It’s been a few weeks since we have checked in with our favorite zombie killing survivors in The Walking Dead. In the short break they met Jesus, who is a thief, but a decent guy. He shows them that the world is much larger than the group has assumed and–for better or worse–that there are many more people and survivor colonies out there. After this, spoilers abound. You have been warned.
To start, Richonne is a thing; that is to say, Rick and Michonne have started…dating? I don’t know how relationships work during the zombie apocalypse but at least they get to hang out together every day, killing zombies. There is a lot of focus on the internal and external relationships the group is forming in this half of season 6. Maybe I am just anticipating the arrival of Negan too much to care about the interpersonal relationships but there has been too much focus on romance. It isn’t hard to see where this came from in terms of character development considering the producers want people to be emotionally attached to the characters, but it can be a bit heavy handed at times. The most interesting thing to consider is how it will complicate the dynamic of the group. Not to say that some of it isn’t straight from the comics, but keep Abraham dropping one-liners and killing the undead, don’t make him plod through overly emotional scenes.
The world has become much bigger. Jesus introduces Rick and the group to his own group of survivors at the Hilltop Colony: A fundamentally good group of people, not unlike Rick and his group in many ways. A group of residents returns to Hilltop and attempts to murder the leader of the colony, Gregory, at the behest (read: blackmail) of Negan. Rick volunteers the Alexandrians to take care of Negan and his group of murderous thugs, The Saviors. This seems extremely ill advised. Not only are they willingly engaging a group known to be irrationally violent, they are going out of their way to kill them by attacking them on their own turf.
Rick puts it up to the group to decide whether or not they attack Negan and his followers. The argument is that the proof exists already that The Saviors are murderous savages and that the Alexandrians need to preemptively strike to take care of the threat. Predictably, Morgan believes that where there is life there is potential and concocts a strategy to negotiate with them with the threat of overwhelming violence. It’s unclear how Morgan believes this straegy will work given that up until this point Rick’s group and Negan’s group have gone unaware of one another. There is no history of violence, or blood trail that Negan might respect; they decide to attack.
Rick is starting to lose it a bit, emboldened by his past decisions. Truthfully, Rick has done an admirable job leading the group and has gotten them out of more than one situation that could have been the end, however, there is a bit of dramatic irony going on for the comic readers. Negan is no joke. There have been existential threats to the group previously but none of these threats are as terrifying as Negan. The polaroids of brains leaking out of the crushed skulls of Negan’s victims that his goons have posted up in their bedrooms is some kind of indication of depravity we will be dealing with. The producers seem to be setting up a shift in Rick’s morality as well. If he had to answer his own 3 questions now, what would he say? That he murdered people in their sleep for food. “This is how we eat.”
This episode was the most action packed episode we have seen in a while. The raid on Negan’s hideout took up a large chunk of the episode and was super satisfying to watch as a fan of the show. So much of what the group does is reactionary as many of the threats they face are forced on them. It was awesome to see them work together to devise a plan out of limited knowledge and execute it. That being said, it was fundamentally one of the dumbest things that group could have done. They have now provoked someone who revels in violence and does not regret anything. The Governor would at least thoughtfully consider the severed heads that he kept in tanks; Negan crushes skulls.