Thanks to last week’s Rick vs. Negan showdown, among other great story elements, The Walking Dead has started to go back on the upswing, and this week’s episode, “Do Not Send Us Astray,” continues on the same path. While not quite as intense or character driven in the same ways, this week’s episode packs tons of the great action scenes the show has been desperately lacking since the mid-season return.
*Episode Spoilers Ahead*
Again, there weren’t a whole lot of character moments in this week’s episode, as the first half centered around Simon and his gang (which includes Dwight) wreaking havoc on the Hilltop community. Though Maggie and the Hilltop were expecting the attack, they weren’t anticipating Simon leading the strike, and they definitely didn’t foresee Negan’s absence. Maggie’s whole plan with the imprisoned Saviors was to appeal to Negan’s desire to keep people alive (because to Negan, people are resources, in case we may have forgotten). Simon frankly doesn’t give a damn about the prisoners, making it clear he felt they had gotten themselves into this situation; if they couldn’t get out of it, they simply weren’t an asset to the Saviors. There were plenty of awesome action scenes throughout this battle, but, in true TWD fashion, there were a handful of dumb decisions made. For example, once a group of Hilltop survivors retreats into the big house, Simon insists upon moving in and attempting to take it. Surprise! It’s a set up, and Simon loses quite a few men in an incredibly obvious ambush.
Negan’s biological warfare plot, soaking Savior weapons in walker blood, is the major element in play here. Almost anyone who’s hit with any kind of Savior weapon ends up falling ill. In fact, the back half of the episode was devoted to the aftermath of Simon’s Hilltop siege, with tons of Hilltopians turning. Negan’s plan definitely works, and it’s even more harrowing that it was executed by the trigger-happy Simon. Many are already dead; the added weight of watching your people turn and having to end it for them only adds insult to injury. For the audience, it was great to see an old-school TWD zombie situation, something that’s been absent lately.
In a rare Carol moment, we see her speak with a sick Tobin, and she ultimately ends up having to put him down. Before that, though, it was nice to see Carol being “open” again. She reflected with Tobin on their time together (which we never saw much of; mostly just the tail end), and we got to dig a bit deeper into her psyche instead of simply seeing her be ice cold.
Morgan continues to go crazy (or go crazy again…re-crazy?). Throughout the episode, he’s haunted by the “ghost” of Gavin, the Savior Henry killed (more on that little idiot later). Periodically, Gavin shows up, neck hole and all, to tell Morgan “You know what it is.” Not too sure what he’s getting at here. Morgan may “know what it is,” but this is quite confusing. We all know Morgan will be leaving The Walking Dead to join the cast of Fear the Walking Dead after this season concludes, so I’m positive this plays into Morgan’s departure; I’m just not exactly sure how. Morgan has a few options, but the most obvious seem to be either leave the group to go at it alone, again, or be killed off (his appearance on FTWD would be a prequel story).
A lot of “Do Not Send Us Astray” focuses on Maggie’s responsibilities as a leader, and more importantly, how to balance between her personal quest for revenge and doing what is best for her people. It’s possible to do both, and Maggie seems to have things in order, but at the end of the episode, when she’s mourning over their losses, it’s clear she’s having some trouble in this department. I think this is why the writers make such a point to hammer into our heads the idea that Maggie’s people truly believe in her and her leadership. Throughout the episode, she is constantly reaffirmed by random Hilltop folks that she is doing good for her people. My only worry here is that Super Handsome Nice Guy Savior will end up being a future love interest for Maggie. This Savior prisoner, Alden, goes out of his way to comply with Maggie, and is a stark contrast to overly-dickish Jared (who is the true killer of Henry’s brother, Benjamin). He even decides to stay and attempt to help once the other imprisoned Saviors are released (we’ll come back to that). To be clear, the only reason I’m against Alden becoming Maggie’s love interest is because it’s so predictable and trope-ish, adding to the predictability we’ve seen from The Walking Dead this season. Unless, of course, Alden is getting close to Maggie so he can turn on her, but I don’t think that’s likely at this point.
Finally, let’s talk about Henry. Oh, Henry, yet another victim of The Walking Dead’s child problem. Even Carl wasn’t this bad in his heyday. Towards the beginning of the episode, he reaches out to both Carol and Ezekiel because he wants to fight and take a stand against Simon’s invading force. Obviously (and rightly), they tell him no, and that he’s needed to help protect the big house and the people in it. Ezekiel even goes as far to say that he is needed there more. Does this sway Henry to do the right thing and do as he is told? Absolutely not. Engaging in his own revenge mission, even after Morgan lied and told Henry Gavin was responsible for Benjamin’s death, the kid just isn’t buying it. So what does he do? He finds a rifle, goes out after dark, and heads to the pen where the Savior prisoners are kept (before the internal Hilltop walker breakout) to speak to them. Gregory, in true Gregory form, attempts to take advantage of the kid’s feelings, trying to get his gun. Meanwhile, Alden is trying to appeal to the kid’s sense of humanity by telling him killing his brother’s killer won’t change things or make them better. So, Henry decides to unlock the makeshift prison, step in with his gun, and threaten to start shooting until he finds out who really killed his brother. Of course, this doesn’t work. Somehow, a walker is in the pen; this leads to a chaotic scene during which the Saviors get free and run off. Not all of them, though, as Alden stays behind along with a few others. My problem is, again, this was all so predictable. We know by this point in The Walking Dead that no good can possibly come from having stories rely on a child. It’s almost like Henry isn’t even a real character, just a plot device, and that isn’t the right way to handle things in this instance.
Despite a few problems, “Do Not Send Us Astray” is a good episode, if only because it pushes the story forward, has some solid character moments, great action, and a nice walker sequence. We don’t have many episodes left in this season, and we know the story will culminate in the finishing of the Saviors, whether that means Negan goes down or not, so things should stay interesting and well-paced until the end, but I won’t hold my breath.