Spoiler Warning for Season 8, Episode 6 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed.
The world of “The Walking Dead” is bigger than ever and the latest episode showcases just how expansive the story has become. By focusing on nearly every group, the episode is jam-packed and spends a considerable amount of time developing each of the characters while also progressing the storylines. Unfortunately, some out-of-character decisions and certain redundant plot points do weight this episode down a bit. Still, the performances, interactions, action and use of callbacks help to make up for some of the shortfalls. With the first wave of All Out War over, the time has come for us to mourn the dead, strategize and begin the next step in defeating the Saviors.
“The King, the Widow, and Rick” does an excellent job at balancing time with each set of characters, something that Season 7 as a whole struggled with, but that Season 8 has mostly made up for. The opening scene flashes between Rick on the road, the Hilltop, Alexandria and the Kingdom as the characters at these locations receive letters with updates on the war efforts. I’m assuming that each community had delivery people to transport these letters, but this isn’t completely clear from the episode. Voice over of Rick, Maggie and Carol is played as they read the letters, explaining what has transpired over the past few days, a necessary plot device to assure that everyone is on the same page. Rick’s letter is probably the most powerful as he mentions that this group has fought to get to the where they are today and that they just have to fight a little longer; he also reiterates the fact that the communities have lost a lot of good people, beginning with Sasha, and that they have to finish this war for all of them. While these letters are read, viewers are shown bits of life during this down time of war; Carl and Michonne welcome the soldiers home to Alexandria as the dead are prepped for burial, Kingdommers create a shrine for their fallen Knights and Maggie reunites with Aaron, only to find him with baby Gracie instead of Eric. While these scenes are shown, an absolutely beautiful musical score is played that seems to have bits of an orchestral version of “The Walking Dead” theme song sewn in. This cold open perfectly sets up the narrative structure for the episode and puts the characters’ stories into the motion.
It’s also shown early in the episode that Rick arrives at the Heaps (the nickname for the Junkyard) to meet with the Scavengers. Before that, Jadis and her strange lifestyle is put on full display as she makes a sculpture while wearing nothing but a red apron; there’s another half-naked Scavenger, but no real explanation is given as to what the hell is happening here. Rick meets with Jadis, Tamiel and Brion as the rest of the trash hippies surround them in their hive-like manner. Navigating around the incomplete sentences of this weird tribe, Rick offers Jadis another chance to fight alongside him and his people to defeat the Saviors once and for all. He shows off the Polariod pictures as proof that the Saviors are on the losing side, but Jadis isn’t convinced and even seems confused as to why Rick would trust them after they betrayed Alexandria in the Season 7 Finale. Rick is unsuccessful and Jadis orders her people to take him away before stating that “he talks too much.” Rick is shown to be naked in a shipping container as Jadis (wearing Rick’s boots) uses chalk to draw the letter “A” on the door of the container; this likely refers to Alexandria, but it is also a callback to the recurrence of the letter “A,” which can be traced back to Terminus, where the characters were kept in a train car marked with that letter. Rick’s decision to give these dirty people another chance is slightly baffling, but considering the Kingdom was just wiped out and the fact that the Scavengers aren’t loyal to the Saviors, I guess it makes sense that he would try to recruit them as fighters; I think there is something deeper going on her and that Rick has some greater plan in mind.
The Kingdom has become pretty much the most depressing place in the apocalyptic landscape following the massacre that took place in “Some Guy.” Carol isn’t about to let this be the final defeat of the Kingdom so she does her best to whip everyone back into shape. She goes to see King Ezekiel in the theater, but Jerry tells her that he isn’t receiving visitors; Jerry stands guard even after everything that has happened, proving that he is probably the most loyal character in the show. Young Henry steps forward and offers to help Carol with the next stage of war, but she completely blows him off and tells him to stay put. Later, Henry is shown alone in the woods, fighting off two walkers with a staff; it’s clear that he is putting the training that Morgan gave him into practice while also following in the footsteps of his brother Benjamin. Carol arrives and kills the two walkers before lambasting Henry for being so reckless and for not listening to her; she tells him that children that go off into the woods by themselves either end up lost or as a “monster,” a heartbreaking callback to Sophia and her tragic disappearance and return as a walker. Henry tells Carol that he wants to fight with her at the Sanctuary to kill those responsible for Benjamin’s death. Seeing as how Carol doesn’t have the best luck with children (Sophia, Mika, Lizzie and Sam say hello), it makes complete sense that she would be hesitant to involve Henry.
What comes next is my favorite part of the episode as Carol returns to the Kingdom with Henry and prepares to break into the theater before Jerry hilariously tells her that the door is unlocked. She enters the darkened room to find the King sitting not on his throne, but on the floor while holding Shiva’s chain. After Season 7 followed Carol as she took some personal time to deal with what she had been through, this scene allows her to open up and attempt to inspire Ezekiel to get back on his feet. Dropping his Shakespearean persona, The King expressed his guilt for involving all of his subjects and for building a community on a false reality. Carol calls him out on this by questioning why he repeatedly visited her at the cottage she stayed at last season; he responds by stating that she made him feel real. Carol uses this answer to explain that both she and him are real, as is the Kingdom and that the surviving members of the community need King Ezekiel to lead them. Even if he doesn’t have the same confidence, he needs to act like he does, because that’s just what leaders do; Carol tells him that she puts on an act everyday and that is the reason that she’s still here today. Ezekiel ultimately tells Carol that he can’t lead them anymore, but something tells me that all hope is not lost for the King and his royal subjects. Melissa McBride delivers an absolutely stellar performance here alongside Khary Payton, who also nails this scene.
Next up is the Hilltop, where the central moral conflict that has been building all season really comes to a head. Jesus has lined up the Savior prisoners alongside the walls and hands out food to everyone as Maggie intervenes and criticizes him for this. He explains that the food was not being eaten by the Hilltop residents, but Maggie tells him that they may need it later down the line, especially if things get dire. Gregory throws in his two cents by suggesting that they build gallows and hang all of the prisoners, but Maggie tells him to go back inside; she does seem to take this suggestion into consideration though, telling Jesus that all options are on the table. Later, Maggie speaks with Gregory in Barrington House about the predicament that they’re in and it’s clear that she doesn’t really care what he has to say, especially after his betrayal; he compares the Saviors to wolves and calls Maggie a shepherd who needs to protect her sheep. Night falls and Jesus stands watch outside before having a conversation with Dillon, a Savior that has shown himself to be at least somewhat willing to cooperate. When morning comes, Enid tells Jesus to bring the Saviors inside of the Hilltop, where something has been built; both Jesus and Dillon have worried looks on their faces, but this worry turns to relief when they see that a makeshift prison has been built.
While herding the prisoners into the enclosure, Maggie tells the Hilltop residents that the Saviors will be held, fed and treated well, but that the community will not stand for them being uncooperative. In a badass move, Maggie turns to Gregory and tells him that she grew up on a farm and knows all about wolves and sheep before having Kal and Eduardo throw him into the pen; Gregory throws an absolute tantrum, but I literally feel no sympathy for him as he made his bed when he went to the Saviors, now he has to sleep in it. Jared tries to grab Dianne’s gun when she is locking the jail, but Maggie stops and threatens him; this is an issue that I have with the episode as Maggie just made it clear that she wouldn’t tolerate the prisoners being uncooperative, yet she doesn’t really do anything about Jared. While I’m glad he wasn’t actually killed, because I think Morgan needs to be the one to do that, I think it would make sense for the rebellious Saviors to be killed as an example to the others. Later, Dillon intervenes when Jared seems to be making another escape attempt, once again showing that he may not be a bad guy.
Inside Maggie’s office, Aaron opens up about Eric’s death and how much pain he feels over it, but the dialogue makes it seem as though he has been gone for quite some time even though he just died the previous day. Jesus arrives to thank Maggie for sparing the Saviors, but she tells him that she plans on using them as bargaining chips in the future. It’s here that I really see shades of Maggie’s fallen family; she is still Hershel’s daughter, Glenn’s wife and Beth’s sister, and while she is definitely willing to do what’s necessary, she is keeping her humanity like they would want her to. In the episode, Maggie is shown holding onto Hershel and Glenn’s pocket watch, which serves as a reminder of the ideals that her father and husband lived by; both tried to save people rather than kill, even if it put their lives at risk. The show doesn’t always do this, but when deceased characters are alluded to, it makes it feel as though they are still part of the story. Aaron seems to be moved by his meeting with Maggie and decides to leave the Hilltop on a mission, but Enid steps in and tells him that she is coming with; he explains that they will be gone for a while and asks her to pack her things and bring food. While they didn’t state where they are going, my guess is that they are headed to Oceanside to recruit Natania, Cyndie and the others to come join the fight. Seeing as how both Enid and Aaron previously visited Oceanside back in “Something They Need,” this is definitely a possibility. Whatever the case may be, I am thrilled to see this duo as Aaron and Enid haven’t interacted much onscreen even though they are two of the last remaining original Alexandrians.
Something that has been missing from this season is Carl and I find it odd that he hasn’t been involved in the war all that much. The last time he was seen, Carl was out of Alexandria and crossing paths with a mysterious survivor. This episode finds Carl in the woods, reuniting with the stranger, who introduces himself as Siddiq (a notable character from the graphic novels). Carl provides him with food and water before asking the three famous questions: how many walkers have you killed?, how many people have you killed? and why? Siddiq answers these questions and reveals that he has killed over 200 walkers, carrying on his mother’s belief that putting down the undead is a way of releasing their souls; I always find it fascinating when characters share their beliefs about the walkers. Siddiq wonders why Carl is helping him even after Rick shooed him off in the premiere, but Carl explains that his mother Lori told him that he always needs to do what’s right, even when it’s hard; this is almost a direct quotation of Lori’s final moments with Carl back in Season 3’s “Killer Within.” He decides to bring Siddiq back to Alexandria, but before that, they have a frightening altercation while clearing a few walkers. The camerawork of this scene feels really off and makes it somewhat hard to tell what’s happening as Siddiq and Carl battle walkers. Still, the interactions between Carl and Siddiq are both entertaining and emotional to watch with both Chandler Riggs and Avi Nash delivering commendable performances.
Back at Alexandria, the show finally checks in with Michonne and Rosita, who have both been siting on the sidelines for the war due to their injuries (this is also because Danai Gurira was filming “Black Panther” and Christian Serratos gave birth to her daughter early into Season 8’s production). Michonne is preparing to leave in a car to “take a look” and Rosita joins her, obviously curious about the war as well. Meanwhile, Tara and Daryl have a moment where they discuss wanting to kill Dwight, even though their wins in battle can be attributed to him leaking information. They also decide to leave Alexandria to apparently head to the Sanctuary to finish the job. While driving, Rosita asks why Michonne wanted to leave, to which she responds by explaining her anxiety about the war plans being successful; she needs to see what happens, so that she can be at peace back home. In a dramatic turn of events, music can be heard playing in the distance and Rosita pulls over so that they can investigate. They trace the sound to a large warehouse and decide to enter it, finding two Saviors, an arsenal of weapons and a truck equipped with loudspeakers. While I normally wouldn’t advise two characters to go off on their own like this, the dialogue from the Saviors reveals that they plan on using the truck to lure the herd away from the Sanctuary; in this case, the fact that Michonne and Rosita came across this outpost is a lucky break for the good guys.
Things aren’t as simple as killing these two Saviors and ending the threat as Michonne and Rosita reveal themselves and engage in a game of cat-and-mouse. Rosita looses her gun in a shootout, while Michonne fights with the female Savior; seeing as how Michonne was just beat up days ago, she isn’t in peak fighting shape and struggles a bit. On a normal day, Michonne would have ended the Savior with no problems. Rosita, on the otherhand, hones in her inner-Daryl and uses an RPG to blow up the male Savior in one of the most badass moves this season, even if it is a bit cheesy; this particular scene is extremely reminiscent to when Daryl blew up the group of Savior motorcyclists back in “No Way Out.” The other Savior manages to escape with the “Fat Lady” (their nickname for the speaker truck) and she drives off, but Daryl and Tara arrive in the nick of time and ram into her vehicle with a garbage truck that the Scavengers left behind in Alexandria after the Season 7 Finale battle.
After chatting with Rosita and Michonne for a moment, Daryl and Tara decide to bring them to the Sanctuary to let them see the aftermath of their plan. Daryl abruptly announces that they will work together to put an end to the Saviors even though these little suicide missions have never worked in the past. This is a major issue that I have with the episode as all four of these characters have seen firsthand that breaking plans and going at the enemy alone only results in the wrong people dying. Sasha just died days ago in the story after going on a botched assassination mission, something that Rosita was part of, yet they all seem to think they will be successful this time around. I also find Daryl and Tara’s desire to kill Dwight right now to be extremely irritating, odd and out-of-character; they obviously will never fully trust him and are justified in wanting to kill him, but it makes no sense that they would jeopardize the overall plan that all three communities agreed to just to satiate their need for revenge.
“The King, the Widow, and Rick” does a fantastic job at touching base with each of the characters while providing interesting developments in the story. The Kingdom storyline, as well as Carl and Siddiq’s new friendship are the highlights of the episode as they really feel like classic “The Walking Dead.” The moral conflict that is unfolding at the Hilltop continues to be compelling to watch, but I’m worried that everything is about to go tragically wrong, especially if the Saviors escape. Rick’s trip to the Heaps, along with the redundant suicide mission, do pull the episode down as they feel forced. That being said, this is probably the most balanced chapter of the season thus far, and it excellently blends the various characters as the show builds up to the Mid-Season Finale. Melissa McBride’s performance as Carol proves once again how ridiculous it is that the Emmys and other television award show overlook her when nominations roll out. Next week looks to check in on the various communities once again, including Morgan, who was revealed to be the character that will be featured in the upcoming crossover with “Fear the Walking Dead.” On “Talking Dead,” Chris Hardwick and Lennie James announced that Morgan will be appearing in Season 4 of the companion series, but the specifics are still being kept under wrap. Stay tuned to the Niner Times for continuing coverage of this upcoming crossover as more information is expected to be released in the coming months.
Be sure to tune into “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.