The Walking Dead has been an emotional rollercoaster so far this season. It opened with a mighty bang with the deaths of major characters. But then something strange happened. The show absolutely deflated after the season premiere, to the point where the show started losing an alarming number of viewers. The show blandly followed the journey of all the separated main survivors and struggled with pacing and entertainment value. For the most part, Jeffrey Dean Morgan‘s turn as Negan has been the highlight of the show, but even that has become stale and routine. But then the mid season finale rolls along and renews much of our faith in the show.
As always, spoilers for The Walking Dead.
So, by all indications, it looked as if we were going to get another 90 minutes of the same boring milquetoast that we have come to expect from this season of The Walking Dead. The first several minutes of the show played out like an extended cut of the “Last Time On The Walking Dead” montage that plays before each episode. Negan is still making himself at home in Rick’s house. Rick and Aaron are still trying to get the supplies out from zombie lake. Maggie is still the worst patient ever.
It needs to be mentioned that the interaction between Maggie and Gregory at Hilltop was very telling. It felt as if we were watching two prize fighters weighing in before the main event. Gregory attempted to establish a small amount of dominance over Maggie by denying her the apple, yet that completely backfired as a nearby Hilltop resident called Gregory out for not giving food to the hungry pregnant woman. It was a fine bit of foreshadowing that showed that even on a small scale, the residents of Hilltop would choose Maggie to lead them over Gregory. No doubt there will be some sort of power struggle in a future episode between Maggie and Gregory.
Let’s face it, did anyone really like Spencer? The character was very one dimensional in his dislike of Rick. As soon as the one Negan minion started coming on to him, you could pretty much predict what was going to happen next. Good Ol’ Spence was going to try and talk to Negan and get close to manipulate the situation for his benefit. One couldn’t help but make comparisons to Ellis in the classic film Die Hard. For those unenlightened few who have not seen Die Hard, Ellis is a character who tries to cut a deal with ruthless terrorists by making them a proposal. Sound familiar? The only thing that was missing was a Coke and Spencer saying, “Negan! Bubby!” In the end, Spencer was gutted by Negan in a pretty gruesome show of force that reminded us of just how lethal Negan is. Which is actually nice, since no one can remember Negan killing anybody since Glenn and Abraham. It helps to actually put some tension back into the show knowing that Negan can and has killed major characters.
It was good to see Carol again after being away from the character for a few weeks. It’s a shame that she is still in a “Leave me alone” kind of funk. At this point, its fairly difficult to remember how she got into that frame of mind in the first place. It’s as if the fight with Morgan in the Alexandria basement over what to do with the Wolf, has shaken her to the core. With any luck, we will get the old Carol back before things come to a head with Negan. She is definitely a force multiplier in combat. It was also nice seeing the interaction between Morgan and Carol. The fact that Carol asked Morgan to come in, should be a clear example of her starting to miss people. The Kingdom guard who also shows up is able to provide a small morsel of information about the status of the world. He said that there used to be many groups and communities that had sprouted up, however, most of them are gone now. The guard seemed to have a big stake in getting Carol and Morgan to convince Ezekiel to make a pre-emptive strike on the Saviors. And what was up with the secret RV stash the guard had? With no explanation, we can only guess that it was shown as a possible stash of supplies that could be made available to the survivors.
Darryl‘s great escape fell somewhat flat. We still don’t know who left his cell unlocked, or who left the note telling him to “Go Now”. Good money says it was either Dwight or Dwight’s ex-wife, but we don’t know for sure. Whomever it was, opens the door for there to be an ally within the walls of Sanctuary. That could be a game changer in the upcoming conflict seeing that the Saviors outnumber Alexandria and the Hilltop combined. Watching Darryl escape was okay, but not earth shatteringly awesome as we all have come to expect from some Darryl action. Remember, the man put a grenade down the barrel of a tank. The scene where he was caught by Fat Joe seemed somewhat pointless. Best guess is that the scene was used to show the audience that Negan had not broken Darryl. Although to be fair, the audience already knew that.
Rosita and Gabriel shared a scene that was genuinely surprising for the fact that Gabriel actually gave good and sound advice. He talked about how it wasn’t her fault that Glenn or Abraham died and that there was no guarantee that she would kill Negan. Gabriel told her that they needed to wait and take Negan on together. This was by far, the smartest thing that has ever come out of Gabriel’s mouth during his time on the show.
So to quickly summarize, after Negan kills Spencer, Rosita tries to shoot him with the bullet that Eugene made for her. Miraculously, the bucket hits Lucille instead. Also miraculously, Negan is able to tell that the bullet was made from scratch. Barbara gets killed and it’s discovered that Eugene made the bullet. So Negan takes Eugene. Rick and Michonne have a heart to heart talk and Rick decides that it is time to fight.
So come to find out that Maggie had been at the Hilltop lookout looking for the main group of survivors. At the end of he episode, they all show up for a reunion that hit all the right emotional notes. It symbolized that the group was going to work together and figure out a way to fight Negan. The reunion between Rick and Darryl was especially emotional. And then when Darryl gave Rick back his Python, it perfectly symbolized that the Old Rick has finally come home.
The only unanswered question about the episode is, who is the person with the weird boots that watched Rick and Aaron at the lake and viewed Alexandria from beyond the gate?
Overall, the mid-season finale was great. Having the main group of survivors come together at the end, was a huge emotional payoff. This season has felt lost and aimless as it followed the individual adventures of the cast, yet the final scenes of the episode provided an emotional closure that no one knew they needed. It took far too long, but they got the band back together. And they are going to bring it.