No one who survived the Negan massacre is more traumatized than Maggie, and this week we finally learn what happened after she trekked off to Hilltop with Sasha in search of medical aid and her sanity. We’re also reunited with the best Alexandria-era character, Jesus; reminded that Gregory is the most spineless asshole left on the planet; and left with no choice but to watch Carl and Enid go off on a predictably stupid, risky, and bound-to-fail mission. The takeaway from all of this? Even if Maggie doesn’t realize it yet herself, she is ready to be the leader who can unite all three camps to overthrow the Saviors.
But with the exception of Hilltop’s late-night Walkerpalooza, did this episode have to be so zombie-with-a bum-leg slow? As is usually the case when the key players get separated, “Go Getters” is another yawn-inducing crawl in which very little actually happens. Yes, we get it — the Saviors are running amok, Negan’s in charge, no one sees a way out of the worst lopsided trade agreement since the Red Sox sent Babe Ruth to the Yankees. But very little happens that actually moves the plot forward.
Let’s start with the good news. Somehow, despite being deathly ill and witnessing the horrific murder of her husband, Maggie has only a minor case of abruptio placentae, and her baby’s lil’ heart is beating just fine. (That moment with the sonogram in Doc Carson’s office did make me wonder, though: If something awful happens to the baby while in utero, will it turn into a zombie?) The doc tells her to take it easy for a few days, but you know that ain’t happening.
Like Maggie, we also get a moment to grieve for Glenn and Abraham for the first time. Their burial mounds are marked by sticks and decorated with their last possessions: the pocket watch Herschel gave Glenn and one of Sarge’s stogies. Jesus stops by with flowers for the graves. Green, he says, symbolizes release. It is a tender scene, and as Maggie exhaled, I did the same.
Enter Mayor McCheesedick, a.k.a. Gregory, who completely wrecks the moment by barging in, calling Maggie by the wrong name as he’s wont to do, and demanding to know why the Saviors weren’t wiped out. Gregory doesn’t care about the doctor’s orders to keep Maggie at Hilltop until she gives birth — he wants her gone pronto. When Sasha informs him Maggie is preggers, his reply — “That’s her mistake” — nearly leads to a cheap-suited ass whooping. As Maggie says, he’s a coward, and that’s more dangerous than an idiot. Still, it seems like she knows that Gregory can be managed. There are scarier things to confront than a horny wimp with a fetish for Scotch and paintings of white dudes on horseback.
(Speaking of that painting, it’s worth recalling that Gregory peacocked with it to Maggie and marveled at its beauty last season, much as Negan’s mustachioed henchman does. A quick history lesson on the painting, Portrait of Charles V on Horseback by Anthony van Dyck, courtesy of Professor Google: As Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V ruled a vast empire and was considered the most powerful man in the world. But if you’re looking for parallels between his reign and Negan’s — and hints of Negan’s fate — they’re hard to come by. Charles made efforts at peace and eventually abdicated parts of his kingdom. Rather than dying by some revolt, he just had a nasty case of gout and malaria. Perhaps it’s a subtle reminder that every empire, even one “on which the sun never sets,” eventually falls.)
Things finally get exciting when the Saviors send one of their “messages,” which have Hollywood-blockbuster-sized production values and a logistical complexity that suggests they’ve been planning this stuff for years. In the middle of the night, a locked car with a middle-finger insignia begins to blast music from inside the Hilltop courtyard. The gates are open, fires have been lit — it’s basically Woodstock ‘99 with less mud and slightly more violence. Sasha and Jesus scramble to fight off the incoming walker horde, but it’s Maggie, fresh off a semi-coma, who takes charge and barks out orders. In one of the most entertaining kills we’ve seen in a while, she goes full monster-truck rally and plows an eight-wheel tractor through the zombies and over the car.
Outside the not-so-secure gates of Hilltop, Rick and Aaron prepare for a supply run — yet another splitting up of the group — and Michonne turns a good-bye peck into a full make-out sesh. Their relationship shows Michonne’s softer side; she even goes all mom on Carl, who gets emo about his old man’s deal with Negan and decides to do something about it. Maybe it’s time for Rick to deliver one of his uncomfortably close talks and say, “Coral, do you really think a one-eyed teenager with a bad haircut can take out Negan? Who will babysit Judith when you’re dead?” After a cute roller-skating party and an unintentionally hilarious apology (“I’m sorry I locked you in the armory”), Carl finally has an awkward first kiss with Enid in the woods outside of Hilltop. But like so many brooding rebels before him, Carl tells his woman that he can’t be tied down. Even Enid seems to know he’s screwed. When Carl says he’ll see her around, she responds, “No, you won’t.”
That’s all secondary to what’s brewing at Hilltop. The drawn-out supply raid by the Saviors ends with Gregory proving he’d sell everyone out to save his own ass. When he calls Maggie “dear,” says the Saviors are “reasonable,” and admits he stole Glenn’s watch, she responds with a solid right cross and a rousing speech. “This is our home now,” she says. “So you’ll learn to start to call me by my name. Not Marsha, not dear, not honey. Maggie. Maggie Rhee.” Jesus makes a deal on the down-low with Sasha to find Negan’s lair, and guess who he finds stowed away in the booze truck? Supercuts Carl. The WTF look that Jesus flashes sums it up quite well.
When Jesus says he can finally see someone replacing Gregory as Hilltop’s leader, it’s obvious whom he’s referring to. (After all, Maggie’s only suspect decision is giving Enid the pocket watch.) Let’s hope that day comes sooner rather than later — and that the slow-building revolt against the Saviors speeds up before this season grinds to a full stop. But given The Walking Dead’s unfortunate split-season structure, which demands two cliffhangers — one for episode eight, the other for the finale — don’t bet on it for at least a couple of weeks.