[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the midseason finale of The Walking Dead.]
We were given yet another 90-minute episode for The Walking Dead’s midseason finale. Half a dozen story threads were left dangling from last week, and they all came together just in time for Hurricane Negan to mess them up.
Negan finally flexed his brutality again and, unfortunately, more of the characters died. But instead of despairing, the group finally comes together, both emotionally and physically.
As per the end of last week's episode, the meat of the midseason finale lay with Negan showing up again in Alexandria. He, Carl and Olivia share an awkward meal together that's more boring than menacing, while most of the Alexandrians feel helpless as they wait for Rick and Aaron to return from their supply run.
The only one not feeling anguished is Spencer, Alexandria's professional asshole. Spencer brought in a nice haul of supplies for the Saviors, and decided to capitalize on the opportunity. He cleans up, puts on a nice polo shirt and grabs a bottle of booze to share with Negan. His plan is to reveal to Negan how much of a violent screwup Rick has been, and that he should be in charge because he'll easily play ball for Negan — just as Gregory does at the Hilltop.
Unfortunately, this doesn't have quite the effect Spencer hoped. Negan is playfully surprised but ultimately disappointed that Spencer would be so cowardly as to plot against Rick and try to get Negan to get rid of him. “You got not guts,” Negan snarls, right before he stabs him in the gut. It's a scene that's played out exactly as it was depicted in the comics. And just like the comics, it's tricky to feel horrified or gratified. We hate Spencer, so seeing him die is almost cathartic.
But then there's Rosita. She's suffering from immense survivor's guilt, and still carrying the homemade bullet that she forced Eugene to make for her. We think Father Gabriel talked her down from her suicide mission to assassinate Negan. But while Spencer lay on the ground dying and a crowd gathers, she grabs a gun and pulls the trigger.
In one of The Walking Dead's most ridiculous moments, the bullet miraculously hits Negan's bat, Lucille. Negan is hilariously freaked out and Rosita is quickly tackled to the ground by one of Negan's grunts, Arat. Thus, a major moment from the comics is jarringly warped by a homemade bullet.
Negan is more upset about the fact that someone can make bullets than he is over the attempted assassination. Rosita tries to take the blame, but Negan's having none of it, and orders Arat to kill someone. She randomly shoots Olivia in the head.
Rick finally shows up to witness this disaster. He and Aaron have rowed a boat through a moat of zombies surrounding one survivor's last stand. They made it through with a bit of drama and bonding, as Aaron is steadfast and supports Rick. Their bond makes it more heart-breaking when they return to Alexandria and Aaron is brutally beaten. The Saviors had mistakenly found the rude note that belonged to the dead survivor they stole the supplies from.
Or were they dead? The lingering mystery of the midseason finale was an unknown person (we see only their shoes) who saw Rick and Spencer leaving the area with the supplies.
Rick again feels powerless once as he watches Aaron get assaulted but he holds his tongue (and fists). They finally meet up with Negan just around the time Olivia is killed, and Negan is ready to keep executing people until he has his answer. Tara briefly tries to take the blame, but finally Eugene, the resident coward, steps up.
Negan is satisfied and takes Eugene with him, along with all the supplies that Rick brought. Of course that little bit of drama puts Rick's group behind on their tithe, according to Negan.
Rick is extremely upset by the entire situation. He thought that by swallowing all of his anger and rage and playing nice, it would keep everyone safe. But with both Spencer and Olivia dead, clearly even serving Negan doesn't make you safe from his wrath. We, of course, have known this for several episodes, but Rick finally comes to realize it too.
The episode jumped around to bring the other characters together. Michonne's capture of Neganite Isabelle went nowhere, other than to teach her that Negan has way more people than they realized. Daryl manages to escape Negan's fortress in a fairly boring fashion, having to deal with exactly one Fat Joe on his way to the motorcycles. Thanks Jesus!
We also finally returned to Carol, Morgan and the Kingdom for the first time since the second episode. Ezekiel's right-hand man Richard shows up at Carol's secluded house around the time Morgan pays a visit. Carol still wants nothing to do with anything, choosing instead to withdraw from the entire world, though she does seem to care about Morgan.
Richard wants Morgan and Carol to talk to King Ezekiel and convince him to go to war with the Saviors. Frustratingly neither Morgan nor Carol are on board, choosing to just stay out of things and maintain the Kingdom's tenuous peace. Richard is frustrated, and so am I.
The Kingdom may be playing hard to get, but the Hilltop will be on board with an official alliance shortly. The episode ends with the rest of the characters all reuniting at the Hilltop, including the newly freed Daryl. Presumably they're going to lay out their plans for an all-out war with Negan, and it begins with an important alliance between the three communities.
Daryl: Daryl's escape is haphazard at best, including an odd break to sit down and eat some peanut butter. But when faced with an obviously cowardly Savior that's already surrendering, Daryl doesn't hesitate to beat him to death. Later he brings Rick his gun, which is about as potent symbolism as you can get. Welcome back Daryl!
Zombie Hazards: Two weeks ago we saw a sand zombie trap and this week we witnessed a giant moat full of them. After seven years the characters have leveled up quite a bit; even a horde of zombies is beginning to lose its luster. Now we're seeing them used in the environment in new and creative ways. I'm holding out for earthquake zombies next.
Lucille: Not only can Lucille bash a person's face to a mushy pulp, but also she can absorb bullets! That is a damn fine bat.
Rosita: When you have a hammer, you start looking for nails. Armed with her one-bullet gun, Rosita was a bad one-act play waiting to happen. Her outburst was ill-conceived; even if she does kill Negan right then, more than likely the Saviors would murder each and every last person in Alexandria.
Spencer: Oh Spencer. You spent most of your time being an utter asshole, only to be brutally murdered by an even bigger asshole. At least we found your guts.
The Kingdom: Carol and Morgan have been mostly written out of this season. It's even more frustrating in this mid-season finale, as the rest of us know how much of a problem the Saviors are.