With as much as last week’s episode of The Walking Dead seemed to propel things toward Rick and Negan’s ultimate confrontation, there were still a few bits of story to tell for some of the other characters. Though a few interesting things took place in this week’s chapter, titled “Dead or Alive or,” nothing monumental took place. While this is a problem TWD has been heavily struggling with lately, this particular episode is actually pretty entertaining.
*Episode Spoilers Ahead*
“Dead or Alive or” centers mostly around two stories, with a little bit of extra thrown in. First, we spent a lot of time with the finally returning Doctor Carson and Father Gabriel. At this point, after escaping the Sanctuary thanks to help from Eugene (whom Negan has now put in charge of an outpost where he will be making bullets around the clock for the impending war with Rick), Carson and Gabriel are lost in a vehicle that no longer works, and Gabriel’s non-walker-bite-related infection is taking a heavy toll on his eyesight. Carson and Gabriel’s story is filled with optimism on Gabriel’s side, as he claims that no matter what hardships are being thrown at them, God is leading the way. Carson is the human manifestation of a massive eye roll (like most viewers are when it comes to Gabriel these days), but he starts to come around after a bit. The guys stumble across a home where the previous owner had been sending out radio messages of positivity for any other survivors, and Gabriel takes this as a sign; if the owner had hope, they should as well. It’s pretty funny when Carson finds the owner’s body, which is now a walker due to apparent suicide by either asphyxiation, overdose, or some mix of both, basically voiding Gabriel’s notion about having hope. Though through happenstance (or divine intervention?), the home had tons of medications, and among them, conveniently, are the exact antibiotics Gabriel needs. His eyesight doesn’t return by the end of the episode, and Carson is worried the damage is permanent. Through another stroke of divine luck, the guys find car keys to a vehicle in the garage, and a map. Before things can get too positive, Gabriel notices a sign warning of bear traps on the grounds, and wouldn’t you know it, Carson steps right into one and starts attracting walkers. Gabriel is practically useless here, because he’s damn near blind, but he somehow manages to get Carson’s revolver, take aim, and make a perfect headshot – with his eyes closed. Blind faith *ba dum tss*.
Just when the pair seems to be back on track, they are found by Saviors, and as Carson attempts to take one of their guns, he is shot to death. Later, Negan shows up to Eugene’s new bullet-making outpost with Gabriel, but Gabriel doesn’t rat Eugene out, blaming the attempted escape on Carson. Negan seems to be happy and he puts Gabriel to work helping Eugene, as Gabriel starts breaking down once again, claiming he finally believed he had found his purpose. The biggest problem here is that nobody really cares about Gabriel or Eugene at this point. Gabriel is often a pain-in-the-ass character who gets on everyone’s nerves, and Eugene has been so incredibly useless this season that most moments concerning either one of them aren’t looked upon favorably. Personally, I actually kind of enjoyed Gabriel’s story this week, but I hate where the road ends up. I really hope they have something good planned for these two, but I’m not holding my breath.
The second major story revolves around Daryl leading Alexandrians to Hilltop. Big drama cast its shadow on the group, as Tara really has it out for Dwight. She has every right to – he popped her lover in the eyeball with an arrow – but it has been drilled into her head so much that Dwight needs to stay alive due to what he knows that her attitude towards Dwight is getting old. Granted, I understand grief and the effects it can have, but from a storytelling point of view and the way the character handles it, it’s just not for me. Daryl decided to lead the group through a swamp, since Dwight mentioned that it’s a place Negan has deemed too dangerous and the Saviors won’t go. While Daryl, Siddiq, and Rosita clear the swamp of walkers and Tara keeps an eye on the rest of the group, she decides it’s time to off Dwight. After taking a shot and missing, Tara chases Dwight, and when she finally catches up to him, they hear Saviors coming. Dwight runs out of the swamp and smooth talks the Saviors, leading them away from the swamp where the Alexandrians are. Daryl ends up pretty pissed that Dwight got away, and Tara actually defends Dwight, noting how he did something good. He didn’t kill the Saviors or anything like that; he simply lead them away. Tara’s hatred of Dwight, and is REALLY on display in this episode; it’s a bit jarring to see her run to his defense just a short while later.
Eventually, the team gets to Hilltop, where rations and supplies are extremely low. It ‘s a pretty emotional scene, as this is when everyone at Hilltop finds out about Carl’s death, and Enid’s reaction is especially sad. The big reveal here is that Siddiq has some medical experience, so Carson’s dead but we have a new doctor. Convenient! Since Siddiq decides to help out, Maggie apparently had some kind of change of heart and lets some of the imprisoned Saviors out of the pen for a bit during each day in pairs, but under heavy watch with guns trained on them. Also worth noting, Rick apparently returned to Hilltop, through we only heard someone announce it and don’t actually see it happen.
Finally, we get a bit of a notion of Negan’s next plan: biological warfare. Inspired by an attempted sarcastic comment from Eugene, Negan is apparently deciding to use walker blood as a weapon in some way. His dialog in the scene is awesome, as always, but he’s sounding a lot unlike himself right now. Negan has repeatedly hammered that people are resources and need to live, and aside from becoming walker watch dogs chained to a fence, I can’t see how this idea lines up with Negan’s personal thoughts and feelings. Hopefully we’ll see next week.
While this episode isn’t amazing, there are some good moments. Ultimately, though, “Dead or Alive or” is yet another filler episode, prolonging the eventual showdown between the Saviors and Team Hilltop/Alexandria/Kingdom.