This week on The Walking Dead we finally got to see the big siege between the Saviors (now led by Simon) and the Hilltop, and it was mostly too dark to see anything.
After Rick’s reckless attack last week, the Saviors are now led by Simon, and Simon wants to go full-on scorched Earth in their siege of the Hilltop.
Maggie tries to leverage her 38 hostages, but Simon isn’t having it, essentially disavowing any loyalty to them. Maggie hadn’t anticipated having to deal with Simon, but she was prepared for a fight. Our heroes don’t sit idly by on the walls, instead counterattacking the Saviors right outside, erupting into a giant battle.
Unfortunately it’s dark as hell the entire time. It makes sense for Simon to attack at night but it’s incredibly aggravating trying to follow along with dozens of characters. There’s melee knife fights, gun shots, and even a few arrow volleys as the Hilltop defenders retreat to the big house.
Simon makes the incredibly stupid tactical decision to stride up to the house with the last of his army, whistling defiantly. Our heroes open fire on those idiots, and Simon is forced to scramble back and retreat.
There are no real winners here (cue sappy poignant speech about War Is Hell) as both sides lose some red shirts and no one gains any ground. Unfortunately for our side, the Saviors were using their new, nasty zombie guts-coated weapons. In the dead of night the injured zombify, and The Walking Dead tries to make it as terrifying as possible.
I’ve joked over the last few seasons that regular zombies aren’t scary anymore. Often we need some sort of extra environmental hazard or challenge, such as sand trap zombies, or swamp zombies, or revolving door zombies.
But here, it’s just regular ol’ zombies. The challenge is that no one expects them inside the relatively safe walls of the Hilltop. The episode had to engineer a reason why the zombies are particularly effective during their night time ambush: all the doors and windows had been left open to save the generator’s energy. Thus all the poor folks sleeping in the big house as an added safety measure become an all-you-can-eat buffet.
It’s a brutal attack, but it’s over almost as quickly as it begins. No one here is a stranger to dealing with zombies. Our team quickly figures out the exact situation – Rick directly referencing the bat he had taken from Negan during their little bout last week. It’s more demoralizing than anything else, which was Negan’s whole point (though their cemetery is getting awful crowded by now).
The other big story revolves around Henry, the messed-up little kid who dealt the killing blow to Gavin, and is still on a quest for vengeance from his slain older brother.
Morgan had told the kid it was Gavin who had done it, thinking to end the kid’s bloodlust. Even Carol, who’s normally perfectly fine with being brutally honest toward kids (for better or worse) keeps trying to brush him aside and ignoring the warning signs.
Right before the zombie attack hits the fan, Henry takes it upon himself to act. He sneaks out of the house and opens the gate to the prison pen, shouldering an assault rifle.
Gregory does his slimiest job of trying to disarm the kid, but Henry isn’t buying it. He threatens to start killing people until someone steps forward and admits they killed his brother (followed, presumably, by a swift execution).
Before anything can unfold, the zombies attack and chaos erupts. Henry is tackled by Jared, the long-haired dick who has impressively remained a dick throughout his imprisonment. Jared grabs the gun and waves everyone to freedom.
But not everyone leaves. As Maggie later discovers, some of the Saviors, including Nice Guy Prisoner whose name I can’t ever recall, stay behind, and even work to help close the outer door and prevent more zombies from spilling in. He surmises that since Simon denounced them, they have nowhere to go, and might as well make the most of it here.
Much of the focus this week was on Maggie as a leader. While Rick becomes more one-note and less interesting each week, Maggie is emerging as the more complex, central figure of our group. She’s lauded for her leadership skills in keeping everyone alive, yet she admits that she purposely sent the message of the dead Savior to Negan in the opens to bring him here so she could kill him, right in front of Glenn’s grave. Forgiveness versus vengeance is a theme that multiple characters are experiencing this season, and Maggie’s turmoil has been the most satisfying to witness.
Maggie: As I just mentioned above, Maggie has been a treat to watch. Lauren Cohan does a great job portraying her struggle between seething hatred of Negan and doing what’s best for her people.
Henry: Obviously. Angry kid manages to free all the Savior prisoners, and probably gets himself captured or killed in the process. I’ve a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Jared.
Siddiq: Man, poor Siddiq! Here is the sweetest, most earnest newbie who just wants to help people, and he gets nothing but shit on this entire episode. Dude has the patience of a saint to put up with our rude-ass group.
Morgan: In an odd side story Morgan has started getting visions of a dead Gavin repeating the same phrase over and over: “You know what it is.” Morgan’s psyche has been a rollercoaster ride for awhile now, and eventually it’s going to end up with him leaving the show to be on Fear The Walking Dead, which feels dissatisfying at best.