No matter how much I pretend it’s not the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, I can’t avoid it any longer. It’s really here. This whole season has been about surviving Negan. Some people will do anything to avoid his anger, others want to fight him, but they’re all his prisoners in one way or another. And the surrounding communities aren’t any safer. The Hilltop, the Kingdom, even Oceanside; they’ve all been touched by the Saviors and barely lived to tell the tales. How long can this go on? How much more can they take? When will they band together against their common enemy? Hopefully the tide begins to turn tonight.
We start with two alphas throwing their weight around. Over at the Hillside, Gregory is still feeling the affects of Maggie’s slap. He tries to act tough but it’s pretty clear who’s the best man. And she’s pregnant to boot. Even the Hillside populace is turning in Maggie’s favor. It won’t be long before she’s the new, better, Gregory. At Alexandria, Negan is having fun playing house with Olivia, Carl and Judith. He teaches Carl how to shave. He makes a nice red sauce. He enjoys his lemonade. He’s at all not bothered that the rest of his “family” is miserable. This isn’t about them. Not anymore. This is Negan’s world. They’re just living in it.
Daryl rereads his note. It’s time to run. He makes his way through the maze of corridors. He hides out in a Savior room and finds peanut butter and clean clothes. Oh, to be human again. The door to freedom (and the motorcycles) is propped open. This is really happening! But then Fat Joey stumbles into view. He promises Daryl that he can slip right out the gate. He won’t stop him. But it’s too late. Negan didn’t break Daryl but he sure messed him up. Daryl takes all his anger and frustration out on Fat Joey and beats him to death with a lead pipe. Jesus runs out just in time to see it happen.
Rick and Aaron need a good plan if they want to get across walker-infested waters in a leaky boat. Using planks ripped from the warning sign, they paddle along, stabbing any floaters who get too close. Aaron falls in the water and gets pulled away by walkers. All Rick can do is watch him go down. No! Not Aaron! He survives and they make it to the houseboat. They find a good stash for Negan onboard. They also find a note from the houseboat owner that reads, “Congrats for winning but you still lose.” As they load the items into their truck, the owner of the houseboat watches them from the shore. He tried to warn them off but they stole his stuff anyway. And he’s not too happy about it.
Carol is reading in her well appointed living room when she catches Morgan dropping off fresh fruit. She doesn’t need it. King Ezekiel already filled her pantry. As soon as she starts complaining that they won’t leave her alone, King Ezekiel’s top guy shows up. Her house is starting to feel pretty crowded. He’s been looking for a chance to talk to them without Kingdom ears listening in. He tells them about their agreement with the Saviors. He wants their help convincing King Ezekiel that they have to fight back. Carol refuses to get involved. She doesn’t want to care about them. Morgan won’t help either. He’s enjoying the false peace he’s found at the Kingdom. So he stomps off to his secret Molotov cocktail factory and cries. He just wants out.
Michonne forces her captive Savior to drive to the Sanctuary. At the top of a hill, the Savior stops the car and says, “That’s Negan.” Michonne finally sees how large the Sanctuary is. The scope of their problem is spread out in front of her. The Savior tells her her best bet is to give up and go home. Sure, she’ll have to kill the Savior and burn the car but that’s life in the zombie apocalypse. “There’s a silencer in the glove compartment.” So she does it.
The Hilltop folk are sending Maggie pies and asking her to run for President. She asks Sasha about Jesus and Sasha lies. When Maggie runs out for milk, Enid calls her on it. Maggie’s two protectors face-off. Sasha can’t tell her she wants to kill Negan because Maggie will want to help. Enid points out there are a lot of people who want to kill him. Sasha won’t listen. She begs Enid to keep the secret. “It isn’t just you…” Enid tries to explain.
Spencer helps the Saviors load up his loot. The flatter and flirt with him. He likes it. He goes home and cleans up. He has his own mission now. He’s ready to take his mother’s place. He visits Negan at Rick’s house and they bro out. They drink some brown liquor, they shoot some pool, and Spencer thinks he’s in. He suggests that Negan kill Rick and install Spencer as leader. It would be better for all involved. Negan points out that Rick has swallowed his hate and is out there providing for him. “That takes guts.” Spencer, on the other hand, went behind Rick’s back to try and get Negan to kill him. Why didn’t he just kill him himself? “It’s because you got no guts.” To prove his point, he slits Spencer’s abdomen and watches all of his guts spill out. “How embarrassing,” He chortles. “There they are. They were inside you the whole time. You did have guts. I’ve never been so wrong in my whole life!”
Rick gets home to find Alexandria swarming with Saviors. Again. He and Aaron help unload their truck. A Savior finds the note from the houseboat owner and assumes it’s an insult Aaron left for them. They beat him mercilessly. Rick tries to stop them but he’s outmanned. Finally they decide he’s had enough and Rick is able to carry Aaron away.
Negan starts waving Lucille around, taunting the crowd. Rosita can’t take it anymore. She aims her forbidden gun and fires. The bullet hits Lucille. A furious Negan finds the shell casing and realizes it’s a homemade bullet. Now he need to know who made it. Rosita claims she made it but he knows she’s lying. So he tells a Savior to kill someone. She grabs her gun and randomly shoots Olivia in the face. Eugene warned Rosita that someone else would have to pay for her choices but she wouldn’t listen.
When Rick tries to intervene, Negan fills him in on what he missed: Carl killed two Saviors, Spencer betrayed him and Rosita shot Lucille in an attempt on his life. Considering all of that, Negan is actually holding it together pretty well. He just wants to know who made the bullet. Tara tries to “I am Spartacus” the situation but Eugene won’t let her. He takes responsibility. And now he’s going home with Negan. It’s almost too much for Rick to bear (but he gets to kill walker Spencer and that helps).
Rick is taking some “me time” in Morgan’s jail cell when Michonne gets back. She tells him she found what she was looking for. “But when I found it, I realized I didn’t want it to be my way. I wanted it to be ours. Me and you.” Richonne 4 Eva. She knows they’re hugely outnumbered but she’s not willing to give up. She talks about all they’ve been through and survived. And how they’re going to keep on surviving. So what do they do with that? “We’re the ones that get things done. You said that. We’re the ones who live.” And that’s why they have to fight. She’s fired up. She knows they can do it. “But only if we do this.” Rick agrees. He’s back. And ready to fight.
The Hilltop gate opens and Maggie, Sasha and Enid come face to face with Rick, Michonne, Carl, Tara and Rosita. They embrace. The family is reunited. Rick tells Maggie she was right. “You told us to get ready to fight. I didn’t listen, I couldn’t, but I can now.” They’re joined by Daryl and Jesus. Rick doesn’t know if he should believe his eyes. The share the most epic man hug. No one says a word but they all agree: it’s time. Even Rosita and Sasha seem to make peace. Daryl hands Rick a gun. The sheriff is back. They head into the Barrington House to plan Negan’s demise.
And that’s how you go out on a high note! I can’t wait to see Negan get his just desserts starting Sunday, February 12, 2017. Until then, sleep tight and don’t let the walkers bite…