The Walking Dead S7E15: Something They Need
As was alluded to about three episodes ago, Tara finally breaks her promise and tells Rick of the existence of Oceanside and their guns. Plans are made to take those guns as peacefully as possible, but it’s clear that if necessary, blood will be shed. This is the macro conflict of the episode, and on the micro level it would seem that Sasha’s plans to kill Negan didn’t go as planned. She spends the episode locked in a cell being tempted to join the Saviors.
In terms of pacing and treading new territory, this episode blows the last few out of the water. Bury Me Here and The Other Side were not good episodes, and frankly this entire half of season seven has suffered from extreme repetition. The same disagreements in largely the same scenes over and over again is dragging this season down a lot in my mind. Because of that I haven’t been less excited for a new episode in quite some time. Taking time to watch the show last night felt like a chore more than something I was looking forward to. I’m happy to say however, that by the middle of the episode I felt fully engaged and interested in what was happening. Things were moving forward, we were being shown new interactions and given conclusions to issues that have been bubbling under the surface for weeks.
The Macro: Oceanside
I remember thinking last week that the way Rick & Co. deal with Oceanside could entirely flip the way we see them. They’re the “good guys” in the story and we want to cheer for their success. But had they been hostile with this mostly peaceful, detached group and brought violence to them, then perhaps we see them in an entirely new light. What difference would there be then, between the Saviors and Rick’s group? Thankfully this was not what happened, although Rick seemed ready for it. Instead we had a calculated herding of the larger community, and a subduing of the smaller groups going for the munitions. In the end only Natanya, Oceanside’s leader, had strong objections to fighting the Saviors while it appeared the rest of the community seemed cautiously interested. And herein exposes a narrative problem with this half-season.
The Micro: Sasha is captured
This was one of the more interesting turns the show made; not showing Sasha’s attack. We left her last episode entering the complex, ready to seek out Negan. Anyone would’ve assumed we would get a few scenes of her peering around corners, hiding in rooms, etc. With the way the show has gone this season, they would’ve stretched it to last the whole episode. That’s not what happened. Instead, we begin with Sasha already captured and a man named David trying to make sexual advances toward her. Negan arrives to save (?) the day, and leaves Sasha with his knife and a choice; use it on him and probably get beaten to death with his bat, use it on herself and give up, or use it on David when he turns to a walker and work with him and the Saviors. If nothing else, this small subversion of expectations kept me on my toes and actually paying more attention to her scenes.
Her scenes with Eugene were probably the most interesting. For one, it appears that Eugene actually has bought into his life with the Saviors. In moments with them alone together, he pleads with her to work with the Saviors and remain safe. This adds an interesting wrinkle into the future war; will Eugene remain with Negan, or will he regain his loyalty to Rick in the end? Either way, he’s very sympathetic to what Sasha is experiencing and wants to help her adjust. Only she doesn’t want to adjust. She knows Negan will use her to fight against and hurt her friends. She pleads with Eugene for a knife or glass or something, and in a very Christ-like moment she says, “I have to die to save my friends”. Only when we see her face, we learn this isn’t her true intention. Rather than sacrifice herself, she remains rebellious in her desire to kill Negan and risk being used as a pawn. Loads of theological commentary lie in just those last few sentences, and this is where I might normally veer off into sermonizing this scene, but I’m already at 900 words. Suffice it to say there is a clear metaphor in the words and following rebellious actions of Sasha to what we do when we reject the sacrifice of Christ for our lives.
The Micro: Maggie’s leadership
Finally, it’s worth noting that short scenes of Maggie undermining Gregory’s leadership at Hilltop continue to be incorporated in episodes where that is not the main point. Again I would say that there has been too much of this already and we need to get to the point where Maggie officially takes over. Nevertheless, not only is she teaching her community how to farm, she literally saves Gregory’s life after his pathetic attempt to kill a walker. If we didn’t already think he was unfit for leadership, we’ve just been shown he’s literally incapable of protecting himself. So how could he possibly protect a community?
Oh, By the Way…
Dwight has given himself over to Alexandria and, allegedly, wants to help them. I think his intentions are true, but the show has tried to keep us on our toes with him and in this episode a short comment from Negan about “a little birdy” telling him that Rick has plans to fight has me curious that Dwight might be inserting himself as a mole. Probably not, but we’ll see.
My Rating: A-
Much, much better. Even in scenes of primarily dialogue I never felt like things were standing still or going through the motions as I’ve felt for much of this half-season. My fear now is this is too little too late to be satisfied with the conclusion to the season. We’ll get an extended episode next week, probably 90 minutes like usual, so if they’re going to make big leaps in progression that will be the time.