From beginning to end, this was a weird episode. The intro was short and frenetic; the final moments, unusually quiet and anticlimactic. Yes, we spent some quality time at Camp Dixon, finally visited Hilltop, and met Bernie, beloved friend of the Randos turned flesh-eating fashion nightmare. But the story barely moved an inch, and we’re still completely in the dark regarding the talking dead that stalked Rosita (and are doing who-knows-what with Eugene). In short — mostly ho-hum filler in advance of the mid-season finale.
But let’s start with Rosita, who’s delirious after escaping the mumblewalkers and leaving gimpy Eugene alone in a barn. (Sounds very safe and secure, I’m sure he’s just fine.) What’s far more interesting than Rosita’s situation is the way she’s discovered — by Jesus and Aaron after they finish pummeling the shit out of each other, or as they call it, “training.” Relations between Hilltop and A-town aren’t just icy, they’re borderline hostile; J and A need to sneak away just to meet up in the woods, wrestle, and serve some tea about life at their outposts. This fair that Zeke is planning is apparently a big freaking deal, and Jesus confirms that Michonne doesn’t want to participate. What happened after Rick’s death that polarized the two communities so deeply?
One person we can’t ask is Maggie, because she took lil’ Hershel and peaced out to hang with Georgie. Where are they, exactly? Who are they people they’re working with? To whom did Siddiq promise that he wouldn’t tell Michonne about Maggie’s departure? No clue. What we do know is that Hilltop is thriving: cue the song “April Skies” by Jesus and Mary Chain (with on-the-nose lyrics like “the world comes tumbling down” and “life is dead”) as we zoom in on a pottery wheel, a dude on an exercise bike generating electricity or ethanol or something, Enid as a full-on medical professional, Tara as a boss with paperwork and stuff, and a big-ass farm. Jesus also won an uncontested election as Hilltop’s leader and he is super pumped about it. No wonder he’d rather fight zombies than stay home when you hear Tara’s laundry list of issues requiring his attention: the wife of Maggie’s attacker wants to expand the crop field; Enid wants more room for “medicinal herbs” (let’s be real — you know Jesus has a pot crop somewhere); Alden wants to send a team out for scrap metal; and there’s a noise complaint from trailer seven because Tara gave a kid a kazoo. That last one should be grounds for banishment.
One surefire kazoo fan is Luke, who’s been collecting musical instruments since he was at least as far north as Philly. The Randos don’t do much aside from continue their debate about whether to play by Michonne’s rules or split, mutter conspiratorially, and then remember they can use sign language so no one knows they’re muttering conspiratorially. They also keep talking about Bernie, and aside from his paisley shirt, it’s unclear why they’re so obsessed with this guy. Though I’ll give Bernie this — he does know how to make an entrance, even in undeath. There’s not much zombie chaos in this episode, but Yumiko scores the slay of day with a single arrow that takes out a gang of groaners. Perhaps to repay them for her ’tude, Michonne delivers a most humane mercy killing when Bernie comes a-chompin’.
Our favorite swordswoman also doesn’t make much of an impact, save for waffling on her feelings about the Randos and, in a total overreaction, slicing Luke’s rare violin in half. (Though in Michonne’s defense, why was he so weird about not simply telling her he was holding a stringed instrument, not a grenade?) Worse than the destruction of a rare historical artifact is Luke’s speech about how art is the reason humans outlasted neanderthals and why they’ll need a Gibson Flying V to rebuild humanity or something like that. To be fair, his point is a good one — mankind’s culture needs to be preserved so there’s something to enjoy once survival isn’t the most important task of any given day.
Far more entertaining is Camp Dixon, where Daryl is living a life of solitude. How down in the dumps is he? His chopper is under a tarp. But lest you feel too bad, Daryl’s got a pooch who likes to gnaw on body parts like a good boy — and his name, hilariously, is Dog. Perhaps Daryl is so afraid of intimacy, so scarred by loss, that he can’t even give his furry buddy a proper name (like Harley or Jack Daniels or Dirtball). Speaking of scars, we see he’s got the same x-shaped mark on his back that Michonne is sporting, along with a bunch more, including a lengthy one on his face. It’s another mystery that goes unsolved, but we do learn that Daryl initially came out here looking for Rick and never returned.
We also learn Carol didn’t come here for a booty call or snakemeat recipes — she wants Daryl to relocate to Hilltop and serve as the realist yin to Zeke’s idealist yang in Henry’s life. It’s not Carol’s plea that softens her old pal, but Henry’s; he doesn’t want to be babysat any more than Daryl wants to do the sitting, but it’s Carol they’re both helping as much as each other (cue contemplative look on Daryl’s face). She couldn’t smile any wider when Daryl dusts off the bike and says he’s on board.
It seems everyone’s plans change by the end. Michonne agrees to stay with the Rando caravan when she learns Rosita’s hurt and at Hilltop. Jesus dumps his to-do list on Tara and declares he’s going to look for Eugene with Aaron. And Daryl’s eager to join them and get back in the action again. Henry is grounded, but that’s probably fine with him, since he’s crushing hard on Enid. She’s now quite a catch, given her apocalyptic Florence Nightingale status, but is also way too old for you, kid. Stay away from that brat from Oceanside, though. (And speaking of, where are they?)
So we watch the Eugene search party ride away toward an unknown menace that awaits and…well, that’s all, folks. (Cue the sad trombone.) Connie seems like she’ll play a key role in what’s to come; as one sense is taken away, others heighten, and it looks like she’s got some sort of zombie radar. But we’re left with more questions than answers and hoping the next chapter is more satisfying than this one.