Warning Signs was another episode that shows the major improvements of this season of The Walking Dead. We’re just three episodes in, but it feels like the point in previous seasons where something is finally about to happen.
We don’t have to wait long to learn Justin’s fate. He’s become a meal for walkers and eventually turns into one. In the distance is a spray painted note saying Final Warning. That’s nice and ominous and as it turns out, a great misdirect.
In a rare moment of smiles and laughter, Rick spends a family day with Michonne and Judith. It’s so weird/nice seeing Rick goofing off and enjoying a moment. The burden of leadership has been hard on him and he deserves a brief interlude of happiness.
Naturally it doesn’t last as the Saviors want answers after walker Justin pops up. There’s a big standoff as Jed (Entourage’s Rhys Coiro) is sparking a revolt. He’s yet another problematic Savior that can influence everyone and mess up everything for Rick’s crew. Top on the Saviors’ suspect list is Daryl or Anne — both very reasonable choices.
Gabriel chats up Anne just to be sure she didn’t know anything, but he’s curious enough to follow her to the junk yard. Anne still isn’t fully on the up and up and communicates with someone on a walky talky who’s asking about an A or a B. Gabriel makes out enough to learn Anne’s been trading people for supplies for her crew. But with no crew now she wants out.
Since Gabriel stood up for her when no one else did, including Rick, he can come along. Rick is bros before artists and says he can’t join her. Nice to see Gabriel display some loyalty. Anne knocks him out amazed that she had him pegged as a B all this time.
Rick goes through the token gesture of talking to Daryl in a show of good faith for The Saviors. But his bigger problem is his blindspot to Daryl’s loyalty and his lingering guilt. Mainly Daryl’s pissed that The Saviors get to enjoy this bright new future that Glenn, Abraham, Sasha and the others who fought them will never see.
Daryl still blames himself for Glenn’s death and it’s a big reason his loyalty has shifted to Maggie recently. By killing Negan or helping Maggie kill him, maybe he can look at baby Herschel without guilt?
The beauty of this season of The Walking Dead is that neither side is fully right or wrong. Rick is being oblivious to the fact that just because he had an epiphany not everyone was going to be ready for a round of Kumbaya with the Saviors. And Maggie has to see her quest for vengeance just repeats the cycle of endless war.
During a routine border check, Arat goes missing and Beatrice. Arat is one of the few even-tempered Saviors who has bought in fully to Rick’s new world order. Losing her could be catastrophic for the peace. Jerry asks what happens when they find the perpetrator, specifically will it be a Negan or a Gregory?
Three episodes in and one of the biggest changes of showrunner Angela Kang’s run is that the walkers are dangerous again. They’re not these hordes of bumbling, stumbling idiots and are fully capable of overwhelming people because of their numbers. The scene at the abandoned house wasn’t a big epic moment, but just enough to remind us the walkers are a formidable presence at any point.
Rick and Carol search and Rick reiterates that what he’s doing is for the future with a look to the past. He’s got to honor everyone they lost by building life, not taking it because it’s them or the dead and every life counts now. These were the kinds of mission statements that were missing from Rick in previous seasons. Naive as he might be, Rick sounds like a genuine leader again now.
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Maggie and Daryl are also considering leadership. They know Rick’s play in the right play long-term, but they still have very hard feelings for the Saviors. And unfortunately, it’s them who finds out who’s been killing Saviors.
Cyndie, Beatrice and a small posse from Oceanside have Arat. They’ve been getting payback for the Saviors killing off their family. That Final Warning message? It was from Simon as the Saviors killed a slew of the Oceanside crew. Cyndie and the others fell in line with Rick’s plan because they didn’t see another way. Right up until Maggie killed Gregory.
It’s important to remember how much crap The Saviors put everyone through. While it made for some boring and tough to endure episodes, the Saviors relished abusing their power and bullying everyone they thought was weaker. So maybe it’s not so sad that they’re facing justice. Even if in a case like Arat she’s now trying to do the right thing. This season really is exploring an interesting topic of how to handle war criminals.
Maggie and Daryl completely sympathize with Oceanside and let Cyndie kill Arat. While they don’t know her fate, The Saviors walk off from the bridge construction site. Among that crew is Jed and his buddy who were spared after their botched ambush of Rick and Carol. Talk about ingrates.
Figuring they gave it a fair chance, Maggie and Daryl are done playing by Rick’s rules. It’s time to see Negan. I keep saying it, but this season really would fare so much better if both Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan weren’t leaving. Lincoln only has two episodes left right when this conflict is heating up. Who’s going to carry the torch for both sides when Rick and Maggie are gone? Michonne/Carol and Daryl and Jesus?
For now, it’s still about appreciating the improvements to this season. Warning Signs paid off one big mystery while another one just gets started and the community fracture spills over further.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC