The Walking Dead
With so many story lines crawling toward a conclusion — the writers of The Walking Dead have done more setup recently than the stage crew at a U2 concert — this penultimate episode of the season had to be good, right? To be fair, in postapocalyptic time, it hasn’t been long since Negan used Glenn and the Sarge for batting practice. Season seven kicked off in a horribly memorable way, but since then, it’s felt like we’re the ones on the receiving end of Negan’s mind games. The good news: The Walking Dead is finally on the brink of war, as Rick gets tantalizingly close to building his army. But there’s reason to fret ahead of next week’s season finale.
Unlike the past few narrow episodes, “Something They Need” weaves three narrative threads together: Maggie’s farm, Sasha’s very uncomfortable stay at the Chateau de Saviors, and A-town’s hostile takeover of Oceanside. Up on Hilltop, Maggie seems determined to make sure that the new Negancare plan — no doctor, yer shit outta luck if you need one — doesn’t keep her down. She’s back to doing what the Greene family does best: teaching the Hilltoppers (including the flirty Handsome Man Bun) how to farm. She looks mighty relaxed for an expecting mother living in a zombie hellscape that’s ruled by the guy who murdered her husband. Maybe the only way to keep her sanity is to hold onto a Zen mind-set and set her mental Spotify to Bob Marley.
If only Gregory wasn’t still around. It’s awfully odd to see Maggie digging in the dirt beyond the Hilltop walls, all alone — and it’s no surprise that Gregory proves to be a liability when a couple of walkers show up (including one of those particularly nasty zombies who magically masks its moans so it can sneak up on its prey and the audience). Mags not only kills both groaners, but gives Gregory a rookie pass for squealing and looking like he’s going to puke. (“He hasn’t killed before,” she tells a passing group of ‘Toppers. “That’s not what he told us,” one of them replies.)
Maggie tells Gregory that it’s never too late to change, but the impression is that his cowardice (plus his emerging alcohol problem) won’t lead to a heroic rebirth. We last see him with a map and an order for his flunky to pack a bag and drive him somewhere. Seems like he’s cashing in on the mustachioed Savior’s offer to visit the Sanctuary — and plotting to sell Maggie out.
Perhaps the only thing worse than trusting Gregory is ending up in solitary at the Sanctuary, which is where Sasha gets tied up after — surprise! — her one-woman assault accomplishes nothing. (I don’t think she even killed any Saviors. If she did, Negan would have called her out for decreasing his workforce.) When Daryl was here, he only had to deal with hearing the Easy Street song on repeat and eating dog food; Sasha, however, meets David, that grammar Nazi Savior from last week’s episode. In only a couple minutes of screen time, “Rapey Davey” turns out to be one of the most loathsome characters we’ve encountered on the show. The rope talk, that whispered “Tell me how thirsty you are” — it’s all gross stuff.
Who comes to the rescue? Why it’s Negan, whose moral code seems to be roughly on par with lifers at Rikers: rapists and pedos are scum, even among murderers. (Omitting, of course, that Negan’s “wives” are essentially sex slaves.) Negan shanks David clean through the neck, then it’s decision time for Sasha and her “beach-ball-sized lady nuts.” Will she try to kill Negan with that knife, kill herself, do nothing and wait for David to turn, use the knife “to stop Rapey Davey from becoming Dead Alive Rapey Davey,” or will she join the Saviors? “Sasha,” Negan says, “we all got shit to get over … I just want you to understand, we are not monsters.”
Sasha isn’t buying his elevator pitch. After a disturbingly convincing manipulation of Eugene, she convinces him to help her kill herself. What she really hoped for was a knife, a shard of glass — anything she could use on Negan when he wasn’t expecting it. Instead, Eugene gives her one of his poison pills, much to her dismay. Can Sasha figure out a way to keep that pill and slip it to Negan without Eugene interfering? I doubt it.
What we’ve really been waiting for is Tara to spill the beans about Oceanside. Two things I didn’t anticipate: Rick’s Trumpian approach to deal-making, and a shipload of Wet Walkers who’ve apparently been stranded long enough to grow barnacles and are only now making their way down the beach. It’s a rather odd plan Rick has drawn up: Set off huge bombs around the Oceanside perimeter, scare the bejesus out of everyone, take all of their guns — and hey, if they’d also like to join the fight, that would be swell too. Perhaps Tara convinced Rick that the Oceanside ladies wouldn’t respond well to negotiation, especially since she broke her vow of secrecy. But if they managed to recruit the Junkyard Dogs, why not try to make a deal with these seemingly rational folks? Or at least devise a strategy that doesn’t involve massive explosions that ring out like a zombie dinner bell?
The Pirates of the Mid-Atlantic end up bringing the whole gang together, as the A-towners and the Oceansiders fight the soggy walkers together (including little badass Rachel, who’s still got a potty mouth and sure knows how to use knife). By the end, Cindy the sharpshooter has Tara’s back and Rick’s shaking hands with his new pals. But that old bag Tanya refuses to join the coalition, perhaps in part because her own granddaughter popped her in the jaw. The Oceanside policy is “no woman left behind,” so they just watch as Rick walks away with every single gun they own. (Couldn’t leave them with a rifle or two, just in case Jack Sparrow shows up with some friends?) As the A-towners leave with an arsenal for Mrs. Spock, Carl remarks that he’s haunted by the people he hasn’t killed — foreshadowing or just bad dialogue? — and Rick is unfazed as Tara gives a child the middle finger.
The semi-big twist arrives back at the not-so-safe zone, where Rosita reveals the shadowy arrow-toting figure who spotted her outside of the Sanctuary. Given Daryl was at Oceanside, it could have only been Pizza the Hut himself, Dwight. It’s a satisfying scene as Daryl tries to tear him to pieces and Rick cocks his Colt and orders Dwight to his knees. The question now, in this season of ever-shifting allegiances, is whether Dwight is a true defector or a double agent. Remember Negan telling Sasha that “a little birdy told me Rick and his people are up to no good” and “tomorrow’s gonna be a big day?” Dwight might be part of his next move. Then again, at the end of that episode when Eugene drank the Savior Kool-Aid, Dwight looked like he’d finally had enough of taking Negan’s abuse and getting nothing in return.
These events set up the finale nicely … or do they? All the A-towners really accomplished was getting more guns. Consider what still needs to happen: the Junkyard Dogs need to get their weapons, Rick and the leaders of all four communities need to agree to a plan, and they all need to join forces against Negan. Complicating matters is the preemptive strike that Negan seems to be cooking up, as well as Sasha and Dwight behind enemy lines. Unless there’s a major jump ahead in the timeline, we might not see such an epic standoff in next week’s finale.