By Transmute Jun
Previously, on The Walking Dead…
Maggie showed leadership to the people of The Hilltop when they needed it most, earning Gregory’s jealousy and ire. Sasha and Rosita went to The Sanctuary, intending to kill Negan, but at the last minute Sasha barred Rosita’s way and told her to go back home. Eugene refused rescue when Rosita offered it to him. Tara was rescued by the people of Oceanside and promised never to reveal their location to others, yet she vacillated on that promise when it became clear that Team Rick needed guns.
We hear Tara’s voice telling Rick about Oceanside, that they have an army and lots of guns. She does not waver in revealing these secrets, but her tone does bear a tinge of guilt. As she speaks, we see Team Rick getting things together, going on the move. This is interspersed with scenes of waterlogged walkers on the beach, coming from a shipwrecked vessel on the shore. Many of the walkers have seaweed on them, and one is covered in barnacles, giving this scene a Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-type feel.
As Team Rick is preparing, Enid asks Carl if he ever thinks about the people he has killed, and he admits that he does.
Maggie is giving instructions to people at The Hilltop, teaching them to put tarps over their plants to make them grow faster. She is encouraging and helpful, and Gregory is not impressed as a man calls Maggie ‘boss lady’. Maggie tells the others that she will be going outside to pull up a blueberry plant to bring inside The Hilltop.
In the forest near Oceanside, Rick is helping Michonne climb a tree. On the ground, Jesus and Daryl are setting out sticks of dynamite. Jesus expresses regret for not stopping Sasha and Rosita when they left for The Sanctuary, but Daryl says they can take care of themselves. They’re probably back at The Hilltop right now. They’re going to need them in the fight against the Saviors.
Aaron and Eric are talking, and Eric says that he now understands their choices. They can hide like Oceanside, pretend to serve the Saviors and suffer random beatings, or they can fight. He wants to fight with Aaron. Being with Aaron is the only thing that makes this terror tolerable. Although Aaron and Eric’s relationship is very much a ‘B’ storyline in this universe, this kind of attention to detail is one of the things I love about The Walking Dead. In little snippets like these, they show how every character has come to accept in their own way that fighting against Negan is their only option.
At The Sanctuary, Sasha is in Daryl’s old cell. Her guard David comes in, asking her kindly if she needs anything. Sasha asks for water. David talks more, telling her how he’s good with rope. He can do all kinds of things with rope. And just as this is starting to get creepy, David drops the bomb. He offers to get Sasha water if she will do something for him… and he leaves no doubt as to what that might be. Without waiting for her agreement (or disagreement) David attacks Sasha. Despite being tied up, Sasha manages to push David off, kicking him to the corner of the cell. David tells her that fighting will make it last longer… and he likes it that way. Yep, David went from kindly guard to bonafide creep in about sixty seconds. Talk about rapid character development!
But just as David is about to attack Sasha again, the door opens and Negan appears, causing David to scramble. Negan accuses David of attempting to rape Sasha. He reminds David that rape is not allowed under ‘the rules’, and Negan wouldn’t want to live anywhere that it was. He almost sounds reasonable in his contempt for David, who stammers an apology. Is it possible that maybe, deep down, Negan might be a decent guy? But then he stabs David through the throat with a knife. It’s Negan’s way of letting David know that he doesn’t accept the apology.
Sasha is taking all of this in, watching in silence as Negan orders a flunky to bring her a new shirt (to replace the one that David ripped in their encounter). Negan looks at Sasha, who apparently caused ‘a fracas’ the previous night (although we get frustratingly few details on what she did or how she was captured). And he recognizes her from ‘that night’. Now Negan understands why she did what she did. Sasha is mortified as Negan actually appears to be somewhat impressed by her actions.
“You’ve got some beach-ball-sized lady nuts on you, coming in all kamikaze like that!” he grins, in what is clearly going to be the line of the episode. But Negan needs to know. Did Rick put Sasha up to this?
“Rick? Your bitch?” Sasha sneers. “No.”
Negan surmises that Sasha must have assumed that it was going to be ‘the end’, coming in on her own like she did. But that isn’t the way it has to go. This here is an opportunity. And this is consistent with the way Negan thinks. He really is a strategist. He doesn’t mind losses, particularly losses of weak followers (such as David), but always goes for the chance to take on new people who are better for his organization. He has demonstrated again and again that he will ignore things if he can put better followers under his thumb to improve the Saviors’ overall strength. He did it with Dwight and Eugene, he attempted to do it with Daryl, and now he is trying to do it with Sasha.
Negan gives Sasha the knife he used to kill David, telling her she could attack him (although he’s standing above her and is brandishing Lucille), or kill herself, or take out ‘Rapey Davey’ before he becomes a walker and then ‘join the cause’. He assures her that her best choice is to join up with Negan… after all, he’s now a man short. I’d like to think that Negan is more than ‘a man’ short now. We know Sasha killed at least two people on her way into The Sanctuary the night before, and she probably killed a lot more before she was captured.
Negan concludes his pitch by reminding Sasha that she has beach-ball-sized lady nuts and he wants to harness the heat coming off of them. Maybe she can help him run The Sanctuary one day.
“I know it’s hard to picture considering what I did, but Sasha, we’ve all got shit to get over,” Negan reminds her. What’s scary about this entire speech is that he’s actually sounding reasonable. His offer is almost sounding appealing. Why should Rick have to be the one in charge? Why couldn’t there be a peaceful civilization under Negan’s rule? Of course, the difference is in the way they treat others. Rick will be brutal, but only if he is threatened. Negan is pre-emptively brutal, and doesn’t seem to care about any lives other than his own. The entire world exists to improve Negan’s lot. It is his selfishness, and his lack of empathy for others, that makes Negan a poor choice for ‘world leader’.
“I just want you to understand… we are not monsters.” Negan leaves Sasha with this thought, the knife by her side. I guess that depends on your definition of ‘monster’. Negan may have ‘rules’, but they’re all in place to benefit him, and keep his ‘kingdom’ running. Negan’s self-centered view of the world certainly seems monstrous to me.
Later, Eugene enters Sasha’s cell. She is wearing a new shirt and holding the knife. Eugene has a pillow, blanket, lantern and a glass of water. Sasha asks what the Saviors did to him. Eugene responds that they are keeping him safe. He says that he knows about Negan’s offer to Sasha, and he recommends that she take it like he did. Eugene reveals that he wanted to be a hero like Abraham, but now he knows that was never his lot. For 37 minutes driving the RV (in Episode 616, acting as a decoy while Rick and his crew were trying to get Maggie to The Hilltop) he felt like a hero, but then being terrified in Negan’s lineup in the woods, thinking that his time was up, he knew that he never wanted to live through anything like that again.
“Being here means I’ll never have to again,” Eugene sums it all up. This is very revealing regarding Eugene’s personality. He has always been ruled by his fear. He knows right from wrong, and it’s clear that he isn’t entire happy with the way Negan runs things, but Eugene seems willing to look aside when it comes to such matters because the Saviors are keeping him safe. Being appreciated for his knowledge and intelligence isn’t even the primary thing that drives Eugene. It’s safety.
“Please say yes.” Eugene tells Sasha to accept Negan’s offer, even using Abraham to persuade her. “He would want you to… he wouldn’t.” And this gives more insight into what Eugene is thinking. He attempts to use Abraham’s memory to convince Sasha, but then can’t bring himself to continue with that lie. Eugene is clearly desperate to have Sasha come to Negan’s side, but is it for her own safety, or is it so he can have his own choice to surrender to Negan validated?
“Things have changed. We can change with them. We have to,” Eugene says pragmatically. Previously, I felt that he might be playing Negan, only pretending to go along with things, but this entire speech makes me see things differently. This is really how Eugene feels, that ‘guaranteed’ safety with Negan is better than living a risky life with Rick.
Sasha whispers that Eugene should go, even as Eugene notes that David is starting to turn.
At The Hilltop, Maggie is digging at the blueberry bush outside the walls when Gregory approaches her. Maggie notes that she has never seen him outside the walls before.
“We built these walls to use them,” Gregory replies. But Maggie doesn’t bite, simply asking him why he is there. Apparently he wants to talk. And when he saw her come out there alone, he was concerned. Where are her friends?
But eventually Gregory gets to the point. He wants to know why Maggie is still at The Hilltop? After all, Dr. Carson is gone, so she doesn’t even have medical care anymore.
“I heard you were going to get him back,” Maggie notes. “Is that true? Or was it just something you said?”
Gregory tells Maggie that she needs to start trusting him. Because, you know, he’s been so trustworthy in the past. He wants to present a united front with Maggie. Maggie points out that it would be a lot easier if they actually were a united front, highlighting the difference in their approaches. Gregory admits that he needs to be more open. He apologizes and says that he never intended for things to come to this point. His sincerity is debatable, but Maggie appears (at least superficially; I don’t think she’s that gullible) to be buying it.
“It’s never too late to change. You know that,” Maggie offers. She says that if Gregory is serious, she will come by later and they will talk more. Gregory agrees.
In the meantime, Maggie asks him to look out for walkers as she finishes with the blueberry bush. Gregory agrees and pulls out a knife, yet when Maggie’s back is turned he holds it behind her in a threatening manner. It is clear that he contemplates killing her for a moment, but then pulls back. It has been suggested that this is because there is still a ‘decent person’ inside of Gregory that is repulsed by the idea of killing Maggie. But personally, I think it’s cowardice. Like Eugene, Gregory is ruled by his cowardice. He wants to be leader at The Hilltop so he can have his creature comforts and be protected by his people. He’s too scared to attack Maggie with a knife, which is why he why tries to attack her with behind-the-scenes machinations.
A walker appears from the woods and Maggie says she’ll get it, but Gregory insists; he’s here to protect the pregnant woman, after all. Maggie asks if Gregory has ever killed a walker before, and Gregory claims that he has, yet as he gets close, the expression on his face reveals the lie. Gregory turns tail, telling Maggie to do it. Just as he is breathing a sigh of relief, another walker jumps out of the woods and attacks. Maggie is busy taking out the other one and so Gregory struggles, knife in hand but unable to use it, calling for help. Maggie has to take out this second walker as well. Some nearby Hilltop people see what’s going on, and they’re clearly not impressed with their ‘leader’.
“He hasn’t killed one before. He’s learning,” Maggie explains.
“That’s not what he told us,” they comment. Gregory has been completely humiliated. It’s clears that this incident has not improved Maggie’s standing with Gregory, despite her saving his life.
At Oceanside, Natania goes into her home, only to be confronted by Tara pointing a gun at her. Tara tells Natania to stay quiet and put her hands on her head. Natania sneers that they should have just killed Tara in the village. Tara says Natania should be glad they didn’t, just as Cyndie walks in. Tara holds the gun to her as well. Tara reveals that her friends are outside and they are going to take this place very shortly, unless Tara signals them. Her group is going to fight the Saviors. The Saviors took everything from them. But if they all fight together, they can win. Tara can stop the takeover of Oceanside, but Natania has to agree to talk to Rick.
“If you take our guns you might as well be killing us all,” Natania’s responds. Frankly, I can understand why she’s acting this way. Tara has reason to hate Natania, and Natania doesn’t know Rick at all. She is feeling betrayed that Tara came back and apparently told her friends about Oceanside. As a strong leader, Natanaia’s not inclined to just give in.
And it doesn’t matter, because it’s too late. The attack begins. An explosion occurs in the woods. Everyone at Oceanside starts running for safety, but as the Oceansiders approach the gun shed, Michonne (in the tree) shoots at the ground in front of them, causing them to stop. Daryl and Jesus appear to stop them from proceeding.
In the woods, Carl and Gabriel stop the main group of Oceansiders who are fleeing the camp.
At the cabin, Natania and Cyndie overpower Tara, turning the tables. Knowing that this may be her only card to play, Natania brings Tara out at gunpoint to negotiate. Michonne has her rifle on Natania, but Tara says she should stop. She pleads with the Oceansiders to fight the Saviors. Natania says they all have suffered too much already.
“You’ve all forgotten!” Natania lectures.
“This is your life! Remember what it looks like!” Natania counters. She pleads with the Oceansiders. She is going to kill Tara and then probably die herself, but she needs her people to remember the folly of going up against the Saviors.
Just as it seems that tensions are about to explode, Michonne calls out that a herd of walkers are approaching. It is the barnacle crew from the shipwreck on the beach. In the confusion as they appear, Cyndie is able to disarm Natania, saving Tara again. How many times has Cyndie saved Tara’s life now? I’ve lost count.
Naturally, the Oceansiders and Team Rick fight the horde together, and even little Rachel gets in on the act. And in the zombie apocalypse, this is pretty much a bonding event. In a nice touch, there’s a short scene of Michonne attempting to kill a walker with her rifle. She only has to shoot twice. This shows that her marksmanship is improving, as earlier in the season she shot many bullets at an approaching walker and wasn’t able to take it down before it approached melee range.
After the encounter, Rick offers his hand to the Oceansiders, and Beatrice seems willing to accept… until Natania interrupts. She states that the Oceansiders are still not fighting with Team Rick. But Team Rick can take the guns and go in peace. And I’m remembering the last time, when she said Tara could go in peace, and then sent Beatrice and Kathy to kill her. Of course, without guns and with Rick’s group being a large force, this kind of action is probably beyond Natania at the moment.
Back at The Sanctuary, Negan walks into Sasha’s cell, where Walker David lies dead, the knife protruding from the center of his face.
“You win,” Sasha says miserably.
“No, you win,” Negan tells her. He pulls the knife from David’s head, but does not give it to Sasha. He says that she has a long way to go and needs to take baby steps. Still, the way she saved herself and surrendered to him just now is a good start. They need to work on some things, but Negan will make it fun. A little birdie told him that Rick is up to no good; they need to stop that. Oh man… who told Negan? When I think about it, Rick has been going around, trying to drum up support, so a lot of people now know that he plans to move against Negan. But who would squeal? And the first person who pops into my mind is Gregory. As they say in the crime shows, he had motive, means and opportunity. He hates Rick and maybe thinks this will allow him to get rid of Maggie as well. And he was outside of the walls, with a note from Simon telling him how he could get in contact. Who’s to say that Gregory didn’t go to Simon and spill his guts?
Back in the cell, Negan tells Sasha that he is going to give her a taste of what The Sanctuary has to offer. He encourages her to spend the night enjoying it, because tomorrow is going to be a big day! And with his shit-eating grin as he says this, you know that Negan has a plan, and that it’s not going to be good for Team Rick.
At The Hilltop, Gregory is shaking in his office as he drinks tequila and looks at a map of Virginia. He tells his assistant Cal that he needs him to drive Gregory somewhere, and Cal should pack a bag. Where could Gregory be going? Is this his attempt to contact Simon? But if so, then who squealed earlier? Maybe there are more than a few people playing both sides of the fence. Either that, or Negan was fishing when he spoke to Sasha.
It’s nighttime at The Sanctuary, and Eugene knocks on Sasha’s cell door. He tells her that she made the right choice, submitting to Negan. But in a tearful voice, she responds that she was wrong. She doesn’t know how she could have surrendered when their friends are suffering. She was ready last night. She knew that if she didn’t kill Negan, it would have to be her. She begs Eugene to get her a weapon.
“If he has me, he will hurt them. I have to die, it’s the only way,” Sasha begs. “Eugene, don’t let him use me to hurt our people.” Her voice is ragged and pleading, and she sounds like she is in real pain. Eugene is clearly moved and says that he will consider her request, although he hopes she won’t kill herself and will remain with the Saviors instead.
Inside her cell, Sasha is smirking. She has managed to manipulate Eugene but in the process, she has shown that he does still have feelings for her and the others on Team Rick. While his cowardice is the primary force that drives him, Eugene is still a compassionate man.
At Oceanside, Gabriel questions if they really need all of the guns. Rick says that they do. Tara promises to bring them back when it’s over. This does seem a little shady, and in my mind it erodes the rightness of Rick’s cause. He can’t leave these women a few handguns to defend themselves? But no, it’s all or nothing in his mind.
As they take out the guns, Carl and Enid are talking. He refers to her question earlier, saying that while he does think about the people he has killed, he also thinks about the ones he hasn’t. This seems like foreshadowing to me. Rick’s harshness with the people of Oceanside is probably going to come back and bite him when he least expects it.
Cyndie tells Tara that some of the Oceansiders want to go with her, but it’s all or nothing, so they can’t leave. Tara thanks Cyndie for saving her life multiple times, and Cyndie lets Tara go… not that she has any other choice.
As they leave, Rachel plaintively asks if Team Rick will leave them any guns. Tara says no, and gives Rachel the finger. Seems that relationship hasn’t changed! I know this was supposed to be a reference to Tara and Rachel’s antagonistic relationship in the previous Oceanside episode, but it just seems to be rubbing salt in the wound to me. Team Rick really should have left a few weapons with the Oceansiders.
Probably wondering if I’m right, Rick asks Tara if she’s okay with this, and Tara replies yes… enough to feel guilty about it.
At The Sanctuary, Sasha is in her cell with a proper dinner and some books, which I suppose is Negan’s ‘taste’ of what The Sanctuary has to offer. Eugene returns, talking again to Sasha through the door. He is going to grant Sasha’s request, and he slips the poison pills he made under the door. While Eugene has fallen completely for Sasha’s manipulation, it has been in a way that Sasha didn’t anticipate, and she is clearly devastated by the failure of her plan. As she shakes, Eugene ironically tells her that she has proven herself to be honest and brave and when she asked for a way out he had to help her. I can see that he’s going to feel horribly betrayed when he discovers how she manipulated him.
“I do not want you to go, but it sounds to me like you might already be gone,” he admits.
Rosita opens the gates at Alexandria as Rick and crew return home. Jesus asks Rosita where Sasha is. But all Rosita says is that there is someone at Alexandria. She brings everyone to the cell Morgan built. Inside is Dwight.
Daryl lunges for Dwight, but the others hold him back. Dwight says that he is willing to help Team Rick. I can understand this, because Dwight clearly has no love for Negan and his only reason for being with the Saviors at all was to protect Sherry, who has now run away. Dwight lost everything to protect her, and now he has lost her as well. It makes sense that he would want to get back at Negan.
But Rick doesn’t know any of this.
“Okay,” Rick says, holding up his gun. “Get on your knees.”
This is definitely the right ending, leading up to the start of the war against the Saviors. Dwight’s defection is going to change things for Team Rick and may be enough to swing the fight in their direction. It looks like next week everyone will come together and start to march on The Sanctuary, but I suspect we’ll be well into next season before any resolution will be reached in this conflict. This episode tied up a number of loose ends, including Tara’s burden of keeping Oceanside’s secret, Eugene’s true motives, and Sasha’s fate, while at the same time opening up avenues to move forward, with Team Rick getting the rest of the weapons they need and Dwight turning to Rick. Still, Negan clearly has plans, and Gregory is on some kind of secret mission, so there are definitely more obstacles along the way. I’m excited for the season finale next week.
In the No Man’s Land mobile game, this week’s season 7 mission shows Rick, Daryl and Father Gabriel going to the beach, clearing out the last of the barnacle walkers. This is Gabriel’s introduction to the game and confirms that soon he will be a fully playable character.
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