Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 10: New Best Friends

Hey, look! It's the perfect visual metaphor for this week's episode of The Walking Dead!

OK, so it wasn't quite a big pile of garbage, but it sure was bat sh*t insane, and very bizarre.


As odd as it sounds, this series was once fairly grounded, and somewhat realistic. That time has passed. Lately the show's gone completely off the rails, as increasingly bizarre societies begin crawling out of the woodwork to threaten our heroes. Currently we have a mustache-twirling supervillain who kills people with a baseball bat named Lucille, a ren-faire reject with a pet CGI tiger and a secret society of hostile Amazon warriors. The Walking Dead's becoming more and more like its rival Z Nation all the time!

At this point it wouldn't surprise me if the Baseball Furies showed up to steal Alexandria's supplies!

This week gives us an even crazier cult— the Scavengers. They appear to be a troupe of silent, black-clad performance artists whose leader sounds like she wandered out of a Mad Max movie.

Unlike most of the other communities the Alexandrians have encountered the past couple of seasons, the Scavengers don't appear in the comic. My guess is the writers of the show invented them out of whole cloth to act purely as cannon fodder in the upcoming Negan war. They're redshirts, plain and simple. And by making them so weird and off-putting, the audience won't care much when they're slaughtered by the dozens.

Back in December at the end of Hearts Still Beating, we saw a mysterious stranger in boots observing Rick and Aaron as they looted an abandoned houseboat. I said the boots obviously belonged to Cyndie, the teen from the Oceanside community that Tara met a few weeks ago in Swear.

Welp, now we know that guess was wrong. This week we found out it the observer was one of the aforementioned weirdo Scavengers. Ah well. Can't guess 'em all right!

Lastly, this week in England there was apparently a controversy involving a Walking Dead t-shirt. Primark stores carried a shirt featuring Negan's catchphrase, "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe," along with an image of his iconic baseball bat Lucille.

A shopper named Ian Lucraft saw the shirt and flipped his sh*t, claiming it was racist (!). According to Lucraft, 
"The slogan is 'Eeeny meenie miny moe." It stops there, but of course we all know what the original said: 'Catch a nigger by his toe.' The graphic has a large American baseball bat, wrapped round with barbed wire, and covered with blood. This image relates directly to the practice of assaulting black people in America. "It is directly threatening of a racist assault, and if I were black and were faced by a wearer I would know just where I stood."
And there it is right there, ladies and gents "and if I were black." No blacks complained about the shirt, as it was the duty of a Guilty White Person to do so. Because it's their job to be offended FOR everyone else. Jesus wept.

Note that in the actual episode, Negan continues his little rhyme by saying, "Catch a tiger by the toe." Naturally this was ignored, and Primark pulled the offending shirt from their stores.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
King Ezekiel, Morgan, Richard and a couple of guards kill time outside the Kingdom, waiting for the Saviors to arrive. They show up a few minutes later for their monthly (or is it weekly?) offering. Gavin, the leader of this particular band of Saviors, tells Ezekiel the haul looks a little light. Ezekiel assures him they've met their obligation.

Tensions flair between Richard and Jared, another of the Saviors, causing everyone to draw their guns. Jared demands Richard hand over his weapon. Morgan uses his sweet bo-staff skills against Jared, who bitch-slaps him in the ear with his gun in return. Ezekiel tells everyone to calm down, and orders Richard to hand over his gun. Jared takes it and Morgan's staff as well.


Gavin tells Ezekiel that if this kind of thing keeps happening, it could jeopardize his deal with Negan, and even implies that Richard might get to meet Lucille. Ezekiel assures him that everything's cool.

Back in the Kingdom, Daryl sees Morgan bleeding. He asks Morgan why he doesn't fight against the Saviors, especially since he knows what they did to Abraham and Glenn. Morgan replies with his usual peace-nik hooey. Richard offers Daryl a new crossbow, telling him he needs his help, as they both want the same thing.

Richard takes Daryl out on a "supply run." Once outside the Kingdom, Richard reveals his true plan. He's going to hide at the side of the road and kill a truckload of Saviors as they drive by, then plant a trail leading back to the house of "a woman" who lives just outside the Kingdom's walls. The Saviors will think "the woman" is responsible and kill her in return. As King Ezekiel is enamored with this "woman," her death will jolt him into finally joining Rick against the Saviors.


Daryl figures out that "the woman" is his pal Carol. The Saviors approach and Daryl beats the living crap out of Richard to prevent him from attacking them. He tells Richard to stay far away from Carol, or he'll kill him.

Cut to the junkyard we saw at the end of last week's episode. We see Rick, Michonne, Rosita, Tara and Aaron surrounded by a group of silent, black-clad weirdos. Jadis, the head weirdo, asks who's the leader of the group, and Rick introduces himself. Jadis says their lives now belong to the Scavengers (which is what they're apparently called), and they can buy them back if they have anything to trade.

Rick tells Jadis she has Father Gabriel and they want him back, along with all the food and weapons the Scavengers stole. Jadis says the Scavengers motto is "We Take. We Don't Bother." Apparently they
 knew the walker-protected houseboat was well stocked with food, and had been observing it for some time. When Rick and Aaron looted it, they followed them to Alexandria in order to swipe the supplies from them. Gabriel discovered the Scavengers and surprised them, so they forced him to load a car with supplies and then took him too (I guess as a hostage?).

Rick tries to scare Jadis by saying that they work for the Saviors now, and if the Scavengers kill them, Negan will be displeased and come after them. He asks Jadis to join him in fighting the Saviors. When Jadis refuses, Gabriel grabs a knife from one of the Scavengers and holds him hostage. Rick tells Gabriel to calm down, and let the Scavenger go.

Because Jadis is some kind of brain-dead performance artist, she tells Rick she wants to show him the "Up, up, up." Oy. He follows her to the top of the vast junkyard, which is apparently what she was talking about. It stretches out for miles, which I guess is supposed to impress Rick. She tells Rick the Scavengers have survived here since "The Change," and questions whether he could beat Negan or not. She then shoves him off the garbage heap and into a pit.

Inside the pit is an armored walker covered with spikes and a metal helmet, clearly inspired by a Megadeth album cover. It comes after Rick, who fights it as best he can. He tries to kill it, but can't penetrate its armor. He finally pulls several trash bags from the walls of the pit, causing it to collapse on top of the walker and immobilize it. He then cuts off its head with a piece of glass. Jadis drops a rope into the pit for Rick.


Jadis agrees to join Rick's fight, in exchange for "a lot of guns" and half the boathouse supplies. Rick counters by offering her guns and a third of the supplies. Jadis eventually agrees.

Well. That was all... nonsensical and pointless.

Daryl visits Carol in her little cottage and the two are finally reunited. He tearfully asks, "Why'd you go?" She gives him her standard line about not wanting to kill or lose any more people, saying, "I had to." She asks Daryl if the Saviors came, and if so, did anyone get hurt? Daryl lies and says they came, but everyone's alright. Daryl then leaves, telling Carol to watch out for herself.

Back at the Kingdom, Daryl sits by Shiva the tiger's cage. Amazingly, she nuzzles his hand and lets him pet her. Daryl admits to Morgan that he went to see Carol. He says he's leaving for the Hilltop in the morning for some reason, and it's up to Morgan to convince Ezekiel to join Rick. Morgan says he can't do that. 


The next morning, Daryl sets off for the Hilltop.

Thoughts:
• At the beginning of last week's episode, it seemed like Twitchy father Gabriel had gone rogue and driven off with all of Alexandria's supplies. This week we find out that's not what happened at all, as he was forced to clean out the pantry by one of the Scavengers.

Bad form, episode!
 Selectively omitting scenes to alter our perception of events feels like cheating to me.


• OK, we might as well get this out of the way now. Why the hell does Jadis, the leader of the Scavengers, pepper her speech with incomprehensible slang, like she lives in some futuristic post apocalyptic movie like The Hunger Games or Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?

According to some Walking Dead websites, the zombie outbreak started less than three years ago. That's hardly enough time for such drastic changes to develop in any community's language, no matter how isolated they may be. Such deviation would take hundreds of years. She speaks like she's from a society that's forgotten the old ways of her ancestors, who lived inside towers made of glass and rode metal birds in the sky.

At one point Jadis tells Rick to follow her to the "Up, up, up." which apparently just means the top of the garbage dump. Seriously? She couldn't have just said that without the cringe-worthy slang?

Any second I expected her to start talking about the "Pox-eclipse" and say, "Time after time I've done the Tell. But this ain't one body's Tell. It's the Tell of us all." (ten points to anyone who gets that reference!)

• The Scavengers file out of their junkyard shelter and form a large circle around Rick and the others with precision timing. Apparently they practice their marching drills every day, on the off chance someone will blunder into their camp and they need to surround them.

• Jadis must be a fan of Dumb And Dumber, because she has a slightly longer version of Lloyd Christmas' hairstyle.

I honestly wonder if there's supposed to be something wrong with Jadis. Seriously, look at her! That's the face of someone whose brain left town and didn't leave a forwarding address.

• When Rick climbs to the "Up, up, up (oy)," we're treated to what may be the worst green screen effect from the past twenty five years. Seriously, it's worse than process shots from the 1960s, back when they used BLUE screens instead of green.

Nothing about this scene looks right. The perspective is all wrong, and Rick and the background appear to have been filmed with different kinds of lenses. Worst of all, the lighting on Rick doesn't match the landscape. He's lit from the side and has a fill light on his face, while the sun blazes merrily away directly behind his head. Awful!

It couldn't have looked any more fake if they'd just left the actual green screen behind him!

• By the way, the junkyard looks like it stretches for literally miles in all directions. I assume the Scavengers live in the center of it, for security's sake. Did Rick and the others really follow the Scavengers' trail for several miles into the maze-like junkyard?

• Fortunately Winslow the Armored Walker made up for the awful green screen shot. I can't say enough good things about his design! Too bad it was all in service of such a bizarre and off-kilter episode. 

As awesome as this walker was, it didn't really feel like it belonged in a show like The Walking Dead. It seemed more like something you'd see in one of the Resident Evil movies.

 As Rick fights Winslow, his right hand is pierced by one of the sharp spikes on the walker's helmet. Ouch!

It's no secret at this point (or at least shouldn't be) that in the comic, Rick lost his right hand in an encounter with the Governor. For years now, actor Andrew Lincoln has been campaigning for TV Rick to lose his hand as well, saying it would be "an acting challenge."

The producers have stated in no uncertain terms that his will never happen on the show, because it would require extensive green screen effects, and would be prohibitively expensive.

That said, they've gone out of their way to have Rick injure one of his hands the past couple of seasons. He slashed it open fighting a walker in Season 6, spending the next several episodes with it wrapped. Then this week he gets stabbed in the hand with an armored zombie's spike. Coincidence, or homage to the comics?


Let's hope for Rick's sake that his tetanus shots are up to date, and the wound doesn't get horribly infected. Or that the spikes didn't contain any dried walker blood, which could surely cause problems for him.

• Jadis tells Rick that the Scavengers' motto is "We Take, We Don't Bother," which I guess means they don't risk their lives for supplies, preferring to take them from others who've already faced the danger.

So Rick and Aaron took the supplies from the houseboat, which Jadis had been monitoring for some time. She then had her people follow Rick back to Alexandria, where they stole the supplies from them.

I dunno... waiting for months and months and then following someone for miles to steal their supplies sure seems like the definition of "bother" to me.

 Doesn't it seem odd that the Alexandrians resent having to scrounge supplies for Negan, but they're OK with doing the same thing for the Scavengers? Yes, Rick's willingly doing so for Jadis so she'll join his cause, but it doesn't change the fact that he's now in debt to two groups.

Doesn't really seem like Rick should be giddily shouting, "We did it!" to Michonne after he makes the deal.

 As Rick leaves the Scavengers' junkyard, he grabs a wire sculpture of a cat and hands it to Michonne. Wondering what that was all about? 

Way back in the Season 3 episode Clear, Carl spotted a photo of his family on the wall of an abandoned, walker-filled cafe. Michonne risked her life to enter the cafe and get the photo for him. She also grabbed a little something for herself— a colorful cat statue.

Apparently Rick thinks she has a thing for cats, hence the "gift" in this episode.

• Once the Scavengers agree to Rick's deal, he wonders where the hell they're going to find a large cache of guns in this surely-by-now picked over area. He asks Tara if she has any idea where to look, since she's been out the farthest supply run.

Obviously Tara's going to break her promise and introduce Rick to the Oceanside community that she encountered back in Swear, since they have a large collection of weapons. I told you there was a reason for setting an entire episode there, and that it would eventually pay off somehow.

Funny how Rick just happened to ask the one person who secretly knows where to find a ton of guns...

• After the encounter with the Scavengers, Rosita and Tara have a strange, half-hearted spat which goes nowhere and solves nothing. The whole scene feels like it exists just to give them both a couple of lines this week.

• When Richard takes Daryl out and explains his master plan to him, they hide behind a burned out semi trailer with a cowboy mural painted on the side.

Fans of 1977's Smokey And The Bandit (both of you!) will instantly recognize the trailer from the film. According to the show's producers, the trailer's not a recreation, but the actual one that was used in the film. Interesting!

• So Daryl gets pissed when Richard talks about sacrificing Carol to convince Ezekiel to declare war on the Saviors. Daryl then visits Carol in her little house, has a nice dinner with her, and then ups and leaves her, saying he's gonna live at the Hilltop. That was weird! 


Should he really be leaving if he knows Richard's gunning for Carol? Or does he think his threat against Richard was sufficient to protect her?

• Daryl lies to Carol and doesn't tell her the Saviors killed Abraham and Glenn. That's nice of him to want to protect her I suppose, but... she's eventually going to run into Rick or someone else who was there and find out the truth.


• Daryl instantly makes friends with Ezekiel's pet tiger, because of course he does. Even lady tigers can't resist Daryl's sultry charms!

• Why does Ezekiel keep fawning over Carol, checking up on her and bringing her food?Obviously he's doing it because he's hot for her, but she's done nothing to earn this adoration. He rescued her, treated her, offered her his hospitality and she paid him back by shunning his community and living just outside his front gate. If she really wants to be left alone, why not disappear into the wilderness? Is she teasing him?

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