God, I hope they keep this up. This was the best episode in an excellent run of episodes and it’s proof that The Walking Dead is one of the most surprising shows out there. Not in terms of story, because it’s always full of surprises but in terms of quality. Back in the dregs of the prison, I never thought the show could get to be great again. Heck, even the mid-season finale was a sharp downturn.
Since Scott M. Gimple arrived as showrunner, the show has seen a massive upswing in quality, with some missteps, and it’s just wonderful to see an episode like this that still leaves you gasping.
Where do I start? The superb cold open of Carol baking cookies, taking out a zombie whilst foraging for acorns, all whilst Weeds or Wildflowers plays in the background. It was exactly the sort of thing that leaves me smiling and as Rick arrives back in Alexandria, telling Carol that they’re gonna have to fight, it’s a superb moment as we understand that Carol just wants to bake cookies, or rather, she doesn’t WANT to kill, she just has to.
Her arc of the episode is small but significant. She leaves the last cookie on the grave of Sam, who’s fear, possibly influenced by Carol, got him killed. That’s just an excellent moment before the credits even rolled. Carol joins the fighting team heading to the saviour compound but when she finds out Maggie insists on coming she chooses to stay outside with her.
At the end, we discover that by forcing Maggie to stay behind, indulging in her dormant motherly instincts, mentioned earlier in the episode, she ends up getting captured with Maggie by some unseen Negan goons. This is just the cherry on the cake, though, as the proceeding 10 minutes is a masterpiece in tension, intercut with some complex character development and chilling moments.
After the last episode, the gang are aiming to take down the Saviours in order to trade for food with the Hilltop community. They use a severed zombie head to convince the guards that the Hilltop leader is dead and in an excellent and sudden sneak attack, Daryl and Michonne take out the guards, Mission Impossible styly.
As the Alexandrians stealth run through the compound, we get some absolutely brutal kills from Rick and Glenn. As the Saviours sleep in their beds, Rick silently kills them, all off screen, but we hear the noise and see the fresh blood. You can see the struggle on everyone’s face. Especially for Glenn as he has never killed a person before, and even ends up killing for Heath, who’s now left, I think.
Their pained expressions and the excruciating tension as you expect someone to sound the alarm any second, make this the most thoroughly entertaining set piece since the Wolves macheted the residents of Alexandria. Then someone does sound the alarm, Glenn and Heath find the armoury and take down a ton more goons and even Gabriel kills his first, despite a warning that something bad is coming.
Elsewhere outside, Maggie wants to help but Carol won’t let her, Tara confides that her declaration of love for Denise was genuine, yet spurned on by the guilt she feels for having been to a similar raiding party before and when it seems like all is said and easily done, a final Neganite falls foul of Daryl’s bullet and drops a walky-talky that tells the gang that they’re in a snipers sights and that Carol and Maggie have been captured.
It’s a truly great episode, bookended with some brilliant, hall of fame moments, and a great sense of building tension before we even get to know Negan. The morality of the group killing unarmed people is a fascinating story that I hope is continued down the line, especially with the opposite ends of the spectrum, Carol and Morgan, both for and against the murders.
Yep, Morgan is still Mr don’t wanna kill but at least, he’s building a jail.
Overall it was truly awesome and I can’t wait to carry on.