The penultimate episode of this season moves all chess figures to position for the final confrontation, which is why we see the conquest of Oceanside by the Alexandrians, a scene comprising the actual leader and the future leader of the Hilltop as well as the revelation that Sasha is still alive all crammed into one episode. This not only has timing reasons to get ready for the season finale but also makes the viewer reflect Rick’s methods after them being juxtaposed to Negan’s and not being all that different after all.
Let’s start with the big action setpiece. Our group distracted the Oceanside community with some well-timed and well-placed bombs after Tara had failed to persuade stubborn Natania to give up their guns. Our group takes the guns and even manages to convince some of them that the fight will be worth it. Natania is unreasonably persistent in refusing to join Rick’s cause so losing all their men must have been very traumatic. After the efficient overtake by the Alexandrians, some nasty water walkers approach and are quickly eliminated. I like that Tara doesn’t have her doubts anymore, it took long enough.
The group’s efficient and merciless seizing of the guns was uncomfortably reminiscent of the Saviors demanding half of the shit of the groups they invade, especially after Negan made an effort to convince Sasha that they aren’t monsters.
Which brings us to the shocker of the week. Sasha is visited in her cell by David, who turns out to be a rapey asshole. Negan will not tolerate any of this and stops him before David could take action on his cruel intentions, with one clean cut through the neck. Negan of all people, with his harem and the wives who do not seem like they are digging their position, absolutely condemns rape. He leaves the body and a knife in Sasha’s cell, making her choose between suicide and considering his offer to eventually join his team as Negan was genuinely impressed by Sasha’s “beach-ball-sized lady nuts”. Sasha, who has had a death wish for a great stretch of the show, stops David, who is about to turn. However, she stills seems to want to die as she doesn’t want to be used to hurt Rick’s group. Negan apparently has a very valuable informant, who ratted on the Alexandrians’ plans to storm the Sanctuary with their freshly acquired weaponry. She asks Eugene for help, requiring an item to be able to kill herself. Eugene offers her the poisoned pills he made in Hostiles and Calamities. Why didn’t she kill herself with the knife then? Are the pills a trick to kill Negan? Will Eugene get in trouble for that? Will this attempt on Negan’s life fail similarly as Rosita’s? I’m worried that Gregory, who is on his way to the Sanctuary and will probably drink some tequila (pills work well with liquids), perhaps with Negan because he could be his mole. Anyhow, we learn that Eugene’s character growth we’ve seen so far (becoming a tier-two badass made some of the best moments of his life) was genuine, yet incomplete, as Eugene remains an opportunist and a coward when shit is about to hit the fan. I like the show’s courage to not force character growth for the sake of character growth because a sustainable maturation to a brave man takes its time. I’m wondering who told on Rick’s group and Negan’s plan is. Apart from Gregory, I could only imagine the garbage people who might expect bigger loot from the Saviors (I would pay money to see Jadis negotitating with Negan). We remain with the knowledge that the element of surprise has switched sides.
Some asides before we reach the final scene: Gregory had a crazy moment when he considered stabbing Maggie, who he realizes will take over his position sooner or later, but fortunately, he’s more of a lame-ass coward than we thought as he hasn’t killed a single walker yet. There also was a lame conversation between Carl and Enid which felt awfully shoehorned into this episode.
The final scene leaves us very excited as we now know who the shape in the dark at the end of last week’s episode was: It was Dwight, who finally turns on Negan. As I have repeatedly written, his character arc only makes sense when he repels Negan. However, distrust is to be kept up at all times. I’m certain Rick will definitively find out whether Dwight plays a long con or genuinely intends to help our group.
all images (including title image): © by AMC (Photos by Gene Page), taken from their official website