“It’s not the end of the world anymore. It’s the start of a whole new one.” Though the abysmal lack of workman’s comp in the time of zombies isn’t doing Aaron any favors, he’s right.
This is a new world for The Walking Dead, which already feels like it’s changing course for a (hopefully) brighter future with new showrunner Angela Kang — though, I could’ve done without the wooden sign that literally points to “The Future” they are constructing. More details are being put into the walkers (vermin creeping out of empty eye sockets and all), the pacing is (generally) maintained, and there were a few times I had to divert my eyes from the truly gruesome moments splattered on screen.
It’s a new world for Rick, too, who, 35 days after the savage war, is celebrating the peace among the colonies. But it’s a peace, nonetheless, built on the leftover rubble from conflict.
The idea of Negan, just as his physical form, is still alive. The once imposing figure remains inside a dark jail cell, shoved deep down away from everyday life. For however much Rick tries to convince himself and convince Negan he’s built something better for everyone, he can’t shake the warning about how he’s not really “saving the world,” just “getting it ready” for Negan’s return. So Rick keeps Negan locked away, the same as the people themselves lock away their grudges. But as we see in the premiere episode and again with this weeks’ “The Bridge,” those grudges, when left unaddressed, bring consequences.
As Ezekiel mentions to Henry, now his adopted son with Carol, the bridge is a symbol of trade. Trade brings resources, resources maintain peace, peace keeps the people together. With most of the manual labor coming from The Sanctuary, per the agreed upon terms with Maggie at Hilltop, Rick learns more Saviors are vanishing by the day without clues as to why or what happened. Some of the missing were supposed to deliver fuel supplies to Hilltop in exchange for food, and without that ethanol, Maggie isn’t willing to part with the food surplus — especially since her blacksmith, the one who can fix their plow to harvest more food, is still jailed for trying to kill Maggie. That also makes Tammy frustrated because she can’t see her husband.
At the bridge site, more problems arise when Henry passes out water to all the workers. Justin wants more than he’s allowed so he pushes the boy aside. Henry retaliates by knocking the man off his feet, which then causes Daryl to intervene when Justin goes to attack Henry. Rick steps in to stop the brawl, but Daryl is pissed when he finds out Justin is getting some leniency; in light of the missing Saviors, Rick can’t afford to take one of the strongest workers off the project, three days before completion. It’s a trickle of issues that all stem from a single underlying problem no one seems to be addressing, which then makes it worse.
On top of that, there’s another issue Rick isn’t addressing, which is Daryl, who again questions whether they’re both on the same side. It’s as Carol says, maybe some people just aren’t ready to live with one another. Rick reiterates it’s not about forgetting, it’s about moving forward. It’s the how that’s tripping up some people.
Anne is not one of those people. She feels close to the community when she’s painting portraits based on the memories of the living. Some of her work hangs in Maggie’s office at Hilltop and she’s interviewing Father Gabriel about someone from his past for a new work. She’s also trying to do more than just talk with Gabriel, but something is holding him back.
Maggie, meanwhile, is trying to figure out how to lead. Similar to Rick locking away Negan in a cell, Maggie killed Gregory, but that doesn’t mean the threat he represented has been purged from Hilltop. It lingers in various ways: Tammy grows frustrated when she can’t visit Earl in prison, Maggie is hesitant to embrace Michonne’s insistence that they form a set of laws to govern their communities, and Jesus questions Maggie’s decisions on Earl.
Georgie, the mysterious woman who appeared last season, also has a presence. Comic fans believed that her arrival last season teased the Commonwealth community this year. One of the opening scenes in this week’s episode featured a familiar shot from the trailers: a stack of signs pointing to various locations, including Toledo. The Commonwealth, a more technologically advanced society based on apocalyptic standards, is located in Ohio. Georgie has been sending Maggie letters, hoping to bring her into her community. One letter Jesus picks up seems to mention a port city Georgie found.
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Maggie, moved by Jesus, decides to let Tammy have visitation, but she also visits with Earl herself. His struggle with alcoholism reminds Maggie of her own father, a moment made more poignant by the recent death of actor Scott Wilson, who played Hershel for three seasons on The Walking Dead. Maggie will later mention to Michonne that if Hershel didn’t get a second chance, a lot of people would be worse off for it. The visit also reinforces this idea of bubbling tension; Earl tells Maggie before she leaves how Gregory may have manipulated him, but the rage was inside him all along.
Elsewhere, Rick’s group executes a coordinated effort to redirect the herd that took down the bridge through a series of explosions and noises. While Rick is trying to get over Tara’s “Mother Goose” codename for him, Alden approaches with news that more Saviors — ones with worried families — have gone missing and those that are left are fearing for their safety. Rick mentions that they stripped the Sanctuary of weapons for a reason, but that they’ll protect them if they keep working. Alden doesn’t waste time informing Rick that he’s sounding an awful lot like Negan. He doesn’t have to ruminate on this for long because the next explosion hasn’t gone off, which means the walkers are now on a collision course for their workers in the woods.
Daryl and Aaron are gathering lumber when the herd arrives. In the chaos of people fleeing, Aaron knocks a man away from a falling log, only to get impaled himself. The group gets him out from underneath, but his arm… I believe the technical phrase is f—ed up. Rick and Carol lead the cavalry to assist in a display of impressively choreographed blade work on Andrew Lincoln’s part, as well as a realization that cutting the lumber restraints will let the logs mow down the oncoming walkers.
Back at their camp, Enid, who’s been training as a medic for Siddiq, has to amputate Aaron’s arm, which sets an angered Daryl on a course to find out who was supposed to set off the third explosion. He finds Carol chewing out Justin in her tent, prompting another skirmish of fisticuffs. Rick finally takes action later that night and expels Justin from the community. Will this be too little too late as far as Daryl is concerned? Also, did Rick make the right decision? Justin was another symbol of the persistence of the Negan age, and so he cut him out from the society. What will be the consequences, if any?