There’s some debate over how to translate the sound of the sad trombone to the written word. I always thought “waaaa waaaaaaa” was the best interpretation of that low, vaguely flatulent lament. These days, “whomp whomp” seems to be en vogue. However you spell it, that’s the sound playing in my head after watching this episode of The Walking Dead. After taking a big step forward last week, the show falls back with another slow, mostly meaningless chapter. Sure, we finally get a brief glimpse into Jesus and Rosita’s backstories. We also have a semi-definitive answer to the question of where Eugene’s loyalty lies. But otherwise, we’re left with little more than a dumb plan getting dumber.
The mostly silent opening sequence sets the tone for the episode: a series of scenes with the women of Hilltop, led by Maggie, preparing for war. There’s Daryl, looking sullen. There’s Enid, laying out a snack tray. There’s Sasha, all emo at the Sarge’s grave. I’m having trouble dealing with the fact that Sasha is so broken up over Abraham. Look across the yard at Maggie: Her sister was shot to death, her dad was crippled before being decapitated, and she’s preggers with her murdered husband’s kid. Yes, Sasha lost her brother (RIP, Tyreese) and Bob “Tainted Meat” Stookey. But she hooked up with the Sarge for what couldn’t have been more than a couple months. I mean, she didn’t even give him a taillight necklace! (But she sure took one, right, Rosita?)
Although there’s a lot of commotion at Hilltop, nothing significant really happens. The Saviors arrive unexpectedly, and for a second, it sounds like Simon — he of the expressive face and affinity for tequila and cardamom gelato — has come looking for Maggie or Daryl. But no, he’s here to replace the doctor who Negan turned into Physician Flambé with the dead guy’s brother, the Hilltop doc who’s taking care of Maggie. Enid has a creepy run-in with a Savior who dislikes the word “veggies” with unusual passion; Maggie barely stops Daryl from killing that grammar Nazi. Greg seems to have developed a full-blown drinking problem and continues to kiss as much Savior ass as he can; in fact, he’s so successful at boot-licking that Simon invites him to the Sanctuary, “as long as no shenanigans occur.” There’s no doubt Greg is a total goner. The only questions at this point are: Who will he take out along the way, and how satisfyingly gruesome will his demise be?
The only semi-surprising development on Boredom Hill relates to Enid, who emerges as a confident little-sister type and gives Sasha an ultimatum: Tell Maggie about your suicide mission in 10 minutes, or I will. Sasha calls her “the future of this place.” (Guess they’ll need a strong young woman to replace Sasha and/or Rosita?) Oh, and also, Jesus grew up in a group home and is gay. What I really want to know is: Who hollowed out that book where Sasha was hiding her bullets? Ever try to do that? I did once, and it’s a real pain in the ass.
In what should come as no surprise at all, Mags finally confronts Daryl about blaming himself for Glenn’s death. Maggie says it wasn’t his fault. He says it was. She says no. He cries. She cries. “You’re one of the good things in this world,” she says. Now I’m crying. But Daryl’s biker-crossbow-enthusiast-with-heart-of-gold routine has been milked too often. Need a sensitive, tearjerking moment? See Daryl cry, or at least give good lip quiver.
After sneaking away from Hilltop as the Saviors arrive, Rosita and Sasha continue their uncomfortable do-si-do. Rosita was the one who asked Sasha for help, but since then, she’s iced Sasha out at every turn: “I’m not here to play ‘get to know you,’” she scolds. You want to play it safe and take Negan out sniper style, Sasha? Well, I want to run into a heavily fortified industrial compound with hundreds of armed goons led by a homicidal maniac.
Their relationship thaws after Sasha asks the question we’ve all been waiting to hear: Will you show me how to tie some sweet knots? At last, Rosita reveals where she picked up her many skills: her ex-slam pieces. Johnny the survivalist taught her about bombs. Marcus the mechanic taught her about cars. Guys wanted to protect her; in return, she learned their shit, banged ‘em, then bounced. (You go, girl, I guess?) What made Abraham different was that he saw she could take care of herself — and for that, Sarge, we salute you. It’s not his death that angers them. It’s that he didn’t get the chance to go down swinging. Backs are had, and the unlikely duo gets ready to rumble.
Of course, their plan heads south when they try to rescue Eugene, who still has that sock monkey in his pocket and refers to himself as “Eugene Porter, chief engineer, also known as Negan, who I am.” Rosita thought he was “playing some angle,” and so did I. Instead, he tells them he’s staying with the Saviors. It’s possible he’s playing some longer con; perhaps, like Morgan, he’s method acting, biding his time to strike at Negan when he least expects it. With this show, there’s no way of knowing for sure. (Remember how Glenn was obviously dead for a few weeks until he wasn’t?)
The bigger twist comes moments later, when Sasha somehow locks herself inside the fence and locks Rosita out. “Go,” Sasha says. “It’s not your time. There’s gotta be a point to it, right? They need you.” With that, she smiles and charges into the Sanctuary, guns blazing. Rosita has no choice but to run, until she sees a figure in the dark. Who is that shadowy man with what appears to be a crossbow in his hand?
Now Rick’s rebellion will kick off in full force, right? Not so fast. There are still guns to be given to the Junkyard Dogs, Oceanside ladies to recruit, forces to be united, a grand battle plan to be drawn up, and an affordable babysitter with flexible hours to be found for Judith. Maybe the war will officially commence in the finale. Or at this rate, perhaps in season ten.
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