Since splintering the original group of survivors into several factions to expand the world of The Walking Dead, we’ve spent the first half of this season moving chess pieces around with little progression of the overall arc since the premiere. So it seemed a brave move to open “Swear” by introducing yet more new characters at this late stage. But it soon became apparent why, as Cyndie and her young companion, Rachel, found an unconscious and washed up Tara whilst beach-combing. We last saw Tara and Heath nine episodes back, so flashback scenes interspersed with the present day made for a handy refresher course in late season six happenings.
Having seen Tara saved from Rachel’s spear by the peaceable Cyndie, we jumped back in time to see Tara and Heath on their salvage mission, and discussing the repercussions of taking human life in the aftermath of the battle with The Saviors at the outpost. Tara’s matter-of-fact ‘us or them’ attitude served as a stark reminder that while she has been a benign member of Rick’s group for a while now, she was actually instrumental in the attack which brought down the prison and resulted in Hershel’s death. Her view that some people are evil and others inherently good has been reached because of the experiences she’s had. Some kill for fun. She’s killed to save herself or to protect her friends. Heath has lived a fairly sheltered life in Alexandria to a point, and had his perceptions shaken. He now believes that far from being in it together, everyone is out for themselves when it comes to survival, a depressing thought which was then used to wrong foot us when he and Tara accidentally unleashed a hoard of buried walkers from under a pile of sand, and Heath seemed to be leaving Tara to fend for herself. In fact, we later found out that he’d been trying to save her when she took a tumble into the water.
The question of whether and when it’s justifiable to take a human life was further explored as Tara discovered the all-female settlement of Oceanside, and was subsequently taken hostage by the inhabitants. Their policy of killing all intruders on sight seemed harsh at first, but was later revealed to be for good reason. I can’t have been alone in thinking that maybe Oceanside was some kind of sinister matriarchal society which had deigned all men redundant here at the end of civilisation, but reluctant to believe this show would resort to such cliched tropes, but after hearing that all the menfolk were killed in a skirmish, the plot thickened.
Tara pleaded her case to Cyndie’s grandmother, the leader of Oceanside, and after initially telling her she was pretty much a lone survivor, Tara offered up information about Alexandria and suggested the two communities team up and trade. This idea seemed to float until Tara’s two escorts back to the shore sent her ahead to deal with a walker and pulled guns on her. Luckily Cyndie was lurking and managed to save her new friend’s bacon yet again, helping Tara make her escape, but on the proviso that she swore not to breathe a word of Oceanside to anyone. Cyndie then dropped the bombshell that The Saviors had been responsible for wiping out the male portion of their group, once again conjuring an almost Biblical mythos around Negan and his posse, his slaughter of all male children over the age of ten reminiscent of King Herod.
So Tara’s freedom was soured by the knowledge that the raid on the outpost hadn’t mitigated the threat from Negan’s Saviors, the loss of Heath, and on finally making her way back to the gates of Alexandria, hearing about the deaths of Abraham, Glenn, and her girlfriend, Denise. While Cyndie believed that no one has to kill and there are no innately evil people, Tara had always thought killing was justified if it was for the greater good. Her closing refusal to share her knowledge of the Oceanside colony and their resources with Rosita may suggest the weight of her loss has shifted her viewpoint. Her insistence that people are stronger together and that is how the world will be rebuilt may have been compromised by grief, or perhaps she’s playing a longer game. Maybe she just wanted to keep a promise made to the one person who saved her repeatedly when she was alone.
By bringing Tara back into the narrative at this point, and weaving the story of Oceanside through the lore of The Saviors, TWD has demonstrated that war is coming. As well as illustrating how far-reaching Negan’s regime of fear has become, it also completed the picture somewhat. Everyone is now accounted for, and it remains to be seen who will make the next move, and what that might be.
Final Grade: C
+ It’s good to see Tara back as she’s quite unlike any of the other characters, and it feels like Denise has had a proper mourning now.
+ The introduction of the Oceanside community is an interesting addition at this point, and suggests there is something big coming in the latter half of this season.
+ I’m pleased that Heath hasn’t been confirmed dead. He seems salt of the earth, and you need guys like that around after a zombie apocalypse.
– This was another extended episode which didn’t need to be as long as it was.
– While there was some nice writing at points here, drawn-out discussion about the rights and wrongs of killing people seems a little redundant at this point.
– I’m hoping the investment we’ve made in setting the board in the first half of the season will pay dividends after the hiatus. Currently everything seems a little disjointed and I’m itching to get back to some of the previous stories.
Extra Thought: Let’s hope Rachel doesn’t decide to join Negan in his reign of terror because that child has serious issues. If I were Cyndie, I’d consider ‘accidentally’ pushing her into the sea. With rocks in her pockets.
So what did you think? Was Tara’s time by the seaside a welcome break, or are you itching to get back into the fray? Sound off in the comments, or tell us on Twitter.