Warning: The following contains spoilers from Sunday’s The Walking Dead. If you haven’t watched yet, make like a Savior and beat it.
Getting the world started over looked an awful lot like the end of the line for Rick in Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead. But the AMC drama wouldn’t — couldn’t! — kill off departing leading man Andrew Lincoln before his embattled protagonist got in at least a face-off or two with the imminently-arriving Whisperers, would it? Read on to find out how dire were the straits in which Rick was left, then we can debate the wisdom of the show trying to make us think that “The Obliged” would mark his last stand.
‘I’M GONNA MAKE THINGS RIGHT’ | After an intro in which we learned that Michonne was dealing with the doldrums of house-playing and charter-writing by sneaking out at night to whack walkers, we cut to Maggie, arming herself with a crowbar before leaving the Hilltop to avenge Glenn’s murder. When Jesus failed to distract her from her mission with a new letter from Georgie — and seriously, how is anybody managing to be pen pals when there are no mail carriers? — he took a more direct approach. Rick had been wrong to spare Negan, Jesus said. That hadn’t been his call to make. But was she sure that offing the jailbird was really her call to make? “I am,” she insisted. “I’ll be back when it’s done.”
Meanwhile, Rick learned from Eugene that an overnight storm had annihilated an upstream levy, thereby dooming the bridge once and for all. It was no longer safe to even work on repairing it. But at least Eugene had a little good news, too: Herds he’d named after Shakespeare characters (Tybalt and Cordelia) showed no signs of merging. Still, he felt bad that he wasn’t able to do more to save the bridge. If only he’d read more books, he said. Different books… Hey, Rick told him. The brainiac got them where they are, and “after everything, that’s everything.” As if determined to kick Rick when he was down, fate then delivered another blow: Carol was taking her Kingdommers home. As for the Saviors at the Sanctuary, “It’s up to them to figure out who they want to be.”
‘IF SHE KILLS NEGAN, HE BECOMES A MARTYR!’ | Hope there’s aspirin at the camp, because if Rick didn’t need a double dose already, he surely did after Jerry relayed Jesus’ message that Maggie was en route to Alexandria with murder in her eyes. When Daryl overheard his frenemy radio Alexandria to warn them not to let Glenn’s widow past the gate without an escort, he offered to give him a lift… to nowhere, it turned out. When Rick realized that Daryl wasn’t taking him to Alexandria, they got into another of their boys-will-be-boys brawls, this one landing them in a ginormous hole. While trapped, they finally talked it out, sorta. Daryl said that he was fine with Maggie killing Negan, just like he was fine with the Oceansiders exacting their revenge against the Saviors (which was news to Rick). “I’d die for you, and I would’ve died for Carl,” Daryl concluded. “But you’re chasing something for him that ain’t meant to be, man.”
Back in Alexandria, Michonne learned from Nora (who?) that Negan was refusing to eat. “The hunger strike ends today,” Michonne told the prisoner upon arriving at his cell with a sandwich. Thing was, Negan was perfectly willing to chow down — provided she stuck around and chatted him up. (Guess beard-growing would be kind of a dull pastime while incarcerated.) After hearing about her day, Negan exclaimed, “Damn, that sounds more boring than my day!” And, in short order, he theorized that he and Michonne were the same. “Behind walls, bars, we die,” he said. What’s more, much as he was relieved that his wife had passed away, a part of her was relieved that she’d lost her son Andre. “Because you know all he woulda done was make you weak.” Outraged, Michonne took away his lunch and stormed out.
‘I FORGIVE YOU, ANNE, WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO DO’ | At the Heaps, Anne stole a kiss from an unconscious and tied-up Gabriel as a walker affixed to a hand dolly argh’d from beneath the bucket on its head. When the preacher awakened, the erstwhile Jadis explained, “There’s only one place left for me to go, and you’re the price of admission.” But as she lowered the walker toward him — the zombie’s bucket now removed, of course — Gabriel apologized for pushing her away and offered his forgiveness. Finally, Anne couldn’t go through with turning him. Instead, she knocked him out again, untied him and left him to wake up in a crate with a note that read, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I need to go fast.”
Back at the campsite, Carol and the Kingdommers were about to take off when up snuck the Saviors, led by Jed, brandishing a gun he’d swiped from Alden. Seemed just as Daryl and Maggie had, he’d figured out that the women of Oceanside had been killing their loved ones’ killers. Now, he said, “they’re gonna get what’s coming to ’em.” And no way was Carol gonna stand in their way. She wasn’t the boss lady anymore, Jed sneered. “You’re a weak little woman who got in a lucky shot.” (Clearly, he was unfamiliar with The Legend of Carol Peletiere!) Though Carol lowered her weapon and stepped aside rather than risk a shootout, she still lashed out at Jed after he took her keys, and before we knew it, Rick and Daryl could hear the gunfire all the way in their hole. Which was bad to begin with, it being a sign of trouble and all. But moreover, it would draw the herds!
‘I LIVE FOR THE LIVING’ | After cooling off, Michonne returned to Negan’s cell, where he apologized for saying what he had about her son. She clearly hadn’t been ready to hear that they were the same. Only they weren’t, she retorted. Sure, “we do what we need to… but you get a kick out of it!” She, on the other hand, was going to make it a better world for her daughter. At that, a lightbulb went off over Negan’s head: That’s what she was afraid of — ending up like him with everyone she cared about gone! Ultimately, she wound up getting the prisoner to eat and also giving him indigestion by revealing that his precious Lucille was still out there somewhere. He was so upset to hear that that he mistook himself for the Incredible Hulk and started punching stone walls.
Back at the hole in which Rick and Daryl were stuck, walkers started falling in, which made climbing out all the more difficult. Not so difficult that Rick didn’t manage to do it, but difficult nonetheless. And conveniently, when he reached the top of the hole, there were no walkers around to grasp or chomp at him. For a hot minute, it looked as if Daryl might not make it to safety. But the odds of him meeting his maker are about as good as him washing his hair. Once they were both above ground again, Rick mounted a runaway horse to lead the herd away from the camp. Why not just lead them to the bridge? Daryl asked. It’d crumble under the weight and dispatch the lot of ’em. Because they needed the bridge, Rick insisted. So off he rode.
‘BE SAFE’ | While a storybook Michonne read Judith made her wonder if she really was like Negan — of course, a bat would have to feature prominently in Game Day! — Rick wound up trapped between the two herds. When his horse got spooked and threw him, he was impaled on a slab of concrete. And as the hour drew to a close, he not only wasn’t able to get up or away, he lost consciousness. With two herds mere steps away from him, the show clearly wanted us to fear for his life. But do any us really believe that Rick is going to be done in without a s—-ton of fair warning? Mm, I think not. So what was the point of this? Aside from that questionable choice, what did you think of “The Obliged”? Though I’ve liked the season more than most commenters thus far, even I had to admit that this episode felt it had an excess of fake peril.