This week Rick officially returns to the Hilltop, only to immediately go off half-cocked on a last minute plan to attack Negan, further proving that he learned nothing from his son.

On the flip side, Maggie begins to see the value of trusting and working with others. We saw a glimmer of this last week when she acquiesced to letting the Savior prisoners have some outside time. This week she spots an odd message just outside their walls – an offer of exchanges from a newcomer.

Michonne jumps all over the opportunity, despite the danger. Rick isn’t here to caution them against it, since he’s already left to scout for Saviors. Hilltop is very aware that an attack with the newly freed Saviors is imminent. 

She convinces Maggie, and the two bring along Enid and Rosita for maximum Badass Girl Power.

They go to the location and meet Georgie, a middle-aged woman in a suit, and her two…friends? Family? Lackeys? Hilda and Midge, both kind of hilariously dim.

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Georgie’s situation is odd in our current world of extremes – she’s relatively normal. She promises knowledge, and in exchange is looking for food and music. She seemingly operates directly out of her van, and our heroines are appropriately shocked and suspicious that she’s survived this long.

Her offer appears genuine, and she’s plenty amiable (and seemingly unarmed). Maggie is well out of fucks to give, however, and takes them back to Hilltop.

Since we already saw Maggie’s moral dilemma this season, the theme of trust and selflessness falls between Enid and Michonne. Enid suggests they simply take all their stuff, because someone’s going to at some point, and they need it. Michonne is horrified. Out of all our characters she’s the one who most seems to embody Carl’s Anne Frank-like spirit of helping people, despite the apocalyptic+war situation they’re in.

Enid raises a good point though. Yes Carl helped someone, but he died in the process. Meanwhile she killed someone to stay alive, which happened to work out for her (most groups would’ve killed her on the spot in retaliation). Michonne talks her out of it, and then Maggie agrees to the exchange.

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The Hilltop has some music, but no food to give. Georgie notices this, and actually ends up giving them some of her food stores. See, good people do exist! More importantly, they also get a photocopied manual of building plans for windmills, aqueducts, silos; it’s a whole medieval guide book to civilization. I’m getting a college professor vibe from Georgie.

It’s all a bit too convenient to suddenly get all this useful city planning information for little work, and ultimately feels like more filler until we get to the upcoming battle.

At the Sanctuary Dwight is welcomed back, and Negan has loaded up a team full of walker-guts weapons. He, Dwight, and Simon are to send yet another message to the Hilltop.

Simon is growing frustrated. We witnessed a few episodes ago with how he dealt with the Scavengers. He doesn’t see Rick’s group as ever bowing down. What’s another message, even a nasty, violent one, going to do but further embolden them?

He confides all this to Dwight, who’s a conflicted man of few words throughout the episode. I’m more than fine with this, as it allows Simon Ogg to continue to do this thing.

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Rick sees the army approaching and is prepared to sound the alarm, when he notices Negan is driving by himself in the rear. The rage takes over, and Rick jumps in his car, chases after the Saviors, and rams into Negan.

Somehow he manages to separate Negan from the rest of the group, and effectively run him off the road. Negan limps into a nearby building while Rick follows, emptying the ammo on both his rifle and his handgun. Negan’s taunt is followed by Rick showing off his hand axe-throwing skills, and Negan ends up falling into a basement, losing Lucille.

Rick is consumed by vengeance and follows him into the dark pit. Someone should remind him that it wasn’t Negan who killed Carl, though Negan’s certainly done some bad things (like killing Abraham and Glenn for starters).

What follows is a lengthy scenario where our two dick-measuring stars get to trade insults and spout philosophy about leadership. Rick throws the massacre of the Scavengers at Negan’s face, which is news to Negan. He manages to find Lucille, and sets it ablaze before a horde of zombies begins storming inside.

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The ensuing fight gets a bit messy as the two men grapple with each other in the dark while fending off the flaming dead. It’s a neat fight but we’ve seen these two go at it before. We know neither men are going to hurt each other this early on, and Rick comes across like a crazy psychopath hell-bent on murdering Negan.

Negan manages to escape the building, but when Rick follows he’s gone. The very end reveals that Negan has been captured – by Jadis!

This was a surprise twist and I’m interested to see where they’re going with it. I thought we may had even seen the last of Jadis after “The Lost and the Plunderers.” Clearly Jadis isn’t happy that her entire group was killed by Simon, but Negan may be able to convince her that he had nothing to do with that (“I only wanted to kill one of your people, not all!”).

Meanwhile Simon capitalizes on this Negan-less opportunity. He and Dwight make a half-hearted attempt to locate Negan, finding the bloody car. Simon has disagreed with Negan’s methods with Rick. Without Negan the choice is obvious: Simon can instruct the army to attack the Hilltop with the goal to completely wipe them out. Screw sending messages.

The battle at Hilltop is still forthcoming, and the last few episodes have felt like bloated filler leading up to it. I enjoyed Negan and Simon this week, and though Rick’s attack didn’t amount to much, it did effectively separate Negan from the fight, at least temporarily. Unfortunately as Dwight has discovered, having Simon in charge may actually be far worse for everyone….

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The Winners

Michonne: It was Michonne’s idea to take up Georgie’s offer without much to go on, and they all make a useful ally and trade as a result. Michonne is assertive, level-headed, and empathetic. Rick needs more Michonne and less Negan.

Simon: Simon Ogg is never going to miss out on my Winners list, okay? He’s fantastic, from confiding his seditious thoughts to Dwight to taking charge of the Saviors as soon as Negan is out of the picture. He may prove to be an even more dangerous villain in the process.

The Losers

Rick: Damn it, Rick. A leader doesn’t rush off on a personal revenge-soaked quest. Channel your grief and anger into protecting your people and helping Maggie. Hopefully he’ll soon realize that with Negan gone, the Saviors are just as, if not more dangerous than ever.