Big comic events, the kind which Marvel pulls out once or twice a year, have what are called tie-ins, or companion comics. These are side stories that take place during the big event, usually focusing on minor characters and subplots within the larger event framework.
This week’s episode of The Walking Dead is their tie-in episode, focusing on several smaller side stories while the Savior base of Sanctuary is still under lockdown from our group’s initial attack.
As the title indicates, three of our stories involve the leaders of each of our united communities. I enjoyed the cold open, where each leader narrated their war-like Letters from the Frontlines to each other. Our group has won numerous battles, but not without cost, including Aaron’s boyfriend Eric and all the fighting members of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom is in a sad state. King Ezekiel has boarded himself up in his theater, sadly holding Shiva’s leash. Carol tries to talk with him but Jerry advises against it, and she storms off. I’m not entirely sure where she tries to go, but a young boy follows her – Henry, the younger brother of Benjamin, the slain protege of Morgan who helped send him over to crazytown.
It’s a funny moment where Carol tries to dissuade him. Carol can be very darkly humorous and blunt toward kids, as we’ve seen over the years. Henry puffs out his chest and wants to help, so naturally Carol shrugs and hands him a pistol, ha!
She storms back to the theater ready to blast the doors open with a damn shotgun. But the doors are unlocked, and what follows is one of the most emotionally rewarding scenes of the entire season.
We haven’t had much chance to really sit and let the actors do their thing this season (a problem that also plagued Game of Thrones last season). The scene between Ezekiel and Carol was more than welcome, as she attempts to bring him out of his depressive funk by appealing to his leadership and his earnest empathy for his people. There may even be a slight spark of romance, which I’m totally here for (Carol deserves to be happy god damn it).
Most of our story this week revolves around the prisoners at the Hilltop, creating an interesting political dilemma for Maggie. It’s an easy, direct representation of the mercy vs wrath theme that season eight is beating us over the head with.
Maggie has an angel and a devil on her shoulders: Jesus remains merciful, looking ahead to having to work with these people and assuming they can be rehabilitated to join them. Gregory is of course Gregory, conniving and manipulative, and ready to kill them all for his own safety.
Ultimately Maggie makes the choice to build a makeshift prison out of chicken wire to hold them – and even puts Gregory inside in one of the most delicious moments of the episode. Later Maggie admits it’s a tough choice, and reveals that the only reason she’s keeping them alive is as a bargaining chip in case the Saviors capture any of their people. Out of the trio of title leaders, Maggie is the clear winner this week.
Which brings us to Rick. Rick arrives to Junktown to speak with Jadis. We haven’t seen the Junkies since their betrayal during last season’s finale. She actually shot Rick (sorry, grazed) during the whole ordeal, yet here he is asking for an alliance once again. Clearly Rick has a plan, but for now Jadis declines and takes him prisoner. I’m not sure what the plan is, and everyone else seems to have other things going on.
Carl hunts down that jumpy dude from the first episode. Turns out it’s Siddiq, a somewhat minor character in the comics who ends up one of the good guys of Alexandria. In the comics he doesn’t show up until after the Savior war, however.
Carl and Siddiq hit if off. We never trust anyone outside our group but I instantly love this dude, who keeps track of all the walkers he has killed: 237! Carl asks him the three questions recruits him for Alexandria. Carl’s dialogue about kids and parents is laughably bad but I liked the two of them together.
We also finally get our first action with Michonne all season, as she and Rosita leave Alexandria to go check on Sanctuary on such a weak reason that Michonne can’t even properly explain it (something about a need? a feeling? what?).
On the way they hear operatic music blasting from a nearby building. Sound draws walkers and could draw them away from Sanctuary, so they investigate. There they find two Saviors who have a plan to drive a truck loaded with speakers blasting music to do just that. Our heroines attempt a stealth ambush, but it goes comically wrong.
This whole fight scene was just goofy, culminating in Rosita vaporizing a dude with a bazooka, and Daryl randomly showing up with a dump truck to destroy the speaker-truck as the last Savior tires to speed away.
Daryl and Tara are there for a mission of vengeance; Daryl for his imprisonment and torture last season, and Tara for Dwight’s murder of her girlfriend Denise in season six. They had playfully argued which one of them gets to kill Dwight, despite Dwight being the primary reason their entire war has been going relatively well this season.
The four of them all head to Sanctuary with the plan that Daryl had gotten into a literal fistfight with Rick over last week: blowing a hole in Sanctuary and letting the walkers sort it out. I have a feeling this will backfire tremendously, and this act will probably not only save Sanctuary but probably end with one of these four getting killed (and both Tara and Rosita are very expendable at this point).
Maggie: Maggie is cold as ice this week, and proving herself to be a capable leader. Holding the prisoners is a strategic move, but she definitely doesn’t wholly trust them. She also had the best line of the episode, “Don’t make me regret it, or you will.”
Siddiq: Trust is a rare commodity in the zombie apocalypse, but Carl proves that taking a chance can sometimes pay off. Siddiq is a solid character in the comics and his show counterpart looks much of the same. Since he’s being added earlier in the story, hopefully he’ll be given something cool to do.
Carol & Ezekiel: Two of my favorite characters sharing an emotional, heartfelt scene together? More please.
Jesus: As fans we’re naturally untrustworthy of pretty much everyone who’s not in our group, which has been Rick’s successful philosophy. Paul’s bleeding heart for the prisoners thus comes off as more and more naive, even when a non-shitty Savior begins speaking up and generally seems to be a normal, decent dude. But we can’t help but feel that Paul’s mercy is going to get people hurt before the war is over.
Michonne & Rosita: Their reasons for leaving Alexandria were incredibly stupid, and the speaker-truck subplot was a dumb excuse to include some gun-action in an otherwise action-light episode. And how the hell did Michonne go from “I need to check on Sanctuary” to “Okay I guess I’m a part of Team Wrath now?”