After the relentless misery of last week’s episode, and Rick’s promise to make Carl’s dying wish a reality, we might have expected to see some olive branches being proffered this week. And yet, with his son’s body barely cold in the ground, Rick fled a zombie-ridden Alexandria, and set out to find out if Jadis and the Heapsters were still up for helping him off The Saviors. And elsewhere, Simon and Negan butted heads, and Aaron and Enid arrived at Oceanside on possibly one of the most misguided recruitment drives ever.
I don’t know that we needed the Pulp Fiction style title cards at the start of each ‘chapter’, given that The Walking Dead has been jumping around factions and following multiple plot threads for a while now, but the on-screen names gave an indication that we were about see several points of view, and some fairly hefty character development.
The least successful of the segments was Enid’s. A trip to the matriarchal Oceansiders was spectacularly ill-advised, given that they have been betrayed by Tara, had their weapons plundered by Team Rick and their leader killed in the process. I can only hope they are going to have a more significant role to play in the coming seasons, because these poor women have been much-abused, and it made no sense that they would spare Aaron and Enid, given their track record with outsiders and their ‘shoot trespassers on sight’ rule.
Elsewhere, there were some interesting power-shifts. Negan instructed his Number Two, Simon, to go and teach the Heapsters a lesson for double (triple? quadruple?) crossing them. Interestingly, Negan stuck to his M.O. of making an example of one person, even after receiving one of his zombified Saviors from Maggie at Hilltop, along with a warning that there were thirty eight more where that came from. Negan very much views people as a commodity, and pragmatically seemed to be favouring the idea of subjugation over revenge. His people are a little thin on the ground now, after all. But Simon proved himself to be much more bloodthirsty than his leader, looking for any excuse to kill as many as possible and directly disobeying Negan in the process.
Simon is definitely the scarier man at this point. We’ve seen glimpses of redeeming qualities in Negan, and despite his hot temper and penchant for public executions, he is fairly rigid and consistent in his rules. Simon lacks discipline and fear, and that made his scenes with Negan and the subsequent contravention of his orders all the more tense. There have been other Saviors who embodied ‘the banality of evil’, the idea that normal people can do hideous things because of fear or because it’s simply easier to stand by and offer no resistance. In Simon we see someone itching to commit violent acts, and it will be interesting to see how his relationship with Negan pans out as he becomes more bold in his actions.
The slaughter of the Heapsters on Simon’s orders led to one of the more surprising elements of this episode – the humanisation and fleshing out of Jadis. After defying Simon more than once, Jadis found her posse of Beyond Thunderdome cosplayers gunned down, and for the first time, we saw her as a frightened and vulnerable woman instead of an impervious cartoon of a person. Without the odd, affected speech, Jadis was instantly a hundred times more sympathetic and relatable, but the problem is we’ve already seen a similar unveiling of Ezekiel, and he was far more likable even with the theatrics and assumed regality. Her backstory didn’t make a whole lot of sense either. I get that she would have wanted to hole up somewhere she felt safe and peaceful, one of her old haunts that reminded her of her old life as an artist, but the strange cult that grew up around the trash heap never particularly came across as a haven. I guess I can buy that people would use strange language and role-play as a form of escapism or even dissociation, but the whole thing would be a lot more believable had the Heapsters not proved to be treacherous assholes several times over.
Still, Rick and Michonne’s refusal to help Jadis because she was no longer useful left a bad taste in the mouth. Watching Jadis lure her former friends into a giant mincer was awesomely gross and also kind of pitiable. It’s been a while since the show gave us some super inventive undead gore, and that was pretty on the money.
The finale of the episode saw Rick and Negan in dialogue over walkie-talkie. The physical distance between the two men meant that the sense of threat was far less than in the confrontation between Negan and Simon, but it enabled us to see a genuine reaction from Negan on hearing of Carl’s death. I’m not sure whether the man who took such savage delight in bludgeoning Abraham and Glenn to death can ever be truly redeemed, but the show seems to making a stab at it. Negan seemed legitimately upset about Carl’s death, and that checks out given that the two seemed to have some kind of warped bond. But it wasn’t long before he was taking lumps out of Rick, blaming him for Carl’s death. The thing is, Negan sort of had a point. At this stage in proceedings, Rick probably has a lot more blood on his hands than Negan, and Rick’s people (under his leadership) have largely been the aggressors in their violent dealings with the Saviors. Rick certainly showed no signs of honouring Carl’s dying wish for peace, and that’s something which is going to make it increasingly difficult to side with the man going forward.
A somewhat plodding follow up to last week’s intense grief-fest, “The Lost and the Plunderers” gave us some interesting character work, although it didn’t go the way we might have expected.
Final Grade: C
+ We got a much more nuanced Negan in this episode, which works much better than the pantomime villain he can be written as.
+ At least Michonne is trying to push Rick towards a healthier path.
+ Some truly horrible VFX in this episode, including a walker getting his face ripped off on a gate.
– The Oceanside community don’t feel particularly relevant.
– My hopes for a Rick epiphany are rapidly vapourising.
– Negan’s reaction to Carl’s death underscores that their relationship wasn’t explored to the extent I’d have liked to have seen.
Extra Thought: With Jadis having been properly stiffed by both sides of the war, perhaps she will rise to become a threat in her own right?
What did you think? Was “The Lost and the Plunderers” more the lost and the blunderers? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter.