Spoiler Warning for Season 7, Episode 6 of “The Walking Dead”
The world of “The Walking Dead” continues to expand as yet another community is introduced, bringing a band of new characters and conflict with it. After much speculation and anticipation, Tara and Heath finally return to the series after an extended hiatus, allowing viewers to follow their supply run adventures. With strong character development and excellent story progression, this is yet another strong episode that helps to showcase the intricate post-apocalyptic landscape that the characters inhabit.
While this episode plays with the timeline, take note that for purposes of adequately and accurately recapping, the events will be discussed in chronological order. “Swear” picks up with Tara and Heath towards the end of their two-week supply run that began after the attack on the Savior outpost in “Not Tomorrow Yet.” After managing to scavenge very minimal supplies, Heath is ready to return to Alexandria, but Tara states that they must keep searching for ammunition and medicine. There is some clear tension between the two as Heath is feeling strong guilt for his role in slaughtering the Saviors; Tara voices her opinion in the matter, but Heath seems to believe that everyone now is only interested in protecting themselves, no matter the cost. He agrees to spend another day searching for supplies and Tara provides a nice callback to a tip that Glenn gave her back in the Season 5 episode “Strangers”; “there’s nothing left in this world that isn’t hidden.” At this point, Tara is completely unaware of what has happened back in Alexandria, yet it is comforting to see that she carries on the memory of Glenn.
After some exploring, Tara and Heath come across a bridge that appears to have been the site of a camp of survivors at some point. They slowly make their way around tents and cars, scanning for supplies and threats. Tara finds a large bag that is buried halfway under a massive pile of sand. She pulls the bag, causing the sand hill to collapse, revealing a large group of walkers. The sand-covered walkers claw at Tara and Heath as they struggle to fight them off. Heath finds himself swarmed and it seems as though he is about to abandon Tara, but he makes his way to a position where he is able to shoot several of the walkers. Tara refuses to leave Heath behind, stating “we’re in this together,” but multiple walkers manage to overpower her, pushing her off the bridge into the river below. The opening scene of the episode shows two young girls, named Cyndie (Sydney Park) and Rachel (Mimi Kirkland), walking down a beach. Rachel runs over to the water with her spear, ready to stab a seemingly dead body that has washed up. Cyndie stops Rachel after realizing that the body isn’t a walker; the person is revealed to be an unconscious Tara. This opening scene is incredibly confusing initially until the flashbacks and dialogue reveal how Tara ended up in the ocean.
Cyndie drags Tara’s body out of the water before hiding her, much to the anger of Rachel, who states that all outsiders must be killed. Cyndie checks on Tara later and leaves her bottled water, fish and a spear. Tara wakes up and follows Cyndie into the woods as tense music plays. Tara eventually comes across several buildings that almost blend into the forest environment, thanks to the camouflage material that has been purposefully placed to help conceal the village. Tara hides herself and spies on the all-female community until an alarm is triggered sending the residents scattering. The clearly trained and organized survivors arm themselves with guns from their armory before hunting Tara down in a intense chase sequence that ends when Rachel manages to apprehend her at gunpoint. Rachel nearly pulls the trigger, but Cyndie steps in and stops her as the many residents surround Tara. The group’s leader, an older woman named Natania (Deborah May), steps in and orders Cyndie away from Tara. In typical Tara fashion, she manages to keep a calm and humorous persona even with multiple gun sights locked on her. Tara’s sense of humor and awkwardness has always been present in the series, but it is refreshing to see that these qualities haven’t left her character, even after all of the tragedy and hardship.
After being captured, Tara is handcuffed and questioned by Natania and two other survivors, Kathy (Nicole Barré) and Beatrice (Briana Venskus). Natania asks Tara where she came from, to which Tara responds by telling a false story about her journey with Heath on the road after leaving Atlanta, carefully keeping Alexandria a secret. Natania states that the community, called Oceanside, has a policy of killing any outsiders on the spot. Therefore, Tara will not be allowed to leave as she now knows the location and poses a threat. Later, Tara is brought to Natania’s home for dinner with Kathy, Beatrice and Cyndie, who is Natania’s granddaughter. While eating dinner, Natania offers to allow Tara to stay at Oceanside, along with Heath if he can be found. Tara questions why no men are present in the community, prompting the women to become tense. Natania explains that her group became involved in a conflict with another group, leading to all of the men being killed; afterward, the survivors made their way to the coast and settled at Oceanside. Tara opens up and tells the women about her community, mentioning that her group has been successful in eliminating threats, citing the attack on the Savior compound as proof. She proposes that Oceanside unites with Alexandria to work together. Natania agrees to send one of her residents with Tara to accompany on her journey back. The dinner scene establishes Natania as a strong leader who deeply cares about her people, even willing to go to extremes to protect them. Her character is incredibly reminiscent of Deanna, who initially was against killing others, but soon realized that it was necessary in order to protect Alexandria.
The next morning, Tara says goodbye to Natania before leaving Oceanside with Kathy and Beatrice, but not before savagely flipping the middle finger to young Rachel. While walking through the forest, Tara puts the pieces together and realizes that Kathy and Beatrice are planning on killing her. Using a walker as a distraction, Tara takes off running, but is caught and held at gunpoint by Beatrice. Tara pleads for her life, but Beatrice bluntly tells her that she likely has nothing to return to, citing that the attack on the Savior compound was the start of something so much bigger than Tara is aware of. This connects the residents of Oceanside to the Saviors; Beatrice tearfully explains that her group fought back against the Saviors, but failed, leading to all of the males over age ten to be shot in the head. Suddenly, Cyndie appears and pushes Beatrice to the ground, allowing Tara to flee the scene. Cyndie eventually catches up to Tara and refuses to allow her to leave until Tara promises to keep Oceanside’s existence a secret, even from her group. Tara promises and Cyndie hands over a pack of supplies before leading her to the bridge where Tara was separated from Heath. There is clearly a friendship of sorts that has begun to develop between Tara and Cyndie, who seems to be the only resident of Oceanside that is interested in connecting with other survivors.
This episode heavily features Tara’s stealth skills as she navigates through situations with both walker and human threats. With their weapons in hand, Tara and Cyndie carefully make their way across the bridge, evading walkers until Tara is forced to fight the herd in close proximity. Cyndie snipes several walkers while Tara runs across the bridge, spearing walkers left and right. After making it to safety, Tara notices that Beatrice and Kathy have caught up to Cyndie and are bringing her back to Oceanside. Tara searches the bridge and comes across a walker with the distinct dreadlocks of Heath, however this turns out to be a fake out. While I am typically not a fan of fake out deaths, this particular instance genuinely tricked me into thinking that Heath was dead. Tara does find Heath’s broken glasses laying on the ground, as well as fresh tire tracks and a card with “PPP” written on it. Rest assured, “The Walking Dead” fandom will be carefully analyzing and theorizing about this mysterious card. Could it have something to do with Heath’s disappearance? While his disappearance can be attributed to Corey Hawkins’ lead role in Fox’s upcoming series “24: Legacy,” it is worth noting that Heath is not confirmed to be dead, leaving his future in the series unknown, but definitely open. While Heath isn’t necessarily a major character yet, he will definitely be a lingering mystery in the series.
The final act is really the only problematic part of the episode, mostly due to the fact that it feels incredibly rushed, especially in comparison to the rest of the episode. Tara begins making her way to Alexandria, stopping at a gift shop and picking up a doctor bobble-head and some colorful sunglasses. She walks up to the gate of Alexandria with her spear in hand and a large grin on her face, but a saddened Eugene greets her, wiping the smile right off her face. This simple scene is incredibly powerful and says so much about the characters’ heartbreak without any dialogue. Sitting in the infirmary, Tara slowly comes to terms with the death of Denise. Rosita questions if Tara came across any places with guns and ammo that can be used to fight the Saviors. Tara responds by lying and keeping Oceanside a secret, fulfilling her promise to Cyndie; this is completely in line with Tara’s absolute loyalty, which she has demonstrated since her first appearance in the series. The problem with the ending stems from the fact that Tara’s journey back to Alexandria, the absence of Heath and the reaction of Tara to the deaths of her loved ones are all parts of the story that are pretty much skipped over. Considering the fact that Tara was incredibly close to Denise, Glenn and Abraham, it is irritating that her initial reaction wasn’t included in the episode. Hopefully, Tara’s grief is explored more in future episodes.
“Swear” is yet another exciting episode that serves to expand the world and develop specific characters. Tara’s absence in the series (due to Alanna Masterson’s pregnancy last season) allowed for this storyline to come to fruition. There are some minor problems in regards to the pacing, mostly toward the end. The fractured timeline of this episode is also somewhat problematic, taking some of the intensity out of certain moments, specifically when Tara’s life is at risk in flashbacks. However, the powerful acting talents of the cast are once again displayed, specifically with Alanna Masterson, who has a clear understanding of Tara, balancing humor with seriousness. Deborah May, Sydney Park and Briana Venskus also deliver strong performances as three of the newest characters, Natania, Cyndie and Beatrice. The inclusion of Oceanside and its surroundings is reminiscent to some of the locations in Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” video game, as well as “Fear the Walking Dead’s” second season. This refreshing community and its characters adds to the narrative that is clearly building toward a massive conflict between the survivors; we now have five communities, each with their own leadership styles and rules. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how Tara adapts to life under Negan, will she want to fight back like Carl and Rosita or will she wish to choose to lay low and grieve like Eugene? Will Tara choose to reveal the existence of Oceanside to Rick and the others? With only two episodes left in this half of the season, the stakes are sure to be raised as conflict builds and characters thirst for revenge. Be sure to tune in to “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.