Fully automatic weapons are surprisingly easy to come by in post-apocalyptic rural Georgia, huh?
If you’re willing to sit through enough snoozers, eventually they reward you with an episode like last night’s. The cutesy beginning with Carol making cookies for her neighbors was practically a metaphor for what was to come. We’ve endured a hard dramatic slog over the last few weeks; now it’s time for a treat. The raid on the Saviors’ compound was one of the best action sequences they’ve ever done, occasionally silly — why didn’t the Saviors clear the hallway after they chased Glenn and the other guy into the, er, armory? — but consistently exciting, starting with the execution of the two guards outside. I’m willing to overlook the fact that they made the ragtag Grimes gang somehow as stealthy, lethal, and efficient as Delta Force if they’re willing to keep giving us scenes of close-quarters machine-gun shootouts.
My issue with it was that they presented the raid as a moral dilemma, replete with a trademark “why can’t we talk to them?” speech from Morgan at the group meeting, after having spent most of last week establishing that … it’s not much of a moral dilemma. The Saviors have coerced the Hilltop survivors into a protection racket. They’ve already beaten one Hilltopper to death to show that they mean business and they’re holding another hostage. The leader of the Hilltop gang was stabbed in the gut on Negan’s orders. Abraham and Sasha would already be dead, murdered by a biker contingent of Saviors, if Daryl hadn’t found an RPG in the nick of time. When Rick tells the group that they’re sure to be ambushed later by the Saviors if they don’t organize an ambush first, there’s every reason to believe that he’s right. So what’s the dilemma? The moral ambiguity in the Grimes doctrine, a.k.a. preemptive war, lies in the possibility that your target isn’t as much of a threat as you think. But there’s already abundant evidence that the Saviors are that much of a threat. In fact, they’re so much of a threat that even someone like me who avoids the comics knows how brutal Negan will end up being with his barbed-wire baseball bat “Lucille.” What should have been a tense argument between Morgan and Rick at the meeting as they hash out the pros and cons of attacking possibly innocent people ends up with Morgan looking like a chump.
If they wanted to stage a scene like this, with Team Rick suddenly on offense for once instead of waiting to be terrorized by other warlords, they should have done it a season or two ago with a completely different target that’s unknown to fans of the comics. Make it a genuine mystery: When Group A tells Rick that Group B is extorting them and offers to reward them for taking Group B down, how do we know they’re telling the truth? What if the Grimes gang got talked into being mercenaries with the promise of food, carried out a lethal raid on another group’s compound, and then found out that that group wasn’t as sinister as their paymasters had claimed? That would have been a real moral dilemma. Is killing for hire justifiable in the zompocalypse? What if you’re on the brink of starvation? What if Group A needed Group B eliminated because they were competing for some key resource and made up a story to have them liquidated? Doesn’t survival of the fittest justify some ruthlessness? Isn’t that sort of cunning a trait Rick Grimes should admire and want to partner with? Or should the Grimes gang punish Group A for lying by murdering all of them too?
All of this would have been more interesting as drama then sending Team Rick into Negan’s lair to liquidate a bunch of degenerates who keep death-porn photos of corpses with shattered skulls on their walls. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m not sure if we’ve ever seen the Grimes gang engaged in warfare with another group of survivors who are at least arguably “good.” They’re always pitted against sociopaths like the Governor or hardcore lunatics like the Terminus cannibals or the Wolves, which makes the rooting interests easy. Shouldn’t there come a point where Team Rick has a disagreement with the Alexandrians or the Hilltoppers or some other “reasonable” band of people and violence erupts because, hey, that’s just how it goes post-civilization? After six seasons, in a show that should lend itself very easily to antiheroes, we’re about due for a plotline like that. Instead we’re about to embark on another “Rick versus the bad guys” story arc with Negan and his bat. Oh well. There’s always next season!