After last week’s double death (Benjamin, my sweet angel, *sob* you’re in a better place now), and the conversion of The Kingdom from peaceful oasis to army base, fans may have been expecting more fireworks this week. With only two more episodes to go, the impending war is still not underway, and instead “The Other Side” delivered some character development as well as some conversations which we’ve been waiting for since the beginning of the season. But one of the main problems with this year’s offering has been the fractured nature of the narrative, with a large and slightly unwieldy host of characters all off in different locations, vying for screen time, and anyone hoping for a convergence of the various colonies this week would have been sorely disappointed.
Instead, the focus was back on Hilltop, where Maggie has been quietly and determinedly teaching the farming community the skills they will need to fight The Saviors. As well as practicing her knife throwing skills and forging weapons and armour, Maggie spent time with surrogate little sister, Enid, bonding with Jesus, and having ultrasound scans with Doctor Harlan Carson (brother of the recently incinerated Doctor Emmett Carson at The Sanctuary). But there were noticeable outsiders at the beginning of the episode, with Sasha attending Abraham’s grave and furtively making plans to take out Negan, and Daryl ostracising himself, still guilt-stricken over Glenn’s death.
The arrival of a band of Saviors at Hilltop sent Sasha and Rosita fleeing via a secret tunnel, while Maggie and Daryl were holed up together in a basement. This gave them opportunity to talk it out once and for all, after Daryl almost stabbed a Savior who came perilously close to discovering their hiding place. We’d seen Maggie trying to serve Daryl a plate of food earlier in the episode, and visibly upset when he failed to engage with her, and now, with no way of avoiding her, he was forced to confront her disarming forgiveness. In fact, for Maggie, there was nothing to forgive, and beautiful, understated performances from Lauren Cohan and Norman Reedus made this scene moving without labouring the point. I defy anyone not to cry watching poor, broken Daryl sobbing with relief and remorse. I don’t know how Reedus manages to convey so much with so few words, but it’s why his character is so integral to the soul of this show.
Maggie’s insistence that Daryl was one of the good things left in the world was also a reflection of her own inherent decency. Her exchange with Jesus on the steps, her slow smile as he opened up to her about his life and his sexuality demonstrated why she has won the hearts and minds of the Hilltoppers. A stark contrast to the self-serving and cowardly Gregory, Maggie has a steely strength which hasn’t ever compromised her humanity. Gregory, sensing the impending mutiny, confided in Savior Simon, who in return gave him the location of The Sanctuary. Although the impromptu visit was actually to kidnap the second Doctor Carson for The Sanctuary, it was clear Gregory was close to giving up Daryl and Maggie when he thought he was sprung, and his threat to Jesus probably sealed his fate. Between a rock and a hard place, I suspect Gregory will throw himself on Negan’s mercy and I can’t see it ending well for him…
Meanwhile, Sasha and Rosita’s little road trip got off to a rocky start when Rosita caught a glimpse of the necklace she’d made for Abraham hanging around Sasha’s neck. But forced to pull together to make it to The Sanctuary, the two women finally got some resolution to their bitter rivalry, with Rosita opening up about her past and coming to the realisation that she was more upset Abraham had worked out how to be happy before she had, when actually she’d thought she was shoring his fragile psyche up the whole time. I’m not sure it’s entirely believable how quickly the two women went from animosity to ‘we’ll have each other’s backs forever’, but Sasha, having expressed frustration that Negan made Abraham’s death both premature and – most critically – pointless, made a decision that Rosita should live and use her various skills helping Alexandria, and went alone into The Sanctuary on a suicide mission. Whether Sasha thinks she’s doing the right thing for Rosita and the others, or whether she wants to be the one to avenge Abraham remains to be seen, as does the true motivation of Eugene.
Earlier in the season, I came down on the side of ‘Eugene will play along until such a time as he can use his knowledge and status against Negan’. But after his flat out refusal to be rescued by Rosita and Sasha, the waters look even muddier. Perhaps he does have a game plan and timing is everything. But it’s looking increasingly likely that Eugene has chosen creature comforts and the absence of fear over his friends. Certainly that’s a believable path for his character to take. Having witnessed the horror Negan is capable on several times, he probably figures it’s better to be with him than against him and wouldn’t want to rock the boat. Eugene has always been upfront about his lack of backbone, and I often think while we all aspire to be Ricks and Daryls and Maggies, the truth is most of us are probably more like Eugene!
So a bit of a cliff hanger this week, with Sasha disappearing into enemy territory, gun blazing, and Rosita spotted by a shadowy figure with a crossbow, who might be Daryl come to bring her home, or might just as easily be Dwight. But overall another slower, more ponderous episode than we might have anticipated given that we’re so close to the end of the season.
Final Grade: C+
+ Jesus is gay! Hallelujah! We have had same sex couples on the show, but Aaron and Eric are well established and secondary characters, and poor Tara’s romance with Denise was short-lived. I’m hoping Jesus gets to experience love sometime in the near future.
+ We FINALLY got some backstory for Rosita which made her more sympathetic, and also solved the mystery of how she knew so much about explosives! She’s still not exactly my fave, but it was a start…
+ Norman Reedus and Lauren Cohan are worth their weight in gold.
– Another episode with some nice character work, but not a whole lot of action.
– I STILL don’t understand Eugene’s covering walkers with metal idea having seen it in action. It’s a dumbass idea!
– There is still a real sense of splintering pervading this season, which is largely due to the increasingly large cast. I hope for more cohesion in the coming episodes and into next season.
Extra Thought: Doctor Carson’s departure from Hilltop makes me worry for Maggie and her unborn child…
So what did you think? Did you get you get swept away by Daryl’s tears of man pain, or was “The Other Side” as pointless as one of Eugene’s metal plated zombies? Let us know in the comments, or over on Twitter.