In many ways, this latest episode feels like it could have been from one of the show’s earlier seasons. Rick and Michonne, on the road again, moving through the countryside, fighting hordes of walkers in odd new situations, improvising when plans inevitably go off the rails, and so on. It all feels very familiar.
And this feeling is apparently by design, as Rick starts to feel the old clarity and purpose of those earlier seasons flooding back, and he realizes he misses it. Things have been complex and uncertain lately. He may have hauled himself free of his paralysis and decided to fight back against the Saviors, but he hasn’t been sleeping, he’s still wracked with guilt, torn with grief and unsure whether this new path leads to salvation or death.
So this scouting mission, finding guns for the Junkyard, is a welcome reprieve, and he keeps suggesting they go farther, just a couple more days of this quasi-romantic idyll before they have to go back and face the future.
Imagine being so deep into the apocalypse that you’re actually nostalgic for the early days of the apocalypse. Instead of, you know, missing the life you had before the world ended? That’s sort of terrifying. (And it’s worth noting that this is territory very few pieces of fiction have ever explored—how many television apocalypses have lasted quite this long?)
Anyway, though Rick’s attitude is clearly not totally healthy, it’s a good thing he pushes them farther; on the third day, they discover just what they’ve been looking for. Or one version of it: a carnival fairground that seems to have been commandeered by the military as the site of a (failed) last stand against the walkers. So lots of dead soldiers are walking around with guns still strapped to their backs.
Not only that, but as they stand on a roof scouting the terrain, Rick and Michonne fall right the ceiling—and onto a convenient cushion, the seeming total absence of danger adding to the carnivalesque atmosphere—into a room full of military ready-to-eat meals, enough to feed the near-starving Alexandrians for a while.
The clearing of the carnival full of walkers doesn’t go quite as planned, of course, but Rick and Michonne’s combined experience and skill is well-established as formidable even in unpredictable situations. That is, until Rick decides to go on a detour up the ferris wheel to try to shoot a horribly CGIed deer that has wandered into the fight. See, earlier Rick mentioned that he owes Michonne some bad CGI to make up for the deer she gave the Saviors, and now’s his chance. Sadly, the walkers are looming and shooting the damned deer will just make it easier for them to eat it. None of which matters anyway because the support Rick is leaning on gives way and throws him right in the midst of a group of them.
Michonne hurries over and sees the walkers gorging themselves on flesh and naturally assumes the worst. It’s presented as if we’re supposed to think it really is Rick, but that’s obviously nonsense. Clearly it is the deer being eaten. The look on Michonne’s face makes I all worth it, though. The fiercest fighter on this show, made instantly small and hopeless. The bottom just falling out of her whole world, as she simply drops her sword.
Of course then Rick emerges from his hiding space, throws her the sword, and they finish kicking ass. They end up with a huge stash of weapons to present to the Junkyard. And as they drive back, Rick makes Michonne face the fact that either or both of them may not survive the coming battle, but that doesn’t make it any less worth it. This is all about building the future, not for them, but for Judith (and Maggie and Glenn’s unborn child).
Speaking of Judith, her silence (which by this point is getting weird for her age) provides Tara, her current babysitter, with a perfect interlocutor to work out her moral dilemma with. Their whole future depends on finding a seemingly impossible number of guns, and Tara knows where a huge cache of guns can be found. But to do so she’d have to prove the residents of Oceanside right about her, that she posed a threat to them—and worse, she’d prove Cindy, who helped her, wrong.
Ideally, Oceanside would fight alongside Alexandria, but Tara knows that’s wishful thinking: as soon as Rick & co. breached Oceanside’s perimeter, it would be a gun battle. She’d be sending her own people on an unprovoked attack on a group that only wants to be left alone. Even if her people won, who is she to say that Alexandrians’ lives are worth more than Oceansiders’?
Then she comes to her answer: Because we’re trying to change the world, and not only for ourselves, but for everyone present and future who would be terrorized by Negan. While Oceanside is just trying to hide.
Thus resolved, she gets a reprieve from having to go through with it when Rick and Michonne return with the guns. But it turns out the Junkyard is not satisfied with the haul; they demand more. And Tara decides to spill the beans.
And then there is Rosita, who is determined to not learn from her mistakes even the tiniest bit. Or take any responsibility for her actions. She believes that the Junkyard’s demands will never be met, and so her need for vengeance will never be filled. So she lashes out at Tara for no apparent reason, and at Gabriel because he (momentarily) convinced her to pause before taking suicidal action.
For the first time in a long time, Gabe seems priest-like here; it seems his captivity has given him some perspective. He reminds Rosita and us that suicide isn’t wrong because it is selfish; it’s wrong because it’s too easy. It’s living this life that’s the hard part. It’s taking responsibility and struggling with the ambivalence, helplessness, and fear.
But Rosita is having none of it; she filches a sniper rifle and goes off to the Hilltop to find the one person who wants revenge as much as she does: Sasha. An unlikely partnership, to be sure, but Sasha’s in. On one condition: when the time comes, she wants to be the one to pull the trigger.