With Walking Dead fans counting down the hours until the show’s biggest big-bad makes his debut, this week’s episode was a poignant reminder of how much the Grimes gang stands to lose.
By the time the credits rolled on the Sunday, February 28, episode, Negan, the never-seen-but-already-notorious villain of season 6, had officially landed a spot on the to-kill list of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) — and by way of preparing us all for the confrontation ahead, the show took its time to muse on the nature of love, family, loyalty and loss in this slower-paced episode.
“Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Bigger”
After he rudely awakened a sleeping (and fully nude) Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) in the final moments of last week’s episode, Jesus (Tom Payne) also blew the hell out of their cover when Carl (Chandler Riggs) caught him sitting on the stairs.
“What are you doing in our house?” Carl demanded, gun cocked.
“Waiting for your mom and dad to get dressed,” Jesus said, at just the right moment for everyone in town to burst into the house and hear him.
But Jesus had bigger things on his mind: namely, a special relationship between his camp of survivors and Rick’s. The possibility of a trade agreement was just the thing to perk everyone up, and not just because the Alexandrites have more guns than food at this point. Jesus seems like a pro at this, which means there must be more living humans out there than anyone imagined. Hooray!
Let’s Go to Jesus Camp
With Michonne, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun) and the diplomatic Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in tow, Rick and Jesus set off for the promised land. After rescuing some of Jesus’ friends from a car crash en route, the group earned enough trust and goodwill to be allowed inside the walls of the Hilltop — but not enough to be treated with respect by their leader, the slimy, smarmy Gregory (Xander Berkeley), who responded to Maggie’s attempts to negotiate a trade by hitting on her. Ewww.
But Rick and friends got a stellar chance to prove their worth when a group of Hilltoppers came through the gates … and one of 'em promptly stabbed Greg right in the guts. Whaaat?
After a violent brawl that ended with Rick cutting the assassin’s throat (side note: does Lincoln have some kind of contractual obligation to be covered in blood no less than 40 percent of the time during any given season?), the truth came out. The Hilltoppers are being extorted by another group, the Saviors, for half of everything they have — and their leader, the notorious Negan, occasionally kills or kidnaps someone as a polite reminder of the cost of failing to honor that agreement. (The look of incredulous disgust on Daryl’s face during this story cannot be overstated.)
And just like that, the Alexandrites had their leverage: They proposed to take out the Saviors, and in exchange, the Hilltoppers would give them half of everything. But only just this once because, unlike Negan, they’re not total jerks.
The Calm Before the Storm
Once again, the Grimes gang is readying for a war. But first, they have to go home and regroup, and that’s where we left them — on the RV, happily passing around a sonogram pic of Maggie’s teeny-tiny fetus. It was a peaceful, pleasant reminder of how much the survivors have become a family.
It was also a potentially devastating snapshot of what they all stand to lose. And while Rick and Michonne were (and are) confident that they’ll come through this fight with a victory, as per usual, it’s hard not to remember Maggie’s ominous earlier comment about what tends to happen when Rick Grimes is determined to get what he wants: “It’s gonna cost us something.”
The Walking Dead airs on AMC on Sundays at 9 p.m. EST.
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