In this week's episode of The Walking Dead, we continue our trek around the wider world of the zombie post-apocalypse. It's time to check in with the Hilltop, Alexandria's mostly friendly neighbors, whom we met last season.
Spoiler alert: This is a full recap of the episode, which assumes the reader is current with it and the series to date. If you aren't, go no further.
Maggie and Sasha have finally arrived after the terrifying attack Negan unleashed in the premiere. Maggie's given a clean bill of health from their resident doctor, leaving her and Sasha to come to terms with and grieve for their losses. But when they try to stay in the Hilltop permanently, they're met with a grim reminder of Negan's influence.
The Hilltop's leader is Gregory, who reminds you in every scene that he's someone who should be feared. He immediately wants to kick out Sasha and Maggie, despite the resident doctor insisting that Maggie stay until she has the baby (though she's not even showing yet). Gregory, however, is terrified of the Saviors finding out about the deal he made with Rick to try and wipe them out and he doesn't want Rick's assault on Negan's outpost to come back to him.
Paul Rovia, who's also known as Jesus and is the only person at the Hilltop we care about, goes to bat for the women and convinces a very worried Gregory they can at least stay the night. It's important to note that Gregory has been institutionalized by the Saviors. He believes in obeying their every whim, and in many ways, he is the model servant under Negan. He's a sobering example of what Rick could become.
They all argue over Sasha and Maggie staying, and the resulting power struggle between Gregory and Jesus becomes a focal point for the episode.
That night, Sasha and Maggie hear loud music blaring outside. They see giant bonfires lit by the wooden gate — which has been left wide open. Zombies have begun to pour in, attracted by both the noises and the fire. It's the result of a cruel trap set by the Saviors; a reminder that there are dangers that exist beyond themselves and the people of the Hilltop could use their protection.
Despite Maggie's weakened state, both women jump to action. Sasha goes to the car to try and shut the music off, but it turns out the vehicle is decked out in Mad Max-style armor plating. Maggie shows off her farm skills by finding a giant tractor and using it to mow down several zombies before crushing the car monster-truck style, leaving Jesus and Sasha to mop up the rest.
I know we've seen the Hilltop before, but I was a bit confused on how barren it felt, especially compared to the sprawling, bustling Kingdom we had back in the second episode. Aside from a few background characters, it seems like only Gregory and Jesus exist within the confines of the camp. The night attack was a neat scene, but overall made the episode feel slightly off.
The next day we return to Jesus, Sasha and Maggie arguing with Gregory. Sasha tries to cut a deal by agreeing to leave if they let Maggie stay, but Gregory shoots it down. He continues being a cowardly slimeball, but before he can inflict any more damage, is interrupted when the Saviors show up.
This time around, there's no Negan. Instead we get Simon, one of his top men, who enters Gregory's house with about two dozen armed men. It's in this scene that we can finally confirm Gregory's status as a loyal dog. The second he gets a chance, he tries to expose Maggie and Sasha, who are hiding in a nearby closet.
Luckily, they're saved by Jesus, who hides them in a closet further away from the one Gregory imagined. Our resident slimeball Gregory is forced to give away his prized box of Scotch instead.
"He's a coward. They're more dangerous."
Then Simon announces they're taking half of everything, and forces Gregory to kneel for good measure. Unlike Dwight, Simon seems to genuinely enjoy his quasi-leadership role under Negan, even reinforcing to Gregory that as far as he was concerned, Simon was just as deadly as Negan.
Afterward, Gregory and Jesus are furious with each other, but Jesus finally stands his ground. He blackmails Gregory into letting Maggie and Sasha stay, threatening to expose Gregory's deals.
This episode also featured the "Awkward Teen Romance Adventures of Carl and Enid." While Rick and Aaron leave to gather supplies, Enid climbs the walls of Alexandria, intent on traveling to the Hilltop. Carl talks to her, but doesn't stop her.
Instead, he shows up later on the road, saving her from a zombie by running it over in one of the more overly dramatic scenes of the whole the series. The music alone was hilariously intense. Mind you, Enid was walking in the middle of the day, on a street, with a single zombie. She could've just walked slightly faster and been okay. I mean, the whole situation resulted with one-eyed Carl crashing the car. Good job, Carl, I'm sure those aren't rare in the post-apocalyptic world.
Cynicism melts away as Carl and Enid enjoy a legitimately cute moment involving some roller skates they find. When they arrive at the Hilltop they finally share a kiss, but they see Simon loading up some supplies and their paths diverge. Carl, still full of teenage bravado, wants to kill them all. Enid just wants to meet up with Maggie and the others. They part ways, and Enid shares a tender moment with Maggie over the loss of their friends and loved ones. Maggie ends up giving Hershel's watch to Enid. She takes Jesus' advice, claiming that they don't need things to remind them of those they've lost. After all, they'll always have their memories.
Jesus is a stand-up guy throughout the episode, but Sasha has one last favor to ask him — stow away on Simon's truck, and find out where Negan lives. Jesus is adept at surviving alone and takes on the mission easily, hopping aboard the truck as it departs. As he pours out Gregory's scotch, he finds Carl, seemingly intent on the same plan.
Despite a limited cast and an area that's not terribly exciting, this episode did feature some nice moments of characterization. Maggie and Sasha becoming permanent residents could certainly help to unify their new community with Rick's. But much will hinge on what Carl and Jesus find on their dangerous reconnaissance mission.
Jesus: Jesus is a loyal friend, an expert zombie killer and a self-sufficient survivor. In this episode, he proved why he's a comedy favorite, and integrated himself into the makeshift group at the Hilltop.
Maggie: Maggie was amazing in this episode. She not only had the best action moment with the tractor, but also the best line after punching Gregory: "This is our home now. So you'll start to call me by my name. Not Marsha. Not dear. Not honey. Maggie. Maggie Rhee."
Gregory: I spent most of this recap complaining about him. He's an easy character to hate. He's not necessarily evil, but, as Maggie puts it, "He's a coward. They're more dangerous."
Carl: Carl's definitely hitting those angry teenage years. He almost caused a catastrophe last week at Alexandria, and now he's taken it upon himself to go on an incredibly dangerous mission surrounded by enemies. At least he finally found Jesus.