol that everyone is fine—including Abraham and Glenn. Carol is visibly relieved. The rest of us were visibly disappointed.
Look, I get why Daryl did it. He saw that Carol was broken and didn’t want to fight anymore. He knew that if she found out about Glenn and Abraham, she’d go into full-on Sarah Connor mode and become a warrior again, her own happiness and mental health be damned. But even with someone he cares about as much as her, since when does Daryl let someone off the hook from doing their part to fight the good fight? And does he honestly think that lie is really going to hold up with The Saviors creeping around?
My guess is no, because when Daryl leaves and returns to the Kingdom, his first instinct is to stick his hand inside Shiva’s cage and pet her. Thankfully, Shiva appears to be on the same wavelength as most Walking Dead fans and is simply too smitten with Daryl to be at him mad for very long.
“Don’t look at me like that, girl. I had to lie to her to keep her safe.”
When Morgan comes in, Daryl immediately forgives him for not revealing that Carol was nearby—he was fulfilling Carol’s wishes for secrecy, after all—but completely unloads on him for his refusal to fight. Considering how Daryl let Carol off the hook (which Morgan correctly guessed), it’s more than a little hypocritical, which Morgan subtly attempts to point out. Daryl responds with another cathartic outburst, telling Morgan he needs to “wake up” before setting out on his own for the Hilltop.
I don’t want to get my hopes up yet, but it appears that this season of The Walking Dead may finally be starting to turn around.
This episode had plenty of problems, namely the ridiculous dynamics/behavior of The Scavengers and Carol and Morgan’s continued obstinacy in the face of a coming war that clearly requires their participation.
But that Daryl and Carol reunion was a truly beautiful moment, mostly due in part to Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus making it look so authentic that it nearly made me want to start crying, as well.
And to my surprise, Rick actually seems to be gaining some of his Season 1-4 mojo back. Sure, it may be mostly from inappropriately timed smiles at this point, but he also won a fight with the coolest looking zombie we’ve ever seen and had the presence of mind to pick up that sweet looking yardbird sculpture as a prize for his efforts.
Also, I haven’t mentioned Jerry very much, but the guy provides some much needed and genuine comedic relief. Instead of cheesy jokes or an onslaught of one-liners, Jerry acts the way many of us socially awkward types probably would after getting somewhat comfortable with the post zombie apocalypse world. Every time Ezekiel grunts “Jerry!” after he speaks out of turn or completely misreads a situation, my kinship with the man grows even stronger.
Huh. Maybe that says more about me than Jerry. Either way, he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite characters—and The Walking Dead is slowly but surely building a case that it might not be ready to die just yet.