This week The Walking Dead checks in with our Hilltop gang. Maggie, Sasha, and Enid are now joined by Daryl and Rosita. The Hilltop doesn't have a lot going on. The biggest story actually happens away from the walled town, as Sasha and Rosita plan their daring attack on Negan.
It was another weak episode but we did have a theme of sorts: forgiveness, understanding, and absolution for two pairs of characters.
The first pair is Maggie and Daryl. These two have not spoken since Glenn and Abraham were brutally murdered at the hands of Negan during the season premiere (and finale last season). Daryl seemingly avoids her, putting all the blame on himself for the outburst that got Glenn killed. He's barely even seen during the montage at the Hilltop, where we see Maggie and Sasha training many of the Hilltop folks in wielding knives and making weapons.
Our second pair is Rosita and Sasha, the two women who were caught in a love triangle with Abraham. They both despise Negan for killing the man they loved, and neither seems to want anything other than revenge. Rosita is a bit more hardcore about it, and goes to the Hilltop to recruit Sasha on a suicide run to assassinate Negan at his stronghold. Rosita has the sniper rifle — but Sasha is the best shot.
Despite their murderous shared goal, the two women aren't exactly on friendly terms. Sasha agrees to leave with her, but is caught grabbing some bullets from Jesus' trailer. Having seen Rosita, Jesus picks up on their plan. He's sad but doesn't try to stop her. Typical Jesus. Enid gives her a 10 minute head start before she goes to tell Maggie. That's when the Saviors arrive.
Maggie and Daryl are both forced to run and hide when they arrive; Maggie is thought dead by the Saviors, while Daryl is still missing-in-action. Once again Simon makes a weak episode semi-decent with his one-man good cop, bad cop routine. Gregory is instantly groveling as Simon tells him they need someone.
Turns out it's their doctor, since Negan killed theirs back in episode 11. Gregory is upset but does nothing as the doctor is loaded up on their truck. One savior randomly decides to explore the basement where Maggie and Daryl are holed up. Things get tense as Daryl brandishes a knife from the shadows, but the Savior leaves.
As the tension dissipates, Maggie finally makes Daryl look at her. Daryl breaks down and cries in a heartbreaking moment, apologizing to her for getting Glenn killed. Maggie chokes up a bit but remains strong, telling Daryl that it wasn't his fault. “I want to string them all up and watch 'em die. But we have to win. Help me win.” Daryl never felt fully at home at either Alexandria or the Kingdom, but he may have found one here.
Sasha and Rosita use the sudden appearance of the Saviors to slip away and embark on their journey to the Savior's base. Sasha tries to reach Rosita emotionally but Rosita walls up and keeps her at bay: “I'm not here to get to know you.” Their journey is mostly boring and uneventful, though their car hot-wiring and zombie distractions make Rick and Michonne look completely incompetent.
They arrive at Savior HQ and find a comfortable spot in an abandoned building overlooking the perimeter. It all seems a little too easy. Sasha is finally able to break through to Rosita, and we learn a bit about Rosita's backstory. She learned useful survival skills from the men in her life. It wasn't until Abraham that a man actually recognized that she could handle herself. Sasha seems to respect that and the two begin to form a bond.
They see Eugene barking orders at the guards, along with the shiny new liquid metal-covered zombies. The Saviors that were at the Hilltop arrive with the doctor in tow. Negan comes out to greet them, but Sasha can't get a clear shot with the sniper rifle. After listening in to Savior chatter on the radio, they decide their best plan is to go inside.
At nightfall Eugene talks with another Savior out by the perimeter, who suddenly has his head blown off. Eugene cowers to find Rosita already cutting the fence. He's free! Except, he doesn't want to leave. We've learned that Eugene actually flourishes here under Negan. He cowers and runs back inside.
Sasha arrives and slips behind the fence, but closes it before Rosita can get in. Sasha may be a hard-ass but she actually cares about other people (unlike Rosita), and decides there's no need for both of them to throw their lives away. She hurries on inside while Rosita is forced to escape. She runs into Daryl, who had recently learned about their plan from Jesus.
A few recaps ago, I predicted that Rosita would follow Holly's story arc in the comic. I was wrong, it was Sasha that would end up taking on the final leg of the mission. That makes sense, as Holly doesn't exist in the show and Sasha doesn't exist in the comic. I won't delve into comic spoilers here but let's just say that Sasha's actions will help provide the final spark to the war with Negan. I think I speak for all of us when I declare that it's about damn time.
Maggie and Daryl: They only had one short scene together but it was a powerful one. It feels weird to grieve so intensely for a moment that happened 13 episodes ago, but it was a cathartic experience for both characters. If Daryl cries we cry.
Sasha: Sasha comes off great in this episode, mostly because Rosita is so unlikable and aggravating. Sasha wants vengeance but also cares about protecting Maggie and helping the Hilltop. Her last act of the episode is to protect Rosita by taking on the insanely dangerous mission by herself.
Simon: Stephen Ogg is a treasure as always, a charismatic force that makes me wish he were in charge of the Saviors just so we could see more of him. His reaction when Dr. Harland asked why they need two doctors was easily my favorite part of the episode.
Rosita: She finally opened up a bit towards the end, but the writers sure try their hardest to make us despise her. She wants for nothing and cares for nothing other than killing Negan. It'll be a tough hill to climb to make us care about Rosita in the future.
Eugene: We saw plenty of Eugene in his own episode three weeks ago. By now he's firmly entrenched in Savior life and loving it. Even when given a chance at escape he balks and refuses. Can Eugene actually be saved at this point?
Gregory: Gregory is a caricature of a sycophant. After Simon makes fun of gin and flaunts the virtues of tequila, Gregory switches from gin to tequila at the end of the episode. He whines to Simon to get a free gate pass to Savior HQ, and casually threatens Jesus by flaunting his Savior connections. It's not even questionable – Team Maggie is the only way to go for the Hilltop.