What It Always Is might not have been the most exciting episode this season, but it did set in motion from very intriguing developments as we near the mid-season break.
Can you hear me now?
In one subplot, Kelly’s hearing is fading faster than expected. This makes her going out on her own incredibly stupid. I like the new arrivals more as a concept than based on their actual development with the exception of Connie and Luke. They’ve been fleshed out better than Magna, Kelly and Yumiko, who are just now starting to get some focus beyond being the latest group to show up.
Connie, Daryl and Magna go searching for her and just when things start to look bad, Dog finds her. Kelly is in a bad way so it’s a good thing Magna and Kelly were stealing supplies from Alexandria and hiding them in the woods in case things go sideways. This would be a winning strategy if Magna and co. were with Madison/Morgan’s crew in Fear the Walking Dead when it’s more a matter of when than if things go bad. With Daryl and the communities that’s less a survival measure and more of a reason to get kicked out. Their actions would have made more sense last season instead of now when they’ve become fully accepted.
I’m not digging this out of nowhere problems with Magna and Yumiko either. Their relationship issues seems more a function of trying to make viewers care about them on a personal level, but this is a relationship that hasn’t offered much reason for an investment.
Ezekiel gets some bad news
Ezekiel isn’t doing so well. He’s sweating and acting somewhat delirious. Siddiq checks him out and discovers a lump revealing thyroid cancer. Back in civilized times, this had a 98 percent successful treatment rate, but that’s not the case now. That’s an interesting plot point where something that previously wasn’t an issue is now a major threat. I just wish it wasn’t happening with Ezekiel.
This is a major switch from just last week when he decided life was worth living again. If anything this reveal would have been more impactful during his conversation with Michonne. This feels like piling more onto Ezekiel who’s already lost The Kingdom, Shiva, Henry and Carol. Maybe the poor dude should have jumped?
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Gamma is out for a walk and is “spotted” by Aaron on patrol. Alpha is working through her latest scheme, but is questioned by a Whisperer that she slices and Beta kills the standard way so he can be a guardian/bodyguard for Gamma. You’ve gotta think any Whisperer who has a contrary thought to Alpha would just learn by this point to just keep it to themselves.
Gamma doesn’t care much for a protector and hacks away at her guardian before slicing up her hand. Aaron tosses her some gauze as he naturally carries some around with him. Actually that is a pretty smart piece of equipment to have on standby. Kelly could have used some.
Alpha thinks Gamma can use Aaron’s act of kindness against him possibly by having Gamma infiltrate Alexandria. I’m very interested in seeing how this would play out as the normal direction would be the guy falls for the mole, but that clearly wouldn’t happen with Aaron. Unless he tried to work Gamma? Consider my interest piqued.
The Savior’s Savior
Alexandria has a pretty crummy recidivism system. After 10 years no one besides a few kids and teenagers were willing to accept that Negan wanted to turn over a new leaf and make something more of himself than a brain bashing bully. Naturally when he gets a taste of true freedom and away from all the doubters who still saw the old Negan he reverts to the old Negan.
After ditching his not so cozy cell, Negan is followed by Brandon (Blaine Kern III), a character we’d never met until this episode, whose father was a Savior. Brandon’s pappy regaled him with tales of the valiant Saviors and their charismatic leader Negan and filled young Brandon’s head with fairy tales of Negan’s highlight reels. But as legends tend to go, some of the facts were way off like Negan forcing Rick to chop off Carl’s hand. Geesh, there isn’t any more Twitter, how could facts get trashed so badly?
Brandon presents Negan with a gift — a bat wrapped in barbed wire and his old leather jacket. Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a fantastic job in this scene as he makes Negan light up at the sight of his “costume,” but resistant to giving in to going full Negan again.
It’s getting harder though as he garroted one walker and then slammed another’s head in the door to save a woman and her son, Milo. Negan blows off Brandon, whose fanboy obsession is admittedly creepy. Negan shares a nice bonding moment with Milo and I was dreading a bullet flying through Milo’s head at any moment. This show has messed with my head where that seems like a very distinct possibility.
Instead, there’s a little subtlety as Negan returns from gathering supplies and finds Brandon standing over the dead mother and Milo. This naturally doesn’t go well for Brandon as Negan introduces him to a rock a few too many times to the head. Negan takes the bat and jacket and goes into big bad wolf mode calling for walkers in the woods.
It seems pretty clear he’s trying to lure out some Whisperers, and he gets the big one as Alpha knocks him down. We don’t immediately get Negan vs. Beta though. That looks like it’s going to be saved for next week. What It Always Is sets up a lot of pieces are coming in place to leave us on a high note as we approach the midseason finale.