The Walking Dead has been dragging on slowly like a walker in mud since the murderous season opener. Thankfully, there have been some bright spots in the season such as “The Cell”, despite that godforsaken “Easy Street” song. Now we can add the Tara-centric “Swear” to that painfully small list of enjoyable episodes that have been aired thus far. You read that right: an episode all about Tara was actually a pretty good one. To be honest, most people had probably forgotten that Tara and Heath had gone off on a “two weeker” scavenging run immediately after the ambush at the satellite bunker.
Let’s face it, Tara isn’t a very fleshed out character on The Walking Dead. She is part comic relief, part moral compass. Up until this point, the most interesting thing about her was that she defected from the Governor after he decapitated poor Herschel. Tara was also one of the few survivors to be graced with a romantic story arc. Yet we all remember how that played out with Denise taking an arrow to the face. But more on that later.
As always, spoilers for The Walking Dead.
In all honesty, there was nothing especially spoilerish about this weeks episode. Before even starting the episode, the DirecTV summary stated that, “someone discovers a new community like no one has ever seen.” When I saw that, my heart skipped a beat as I immediately thought that we may get treated to some Whisperer action. Sadly and unsurprisingly, this was not the case. For one, it is very early in the shows timeline to be showing anything about the Whisperers. For all intents and purposes, they should be touted as the next group of baddies after the Saviors are dealt with. And the Saviors are nowhere near CLOSE to being dealt with. The community that was discovered is Oceanside.
This episode focused on Tara. On paper, that seems like a horrible idea: a second string character gets a full episode to themselves while they are out scavenging? Yet having seen the episode play out, it was one of the better ones of the season.
The first notable thing that happens in “Swear” is the conversation Heath and Tara have in the RV. It goes a long way to remind the audience that these two characters believe that they got rid of Negan and his followers. Both of them have valid standpoints as far as why it was ok or not okay to murder the Saviors in the satellite outpost. The Alexandria group has come a long way in a relatively short time. To ask them to murder people in their sleep is a huge step up from merely defending themselves from zombies.
The episode did a fairly good job with Tara’s flashbacks. The flashbacks didn’t muddle the story up too badly. However, it is just Tara, so it’s not like the audience went in with high hopes for a solid story to begin with. That being said, a lot of things worked well for an episode all about Tara. For starters, she follows the girl who saves her back to her camp. The look of terror on Tara’s face the entire time she was sneaking around the Oceanside community was absolutely hilarious. Granted, she is used to just being a sideline comic relief, so suddenly becoming a ninja was probably genuinely frightening for her. But by now, the audience expects a certain amount of badassery from our core group of survivors.
Also, what is up with Heath being a jerk? While fighting weird sand zombies on the bridge, Heath and Tara get separated by a group of walkers. Heath just kind of bails and Tara gets knocked over the edge of the bridge. Not the signs of a team player. Tara at least tried to get to him, but Jerky McJerkerson wasn’t having any of it. Right before Tara fell off he bridge, they did have a weird moment where Tara said, “We are in this together,” that Heath barely acknowledged.
The entire bridge setup was also confusing. From a strategic standpoint, the goal was to neutralize the zombies. Usually, it does not require some wacky Rube Goldberg machine to get the job done. There was two lines of cars and several lines of hanging tarps to section off the bridge. Then at the end, there were two dump trucks full of sand. So the goal was to lure the zombies through the choke point and separate them with the tarps in order to bury them under a bunch of sand? And it worked? Remember a few seasons back when Rick and company were on foot? They came to a bridge and fought a sizable group of zombies with their knives. They didn’t need some fancy setup to do it either.
Having Tara sneak around Oceanside was actually a clever way to introduce the community to the audience. Through her eyes, we were able to see that they are a well supplied group that has an impressive amount of weapons. The all women group was also well-trained and organized quickly against an outside threat, which of course just happened to be Tara. The only problem with the Oceanside response team is that they are all horrible marksmen..er…markswomen? They can’t shoot. After the unconventional alarm sounds and the entire community mobilizes, they get the drop on Tara…and miss. Tara runs away like she’s dodging explosions in a Michael Bay movie and no one can hit her. They have pistols and scoped assault rifles and they can’t hit a single, slightly chubby target in the trees?
For those wondering, Oceanside is in the comics, but not for quite some time. The TV version of Oceanside is quite different from the peaceful and friendlier version of the shoreline community in the comics.
So Tara runs and gets caught. Natanya and the other women try to figure out what to do with Tara. During the talks, Tara blabs about Alexandria and mentions the Saviors. Natanya decides to let Tara go back with a guide. Seems like a nice plan that won’t involve any murder whatsoever. Naturally, it’s a ploy to just kill Tara, who surprisingly catches on and makes a run for it. Her friend Cindy (who saved her at the beginning) pops up again to save her and get her back to the bridge to hopefully reunite with Heath. Tara ends up making it through the zombies and back to the beginning of he bridge, but guess what? No Heath.
The rest of the episode shows Tara making it back to Alexandria to find out that Denise, Glenn, and Abraham have been killed. While Tara is processing their deaths, the rage of Rosita continues as she drills Tara for any information about any assets she may have seen. Stupidly, Tara keeps her promise to Cindy and does not reveal anything about Oceanside.
Overall, this episode was better than some of what we have seen so far in this season. The sneaking in and escape sequences were entertaining, but sadly wasted on Tara. Imagine an episode like this with Darryl? Or Rick? To the characters credit, Tara at least tried to make peace with Oceanside, even though they were not receptive. The Walking Dead continues its downward spiral as it plods through its seventh season. Here’s hoping that we get more episodes like this, but with better characters.