Our hopes were dashed last week after both the Hilltop and the Kingdom refused an alliance with our group. This week hope, and potential new allies, are found in the most unlikeliest of places: a junkyard full of near-feral survivors and spike-armored zombies.
But first, let's talk about Carol.
Carol's presence was felt throughout this episode. Her character arc last season reflected the situation our heroes now find themselves in. They have the desire and will to fight, but not the means. Carol always has the means, but had lost the desire and turned away from it all. She literally walked away from the group, and nearly got herself (and Rick and Morgan) killed in the process.
Daryl and Morgan discuss Carol after another tense meeting between the Kindgom and the Saviors. Daryl uses her as an example as someone that would immediately stand up and fight them, instead of wringing their hands and trying to live by their rules. Carol knows this too, which is why she left.
I thought the show might draw out the eventual Carol and Daryl reunion, but then Richard had to go and be a jerk. Richard was disarmed, beaten and humiliated once again during the tribute to the Saviors. He's a leashed dog itching for a fight — and sees a kindred spirit in Daryl. He gives Daryl a new crossbow and the pair go off on a rather foolhardy mission to kill a Savior party.
Richard's plan is to start a war that would force the Kingdom to fight the Saviors. Daryl's on board — until Richard reveals his plan would get Carol killed. He lead their tracks back to her place, which is a dick move even if Daryl didn't happen to know her. Once Daryl and Richard launched their attack, the Saviors would retaliate and probably kill her, leading to war.
Naturally Daryl flips out as soon as he realizes that it's Carol out there and attacks Richard to prevent it. Later in the evening he finds Carol's place after yet another cute and funny visit from Ezekiel, who's impossibly sweet and likable.
Daryl and Carol's relationship is an interesting one. Initially the fans shipped them as a romantic couple. Now they meet here like old war veterans, a platonic love built on mutual respect and admiration. It's actually refreshing, and one you don't see too often between single men and women in an action-drama.
Carol is one of the few characters the show does better than the comic. Her character has been through the wringer, but appears more fragile and torn than ever. She can barely speak when she asks about the Saviors. Daryl doesn't hesitate. He lies and says that everyone is okay, and that they've made a peaceful deal just like the Kingdom. Later Daryl and Morgan speak again, and though Daryl is still pissed, he has a slightly better understanding about wanting to protect people, rather than send them to war.
For the more action-packed segment of the episode we shift to Rick and company's capture by a new group after they went out looking for Father Gabriel. My first reaction was that the show is introducing us to the Whisperers (sans zombie skins). They're clearly led by an alpha woman and appear to be nomads. They're large in number but not exactly talkative. In fact they speak in short, clipped sentences if at all. Only the leader, Jadis, talks to Rick.
Rick tries to sell them on an alliance, despite being completely surrounded in an odd marching band formation in the middle of a junkyard. A fight breaks out but it's Father Gabriel who steps up, first by putting a knife to one of their throats, then by giving a stirring speech. He essentially sells that Rick and company are the baddest of the badasses. “Rick can do anything! Just tell us what you want!”
First they need a test. As if this odd Mad Max moment wasn't enough, Rick is shoved down a mountain of trash into a pit with a skeletal walker covered in large iron spikes. Fight!
Rick is stabbed repeatedly while trying to evade this boss monster until Michonne gives him the obvious advice of using his environment. Rick creates an avalanche of trash to trap the beast before killing it. His reward is a deal with this new group. They keep half the food they stole, while Rick brings them guns. “Then we fight your fight.” At this point that's looking like a pretty great deal for our beleaguered group.
I'm not sold that the trash-people are supposed to be the Whisperers, but either way our survivors have a new mission and hopefully some help against the coming war with the Saviors.
Daryl: Daryl gets pets from Shiva (the tiger) and a new crossbow. Ranger status confirmed. He also gets actual things to do this episode, even if they don't amount to anything yet.
Gabriel: Father Gabe has really grown from being a whiny pain the ass to a reliable and stand-up guy. He thanks Rick and apologizes for his capture, but his real shining moment was defusing the tension during their initial meeting in the junkyard.
Winslow: “His name was Winslow.” Few times have I burst out laughing while watching The Walking Dead. I also loved that Rick asked the question I was thinking: so what you keep an armored zombie in a pit to test people?
Richard: The show has tried to get us to sympathize with Richard as a man who clearly sees the threat of the Saviors and is sick of it. When opportunity comes along with Alexandria he wants to jump all over it, only to have Ezekiel shut him down. I feel for him. But he was far too willing to let Carol die to get the war started.
Rosita: Rosita was a Winner last week but here she was back to being angry and irritating. In D&D we would call her Chaotic Stupid. She's argumentative and dangerous, and needs to be pointed in the right direction. The more I think about it they may be prepping her to adopt Holly's story arc in the comic.