You’ve gotta wonder exactly at what point Rick is going to realize this assassination mission probably wasn’t the best way to go. This slow ride to another catastrophe definitely isn’t going to end well and the beginning kicked off tonight.
If you can call an Expendables style shootout the calm before the storm, this episode would be The Walking Dead equivalent to the wind up before everything hits the fan.
Rick and company returned to break down the trade agreement with Hilltop. Kill Negan and his Saviors and enjoy a plentiful trade relationship complete with food and supplies. Not wanting to re-institute the Rick-ocracy, Rick wanted to put the decision up for vote (not really). His mind’s already been made up, but Rick now understands the need for making everyone feel like their voices matter.
Predictably, Morgan was the only one who wanted to talk with the Saviors instead of going in guns blazing and swords swinging. True, Rick’s plan lacks a certain level of compassion, but Morgan doesn’t seem like he learned anything from his experience with the Wolves’ leader.
It was important that everyone except Daryl and Rick had some degree of apprehension about this plan. Some, like Aaron, needed less convincing, but Michonne and some of Rick’s most trusted lieutenants were less than thrilled about the prospects of becoming straight up executioners. What’s most intriguing is that by this point, everyone within Alexandria’s limits has seen crazy up close and personal.
Whether The Governor and his army assault on the prison, Gareth and the cannibal Terminus crew or more recently with the Wolves’ invasion. In all those encounters, which resulted in tremendously personal losses, they were on the defensive. Going after the Saviors and Negan is actively hunting down tragedy and everyone seems to realize this mission won’t come without some major sacrifices.
Rick wasn’t playing around on this one, bringing his full Killer Elite Squad of Daryl, Michonne, Carol, Sasha, Abraham, Maggie, Rosita and Aaron along with a few Alexandria redshirts and Hilltoppers Jesus and Andy (Jeremy Palko).
This philosophical clash with Morgan over all life being precious changed Carol. She understands the core fundamentals of life in this new walker world, but in Alexandria she has the opportunity to have a normal life again. She’s baking, foraging for ingredients in the woods (side note: you’d think no one would bother wearing white when encountering walkers is a possibility) and even getting her flirt on with Tobin. Good for Carol, it’s only been five seasons since she had a real love interest.
As Tobin explained, Carol has become the de facto mother of the group and like any good mother, there’s nothing she won’t do to protect her children. But behind Alexandria’s walls, you get the sense Carol has a greater appreciation for the new status quo much more than when she was stuck with a loser husband and doting on Sophia. And seeing Maggie risk a better life by still going out on missions, frustrated Carol, who reverted to mom mode by demanding Maggie stay behind during the Savior base assault.
The other romantic interludes felt out of place. Tara and Denise’s relationship gets a lot of screen time for being so dull while Aaron and Eric’s has rarely been mentioned. Abraham decided the night before the suicide mission was a good time to break up with Rosita. Abraham has never been the group tactician, but having an ally potentially so emotionally distraught on the eve of an important operation seemed stupid. I appreciated the writers not having Rosita be a bawling, emotional mess the next day and was instead fully prepared to execute the plan.
Rick’s plan to gain access to the Saviours’ base needed some major luck. He had the group spread out and look for a walker that somewhat resembled Hilltop leader Gregory so Andy could carry out Negan’s edict to bring him Gregory’s head. Somehow the plan worked and Rick’s crew began silently taking out the Saviors.
Again, in every other instance, Rick and company have unquestionably been the good guys just fighting for survival. Here, they were thief in the night style killers and it was more than a little uneasy to watch unfold. Glenn and Heath were extremely reluctant to kill without remorse and Glenn ended up having to do the honors for Heath. Thankfully, the Saviors helped make our heroes becoming assassins far more tolerable as they had pictures of people with bashed in/shot up faces taped to the walls. Rick and crew may be crossing an uncomfortable line, but the Saviors have long since made camp on that side and are enjoying the view.
The silent ambush could only last but so long and from there, the knives were sheathed and the guns came out. Faced with a fairer fight, Rick’s crew quickly got back into their comfort zone and efficiently took out the Saviors security. Jesus proved to be a reliable ally saving Heath and Glenn and even Gabriel came through in the clutch. Yep, it was another solid win for the Grimes Gang. Until it wasn’t.
A lone Savior tried to speed away on a motorcycle only to get taken down by Daryl. The Savior had a walkie talky and the voice on the other end tells Rick and crew to drop their guns as they’ve got Maggie and Carol. Uh-oh.
The Saviors/Grimes Gang confrontation took center stage, but the next chapters look to be the defining moments of an already memorable season.