Lot going on last night, starting with a role reversal for the two male leads. Who’s the soft-spoken guy mourning a loved one who regrets seeing so much death around him? Why, that would be … Negan? And who’s the ruthless monster who’d lie to the enemy’s face to save his own skin and then murder them in cold blood once their backs are turned? That, of course, would be … Rick? The script, it has flipped. It’s either a bold commentary on the hard reality of situational morals when civilization has broken down *or* the writers got bored with these two jabronis running in their same little characterological circles week after week.
Remind me, why was Rick so hellbent on murdering the escaped Savior prisoners? He’s grief-sick over “Coral,” right, but the Saviors didn’t kill him. The little yutz got bit during a routine tussle with a zombie. The Savior prisoners were reasonably well behaved at the Hilltop and most of them seemed earnest in wanting to defect to Rick’s side, which would have given the Grimes gang numbers against the Sanctuary. Wasting them after they proved their loyalty by saving Rick and Morgan seemed not just cruel but inexplicable; it would have made more sense for Morgan to go berserk and slaughter them all while Rick begged him not to. All I can figure is that the writers are setting up yet another shift in Rick’s bipolar personality: He spends half of each season in “kill ’em all” mode and the other half trying to scratch out a peaceful society. The massacre was probably just a device setting up a pivot from the former to the latter triggered by him finally reading Carl’s “give peace a chance” farewell letter.
I’m glad Morgan is headed to “Fear the Walking Dead.” His teetering-on-the-brink shtick is played out, even if it did make for a great moment at the end of the episode when he half-boasted, half-grieved to Henry that he had killed the Saviors. Lennie James gets stuck with some of the most garbage dialogue on the show (his maudlin exchanges with Carol last night were the worst writing of the season) but that bit at the end was superbly played. The point of that scene is to admonish Henry that being good at killing won’t make him as happy as he thinks, but there’s nothing in the dialogue to get that point across. It’s all in the delivery. In a few words, the actor has to convey how deeply broken Morgan is by his fulfillment of Henry’s ideal of heroism. Not many actors on this show could do it. James can. If we’ve reached his final few episodes on TWD, that’s a fine note on which to send him off.
The Negan/Jadis set piece was one of the worst things the show’s ever done. Glimpses at hidden emotional depths from Negan are always welcome, as his character was far too one-note for far too long, but nothing about that scene made sense. Jadis went out looking for Negan, miraculously found him alone and vulnerable, went to the trouble of dragging him back to the dump and setting up an elaborate, drawn-out “Dr. Evil”-style death by zombie, was all set to exact sweet revenge for the Saviors’ massacre of her people, and then … had a last-second change of heart when Negan apologized and held off on burning her photos. What? Where did he even get the photos and the flare (and the gun)? He was tied up the whole time he was in that holding cell, I thought. If she was going to hold off on killing him, she could have ransomed him to Rick’s gang in return for food or weapons or whatever. What he says about not having ordered the slaughter of her community happens to be true, but there’s no way for Jadis to have known that. She had every reason to kill him. As it is, “This story seemed more like an exercise to take Negan off the board for a couple of episodes to delay the main event for the finale,” notes IndieWire. Indeed. The only value to it was the parallel between Negan’s treatment of Jadis and Rick’s treatment of the Saviors. Each faced death at the hands of a captor, but only Rick took revenge once freed. Are we … supposed to be rooting for Negan now?
Oh, and if you’re wondering about that helicopter, read this. Some useful possibilities there. Exit question: Who did Negan pick up en route to the Sanctuary at the end? It has to be Dwight’s long-lost wife, right? She’s the only missing cast member I can think of whom he wouldn’t necessarily approach with hostility if he ran into them.