Is “Star Trek” the right comparison here? Or is there a better one?

“Mad Max” was actually my first thought last night when the junkyard weirdos revealed their kingdom to Rick. They look, talk, and dress like mutants from the future, speaking an inexplicably broken version of English unlike anyone else we’ve met in the series. Once Rick was thrown in the pit to do battle with the armored zombie, though, all I could see was “Trek.” He’s Captain Kirk, sent into gladiatorial combat to prove his mettle by defeating the local monster, while the strange alien race he’s just encountered looks on — and as with any classic “Trek” episode, there’s zero suspense as to whether Kirk will triumph. Other TWD fans also saw the “Trek” and “Mad Max” (and “Star Wars”) references, and there’s good reason for that. According to this site, the junkyard weirdos don’t appear in the comics; the writers of this show created them on the fly to provide the Grimes gang with the extra manpower they’ll need to take out the Saviors. Forced to come up with a new, wholly original group of survivors, they basically just cribbed a “Star Trek” colony — and added an admittedly rad zombie-monster — before dropping Rick and the gang square in the middle of it, never mind whether that makes any sense. I realize that the Saviors story arc can only end with Rick beating Negan to death with Lucille, but given this freaky deaky turn the show has now taken, I think I’d prefer to see Negan taken out by “Jadis” with a phaser before she turns towards Rick and gives him the Vulcan salute. She seems to communicate a lot with hand gestures, after all. As any alien living in a junk heap in rural Georgia might.

One other increasingly obvious wrinkle to how this season’s going to play out is that Carol’s going to die heroically in battle against the Saviors, right? Arguably even more so than Rick, she’s become the show’s Achilles; she’s sulking in her tent right now, but once she hears that Patroclus is dead, she’ll be back on the battlefield with fire in her eyes. I think she already realizes that Daryl wasn’t telling the truth when he claimed that none of the Grimes crew had been killed by Negan. Carol’s savvy enough to know that Daryl would lie to her to try to put her mind at ease. It was telling that she kept on crying even after he’d tried to assure her. Once she finds out that Negan played T-ball with Glenn’s and Abraham’s heads, she’s going to go Rambo on the Saviors — before dying valorously in the season finale. She’s become too much of a sideline on the show, and her reputation as an unusually skilled warrior has grown too much, for her to return to regular duty as a face in the crowd amid Team Grimes, I think. The battle with the Saviors will require at least one “core” character to be liquidated and she’s the most obvious candidate, as Rick and Daryl still carry too much of the narrative load. For extra irony, I assume it’ll be Morgan who eventually spills the beans to her about Glenn and Abraham, as he’s the last person in the Grimes gang who wants to see Carol at risk and driven to kill. But she’s obviously not going to hole up in her shack forever, and as I say, it’s equally obvious that she can’t go back to being one of Rick’s lieutenants after this lo-o-o-ng streak she’s been on in asserting her independence. The only option left is heroic death. A better show would bump off Rick and put her in charge of the group as she’s by far the more interesting character, but then there are a lot of things a better show would do that this one doesn’t.

Exit question: The “bonding” moment at the end between Daryl and the tiger was a bit much, no? We get it — he’s the strong, silent, soulful quasi-Indian brave with whom the savage yet noble beasts of the Earth naturally feel a spiritual kinship. We get it.