‘Walking Dead’ Recap: A Visit to the Hilltop Offers Few Surprises (SPOILERS)

Sam Adams
Variety

Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched episode 5 of Season 7 of “The Walking Dead,” titled “Go-Getters.” 

Meanwhile, at the Hilltop colony…

“The Walking Dead” has been working its way through human settlements like a family dropping in on relatives on Christmas Day, and this week, it’s Hilltop’s turn to see what’s under the tree. We’ve already been introduced to what Hilltop looks like under the Saviors’ rule, so “Go-Getters'” doesn’t bother much with the bigger picture, but even so, the seventh season’s fifth episode feels awfully thinly populated, as if the season was over-budget on extras and had to make do with referring to large crowds perpetually positioned just outside the frame.

Although last week’s “Service” showed us Maggie’s purported grave, it was clear that was a ruse, and “Go-Getters” shows us where she’s been, quite sensibly relocated to the only known place with a practicing obstetrician. Sasha’s with her, and she’s found a place to bury Abraham and Glenn’s bodies—not the ideal place, perhaps, but better than leaving their bodies to rot.

Despite the trauma of watching her husband bludgeoned to death in front of her, Maggie remains determined, and her baby remains unharmed. She makes a point of taking Glenn’s last name—it’s “Maggie Rhee” now—and when the Saviors launch a nighttime attack on the Hilltop, she rises to its defense despite the doctor’s advice that she should take it easy for a bit. The Saviors send an armored car blasting loud music through Hilltop’s gates, knowing that it will attract zombies to the settlement, and Sasha and Jesus lead the charge against them, with the latter deploying some sweet flying-kick moves. But it’s Maggie who saves the day, first by playing Paul Revere and sounding the alarm, then by hopping into the Hilltop’s tractor and going monster-truck on the offending vehicle. Farmer’s daughter to the rescue.

Given the way Gregory drooled over Maggie the first time she visited Hilltop, you’d think he might be glad to have her around full-time, but this “smart, beautiful woman” no longer floats his boat now that she’s carrying another man’s baby. Fearing that sheltering her and Sasha could be seen as an act of defiance by the Saviors, and utterly lacking in anything resembling a spine, he orders them both to leave Hilltop—although, being a generous man, he’ll give them until the following morning to make themselves scarce.

It’s not entirely clear how, being both a coward and a charisma-free weasel, Gregory ever came to lead the Hilltop colony, but when the Saviors finally show themselves the day after the car attack, we get an inkling that he primarily has the job because no one else wants it, and anyone who tries a more aggressive tack with the Saviors winds up in the ground. Even defending themselves against zombies is too much of an act of defiance. Simon, who leads the group of Saviors that roars through Hilltop’s gates, admits that they staged the previous evening’s incident as a way of demonstrating their power: The idea was to place Hilltop under threat and then save them from it. He’s none too pleased that they took matters into their own hands.

Fortunately, if not very plausibly, Simon seems unaware that Sasha and Maggie were involved in fighting off the zombies, but the risk that they might be discovered throws Gregory into a panic. He attempts to betray them, pointing Simon and co. to the hall closet where he’d sent them to hide. But Gregory’s disloyalty was predictable enough that Jesus outmaneuvered him, stashing the two women in Gregory’s room instead. (That Gregory winds up pointing the Saviors to his personal cache of Scotch is a fitting, if minor, comeuppance.) When Gregory predictably flips out after the Saviors have left, Jesus pushes back: Either Maggie and Sasha stay, or the Saviors will find out what Gregory’s been doing behind their back, and his will be the next grave to be dug. Jesus isn’t taking Gregory’s place, exactly: He remains a useful idiot, a way of keeping the Saviors believing that Hilltop is still fully in their thrall. But he’s no longer running the show.

“Go-Getters” is more compact than last week’s superfluously super-sized episode, but that’s about its only advantage. By now, the Saviors’ methods of subjugation are well established enough that exploring how they play out in yet another community just feels redundant. Simon is such a poorly developed character I’ve started thinking of him as “Budget Negan,” the equivalent of the cover band you hire when you can’t get the original artist.

The episode offers some minor developments in its secondary storyline, as Carl and Enid hold hands in the woods and he sneaks aboard a truck headed for Savior-town. But after opening the season with a bang, and a couple of splats, it feels like “The Walking Dead” has been spinning its wheels ever since. No doubt there’s some big twist waiting in the wings, and probably another significant death or three. But it speaks volumes about how much the show has come to rely on such dramatic jolts that it feels utterly empty without them.

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