I can’t think of a more appropriate soundtrack for “East” than the music of Johnny Cash. As Carol sneaks out of town under the cover of night, the Man in Black plays her out with a song of heartache and despair: “It’s all over, it’s all over/My heart echoed it’s all over.” It fits the scene neatly, as the Cookie Monster leaves behind only a note to explain her disappearance. But as the episode unspools — and this is one tense mofo of an episode — there’s no doubt the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, particularly for Carol, Maggie, and Glenn. Oh yeah, and there’s also that little matter of what appears to be DARYL GETTING SHOT AT POINT-BLANK RANGE. (Breathe, people. Breathe.)
Even the A-town moments that seem so serene at first, so utopian — so hot! — are undercut with a sense of dread. There’s naked Maggie and Glenn, showering together, lathering each other up. But the sexy moment gets sad real quick, as Glenn sees the bruises from Maggie’s battle with the Saviors. Cut to naked Rick and Michonne, spooning in bed as he kisses her shoulders and she feeds him an apple. The pillow talk doesn’t last long, though. Michonne says Maggie is worried (and rightly so) about an attack. Confident and perhaps a bit too comfortable, Rick assures her they’re ready for whatever awaits them. “When they come for us, we’ll end it,” he says. “The whole thing. This won’t be like before … the world’s ours. And we know how to take it. Everything we need is right here inside these walls. And we’re not losing any of it again.”
Little does Rick know that Carol’s gone Mad Max on them — swiped a car decorated with some nasty spikes and hit the road. To no one’s surprise, she runs into some guys with guns, a spear, and bad intentions. They’ve scoped out A-town and think Carol is their ticket to get inside. She instantly turns on the waterworks, but her rosary act only goes so far. Good thing Carol’s secret weapon is literally up her sleeve. (That said, I’d like to know what in the hell she possibly could fit in her coat that would deliver such a rapid-fire blast capable of mowing down a truck full of dudes.)
Given that the Saviors are still out there, Carol’s ghosting comes at an awful time. Sure, she wrote “Don’t come after me,” but of course there’s gonna be search party. (Note that Rosita throws Sasha some shade. Hard to imagine all three members of this love triangle surviving much longer.) Rick and Morgan’s road trip finally ends the dance they’ve been doing since the Zen master came to town — war versus peace, justice versus compassion, the hawk versus the dove. Morgan is disturbed by the carnage Carol left behind, while Rick gives her props. These two are an odd couple all right, but when they fight side by side at that weird farmhouse, it’s an impressive sight.
Their rescue mission peaks when Morgan admits he captured one of the Wolves. Just before Rick completely flips out, Morgan connects a few dots: He saved the Wolf, the Wolf kidnapped Denise, and when Walkermania ran wild on A-town, the Wolf protected her. “We can all change,” Morgan says. “It’s all a circle. Everything gets a return.” That’s what Eastman the Cheesemaker once told him (way back in episode four, which feels like years ago), and it’s what Morgan later told that same Wolf the first time they met in the woods. If Denise weren’t alive thanks to the Wolf’s change of heart, One-Eyed Carl would have died. That hits Rick like a gut punch. When the two men part ways — Morgan in pursuit of Carol and the mystery man who’s looking for his horse — Rick makes Morgan smile with a joke about that protein bar. Can’t help but wonder if this lighthearted exchange may be their last.
Meanwhile, Michonne, Glenn, and Rosita run off to find Daryl, who’s clutching Denise’s key chain and hell-bent on putting an arrow through the skull of that weasel Dwight. In Daryl’s mind, if he’d just killed Dwight when he had the chance, Denise would be alive. Hard to argue with that logic, though Glenn still tries when they find him. Let’s pause for a moment here to consider the constant harbingers of doom that seem to follow Glenn and Maggie. When his van pulls out of A-town, there’s a lingering shot of Maggie in the side-view mirror. Will he ever see her again? Even a haircut turns into a metaphor. When Enid asks Mags why she wanted a stylish bob, she replies, “I have to keep going. And I don’t want anything getting in my way.” Sounds like she’s talking about something bigger than split ends.
Seconds later, it’s the moment we’ve been dreading: Maggie falls to the floor, grabbing her stomach and crying out in agony. From a storytelling standpoint, it seems pointless for Maggie to lose the baby and then die. But to suffer a miscarriage and lose her husband? Total devastation. Another not-so-subtle clue appears when Carl picks out a new pistol. The strange symbol carved into its grip looks like a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, a.k.a. Negan’s weapon of choice. Add this all up and I’d say the odds of Glenn making it to next season are Powerball-winner slim.
For now, he’s bound and gagged with Michonne, thanks to that douchebag Dwight. Maybe I’m a sucker, but for a second there I really thought Daryl and Rosita were going to get the jump on the Saviors and free their pals. But then Dwight appears out of thin air, with gun drawn. When that shot rang out and blood splashed across the camera lens, I began to rationalize: Must have been Rosita they blasted. Dwight’s twerpy piece wouldn’t make that big of a sound. And come on. This is Daryl we’re talking about.
Upon further review — i.e., pausing frame-by-frame as best I could — all I know for sure is that Dwight pulls the trigger and Daryl spins to his right just before the screen goes dark. Can a guy survive getting shot in the back at point-blank range? Sure, maybe. I mean, Carl took a slug to the eye socket and he’s still on two feet, rockin’ that sheriff hat like a one-eyed boss. (Also: Dwight says, “You’ll be all right,” suggesting he wants Daryl to suffer but live.)
Whatever condition Daryl is in, all of this bodes very poorly for the A-towners and next week’s finale. As Morgan observed, they didn’t end anything with the Saviors — they started somethin’. Rick realizes there’s something bigger going on with Hilltop and Negan’s gang, something he’s greatly underestimated. There’s another Johnny Cash song that seems appropriate for what lies ahead, a cover of a Nine Inch Nails ditty. It’s called “Hurt.”