Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 5: Go Getters

This week on The Walking Dead we revisit the Hilltop, in a very odd episode (odder even than King Ezekiel's introduction a few weeks back). I was all ready to say that nothing much happened in this bizarrely-paced episode, but the more I thought about it, I realized that wasn't true. Sure, it was slow, but it accomplished a poop-ton of setup, as it deliberately placed the various character pieces at strategic places on the game board.

If nothing else, Go Getters shows us that while Rick may be willing to kowtow to Negan for the sake of Alexandria, his people aren't. We now have at least four Alexandrians— Rosita, Maggie, Sasha and Carl— plus Jesus, who are all thirsting for Negan's blood. I can't imagine any of this ending well. Now that I think of it, this is probably why King Ezekiel keeps his relationship with Negan a secret— so his people don't try anything stupid, and upset the delicate peace. Too bad it's far too late for Rick to do the same.

Kudos to actor Xander Berkeley this week, for his wonderfully slimy performance as Hilltop leader Gregory. As written, Gregory is a one-note character who exists only for us to hate him. Somehow Berkeley infuses him with much more depth than he should have. Yes, Gregory's a sleazy asshole, but his reasons for throwing Maggie and Sasha out make perfect sense. "The needs of the many" and all that.

A perfect example of Berkeley's work: Sasha tries to work out a deal with Gregory, and he proposes they have a one-on-one "meeting" to discuss the matter. When Maggie accuses him of being a sexual deviant, Gregory seems legitimately taken aback that she could ever imagine such a thing. I've no doubt the scene was meant to present Gregory as a leering perv, but Berkeley manages to throw that expectation into doubt, making the character far more interesting than he deserves to be.

The scene in which Gregory gives in and kneels before the Saviors is obviously meant to make us hate him. But Rick did the exact same thing a few weeks ago, and he's still seen as a hero who's doing everything he can to save his people. Why's it shameful for Gregory but acceptable for Rick? Maybe this is the writers' attempt to give us a glimpse of what Rick could become if he too doesn't start fighting back.

Actor Steven Ogg, who plays Negan's lieutenant Simon, was also given a chance to shine in this episode. You may recognize Ogg as the basis for and voice of Trevor in the Grand Theft Auto V video game. 
He plays a surrogate Negan here, giving Simon an unsettling unpredictability, somehow pulling off the "Will He Kill Me For Looking At Him Funny Or Won't He" shtick far better than Jeffrey Dean Morgan. I can't believe I'm saying this, but by the end of the episode I was starting wonder if the producers should have cast Ogg as Negan instead.

A few weeks ago I noted that it appeared the show was giving Carl's comic book storyline to Daryl, which was going to cause major problems down the line. 

See, in the comic, Carl stows away in one of Negan's trucks and rides back to the Sanctuary. When he arrives, he jumps out of the truck and mows down several of Negan's men with a machine gun. Instead of bashing in Carl's head, Negan's actually taken with the little scamp. He then gives him the grand tour of the Sanctuary, showing him how things work, including his harem and how people who disobey him get "the iron."

He then returns Carl unharmed to Rick, as a goodwill gesture. This incident lays the groundwork for the Carl and Negan's future student/mentor relationship that happens in the comic. Swapping Daryl for Carl completely torpedoes this entire storyline.

Looks like maybe I spoken too soon. This episode would seem to indicate that they're going with the "Stowaway Carl" plot after all, just in a different form. So, um… never mind what I said a few weeks ago!

On the other hand, maybe they're veering from the comic after all. According to social media, actor Chandler Riggs, aka Carl, has just been accepted to Auburn University. Riggs also recently tweeted that he's completed his seven year contract with the series. This could all be nothing, or it could mean he's preparing to leave the show in pursuit of higher education.

Maybe the "Stowaway" storyline will end with Negan killing Carl after all. As I said earlier, in the comic, Negan took an instant liking to Carl when he infiltrated the Sanctuary. But that was most likely because he was still quite young, and even Negan would balk at killing a child. But TV Carl is now a surly teen. Negan might not think twice about "Lucille-ing" him.

If they do kill off Carl, it'll be a radical departure from the comic. There Carl develops into quite an important character, and plays a pivotal role in the "Whisperers" storyline. His absence would necessitate some major changes to that plot.

Maybe that's where Daryl comes in? Are they grooming him to take over Carl's part in the Whisperer saga?

Time will tell, I guess. Right now this is all speculation, and the college/contract thing may turn out to be no problem. The show could work around Riggs' college schedule, and contracts are renegotiated all the time.


The Plot:
Maggie wakes up in the Hilltop's hospital. Dr Carson explains that she's fine, she didn't lose the baby, but she needs to stay there for the remainder of her pregnancy. She walks outside and sees Sasha, who helped her get to Hilltop. Maggie asks to see Glenn and Abraham's graves. As they stand gazing at the graves, Sasha gives Glenn's pocket watch to Maggie, saying she found it in his pocket. Maggie places it on Glenn's grave. She says she has to stay for the baby's sake, and Sasha offers to remain with her.

Jesus arrives and places flowers on the graves. Gregory, the leader of the Hilltop, spots them and begins fuming. He's furious that Sasha buried her dead here, as the Hilltop always burns their bodies. He tells Maggie and Sasha they need to leave immediately. He says if the Saviors find out they're here, they'll realize he made a deal with Rick to wipe out Negan, which will only lead to trouble. Gregory's an asshole, but I can't argue with him here. Jesus talks Gregory into letting the women stay the night.

Back in Alexandria, Rick and Aaron are preparing to go on a supply run to find more stuff for Negan. Carl and Michonne apparently aren't concerned with Negan's threats, and refuse to go. Rick's apparently powerless to control them and leaves. Carl asks Michonne why she didn't go with Rick, and she says "she has some things to figure out." Uh-oh! I smell a super-sized solo Michonne episode coming! They both agree Rick's wrong to agree to Negan's terms.

Carl sees Enid trying to sneak over the wall. She says she's going to the Hilltop to see Maggie. Does she even know her? Carl tells Enid he's not saving her anymore and lets her leave.

Back at the Hilltop, Jesus moves Maggie and Sasha into a trailer. Sasha tells Jesus he should be the leader, because Gregory's an idiot. Maggie says no, he's a coward, which is more dangerous.

Enid rides a bicycle down a deserted road. She sees a walker up ahead, and suddenly a car appears and smashes it against a tree. She sees Carl's at the wheel. I guess he decided to save her after all? Later we see the two of them walking to the Hilltop. He tells her he plans to kill Negan for what he did to Glenn and Abraham. Carl finds two pairs of 1970s-era rollerskates (not rollerblades, but actual, honest to god skates) at the side of the road. The two share a rare happy moment as they skate to the Hilltop.

That night Maggie and Sasha are roused by loud music. They look outside and see the Hilltop's gates are wide open. The courtyard's filled with bonfires, and there's an old car blaring classical music. This of course attracts an army of walkers into the compound. Sasha tries to shut off the car stereo, but its doors are locked and the windows covered with metal mesh. She and Jesus begin fighting the walkers themselves, as the rest of the Hilltopians apparently can't be bothered. Maggie appears with a large tractor (?) and runs over the car, killing the music. They kill the remaining walkers and shut the gates.

Gregory says this was a message from the Saviors, and Maggie and Sasha need to leave now. Just then the Saviors arrive, and Gregory tells Jesus to hide the two women in the closet. Negan's lieutenant Simon enters Gregory's palatial home, along with his army. Simon tells Gregory that the group of Saviors who used to collect from the Hilltop were all wiped out by Rick and his people. He says Rick works for Negan now, and implies that Gregory shouldn't look to him for further help. Simon says if Gregory doesn't get the message, he can arrange more incidents like the one last night.

Gregory decides to betray Maggie and Sasha, as a show of good faith to Simon. He whips open the closet door, but is surprised when the women aren't there. Luckily Simon sees Gregory's stash of scotch, and thinks that's what he was showing him. He takes the several cases of booze back to the Sanctuary. He then forces Gregory to kneel before he leaves. Jesus, who's been watching this exchange, is repulsed by his so-called leader.

Carl and Enid are in the woods outside the Hilltop, watching as Negan's men load supplies into their convoy. Enid realizes Carl didn't come to save her, but to kill Negan. He asks her to come with him, but she refuses.

Gregory goes to his bedroom and opens the closet, finding Maggie and Sasha inside. Jesus says he didn't tell him which closet to hide them in. Maggie punches Gregory in the face for trying to betray them. She tells Gregory this is her home now and she's staying. In private, Sasha asks Jesus to find the address of the Sanctuary for her, obviously intending to kill Negan herself.

Maggie sees Enid at the graves, and invites her to stay. She gives Glenn's watch to Enid for some insane reason, saying she doesn't need objects to remember him by.

Negan's convoy pulls away from the Hilltop and heads back to the Sanctuary. Jesus uses his ninja skills to hop in the back of one of the trucks. He's surprised by Carl, who's already stowed away in the same truck.

• A couple of weeks ago I complained that the show kept turning its attention from the main cast, as it devoting entire episodes to the dubious adventures of lesser characters. I didn't see why this was necessary, as all they had to do was cross-cut between the various storylines and locations.

Whaddya know? This week The Walking Dead finally learns how to cross-cut!  We spend most of the episode at the Hilltop, but we get a brief scene in Alexandria, and a few slow, langorious interludes between Carl and Enid. See, writers? That wasn't so hard now, was it?

• In this episode we see that Carl's one-eyedness (is that a word?) makes him terrible at throwing darts.

It was a nice little touch, but it's just going to come back to bite the producers in the ass. Eventually we're going to see Carl brandishing a gun again, picking off walkers with pinpoint accuracy. If he can't hit a bullseye with a dart to save his life, he shouldn't be able to shoot a target with a gun either.

• Just how long has Maggie been pregnant now? It seems like months, but she still hasn't started showing. At this rate she'll have her baby sometime in Season 9.

• While watching the episode, I was very confused as to how Glenn and Abraham's bodies ended up buried at the Hilltop. Did Sasha and the previously ill Maggie drag them all the way there?

I had to rewatch the ending of the season premiere for the answer. After Negan kills Abraham and Glenn, he tells Rick & Co. they work for him now. He leaves them a blue pickup truck and rides off with his army. Maggie struggles to her feet and says she has to get to the Hilltop in order to save her unborn child, and will get there by herself. For some reason she insists on taking Glenn's body with her. Sasha says she'll help Maggie get there, and for no good reason says she's taking Abraham's body with her as well.

It's implied that Rick and the others load the bodies into the blue truck, and Sasha and Maggie drive it to the Hilltop. Note that we never actually see any of this happen though, as the whole scene is shot very vaguely and poorly.

The bodies should have been taken back to Alexandria and buried in their rapidly growing cemetery. After all, that's where Glenn and Abraham are from now. There was no sane or logical reason to take their remains to the Hilltop, a community to which they had absolutely no emotional connection.

It's patently obvious that the only reason for all this was so that Maggie could continue to visit Glenn's grave AFTER she decides to permanently stay at the Hilltop. This is plot trickery and lazy writing at its worst.

• In this episode, Enid rides a bike to get to the Hilltop. Imagine that! Using a bicycle! A mode of transportation that's faster than walking, doesn't need fuel and rarely breaks down. 

Yes, I can absolutely see why the characters on this show rarely if ever use one.

• Who's taking care of Baby Judith while Rick, Michonne and Carl are all gallivanting around outside the walls? Did they pawn her off on poor Father Gabriel again?

• The vague post apocalyptic Virginia geography strikes again!

So far we've been introduced to four different communities— Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom and the Sanctuary. All four of these communities regularly send out people on supply runs to scavenge food, medicine and other supplies. 

We don't know how exactly long the zombie apocalypse has been going on in the universe of the show. I'd guess three of four years, but online sources place it around two (!). We don't know long the various communities have existed, but lets say they've all been around for a year and a half. 

Four groups searching for supplies for a year and a half. Seems like they'd have found everything there is to find by now. They'll have to keep venturing farther and farther out each time, if they expect to find anything they can use.

• When Jesus first appeared last season, actor Tom Payne was wearing a very obvious wig and fake beard. Thankfully it looks like he's had time to grow the real thing for this season.

• Speaking of hair, Carl's ridiculously long locks are really bugging me. He grew it long in the comic to help hide the fact that the side of his face was missing, like a zombie-killing Veronica Lake (ask your grandparents, kids!). TV Carl's injury is much less extensive, so he has no reason to grow his hair this long.

I'm also wondering how much longer he's going to wear his trademark cowboy hat. It was cute when he wore it as a kid, but he looks like he's pushing eighteen now. Time to retire the hat.

• So Gregory's ostensibly in charge of the Hilltop, but is seemingly powerless to stop Jesus from ordering him around. Interesting.

• How the Holy Zombie Stomping Hell did the Saviors manage enter the Hilltop, park a car (complete with a stereo blaring classical music) in the middle of the courtyard and start several large bonfires without anyone seeing them or sounding an alarm? 

Does Gregory really not post guards on the Hilltop fence at night? Serves them right for getting trolled by the Saviors then!

Last season in Start To Finish, a church tower collapsed and knocked down part of Alexandria's wall, and tidal wave of walkers poured in. That was presented as a HUGE deal, and it took the full efforts of every resident to wipe out the invading zombies and restore order.

This week the Saviors open the Hilltop's gates and let a similar horde of walkers in. Maggie, Sasha and Jesus easily dispatch them all by themselves in just a couple of minutes.

Make up your mind, The Walking Dead. Is a walker invasion inside your walls a problem or just a slight inconvenience?

• Why were Maggie and Sasha locked inside their little trailer when the Saviors busted in to deliver their "message?" Did the Saviors lock their door from the outside while they were setting up their surprise? Did Jesus lock 'em in to keep the pervy Gregory out?

• I said it earlier, but it bears repeating— I'm starting to like Simon more than Negan. He's just as dangerous, but not as over the top.

• Simon tells his men to take half the Hilltop's stuff, starting with Gregory's house. What a lucky break for Maggie and Sasha that it never occurred to even one of the Saviors to check the closets!

• When Sasha returns Glenn's pocket watch to Maggie, she places it on Glenn's grave. Later Gregory steals it, and Maggie takes it back from him. Then Enid shows up, and for some reason Maggie give it to her, of all people.

I know Glenn and Enid had a brief friendship, but does Maggie know her? Have they ever exchanged so much as a "hello?" I honestly can't remember. That's how important they are to one another.

Maggie says she doesn't need objects like a watch to remember Glenn, as long as he's in her heart or some tripe like that. Fair enough. But what about her unborn child? Wouldn't the watch be a nice memento of a father the kid will never know?

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