The Walking Dead
Early on in tonight’s episode, Zeke tells Henry to be proud of the work he’s done — that some day, the boy will regale his grandchildren with the tale of this infrastructure project. Henry is skeptical: “I’m not going to bore my grandkids telling them a story about a bridge.” We hear ya, kid. But to be fair, for an episode about a construction site, there’s plenty of drama: Justin from the Sanctuary pisses everyone off, Enid enters postapocalyptic med school, Maggie confronts her attempted killer, Saviors are disappearing, and things get unexpectedly gory (and horny!).
We begin with Rick talking to some unidentified person, though anyone who’s seen a single commercial for this season knows he’s talking to Negan (holy spoiler-alert fail, AMC). It’s day 35 of the bridge build, Rick says, and he’s pleased with the progress they’ve made, despite the fact that some pretty bad stuff went down. In typically subtle style, a signpost at their work camp points to “The Future.” Oy. Rick prattles on about how they’re building …growing … something about dealing with the world on its terms but not letting it speak their truth or some such babble. Yes, the old Rick was a cop, but the new Rick has a future on the self-help circuit.
Rick and Eugene engage in a Law & Order–style walk-and-talk as Eugene provides a sitrep with an assist from Rosita: They need to finish the bridge in about a week before their levee breaks and they’ll have no place to stay; they have apparently started naming walker herds like major storms, and a category 3 “Horatio” numbering around 100 zombies is close by (with an even larger one looming); there’s a rockslide that needs to be cleared out; and six Saviors have gone AWOL in the past month.
Things go from weird to WWE in a hurry. Aaron shares a delightful yarn with Daryl about changing his adopted Savior-baby’s explosive diaper, then tells Daryl he’ll be a great dad, much to Daryl’s surprise (and ours — was that just a red herring for later when it looks like Aaron might be a goner?). Then Justin, the guy at the Sanctuary who didn’t want to clean graffiti, has the nerve to push Henry around. Don’t you know he’s loco, bro? That’s when it hits the fan — Henry takes Justin down with his staff, Billy Walsh from Entourage mocks Justin for getting tuned up by a kid, and then Daryl and Justin brawl.
The rumble underscores a major theme this season: The wounds from the Saviors War are still open and raw. Rosita tells one of them that she doesn’t need advice on explosives from someone who slashed her in the face, which is understandable. Daryl questions Rick’s leadership in letting Justin off easy. It’s all so frustrating that Rick takes one look at the A Key to the Future book and throws it down — with sass!
Another concern is food, which sends Michonne to Hilltop for a tête-à-tête with Maggie, who maintains her tough stance toward sharing her supply. We learn that Savior convoy delivering fuel mysteriously never arrived. We also discover that her blacksmith is Earl, who’s in jail for attempted murder with no timetable for release and no visitation. After his wife whines about her rights, Maggie listens to Earl’s story and makes a connection — turns out Maggie’s daddy had a drinking problem, too (a tale which will certainly be the subject of the first hit country-pop song in the new world). Granted, Hershel probably didn’t to kill a single mom after a few shots of whiskey, but Mags decides that Earl, like her old man, deserves a second chance and she puts him on a work-release program. Michonne also succeeds in convincing Maggie that they need some, like, actual laws and stuff.
The best action takes place at bridge camp, with two equally unexpected but very different outcomes. Jadis-Anne draws a sketch for Gabe, but the big surprise is her delicate stroke of his hand. This is a man of the cloth, Jadis-Anne! Lead him not into temptation — get thee behind him, Garbage Lady! Later, they engage in some flirty talk about frog mating calls and the “wild party” happening in the woods. The priest can ask about her past, she says, but not her secrets. (Ominous? Kinky? I think both.) Gabe reveals he’s Episcopalian, and thus allowed to get freaky deaky. Jadis-Anne slides her hand into his lap and Gabe moves in for a kiss. Judging by their next exchange (Gabe says he’s supposed to be on watch, to which Jadis replies, “Then watch …”), well, I’ll let you connect those dots.
Then there’s Justin, who, as the kids say, had one job: When we call you on the walkie, sound the siren so the camp isn’t overrun by Herd-nado Horatio. This dipshit, as Rick anoints him, forgot to charge his solar battery. So the rockslide blows, Jerry sounds the first alarm (and he’s hooking up with Nabila the gardener!), but Justin drops the ball, sending the zombies straight to the bridge. At the first sight of dead flesh, Billy Walsh is like, “I’m out,” and drops a log on Aaron’s arm. With no Saddiq, no training, no anesthesia and no time, Enid opens a book, whips out a knife, and goes about the business of sawing a man’s arm off. (Another theme this season: Everyone on Team Rick has Taylor Swift–fan levels of devotion. Aaron basically thanks Rick for the privilege of becoming an amputee.)
The episode dangles a couple cliffhangers in the end. There’s a minor one, as Jadis hears what sounds like that mysterious chopper that visited the Junkyard last season. Then there’s the biggie — Justin, who wisely decides to drink while walking alone in the dead of night, encounters someone he knows. Seems like a lucky stroke, until that person either abducts him or kills him. Who’s out there making Saviors vanish? Could it be our favorite vinyl aficionado, Georgie, who’s also been trying to convince Maggie to leave Hilltop and join her?
The curtain closes with Negan still talking shit from his jail cell, which, given these are RICK GRIMES’S FINAL EPISODES as AMC reminds us constantly, makes me wonder — does Negan have anything to do with Rick’s exit? And what role will he play when Rick is gone for good? Maybe the cop really is just getting the world ready for Negan’s comeback. However Rick makes his exit, love him or hate him at this point, it’s hard to imagine this show without him.