Alexandria, when not being overrun by walkers or filthy bushwhackers, is an idyllic little town. Food is inventoried, Father Gabriel seems happy to patrol with a rifle, Eugene and Sasha watch the wall, and even Morgan gets outside to do a little practice of his semi-useless self defense forms. Carol is still having a tough go of things ever since the slaughterhouse, clinging to her rosary and cigarettes. We saw in an earlier episode that Morgan was working on a little project, and in this episode we see that he’s finished. It’s a prison cell, to give Rick some choices next time around. Of all the foreshadowing this season, this little moment strikes me as the most important.
The next day begins very much the same as the last, but we see that Carol and Tobin are still a thing, and Rosita has invited Spencer into her life to help the sting of Abraham’s departure. Carol and Daryl have a moment where he asks what the Saviors did to her and Maggie.
“To us? They didn’t do anything…” she replies. What’s left unsaid is both tragic and chilling.
Thus begins our next step towards the season finale, and the inevitable debut of Negan. Denise points to a possibly overlooked drug store that could hold valuable supplies and wants Daryl and Rosita to help her find it. Denise has zero experience as a survivor but insists that her knowledge of medicine makes her a valuable addition to the team. Having someone as inexperienced as Denise in a group usually means that group dies horribly and stupidly, but next thing we know, the trio are on the road with little arm twisting. The three have to go on foot before long because of a downed tree in the road (that had pinned a walker with a backpack full of booze...priorities!).
We check in with Eugene and Abraham on their excursion. We find out that Eugene has plans to manufacture ammo, so the two find themselves at a foundry. It’s a wonder they hadn’t run out of bullets sooner, but plot points being what they are, this was a necessary turn to take and will be a big part of next season. However a bit of childish arguing breaks out between alpha and beta males and Eugene is left alone to fend for himself.
Daryl, Denise and Rosita hit the mother lode at the pharmacy: an untouched cache of medication. It’s a fairly uneventful raid, even though Denise discovers a grisly scene. One thing I really do love about this show is the set pieces they put together. It’s not all just gore and wreckage. Certain scenes give us glimpses into the past and how each walker has its own terrifying, sad story. Denise’s discovery only highlights the fact that she’s not battle hardened like the rest of the group, and they tell her so. Later down the road when she tries to prove herself again, Rosita and Daryl dig into her for being stupid.
There’s been a lot of tough guy/girl posturing in this episode, and this show in general. There are weak people who need protection all the time, and there are the grizzled heroes who always have to get their hands dirty for little in return. But Denise flips the narrative on them and calls them on their bullshit. Daryl, Rosita and the rest of our heroes are still just people with needs and emotions, and are in denial of them, perhaps putting up an act of impervious guardians. She quite literally doesn’t get to finish her thought, however.
Proving that Daryl isn’t the only one good with a crossbow, an unseen Savior snipes Denise in the head and yet another sudden, sad death befalls our heroes. A formidable group of Saviors reveals themselves, and with Eugene as a hostage. They are led by someone familiar to Daryl: someone he spared in the forest earlier in the season, the scar-faced Dwight, who will, forgive the pun, be someone to keep your eye on next season. After a lecture on the morality of sneak attacks, Dwight explains that the Saviors want supplies, and they want people. I don’t think they’re talking about free labor either, unfortunately.
Eugene spots Abraham in hiding, and while they do have a contentious relationship, Abraham still does his duty in protecting his people. Eugene makes a play by giving away Eugene’s position and sends someone to investigate. As Dwight looks on, Eugene bits him in the dick. Not the most sportsman or pleasant opening gambits, but effective. Abraham had already moved from his hiding spot and gets the drop on the Saviors guarding Daryl and Rosita. They join the fight and yet another comeback from impossible odds takes place. It’s a shame they’re all so far away from Vegas, and that Vegas is probably rubble. Dwight and the Saviors retreat, and it’s important to note that given the proper motivation, a man can run even with a grievous dick injury.
Daryl wants to give chase with his newly recovered crossbow, but more important things need to be seen to. Again, forgive the sight pun. Eugene took a bullet in the firefight and needs to be carried back. This means that Denise must be left there on the tracks, a painful reminder of what dead weight truly means. It’s also important to point out that with her gone, those backpacks full of medicine are useless in Alexandria. Hence, Eugene wakes up in Hilltop. The antibiotics recovered from the drug store played a big part in his survival; Denise’s final gift. He and Abraham kiss and make up, and Abraham finally confesses his feelings to Sasha.
Daryl and Carol bury Denise’s recovered body in the Alexandria graveyard. We see Daryl hitting the tiny bourbon bottle (found earlier on the alcoholic walker) and Carol comments on their earlier conversation. Later she leaves Tobin a Dear John note and we see it’s more than just “I’m leaving you.” Carol is gone altogether. The thought of having to kill to save the people she loves has become too much to bear and she has washed her hands of it. Rick sent her away for necessary killing, and now she is in self-exile to avoid having to kill again. Morgan is the only one to notice she’s not on her porch swing, interestingly. While zen and the art of broom handle maintenance worked for him, Carol is a beast not so easily soothed.
Up until this point, it seems like killing was an option, that to retain their humanity people had to be spared until no other choice was left. But after the prison, Terminus and now Alexandria, the room for mercy is rapidly disappearing. In order to protect what they have, now that they have something to lose, our heroes must shoot first and ask no questions later, or ever. The Saviors are in a way the result of their past clemency, come back not to repay the favor, but to say “you should have killed me.” So it seems that in order to find peace in the zombie apocalypse, you don’t find a cure, you don’t kill all the walkers, you don’t create a new society. You take care of your people, and destroy everyone else. Harsh, huh?
Also, fun fact: Abraham was the one that was supposed to get an arrow in the eye. Yet another deviation from the comic that skews the odds ever so slightly for Negan’s first victim.
Written by A Play On Nerds contributor, Jerry Herrera - Lover of horror, sci fi, and fantasy in that order. Semi-permanent Disneyland resident. I'm at least one of the droids you're looking for. Twitter: @FrankenJerry - Instagram: @GeraldoPedro