Hearts are still beating strong in the show and so is my loyalty to the Walking Dead brand. Starting on shaky ground earlier on in the season, this episode managed to bring the story back to life, reinvigorating my desire to see these characters score a win. It terrified me in both a literal and existential way. Negan’s presence lingers like a constant overcast threatening to burst into deadly storms. His unpredictable violent nature and what’s left emotionally in the wake of any interaction with him is pushed to the forefront of our minds. The initial half of the first season sacrificed some story telling with the main characters to sell Negan’s propensity towards terror. Some argued, even myself at times, that this was no longer a show about Rick and crew but the man wielding Lucille. The mid-season finale proved that wrong. This show is every bit about the hero’s surrounding Rick, struggling from day to day to survive despite the fractured onset.
This years mid-season finale wasn’t the best and it wasn’t the most exciting episode of the series. Given what’s come before, it succeeded in being effective and justifying so many torturous hours of watching the cast brutalized by Negan. Leaving the episode in a solid and hopeful place, it wasn’t too forgiving of all the Walking Dead cast members. Spencer finally got what was coming his way with Negan gutting him in front of the Alexandrians. Rosita, unable to standby any longer fired a shot at Negan. Of course Lucille caught the bullet. Setting the logic aside, we learn Negan’s a bit of a genius, deciphering the single bullet was manufactured locally by someone conveniently in the crowd. Okay, I’m being a bit of an ass. Maybe he lobbied for the NRA before the zombie apocalypse and would be familiar with such details. To move the story along, Rick makes it back after bonding with Aaron a bit long enough to witness Eugene give himself up to save Rosita. However, it doesn’t save local resident Olivia who was taking care of Judith.
We circled around to The Kingdom outskirts earlier on, where Richard was egging Morgan and Carol to help convince Ezekiel to fight against the Saviors. This proved unsuccessful with him having a subsequent break down thereafter. It plants the seeds for future involvement, making sure Negan stays relevant as a possible foe for them. Morgan and Carol are reluctant and outright dismissive of the idea, but have yet to get a full debriefing on all the happenings this season. Rick visits the Hilltop community. Maggie is apparently growing into a leadership role, set up earlier on in the season. Combined with the Rick and Michonne scene earlier, watching him embrace Darryl after all they’ve been through was surprisingly well choreographed. I’ve come to figure out the overall arc of the season, even without the aid of comic book knowledge. Nonetheless, this episode was still amazingly emotional and impactful for the cast and audience. It drove home how satisfying it’ll be once the fat shaming son of a bitch Negan, faces the full wrath of Rick and company.