It all went a bit Mad Max this week, as Rick, Michonne, Tara, Rosita, and Aaron met a new group, a sort of goth tribe who live in a vast landfill site and speak in Ridley Walker-esque riddles. It seems Rick’s enigmatic smile at the close of last week’s episode was down to the fact he’d not only found Gabriel, but a hoard of potential new allies to help in his fight against The Saviors. Led by the infuriatingly curt Jadis, these Stigs of the dump have seemingly been living in the junkyard since ‘The Change’ (not sure why they’re using polite terminology for the menopause to refer to the freaking zombie apocalypse), and surviving by scavenging and stealing.
After promising the ‘Heapsters’ a cut of the spoils in return for taking on Negan’s army, Rick got to have his very own ‘Thunderdome’ moment, when he was pitted against an armoured walker to prove his mettle. The intriguingly named Winslow was good for some ‘watch through the finger’ moments, until Rick dispatched him with a piece of broken glass (a vast improvement on the less than deadly looking computer keyboard he tried with at first – ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ does not apply in this scenario, Rick), but I fear his origins may remain a mystery.
It’s interesting that there are distinct ‘tribes’ springing up in the world of The Walking Dead, each with its own culture. We had the illusion of suburban normality in Alexandria, we have the protected Utopia of The Kingdom, the farming colony at Hilltop (which may soon be taken over by farmer’s daughter, Maggie), the predominantly female Oceanside, the violent and totaltarian realm of The Saviors, and now Jadis’ scavengers. Rick and company are largely nomadic, resourceful bringers of knowledge and survival skills.
It seemed far-fetched on first viewing that the junkyard gang would talk in broken sentences and surround strangers with choreographed precision, or that they would wait for someone else to retrieve supplies they’d earmarked only to steal them back (“We take. We don’t bother.”) Surely waiting years for someone to take your bait before trailing them, kidnapping one of their friends and robbing them is more hassle than just scouting for your own food? And why the sparse, cryptic speech a handful of years after the outbreak when everyone else is still talking exactly as they did before disaster struck? Ezekiel’s regal persona and pet tiger seem equally absurd, and yet we accept them more readily, perhaps because the theatrics are flagged by other characters as being OTT and strange. But perhaps the junkyarders underscore just how quickly arbitrary rules and cultish practices can take root in the absence of social convention? Or maybe they were just all huge fans of Mel Gibson before the dead rose.
Meanwhile, back at The Kingdom, there was trouble in paradise as the arrangement between Ezekiel and The Saviors started to break down. A rumble of resistance from Richard, Morgan, and Benjamin provoked violence, and Richard asked Daryl’s help in galvanising the king into fighting. Daryl was on board with this idea, until he discovered Richard’s plan was to lead a gang of Saviors to Carol’s abode and have them kill or maim her! Daryl was distinctly not okay with that. His discovery led to a touching reunion though, and the revelation that when faced with a choice, Daryl decided to keep the deaths of her friends from Carol because he knew it would mean inciting her vengeance. He and Morgan discussed Carol back within the walls of The Kingdom, with Daryl perhaps understanding that Morgan let Carol leave for the same reason he didn’t mention Glenn and Abraham. Carol’s worried that more violence will mean she loses her humanity entirely. The visual symbolism of Daryl coaxing a caged tiger to nuzzle his hand as he spoke to lapsed pacifist, Morgan, was not subtle, but it was cute.
So, Rick is one step closer to building his army, if he can find the guns Jadis wants, and there are plans afoot to persuade Ezekiel to join the cause. The Hilltoppers are also getting pretty sick of Negan’s shit, and about to get a visit from Daryl, and Tara alone knows about the secret cache of weapons and manpower at Oceanside. Will she return to bargain with them, or betray their trust for the greater good of her own people? Negan looks set to return next week, and no doubt will not be making any new fans amongst the various communities being terrorised by his Saviors. I have a feeling there needs to be dissent from within his compound to really get this party started (I’m looking at you, Dwight), but overall, this was a solid episode which brought the flame ever closer to that touch paper.
Final Grade: C
+ It was nice to see Carol and Daryl share a teary hug. Aww.
+ I’m still loving Jerry, and the fact that Ezekiel is trying to woo Carol with cobbler.
+ Rick’s spiky battle with Winslow was another nice tease and nod to the source material. Prayer circle for Rick Grimes’ hand – stat!
– Some of the plot points were a little shaky, and some characters’ motivation gossamer thin. The Heapsters are not ringing true for me at this point, and Richard’s declaration that he would sacrifice himself for The Kingdom seemed at odds with his intention to throw Carol under the bus. Does he really think Ezekiel is more attached to his fledgling crush than his right hand man?
– I know I bang on about it, but Rosita really is getting on my last nerve. How have the other’s not accidentally left her by the roadside and driven off yet?!
– I’m still very scared for Benjamin’s welfare. Given Richard’s willingness to fridge Carol because Ezekiel cares about her, Benjamin seems like an obvious second choice.
Extra Thought: I am interested to see Carol’s reaction when she finds out Daryl lied to her. Although he did it for the right reasons, I imagine it will damage the trust between them.
What did you think? Was this episode on fire or a garbage fire? Sound off in the comments, or tell us on Twitter!