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The Walking Dead Recap: Can’t Let Go

The Walking Dead

The Obliged
Season 9 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating *****

The Walking Dead

The Obliged
Season 9 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Gene Page/AMC

To quote Frank the Tank from Old School, we’re going streaking! That’s two excellent episodes in a row that deliver just about everything you want from The Walking Dead — zombie mayhem, plot twists, really dumb decisions with catastrophic consequences, and not just one but a slew of cliffhangers (plus a truckload of curse words!). At its core, the episode is about all-consuming obsessions, be they zombie killing, revenge, or honoring lost loved ones. And it all sets up one of the biggest moments in the series next week: Rick Grimes’ final episode. From the looks of tonight’s closing scene, Rick’s exit ain’t gonna be pretty.

We begin with an almost dreamlike montage, as Michonne toggles between her roles as homemaker/mom/healer of the sick/architect/society-builder and her nightly killing sprees. Note the sadistic glee on her face as she grabs a walker by the throat, watches it struggle, then smiles before slaying it. It’s a smart development of her character, who’s always been a bit like the Wolverine of the X-Men. Imagine Logan falling in love, settling down and reading kiddie books on a rocking chair? For Michonne, that animal instinct — that rage — lingers beneath the surface. She’s also understandably disturbed by the sight of baseball bats, which happens (almost comically) twice.

Speaking of strong feelings about lumber, Negan makes his most significant appearance of the season. Maggie is on her way to kill him, and her plan — co-authored by Daryl — sets off a chain reaction of very bad things. Coincidentally, Negan’s on a hunger strike, and what he wants is to own some real estate in Michonne’s head. As he tends to do, Negan quickly finds her soft spots (and also as usual, much of what he says is dead-on). “The warrior in you isn’t meant to be planting kale and kissing boo-boos,” he says. Negan also theorizes that her biggest fear is that she’ll end up like him — losing everything she has. If Rick is gone and their plan to rebuild civilization crumbles, what’s left to fight for? Can she be content being Judith’s mom? And is she pregnant?

Even before Rick learns that Maggie is en route to A-town with plans to introduce Negan to her crowbar, things are not looking good. To wit, the levee broke, putting the bridge project in jeopardy; two big-ass herds (Tybalt and Cordelia, named for dead Shakespearean characters because Eugene) are in the area but not threatening to merge (yet); and his workforce is depleting with the Saviors gone and Carol taking her crew back to Hilltop. Rick has a few moments that feel an awful lot like last words. He tells Carol she gives him hope, says Eugene should be proud of what he’s done, and later, calls Daryl “brother.”

It’s Daryl who is all too eager to give Rick a ride to A-town to intercept Maggie. Red flag there, Rick? Of course, Daryl is in on her scheme, which includes an assist from Rachel, the pissant kid from Oceanside who spits, flips the bird, and enjoys reading celebrity gossip rags. (We can assume those celebs are long dead, but that makes me wonder: If you lived in Los Angeles during a zombie apocalypse, would you go looking for famous undead just to pass the time? Maybe there’s a point system depending on star power. I’d have no problem taking out a few Kardashians, but zombie Paul Rudd? Jennifer Lawrence? Couldn’t do it.) After Rick finally realizes Daryl is on Maggie’s side — where he’s firmly been for a while now — the two come to blows and go tumbling into a massive pit. Kudos to Andrew Lincoln for fully committing to an unsuccessful attempt to leap up and grab a tree root, which ends in a hard, ugly, unintentionally funny fall.

Like Negan and Michonne, Rick and Daryl engage in some blunt talk. Daryl kicks off a parade of blue language with this reality check for his pal: “Man, your ass wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for Glenn. You wouldn’t have found Lori. You wouldn’t have found Carl. And you sure as fuck wouldn’t have found any of us.” (Whoa, buddy! Rick and Negan each drop a “shit” later, and the show seems to have used up a season’s worth of curse words in just one episode.) Then Daryl hits his pal with the real tough stuff, saying Rick is chasing something for Carl “that ain’t meant to be. You just gotta let him go.” The mere thought of Negan dying nearly brings Rick to tears. In his mind, if Negan is killed, so is Carl’s vision for a peaceful, united future.

While those two talk through their feelings and search for a way out, Jed and his band of Savior thugs arrive at camp with Alden’s gun and bad intentions. Jed’s first mistake is calling Carol a “weak little woman.” His second is getting within striking distance. Carol kicks him to the ground, backhands him, and a gunfight ensues. All the commotion triggers a zombie migration with serious implications, starting with a flood of walkers who tumble into the pit. That actually turns out to be a good thing, as Daryl builds a zombie pile and climbs on top to escape. His slow crawl to the surface is excruciating, but ends with one of the all-time-great bro hand grabs, as Rick finally pulls him to safety.

Meanwhile, we make a quick visit to the junkyard, where Gabe is tied up and Jadis-Anne has gone full Ziggy Trashpile. Why simply kill the priest when you can attack him with an armless walker wearing a pearl necklace strapped to a handtruck with a bucket on its head? Gabe holy-rolls the dice and starts chattering about forgiveness and the Lord’s plan; somehow that works, and Jadis-Anne decides to just knock him out instead. When Gabe comes to, he’s alone with a note from his psycho gal pal: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I need to go fast.” Instead of being thrilled he’s alive and narrowly survived the worst hook-up ever, Gabe drops to his knees and cries. The heart wants what it wants, I suppose.

Jadis-Anne’s whereabouts are just one of many cliffhangers we’re left to ponder. We don’t see the aftermath of the bridge shootout, though I really hope Jed and his lumberjack buddy ate some lead. Maggie hasn’t even arrived at A-town yet, and when she does, what state will Negan be in after his disturbing meltdown about Lucille and the headbanging session that followed?

Then there’s the whopper, as Rick ignores Daryl’s sensible plan to send the incoming zombie herd to the bridge. Without saying a word, the look on Daryl’s face speaks volumes — What did I just tell you about needing to let go, bro? But Rick can’t give up the bridge, so instead, he ends up triggering Eugene’s nightmare scenario by leading one herd straight into the other. As “Tordelia” is about to become a reality, Rick’s horse spooks and tosses him onto a pile of rubble. Bloody, delirious, and impaled by a piece of rebar through his left flank, Rick lies motionless at the intersection of the two incoming zombie mobs.

Even though the walkers are just feet away, Rick can’t go out this way, right? There’s still plenty of time for Maggie or Daryl to find him. But he’s going to be in really bad shape if they do save him somehow, and it seems that any chance for Rick to get out of this thing alive has disappeared (unless Jadis-Anne’s chopper comes to airlift him to a hospital). Of the many questions we’re left to ponder, the biggest is this: What will this world — and this show — look like when Negan is alive but Rick is dead?

The Walking Dead Recap: Can’t Let Go