My first thoughts are that this opening doesn’t seem very plausible for this world that the authors and writers have created. There’s no way one man could stroll into the pantry at the Alexandrian Safe Zone (given their current circumstances), steal valuable food supplies critical to life or death regarding the Saviors, open the community gates and, just drive off into the night. What?
Gregory is a spineless weasel like we expect. I thought the scene at Hilltop is in line with the narrative of The Walking Dead (TWD). However, things seem to move just a bit too fast. One complaint about the series, especially in recent seasons, is that it has too many slow filler episodes and poor character development. They really could’ve have done a better job building the narrative of the Hilltop tribes. As it is right now, the show suffers from this missed opportunity. Hopefully more will be done in the future to build characters and plot lines in future episodes.
Our protagonist group of survivors finally connect with the Kindgom with help from Jesus, and Morgan. We get the funny/light introduction to Ezekiel, “the King”. He’s quite the fraud, even with his tiger. This much is clear from the meeting and very much in line with the narrative of TWD. All parties need each other and rule of order has to be established which protects and values the lives of the living.
Benjamin & Carol:
Deus Ex Machina.
Benjamin & Ezekiel:
In a nod to the States’ Black History Month, Ezekiel starts with a paraphrasing of MLK. Otherwise, this is more character building for Ezekiel. Benjamin seems more and more like a plot device.
Ezekiel & the survivors:
Obviously, Ezekiel makes half-steps and proposes half-measures. It’s not surprising but it is enlightening and it pushes the overall story forward. Ezekiel and his people are not going to be able to be passive on this war against Negan and the Saviors. Again, having Ezekiel quote MLK is not enough to build the story; it’s not enough to justify his motives. I wish the show runners would’ve spent more time building the Kingdom community or at least done a better job building the community. As it stands now, we aren’t given much motivation to value anybody in the Kingdom; even Carol, Morgan and, Daryl seem to be on some kind of “probation”.
Survivors & Saviors:
We’re placed back in the middle of the main narrative. How do our beloved survivors survive their latest existential treat, the Saviors? The tension is real and very familiar. There’s no need to second guess the moves they make because we know the characters, we know the challenges they’re up against and, we are invested in their survival.
In their latest plot, they loot a roadblock that was setup by the Saviors. In the process, they also manage to weaken the defenses setup by the Saviors. There’s a bit of drama in getting clear of Walkers but honestly, it was a bit melodramatic because we know the real threat isn’t the zombie hoard at this point. The real threat is Negan and his people. The added suspense seems to be poor foreshadowing of our group’s impending victory. Fortunately, we are quickly reminded of the real threat at Alexandria when our protagonists arrive home.
Back to Gabriel:
Skipping over the obvious flaws in Gabriel’s robbery, everyone (including us, the viewers) is left wondering what Gabriel might be up to; he has to be reined-in. The group sets out to find him and to get answers to his actions. Rick wisely surmises, from a left scribble, that Gabriel does want to be found. They figure the fallen priest is at the boat from previous adventures of Rick and Eric. In pursuit of the priest, the group is surrounded by a new group, fronting weaponry; a fact that doesn’t seem to be lost on Rick as he smiles to end the episode. My guess is that he spots a familiar face amidst the crowd; Gabriel.
This was a good return episode, especially near the end when we are reminded that the Saviors are a very real threat. Otherwise, I think the episode suffers from the lack of depth in the scenes at the associated communities at the Hilltop and at the Kingdom. It suffers from missed opportunities to have developed these communities further. As a result, the audience isn’t really given an adequate opportunity to be invested in anything that goes on, or the people, in those communities. Now that a new community is being introduced, I hope they do a much better job developing these characters and giving the audience a better reason to invest in these communities than Maggie, Daryl, Morgan and, Carol who we consider to be members of our main protagonist group. Who are the other characters and why should we care? Especially when we keep getting signaled that the survivors will win in the end anyway.