Things are certainly in full swing now. After last weeks return that still put our main group at a severe disadvantage with those pesky Saviours, the road to war has finally tipped in favour of our heroes.
Although neither Negan nor Simon showed up to exercise their off-the-wall brand of villainy, The Walking Dead still continues to make the Saviours presence felt in its opening scene. King Ezekiel – who recently declined Ricks offer of an allied force – and a select group from the Kingdom, including Morgan, meet up with Negans lackeys for their routine delivery. While this particular group aren’t exactly friend material, compared to Negan they’re practically telletubbies.
It begs the question of why this scene existed in the first place seeing as how no one really came close to giving Ezekiel the kick in the pants that he needs to end this. Sure, that dick Jared and Richard had another squabble and guns were drawn and Morgan and Ben both got stick happy and then Jared took Morgans stick and now Morgan is sad that he doesn’t have his stick but really, it was equivalent to a couple of noogies and name calling. It was hardly going to make Ezekiel call a town meeting and declare war.
Maybe that wasn’t the point though, if I may play devils advocate with myself. It’s quite apparent at this point that Ezekiel isn’t going to budge. I guess Jared making a fool out of Richard was the kick that he needed in HIS pants seeing as how soon after he recruits a wandering Daryl for a rogue mission. Perhaps I just feel at this point that the Saviours unrelenting grip on all of their communities needs to tighten in order to a) easily sway those not dedicated to the war effort and b) paint them in the most pitiful and apathetic light, you know, for our sakes.
Name calling and pant kicking aside, the rest of the ep was was an excellent display of storytelling and forethought. We’re in the process of watching all of these pieces get put into place so that when this comes to its (presumably) bloody conclusion, no one can say they were in the background somewhere doing sweet FA.
Richard is so desperately invested in this fight that he’ll do anything to see it through. When he discovers that Daryl feels the same way, the two set out to murk a few saviours and lead a trail back to Carols cabin. The objective being that the Saviours will be so enraged that they’ll murder Carol and Ezekiel will have no choice but to join Rick. Of course despite Daryl’s mutual investment, he loves Carol and that plan isn’t going to fly. The two scrap and when Richard proclaims that he’d “die for the Kingdom”, Daryl asks why he doesn’t.
Richard is so incensed at this point that I can’t help but feel as though that little exchange is a more of a hint of things to come rather than a flippant remark.
Elsewhere, specifically a freakin’ junkyard, Rick, Michonne, Tara, Aaron and Rosita are escorted in and surrounded by a weird cult. I’m talking dead pan expressions, regimented walking patterns and minimal words. Despite all of this, Rick still has that perpetual smile slapped across his face as he sizes up all of the potential soldiers he is about to claim. It’s so delightfully evil seeing a usually stressed and stoic Rick just get positively giddy. It’s infectious too, because while we’re all having panic attacks over who is next on Negan’s chopping block or how he is going to humiliate Rick again, seeing our fearless leader even remotely happy – well it raises confidence in everybody.
Turns out Jadis, this ragtag group’s head honcho has taken Gabriel as recompense for Aaron and Rick taking supplies from that boat. Not confident enough to perform the task themselves, they waited until someone else did, tracked them and stole the supplies and any men of the cloth that they came into contact with. Now in a Mexican standoff of sorts, Rick pleas with Jadis to help them in their fight because if they die, the Saviours are just going to come after them.
I love how well written this scene was. Just when you think there is no way Rick can talk his way out of something, he finds a way, pitting his current enemies against each other and appealing to Jadis’ need for self-preservation. Andrew Lincoln commands the screen, exhuming all the self – assurance in the world. I’m pretty sure the man could convince me to run for president if we had five minutes alone.
Gabriel finally found his courage beyond just talking about it. Holding a knife to Jadis’ second in command and barking orders, his transformation that I touched on last week has finally reached its very satisfying conclusion. His conversation later with Rick was a nice touch, as he thanked Rick for believing in him, that he would never steal from them. It’s almost surreal now, looking back at how much contempt and disgust Rick held for him. But little by little, Gabriel saw how things were and knew how he had to adapt. The best part was how it never felt like he was being sycophantic about it. On the contrary, it was due to him feeling like he had to make it up to everyone but most of all, he owed it to himself.
So once things die down, Jadis’s decides to put Rick in a trial by fire, throwing him into a small pit with a walker. You know how when you play video games and as you proceed to later levels, there’ll be a similar enemy type, only this jerk is armoured? That’s what we got. Metal head gear, spiked armour. The works. It was cool, because apart from riot gear walker from when the group gained control of the prison, there hasn’t been a lot of variety with the shows titular enemies. I don’t want the show to be over saturated with Resident Evil-type boss fights but this worked. This walker was pure evil, in design and purpose. The last two episodes have made a lot of headway in making the dead a legitimate threat again.
Meanwhile, Daryl visits Carol. It’s a tender moment as we see Carol shake off all of this ‘new her’ and remember the life she left behind. Alluding to a conversation that Morgan had with him earlier, Daryl chooses not to tell her about Glenn and Abraham, opting instead to lie and let her live in tranquility. I don’t know how this ends, but all signs point to Carol going postal once she finds out about Negan and his indiscriminate murder spree.
Sticking with the theme of putting all of their pieces in place, the episode ends with two people being told to get their shit together and prioritise what’s important: each other and this fight. Daryl tells Morgan that “whatever he’s holding on to, it’s already gone” and to “wake up”. It’s been a solid build, if Morgan does indeed break out of this funk and rise up but if he doesn’t, I’m not sure how much steam his character has left in him.
And cynical Rosita gets a taste of Tara and then has the nerve to ask what her “problem is”. I used to like Rosita, but she has been fleshed out for the worst. Note that I don’t think that’s a writing issue, she is exactly what she needs to be but nothing good can come of this.
“New Best Friends” continued to put in work, mapping out its players for this bubbling melting pot we’re currently watching unfold. Rick is more confident than ever and by extension, gives the show a positive outlook and everything is beginning to come together in a way that was unforeseeable when this saga began.
Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
- Rick’s confidence (and smile!)
- Boss fight!
- Father Gabriel becomes who he needs to be
- Daryl getting valuable screen time
- Effectively putting pieces in place
- Opening Scene didn’t do much
- Morgan , bruh