While 90-minute premieres and finales are what we’ve grown to expect from The Walking Dead, this is the episode that makes you question the system. It was a fine show (as long as you already knew about the cliffhanger), but it could have been a GREAT one if the pacing had been tightened. By the time you see the fifth confirmation that Maggie is, indeed, still zonked out on the bed in the back of the RV, you can’t think of a single non-commercial reason this had to be 90 minutes long. It could have fit into the normal span of time easily. This episode, like Maggie’s hair, needed a trim.
As we open, Daryl hasn’t come back, and neither have the people who were looking for Daryl. But the more pressing issue is Maggie — it doesn’t appear to be a miscarriage, but it doesn’t appear to be good either. She’s horribly sick and needs a doctor, and the fake one died on the railroad tracks not too long ago. They need the doctor at the Hilltop colony, so Rick, Carl, Aaron, Eugene, Abraham and Sasha carry her into the RV and set out. They won’t be coming back.
From the beginning of their journey, the Saviors have Team Rick as good as trapped…they just don’t know it. It’s marvelous how elaborate their plan is, as well as manipulative. When Rick meets the first roadblock, which consists of a few thugs and some unfortunate guy who came from a place called “The Library,” he is told “There are plenty of other ways to get where you’re going.” They want him to turn around, and know he will. He has no idea this would have been the easiest route, and they know he won’t realize it until it’s too late. They KNOW.
The RV runs into another roadblock with every route it takes to The Hilltop. Every time this happens, the roadblock is bigger or the crowd is larger, and Abe utters a more ridiculous swear. The way the Saviors slowly and cunningly reveal their cards is brilliant. By the time Abraham is driving down his fourth route and Sasha is nervously fingering the map, and they come to the realization “They WANT us to head this way!”…it’s horrific. They have no idea what’s waiting for them down that road, they just know it’s going to be worse than what came before.
One thing becomes clear: the Saviors MUST have an agent on the inside, because this setup looks like it took weeks to prepare. Any guesses?
You know, Kimberly, you’re a smarter Power Ranger than anyone gave you credit for.
There really aren’t any other candidates besides Enid, though. If it IS her, she will be very easy to defeat. She fell for the oldest trick in the book this episode, and is now behind a closet door. If she escapes from that trap, all we need is a large box, a stick propping up the box tied to a string, and a turtle.
The only subplot in the episode belonged to Morgan and Carol. They share a lot in common (reluctance to kill being the chief commonality), so you’d think if anyone could convince Carol to come back home, Morgan could. But she keeps running away from him.
Ultimately Carol runs into a showdown with the sole remaining member of the gang she shot dead. He plugs her arm twice while chuckling, relishing the opportunity to drag her death out slowly. Dragging things out is never a good plan for a TV villain. Naturally, this is the poetic moment when Morgan arrives and breaks his vow of non-slaughter to save her life.
Carol insists she doesn’t want to be saved; all she wants to do is die. Morgan won’t have any of it. And just at that moment someone ELSE shows up: two mysterious armored men on horseback. Well, one of them has no horse (Morgan found it earlier). They say they can take Carol somewhere to get care. It’s too bad they never crossed paths with the RV.
Speaking of which, it’s now nighttime and it becomes clear Team Rick can’t drive their way out of this one. So they split up. Half the team takes the RV and drives off while the other half hide in the woods, carrying Maggie on a stretcher. It was no good…..the Saviors have closed in on them, and tighten the net Seven Dwarves style by whistling a lot. They emerge from every direction. There are way more of them than anyone ever guessed, and perhaps they wanted Rick to think this all along. It’s over.
Worse yet, the REAL Negan found the RV and drives up in it, making his grand entrance from the side door. His speech is nearly verbatim what it was in the comics, minus the gratuitious cussing, which I’m told will be restored on the Blu-Ray. He’s on top, he knows it, and he’s relishing it. Some of the greatest villains in cinematic history have had the element of charisma as well as terror. This is why the arrival of Negan was such a huge deal. The show needs him.
Now look at Rick. Look at his face. This may be the best part of the scene, even with Negan in the equation. We’ve seen Rick grow an incredibly swelled head over the course of this season. Even in the first half-hour of this episode, we had that Rick still around, believing he could take anything head-on since HE was the most dominant force. Now he knows what a mistake he made. He knows they now have every right to do everything to him that he did to them, and he knows that it’s all his fault. Everyone else is just terrified they’re going to die, but Rick has the weight of his entire life crashing down around him. Kudos to Andrew Lincoln for nailing that face…that is the PERFECT face. Look at that. Look at Rick. Hawaiian noises. Banging on the drums like a chimpanzee.
Unfortunately, what people will most remember from this episode won’t be how well-executed Negan’s introduction was, it’ll be the cheat that happened in the last fifteen seconds. Most viewers last Sunday were waiting impatiently for the reveal of Negan’s victim. With ten minutes to go, you could hear the guys in their living rooms nervously checking the clock and muttering “Come on, I’ve got $100 riding on this.” After dragging out his “Eeenie Meenie” game as long as he possibly could, and after we’ve seen the frightened looks on EVERYONE’S faces at least five times each, Negan points his barbed bat at the camera and we get the execution from a POV shot. End of episode, end of season.
Both the unnecessary extended length of this episode and the withholding of Negan’s victim are commercial stunts. They do nothing to help the episode and hinder it from a perfect score. iO9 drew a parallel between Rick’s attitude in this season and AMC’s attitude in this season — they think they can pull any cheap stunt they want and their ratings numbers won’t dip an inch. You know what the Bible says about pride and how a fall inevitably cometh afterward.
The one saving grace? While the ending to this episode will surely be marked in “worst TV death scenes of 2016” lists come December, it won’t be on top. Five days later, Fox aired one that was worse.