I’m not sure many people were all too happy about this slightly longer standalone episode about mostly Tara (and a bit of Heath). Personally, I think Tara and her optimism are a refreshing diversion from all the terror we’ve seen. In addition, actress Alanna Masterson had to take a break from shooting due to her pregnancy so they couldn’t have shown that earlier. Given the ending, the new community we learn about in this episode, Oceanside, will inevitably play a role in the war against Negan. However, I believe, you could have told that story intermingled with other storylines to not scare off some of the viewers less interested and to keep up the pacing.
First things first, we start off with two girls seeing a washed up body at the beach, who they realize is not dead yet. The young girl, Rachel, wants to kill her but her older companion, Cyndie, spares Tara and hides her, later even leaves her with water, food and a spear. At this later point, Tara only pretended to sleep, however, and is able to follow Cyndie to her community.
Flashbacks tell us how that came to be. Heath and Tara, out on a supply run, find a bridge barricaded with sand, containers and cars, after Heath wanted to head back to Alexandria, suffering from taking out the Saviors at the outpost despite understanding everybody is in for themselves in this world. The process of justifying this darkest chapter of our group, the cold-blooded mass murder, also occupies Tara’s mind later in the episode. The sand heap collapses and sand walkers emerge out of it. As ridiculous as that idea might seem, I liked it for being something we haven’t seen a million times. Tara is surrounded and appears to have been left behind to die by Heath. In a later flashback, we see Heath has run out of bullets and is about to be eaten as well. He wants Tara to leave him and she has to jump off the bridge into the river, shouting they were in this together.
Tara follows Cyndie pretty deep into the forest and finds this new community, full of amazon-like women (though not as capable in the craft of war as we later learn :D). Obviously, she is seen at one point and shot at but manages to dodge the bullets and knock one of the women out (and NOT killing her). On the flight, she encounters Rachel again, who wants to shoot her for the second time and for the second time, Cyndie prevents her from doing that. The women surround her and take her captive.
The leader, Natania, interrogates her. Tara lies about where she’s from and offers to leave. Natania can’t let her do that because they’re perfectly protected in their Oceanside community (with an intricate bell system luring walkers away from their camp) and don’t want anyone leading enemies to them. At dinner, Natania reveals everybody knows she lied. As Tara asks about the men, we learn Negan’s group killed all the men and boys (I’m still wondering whether he wanted to exterminate their power or to have more wives). Tara reveals they killed a threatening group at a satellite station to survive. Tara suggests their groups join together and Natania apparently agrees. However, Tara sees through their actual plan to kill off and manages to escape. As one of the girls catches up on her, she tells Tara that the satellite station wasn’t the only outpost and that there is no chance to defeat the Saviors. Cyndie saves Tara for the third time (and still not the last time in this episode) and leads her to the bridge. As they cross it, more walkers emerge and Cyndie, who is a great shot, protects her. Before that, she made Tara swear not to tell anyone about this community and Tara indeed follows through on her vow. As Rosita asks her if she found anything in the final scene, she lies, creating a very interesting dilemma. Many people would have broken a promise, especially when in grief (as Tara just now learned about Denise’s death from a broken-faced Eugene). However, Tara is a very sincere and loyal person and doesn’t want to betray the person who saved her life a number of times and who would totally be her girlfriend were she not believing to be in a relationship. I always liked Tara for her aura of positivity (including the invention of GREATM) and her loyalty to Glenn in season 4. When she tries to fist bump Natania or sees grim situations with a glimmer of hope (“I walk. Walking is my favorite thing”), it is a much-needed contrast to the gloomy, depressing atmosphere Negan and the Saviors cause. She developed into a more fleshed out, more important character in this episode and it will be interesting to see how the dilemma will be solved as I don’t see Tara telling on Oceanside. Maybe her bracelet will reveal her secret. Moreover, we don’t know about Heath’s fate yet as Tara found his glasses and a trace of blood, suggesting he might still be alive. Even though he still is just a C-character, he suffered the most from their highly immoral attack on the satellite station, bringing some reflection to the table.
© by AMC, images from their website
Title image: © by AMC (Photo: Gene Page)