The penultimate episode of the season, and after the somewhat laborious events of recent weeks, we got down to business in “Worth”, as Negan took out the trash and set the stage for an unpredictable showdown of a finale…
Last week marked a point from which – to my mind – there was no coming back for Rick. Having sworn to spare the lives of the escapee Saviors, Rick literally stabbed them in the back (and the face and so on), erasing the notion that a person’s word is a viable currency in their post-Apocalyptic world. As expected, this week’s episode opened with Rick finally reading the letter from Carl, which Michonne tried and failed to make him open before he went after the Saviors. Hearing Carl’s last words to his father read by Chandler Riggs was undeniably emotional, but Rick’s tears did little to negate the sense of unease I have about seeing his character reinstated as any kind of hero these days.
Meanwhile, back at The Sanctuary, Daddy was home, and Negan immediately looked to setting his house in order once more. His encounter with Jadis in the previous episode, and his continued efforts to bring the allied communities in line rather than kill everyone who refused to play by the rules have marked a climb-down from the bat-happy sadist who gleefully taunted Glenn while bashing his brains out in front of his pregnant wife. In fact, compared to Rick, Negan has seemed like a reasonable chap in recent times – and that’s something I never thought I’d find myself typing after the Season 7 opener! At first glance, it appeared that Negan’s revenge tactics and decision to annihilate Hilltop was a return to form. However, there were a couple of interesting reveals and details which made for a convincing case that Negan isn’t quite the murderous psycho we might have thought.
You could have been forgiven for overlooking one particular tidbit spilled by Negan as he confronted Simon – that it was Simon, not Negan who ordered the slaughter of the men and boys of the Oceanside community. So when Negan claimed Simon had forced his hand by terrorising the Hilltoppers and killing the Trash People, thus ensuring they would never stop looking for an opportunity for retaliation and would never co-operate with Negan’s arrangements, he was probably not wrong. Michonne’s brave act of contacting Negan via the radio to read him the letter Carl left him came tragically too late, and while Negan looked suitably saddened by the lad’s last missive, he was adamant that Rick and all of his loyal followers would be exterminated and that it was Rick’s choices which had set the wheels in motion.
This sentiment was echoed by Eugene when he was kidnapped by Rosita and Daryl. Whatever you might think about his flip-flopping, his loquacious pomposity, or his mullet, Eugene was absolutely correct when he stated that Rick had effectively started the war with The Saviors when he orchestrated the raid of their outpost and armory. As divisive as he is, I am still intrigued by Eugene. He may have reached Gregory-levels of simpering and self-preservation whilst being marched out of The Sanctuary, but his escape showed ingenuity (puking on someone as a diversionary tactic – just when you think this show can’t surprise you anymore!) and his instructions to the bullet-making team at the close of the episode made me think he’s just as likely to sabotage The Saviors as he is to stand by Negan when it all kicks off next week.
As well as Jadis – conspicuous by her absence this week, and potentially with chopper back-up – there is another unpredictable faction in the mix in the form of the Oceansiders. Whilst it was the least interesting thread of this episode, it seems that the women cared enough to save Aaron from a zombie attack, and that they might just be persuaded to come and fight alongside the Hilltop and The Kingdom. The entire Oceanside set-up could have been quite fascinating, had it been utilised properly. What would a matriarchal society do differently given the chance to start over after a global disaster? Of course, Oceanside wasn’t made women-only by design, but it would still have been a great dynamic to explore in relation to the wider world of survivors.
But “Worth” was truly the Negan show. Having lulled Simon into a false sense of security by not mentioning the Heapsters, the boss man left everyone to their own devices, providing Simon with ample opportunity to organise a coup. Dwight, another ex-right hand with the Sword of Damocles currently hanging over him, ratted Simon out, unaware that Savior Laura was the mysterious passenger Negan picked up last week. Laura, of course, witnessed Dwight turning on his own at Hilltop, but that particular nugget was left for the end. Negan took out Simon’s co-conspirators and then, in an odd move, challenged Simon to a fist fight. It would have been entirely possible (and shocking – had the show been ballsy enough) to let Simon win but, as this would have denied viewers the Rick/Negan finisher that we’ve been expecting for two seasons now, that wasn’t to be. Simon ending up chained to the fence as a walker was suitably grim, although I’ll miss the sense of menace his character brought to every scene.
I must admit, I was wrong-footed by Gregory’s presence in the camp. I believed he was Negan’s secret hitchhiker, and his toadying up to Simon was at Negan’s insistence to get intel. I genuinely thought Dwight had gotten away with his own double-crossing for a while there, but Negan was a few beats ahead, feeding Dwight false information about his battle plans which Dwight then gave to Gregory to deliver to Hilltop. Having set a trap for Team Rick, presumably Negan no longer has much use for Dwight, so it’s doubtful he’ll survive the finale unless he can pull something amazing out of the bag!
“Worth” didn’t do anything groundbreaking, but it did ensure there are a number of unknowns as we move into the season finale. Having moved away from the narrative arc of the comic book source material, it seems that anything could happen in next week’s episode, and the ‘plot armour’ is well and truly off for all involved. After a meandering, drawn-out war, this episode gave me hope that we might be moving into a new era come the end of the next battle.
Final Grade: C+
+ Some ace Game of Thrones level manipulation from Negan this week.
+ Chandler Riggs’ last performance was nicely played and very moving. His character went through some complex iterations, and many have been critical of what might seem a quick and inexplicable ascent to sainthood, but his letters fleshed out the young man he’d grown to be, hopeful for a better way of life. RIP, Carl.
+ Steven Ogg made one creepy af undead psycho!
– Daryl is still being absolutely wasted. Even his kidnap attempt was ineffectual and short-lived. Give Daryl something to do, guys! Aaron also has very little going on, so maybe they could rekindle their bromance?
– Although Negan laid off the bollocks this week, Simon mentioned Negan’s testicles which still counts as ball-talk.
– Wtf was Gabriel’s voice doing this week? He sounded like Michael Jackson on helium! I have no idea what he said because I was too busy laughing.
Extra Thought: Does anyone else still wonder what happened to Heath? No? Just me?
What did you think? Are you ready to rumble as the remaining Saviors and Hilltoppers try to end this thing once and for all? Who are you rooting for, and who do you want to see their comeuppance? Sound off in the comments, or let us know on Twitter!