Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 15: Something They Need

Oh, The Walking Dead. Your patterns are oh so familiar to me by now, yet I'm still continually surprised by the bizarre ways in which you tell your stories. 

Every season it's the same thing. Start with two fast-paced, exciting episodes. Pad the middle of the season with ten or twelve hours of filler. End with two fast-paced ones. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In fact, this season of The Walking Dead reminds me a lot of The Lord Of The Rings books. Not in content of course, lord no— but in their pacing. As much as I like them, I can't deny the fact that the LOTR books creep along at a glacial pace for a thousand pages. Then it's like Tolkien suddenly realized he only had a couple hundred pages left to wrap up the story, so he shifted the pace into overdrive. 

So it is with Season 7 of The Walking Dead. The show's dragged its feet for the past twelve episodes, and only in these last two are things finally starting to happen. Seriously, did the show really need to spend an entire episode introducing us to the Oceansiders? An hour devoted solely to Eugene? A whole show dedicated to MelonGate?

It's obvious at this point that the producers are trying to time their storylines so there are two cliffhangers per year— one at the mid-season break, and one in the finale. Unfortunately it appears there's just not enough material to fill up all the episodes in between those milestones. Which is why we get week after week of filler.

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating— Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has perfected the art of serialized storytelling on TV. Instead of having one long storyline per season, which inevitably results in foot-dragging and padding, they have multiple arcs. Usually two, but sometimes three per season. This means their story "pods" as they call them move along at a brisk clip, with little or no time for filler episodes. I really wish The Walking Dead would look into this method soon.

This week's episode also get the All New, All Dedicated, Purpose Driven Rick. Trouble is, this Rick doesn't seem all that different from Negan. He barges into the Oceanside community, tells everyone to get on their knees at gunpoint, and announces he's taking ALL their weapons. As an afterthought he says they can join his cause if they want, but he's taking their guns regardless.

I'm assuming the writers did this on purpose, to try and muddy the moral waters a bit. They show us a Rick who employs the exact same tactics as his enemy, minus the baseball bat. Meanwhile, they try to convince us that Negan actually has a moral code, as we find out he doesn't tolerate rape among his ranks.

I'm guessing this is supposed to be some sort of clever commentary on how the only difference between the two sides is their point of view. That living under a bully is preferable to living under a worse bully, or something.

I get it, but I'm not sure it's a particularly good idea to try and equate Rick with Negan. Maybe with a better group of writers, but frankly I don't think the ones on this show are good enough to pull it off.


For several weeks now I've been predicting that Sasha's going to die in the season finale. There are several reasons for this, the most important being that Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays Sasha, has signed up to be the lead in the new Star Trek: Discovery TV series.

Showrunner Scott Gimple keeps assuring viewers that this doesn't necessarily mean Martin-Greene is leaving the show, as he'd be willing to work around her Trek schedule. Of course that's exactly what I'd say if was the producer of a series and didn't want the internet to know one of my actresses was jumping ship.

I've also been predicting that Sasha would be written off the show by taking the place of Holly, a character from the comic. 

See, in the comic, Holly was captured by the Saviors and taken to Negan. While there, she's almost raped by a Savior named David. 
Negan catches David in the act and brutally (how else?) kills him, as rape don't fly in the Sanctuary. Negan then makes a big show of bringing Holly back to Alexandria as a "peace offering" to Rick. Holly, who's wearing a bag over her head, is let loose and stumbles toward Alexandria's gate. Dr. Cloyd (who was still alive in the comic at that point) rushes forward to grab Holly. She removes the bag from her head, and we see Negan's apparently killed her and she's turned. She then bites the surprised Dr. Cloyd on the arm before Rick shoots her in the head.

This week's episode confirms my theory 100%. As it opens, Sasha's been captured by the Saviors. While there, she's almost raped by a Savior named David. Negan catches David in the act and brutally (how else?) kills him, as rape don't fly in the Sanctuary. Negan then tells Sasha to rest up, as "tomorrow's gonna be a big day." 

Sound familiar? It should, as the comic's entire attempted rape subplot was recreated word-for-word in live action in this episode. It's patently obvious at this point that the writers have grafted Holly's storyline onto Sasha. The only question left is who'll she'll bite when the bag's lifted from her head. My money's on Aaron's husband Eric, who got an uncharacteristic little moment to shine in this week's episode.

A few weeks ago I also predicted how I thought the rest of the season would play out. I said we'd get an entire episode of Rick talking the Oceansider's into joining his fight. Wellllll, I was kind of right about that one. Except it wasn't an entire episode, and Rick didn't ask but simply took the Oceansider's guns.

Last week I also predicted that Gregory would get fed up with Maggie usurping his power, and run to the Sanctuary to ask Simon for help. And that's just what happened this week. I'm betting that next week Simon will take Gregory to see Negan, who'll listen to his case and say he'll be glad to help. And then Negan will gut Gregory like a fish for being such a little bitch, just like he did when Spencer tattled to him in Hearts Still Beating.

And I predicted the mystery figure at the end of last week's episode was Dwight, not Daryl, and he was planning on switching sides. That came to pass this week too.

I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but... BEEP BEEP! So far my predictions have been pretty spot on! I don't know whether that means I've been watching this series too long, or the writing's becoming wayyyyy too predictable.


The Plot:
Tara finally tells Rick about the Oceanside community. As you might expect, he asks why the hell she waited this long to mention them, when she knew they were sitting on a huge cache of weapons. She tells him she promised she'd keep them a secret. Rick tells her "The Needs Of The Many Outweigh The Needs Of The Few" or some such crap, saying she shouldn't feel guilty about betraying a trust in this instance. She leads him and the other Alexandrians to Oceanside.

At the Hilltop, Maggie teaches the residents about gardening, while Gregory looks on, seething that's she's slowly usurping his power.

Outside Oceanside, Rick and the others prepare their ambush. Michonne climbs a tree with her sniper rifle, while Daryl and Jesus set explosives around the perimeter.

We then see that Sasha was apparently captured in her one woman raid on the Sanctuary at the end of last week's episode. Boy, am I glad they didn't show us a boring old action scene like that this week! Sasha's now being held prisoner in Daryl's old cell. A creeper named David opens the door, and Sasha asks him for some water. He says he'll give her some if she does something for him, and rips her shirt half off. Sasha head-butts him, and David smiles. He moves toward her, slowly undoing his belt.

Suddenly Negan appears in the doorway and asks David if he was planning on raping Sasha. David stammers, and Negan reminds him that rape is against the rules in the Sanctuary. Nice to know that the guy who routinely beats people to death with a baseball bat and presses their faces with hot irons has some scruples!

David fumbles a meek apology to Negan, who says he doesn't accept it. He then plunges a huge Bowie knife into David's neck, killing him instantly. Negan orders a Savior to get Sasha a new t-shirt, and tells her he's sorry she had to see that, as they're not monsters in the Sanctuary (!).

Negan then tells Sasha he admires her initiative, trying to take him down all by herself. He asks her if Rick put her up to the raid. Sasha pretends she's fed up with Alexandria by saying that Rick is now Negan's bitch. Amazingly he then offers her a place in the Sanctuary (what is it with this guy constantly trying to assimilate his sworn enemies?). He places his knife on the floor and tells her she has three choices. She can try to kill him, slit her wrists or use it on David when he turns and comes after her again. He then locks her cell door and leaves her sitting in the dark.

Some time later Eugene enters Sasha's cell with blankets and a pillow. She asks why he's working with the Saviors, and he replies "They're keeping me safe."

At the Hilltop, Gregory makes a rare excursion outside the walls to talk with Maggie, who's digging up a blueberry bush. He tells her they need to start working together, something I'm pretty sure he's said now in at least two or three previous episodes. Maggie agrees, and tells him to stand watch while she digs up the plant. He pulls out a knife (lots of knives in this episode), and for a terrifying minute he actually considers stabbing her in the back to rid himself of his rival. Naturally he's too big of a wimp to go through with it.

Suddenly a walker appears out of the woods, and Gregory says he'll deal with it. Once he gets close he's overwhelmed by its stench and appearance, and asks Maggie to kill it for him. As she easily dispatches it, another walker apparently teleports next to Gregory and attacks him. It almost bites him before Maggie kills it as well. Unfortunately for Gregory, a group of Hilltopians are returning from a scavenging mission just then and witness his pathetic display, making him look even worse in their eyes (if that's possible).

Back at Oceanside, Natania, the leader of the comminity, enters her house and finds Tara pointing a gun at her. Cyndie then enters, sees Tara, and is pissed that she broke her promise to never come back or reveal their location. Tara asks Natania to meet with Rick about joining his cause, but she refuses. Tara warns her that if they don't join Rick, he'll just take their guns anyway (!).

Suddenly explosions go off outside, as Rick and the Alexandrians invade Oceanside. Two of the Oceansiders head for their armory, but Michonne fires a few warning shots in front of them and they stop. Rick and the others round up all the Oceansiders and make them kneel in a large group. Gosh, that seems familiar. What other leader do we know who makes his victims kneel before him? I ain't talkin' about Zod!

Suddenly Natania enters the clearing, holding Tara captive with a gun pointed at her head. She orders Rick and his people to leave, but he says that's not happening. He tells her quite dispassionately that if she kills Tara, he'll just kill her and take the guns anyway. Apparently this amazingly motivational speech actually inspires several of the Oceansiders enough to consider joining his cause.

Suddenly a group of watery, barnacle-covered walkers appear (no doubt attracted by the explosions). Cyndie punches Natania in the face, knocking her out. The Alexandrians and Oceansiders then join forces to wipe out the soggy walker herd. Natania comes to and tells Rick to just take the guns already, but still refuses to join his war, saying it would lead to retaliation and disaster (she ain't wrong!).

Jesus and the others load up the RV with dozens of baskets full of guns. Father Gabriel asks Rick if they really need ALL the guns, and he assures him they do. Tara tells Rick he did the right thing as always (of course) and she no longer feels bad for breaking her promise.

Back at the Sanctuary, Negan peeks into Sasha's cell and sees she put down David. He tells her he knows Rick's planning something (uh-oh) and he wants her to help stop him. He lets her out of her cell and invites her to enjoy herself, telling her that tomorrow's gonna be a "big day." Those of you who've read Issue #119 of The Walking Dead comic know exactly what that sinister-sounding phrase means.

At the Hilltop, Gregory decides he's had enough of Maggie. He pulls out the directions to the Sanctuary that Simon gave him last week, and tells his personal assistant Cal that he wants him to drive him someplace.

In the Sanctuary, Eugene talks to Sasha through the door of her room (?). She tells him she's scared and feels trapped, and the only way out for her is death. She tearfully begs for Eugene to bring her something she can use to kill herself. He balks, but says he'll think about it. We then see a smiling Sasha on the other side of the door, as we realize she's playing Eugene, hoping he brings her something with which she can kill Negan.

Later on Eugene returns and slips a poison pill under her door (the one he ostensibly made for Negan's wives in Hostiles And Calamities). Sasha starts crying for real, as she realizes Eugene just inadvertently screwed her over.

Rick and the others return to Alexandria. They're surprised to find Rosita there waiting for them. Rosita tells Rick that someone's there to see him. She takes him to their makeshift jail, where he sees Dwight sitting inside. Rosita tells Rick that Dwight wants to help them.

• Apparently quite a bit of action happened off camera between last week's episode and this one. At the very end of The Other Side we saw Sasha run headlong into the Sanctuary, guns a'blazin.' Suddenly at the beginning of this episode she's cooling her heels inside Daryl's former cell, as Negan casually mentions the trouble she caused the night before. What the hell?

It seems odd that a series that's insisted on showing us literally EVERY tiny detail all season long would completely skip over a major event like this. Thanks, The Walking Dead writers, for having the wisdom to let Sasha's daring, one-woman raid and subsequent capture play out completely offscreen, while showing us every excruciating second of Rick and Michonne's riveting search for guns in Say Yes.

• In Oceanside, Natania sees Rachel carrying a fish, and asks if she caught it herself. Rachel cockily replies, "Sh*t yeah" Natania then scolds her for cursing.

On the one hand, I guess Natania is trying her best here to maintain some degree of civilization in Oceanside. On the other hand, doesn't it seem kind of silly to worry about a child saying "sh*t" in a world where shambling corpses are trying to eat you?

• Negan kills David and leaves his body lying in Sasha's cell. After a very long time, he finally turns and she stabs him in the head and puts him down for good.

Apparently the time it takes for the recently deceased to turn varies wildly from person to person. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes, other times, like in this episode, it takes literally hours.

I suppose this makes a certain amount of sense, as we've seen that the amount of time it takes for a person to die from a zombie bite varies as well.

• A couple weeks ago Aaron's husband Eric was angry with him for constantly risking his life by going on dangerous missions with Rick.
Suddenly this week Eric seemingly changes his tune, and volunteers for the Oceanside raid. Aaron asks him why, and the two of them share this moment:
Aaron: "I'm glad you came. I know it's been hard. I know you don't want this."
Eric: "Didn't want this, but I'm starting to understand what's on the menu now. We can hide like these people, we can keep trying to serve The Saviors, and I can watch you get randomly beaten every so often, or else we can fight. So, here we are. And being with you, well it makes abject terror tolerable."

Ooooh, sorry Eric! Your heroic change of heart, along with your reaffirmation of your love for Aaron just sealed your fate. You're being killed off, most likely in next week's episode. It's been great having you on the show, and we have some lovely parting gifts for you.

• What was up with Carl and Enid's two very brief, yet incredibly bizarre conversations in this episode? When the Alexandrians are preparing for their raid on Oceanside, they share this short exchange:

Enid: "Do you ever think about who you've killed?"

Carl: "Yeah."

Later when they've won and are collecting the Oceansiders' guns, we get this:

Carl: (to Enid) "It's not just the ones I killed. I think about the people I didn't kill, too."

I think maybe he's referring to Negan here, and how he should have shot him when he had the chance back in Sing Me A Song. I think. These two exchanges are so brief and odd I'm not quite sure why they're even here. It's almost like they included these scenes just to remind us the characters are still on the show.

Symbolism Alert! A few weeks ago I noted that the episode Bury Me Here was absolutely loaded with obvious, heavy-handed symbolism (such as Carol literally seeing a storm on the horizon, and King Ezekiel's peaceful garden being invaded by pests). 

The writer's did it again! In this episode Gregory pulls out a knife and considers betraying his rival Maggie by stabbing her in the back. Literally! Luckily for her he doesn't go through with it.

• Actor Xander Berkeley does an amazing job as the slimy and conniving Gregory in this episode. The scene in which he struggled over whether or not to kill Maggie was very well done, and really sold the notion that Gregory's nothing more than a worthless, impotent and dangerous coward.

Sonequa Martin-Green was also excellent as Sasha in this episode. Particularly the scene in which the unseen Sasha pleads with Eugene to provide her with a way to kill herself. I almost half believed her myself, until we finally saw her face on the other side of the door.

• The soggy, waterlogged, barnacle-encrusted zombies in this episode were pretty cool, and a type I don't think we've seen on the show before.

• As Rick takes ALL the Oceansider's guns, Tara tells Cyndie not to worry, saying, "We're gonna bring them back when it's all over."

How the hell can Tara promise something like that? The vast majority of these weapons are going to the weirdo Scavangers, in order to convince them to join the cause. I honestly don't see them willingly giving up the guns once the conflict is over.

• As I said above, I was pretty sure the writers were grafting Holly's storyline onto Sasha. This episode's attempted rape scene confirms it 100%. Additionally, the dialogue in the scene is lifted practically word-for-word straight from the comic. See for yourself in this comparison of the scene as it played out in the comic and in the episode:

There's Creepy David, being creepy and crouching before Sasha just like he did with Holly in the comic, saying the exact same lines.

And just like in the comic, Creepy David gets a little carried away and rips Sasha's shirt.

Uh-oh! Negan catches David in the act. The only real difference here is that in the comic, David disrobed Holly a bit more than TV David does with Sasha.

It's almost like they're using the comic as a storyboard for the show.

Yep! Definitely using the comic panels as storyboards. And as a script! 

If this doesn't 100% confirm that Sasha will suffer Holly's horrific fate next week, then I don't know what does.

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