[This story contains spoilers from The Walking Dead episode 714, "The Other Side."]
AMC's The Walking Dead is heading into the home stretch of season seven. With only two episodes remaining, the war against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his deadly Saviors inches closer as the different factions begin to unite to take on their shared enemy.
Sunday's effort focused on the Hilltop group - specifically Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and a newly arrived Rosita (Christian Serratos), as the duo left the gated community and arrived at the Sanctuary, fueled by revenge and armed only with a sniper rifle and a bullet earmarked for Negan.
Eventually, Rosita is able to look beyond her disdain for Sasha as the two bond over their shared love: the late and great Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). Their journey to the Sanctuary ends when they attempt to rescue Eugene (Josh McDermitt), who would rather stay safe and be a big man on campus than risk his life by crossing Negan. A stunned Rosita then watches as Sasha makes her way into Negan's community and locks her out. It effectively turns a suicide mission for two into Sasha risking her life to kill Negan while protecting Rosita.
Meanwhile at the Hilltop, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) comforts Daryl after learning that he blames himself for Glenn's (Steven Yeun) death. Elsewhere, Gregory (Xander Berkeley) allows a pack of Saviors to take Maggie's doctor back to the Sanctuary as Jesus (Tom Payne) winds up following his comic book trajectory and coming out.
The Hollywood Reporter turned to showrunner Scott M. Gimple to break down Sasha's motivations for going solo, what may be next for Maggie - and Daryl - as well as explain why Gregory is such a dirtbag.
Why would Sasha sacrifice herself over Rosita - especially after the way they bonded?
Their conversation in the factory is what drove it home. Rosita is operating on anger and Sasha seems to be operating out of a necessity to square the universe. That sounds pretty heavy. They're in different places and the bottom line is that Sasha doesn't feel they both have to go in [to the Sanctuary]. It's her choice. If it's going to be one of them, she certainly is not going to choose Rosita. "OK, you go in - I'll see you later!" Sasha realizes that only one of them needs to go in and she's the one who makes the choice. Rosita really wanted to go in with her. But it gets down to strategy. Both of them going in could be a bit of a disadvantage, which they talk about earlier in the episode.
Sonequa is the lead in Star Trek: Discovery and now on what seems like a suicide mission inside the Sanctuary - whose members, including Negan, are not known to treat women very well. Have we seen the last of Sasha alive?
I don't think we need to mention Star Trek or any of those things [laughs]. Obviously people are aware of it. Sonequa Martin-Green can do anything. She can probably be on three shows. She's a talented actor who is also adept in comedy and was hilarious on New Girl. She can be on New Girl, she can be on Star Trek, she can probably host an incredible Las Vegas review. She is straight up one of the strongest people I know.
And Sasha has Sonequa's strength.
Sasha is even tougher and generally doesn't do comedy. And you don't know [if this is the last of Sasha alive]. This all could be some really long play of a crossover with Star Trek and maybe we made a huge agreement with CBS All Access and a portal will be open.
The Sanctuary is really just a portal to the USS Discovery.
Let's not spoil it!
Eugene declines to be "rescued." Is he working another angle or is he no longer a "Stage 2 badass," as Abraham called him?
It's always up to the audience but I believe that the thing that locks him there is that the Saviors keep him safe - and that's it. If he can be safe, he's there doing what he has to do. If they ask him to become a leader of sorts there, he will because what he's getting out of it is everything he wants, which is to be safe.
Where do Daryl and Rosita go from here?
I can't tell you that. But it's all coming to a head. Things are getting much more intense. The stakes are getting higher and higher and the episode number is creeping toward 16. Things are going to get even more tense. With this episode, seeing Sasha and Rosita unite, that was something that we planned at the end of season six knowing it would be in season seven. It was satisfying to see them together.
Daryl has an emotional breakdown and cries as he blames himself for Glenn's death. How did this scene with Maggie help his healing process?
It completely helps. We didn't play it hugely, but he didn't look at or speak to Maggie because he felt culpable for what happened to Glenn - which I don't think he was. For Maggie to say what she said to him was everything. That helped him a great deal. I don't think he's totally great with the situation now, but that was everything to him. And it really showed the maturity and wisdom in Maggie. As we get deeper into the series, these characters are becoming wiser and more mature. They're becoming old hands in all of this and the world is changing around them and they experience all sorts of new, practical and emotional challenges. In some ways, they're grown-up now. There's something beautiful in that. I think the Maggie in season two might not have reacted the same way. She's been through a lot and that's reflected in the way that she reacts to Daryl. It's incredibly important to her that she comfort him.
Daryl and Maggie are further bonded, having both experienced Glenn's death. Will he fight to protect her at all costs? Is there a potential for something more there?
Maggie is in a weird place right now, where Sasha wanted to protect her but yet is already integrated at the Hilltop - and that's part of what allows Sasha to leave. Beyond that, Maggie doesn't need protecting as much as she needs people to follow her lead. She has the skills, she has the vision for what she wants and she all but asks Daryl for that and he gives that to her. We're really seeing her become a leader in the way that she can take a breath, see things for what it is and give Daryl what he needs. And yes, they are bonded now - and The Family grows even tighter.
Gregory is the new Father Gabriel: He never does the right thing and allows Maggie's doctor to be taken back to the Sanctuary. How much longer can he continue to control the Hilltop given the masses are beginning to rise up against him?
He's not polling very well! But his approach might be exactly what the Hilltop needs - or maybe what he can make the people there decide to need. He's a wily political animal and smart. In some ways, though it's not the most heroic approach, it's difficult to say it's completely the wrong approach. Gregory is afraid of the possible repercussions that come with taking on Negan and the Saviors so he decides to try to cooperate with them. Considering what he's been through, it isn't the craziest thing. I think it's possible that he can make his case, though he's also someone that could potentially be a danger to Maggie or to others.
And he's quite a danger to Maggie in the comics.
Even more so possibly [on the show].
Jesus is gay, as in the comics. Is there an opportunity to see Jesus and Aaron couple up given their flirtation?
Aaron and Jesus is an interesting thing because in the book, [creator] Robert [Kirkman] has been a little resistant to pair them together, and I totally understand why. "There's two gay characters and we should obviously put them together." It shouldn't be so obvious. It isn't so simple that their orientation automatically makes them a couple. Yes, it's in the comics that they're starting to drift together - which is understandable if you look at the characters. On the show, we'll probably be following with Robert as he's just getting into that [in the comics]. I do think it's possible in the book and it's entirely possible on the show. But it's important we treat these characters as characters.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. What do you think will happen in the final two episodes of the season? Sound off below. For more Walking Dead coverage, bookmark THR.com/WalkingDead.