As opposed to what we’ve previously seen since the start of the 11th season, this week’s episode of The Walking Dead focused on multiple storylines.
At the Satellite Outpost, Negan and Maggie continued to argue about whether or not anyone else in their party would be smart, lucky, or brave enough to join them. At this point, Maggie and Negan pretty much sound like an old married couple and, considering the chemistry between Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, that could very well be what they end up becoming by the time the show ends. Sorry, Glenn! Anyway, this time Maggie won the argument because Gabriel and Elijah eventually showed up and proved that people could be depended upon. Yay, Maggie! Unfortunately, if Gabriel’s the best you go, you probably have bigger problems to deal with than just a philosophical disagreement.
At Alexandria, Judith tried to keep the other kids from taunting the Walkers and potentially getting everyone killed. Judith had a point but seriously, no one likes a snitch.
Aaron, Carol, Lydia, and Jerry returned to the ruins of Hilltop on a supply run. It turned out that Hilltop was also being used as a home by the last surviving Whisperers! Their leader, Keith, insisted that the Whisperers were no longer a threat. Aaron didn’t quite buy that and he wanted to torture and then kill Keith. Fortunately, Carol talked him out of it. Keith lost an arm but he got to keep his life. And he also told them where Connie’s hiding! Now, of course, is where I should remind our readers that, until the start of this season, I hadn’t really watched the show since Carl died so I’m not exactly sure who Connie is. But I guess I’ll soon find out.
Meanwhile, at the Commonwealth, Eugene and the crew got to watch a really neat presentation on VHS tape that welcomed them into the community. Eugene then went for a walk with Stephanie and nearly screwed everything up when he broke into the radio room and tried to contact Alexandria! Or did he? See, my theory is that the Commonwealth is still setting Eugene up. They’re manipulating him to reveal everything that he knows about Alexandria but they’re doing it in a way that makes it seem as if they actually don’t want to know anything about Alexandria. They’re manipulating him into contacting Alexandria by pretending like it’s something they don’t want him to do. It’s all very clever and it’s the type of thing that Eugene always seems to fall for, despite the fact that he’s the smartest guy on the show.
This week’s episode, which was directed by Greg Nicotero, was a definite improvement over the past few episodes. I liked the fact that it focused on several different groups, as opposed to getting bogged down with one repetitive storyline. I liked that it revisited the Whisperers and showed that, as far as they were concerned, they were the heroes and the Alexandrians were the villains. (The show has always been at its best when it has acknowledged that even the bad guys are just scared, lonely, and trying to survive the end of the world.) The Judith subplot was handled well and showed that some things — like obnoxious children –are never going to change.
Mostly, though, I just liked the Commonwealth stuff. From the minute I saw that introduction on the VHS tape, I was all about the Commonwealth. The intro may have looked cheap and all the happy scenes were obviously staged but, seriously, it’s easy to see why some people would find it appealing after spending years fighting other humans and trying to avoid Walkers. I loved the way the tape went from celebrating community to celebrating “security.” It felt very relevant to our current times, a true libertarian’s nightmare. You want to have ice cream and watch your kids play? Then you’ve got to accept the legion of armored men watching everything that you do. And, as always, I loved the oddball intensity of Josh McDermitt in the role of Eugene. I would seriously watch a spin-off that was just Eugene going to different communities and voicing his disappointment with their life choices.
This was a good episode, one that took a look at how different communities are trying to find some sort of normalcy in the face of the zombie apocalypse. The remains of the Whisperers are just scrounging to survive. Alexandria is trying to balance the needs of the collective with the need of every human being to be an individual. And the Commonwealth is living in denial, embracing the myth that random chaos can be controlled by strictly enforced order.
I’m looking forward to seeing where things to go. After a few weak episodes, The Walking Dead might be able to reclaim some of its lost narrative momentum. Here’s hoping!