I’m a little under the weather but nothing is keeping me from tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead. Carol is coming back! And I don’t mean the I want to be alone Carol. Real Carol. Kick ass Carol. It’s been hard to watch her walk away from her true self but I can’t really fault her for it. She’s earned a little vacation from all the killing and the loss. That being said, I can’t wait to see her back in action. Michonne keeps telling Rick that they always win when they work together. Well, Carol is a crucial factor in that equation. Negan thinks he knows who he’s dealing with but he has no idea. Not with this group.
Even on hiatus, Carol can’t escape the nightmares or the tears they bring. She can pretend she’s moved on but it’s not true. When the lie becomes too much, she knows it’s time to act. She heads to the Kingdom, taking out walkers with army-like precision. The people at the gate seem surprised. Who is this warrior covered in walker blood? And where did that nice lady from the cabin go? Carol doesn’t have time for explanations or personas. She seeks out Morgan. She needs to know the truth about what Negan did to Alexandria. Morgan doesn’t want to answer. He thought Daryl did a kindness by lying to her and he doesn’t think it’s up to him to say any different. But he will return to Alexandria with her if she wants to find the truth. She’s scared. Right now she knows but she doesn’t know. Going back home makes it real. And if it’s real, she’ll have to do something about it. She storms away without accepting Morgan’s offer.
Morgan’s young protegé Benjamin asks Carol if he can escort her back to her cabin but she has too much on her mind to deal with the Kingdom’s oddly formal fighters. She’s about to bite his head off when he explains how impressed he is. She cleared those walkers with incredible skill and he wants to learn from her. But Carol isn’t Morgan. Much in the same way she treated Sam, she rebuffs him. Unlike Sam, he lets her go. As she storms away, creepy Richard stalks her. He desperately wants to protect the Kingdom and knows that removing the Saviors is the right course of action. Now that Daryl has ruined his plan to turn Carol into a martyr, he’s back to the drawing board.
It’s time for another drop. As the truck gets loaded Richard reaches out to Morgan. He might not agree with his pacifism but he knows he’s a good man. Then he warns him: someday soon he won’t be able to be a good man and when that time comes, he shouldn’t beat himself up about it. Passive-aggressive behaviour in the zombie apocalypse. En route, they stop at a barrier or shopping carts. It’s not especially effective, more of a message. They get out to investigate. They find an open grave with a sign that says “bury me here.” They don’t know what to make of it. King Ezekiel pontificates that this world driving man mad. Yes, one particular man. The grave site is where Richard was spying on Carol. I guess this is his Plan B.
At the drop, the jerky Savior who fought with Richard is playing with Morgan’s staff. The Saviors aren’t known for their tact. The leader doesn’t want to hear King Ezekiel’s explanation for why they’re late. Jerry gets frustrated and tells him to not interrupt the King. For that affront, he gets knocked to the ground with Morgan’s staff. Ezekiel is horrified. It’s one thing to mess with Richard but Jerry? That’s taking things a bit far. Growing frustrated with all the back and forth, the lead Savior demands all of their guns, which turns into a standoff. I’m actually impressed with how quickly Ezekiel and his men drew. They’re given a choice: hand over the guns or use them. Richard, playing devil’s advocate, advises they cede their weapons. Being a sore winner, jerky taunts him. It’s finally too much for the King. He tells the Saviors to give Morgan back his staff and then he’ll give them the guns. But the Saviors don’t negotiate. Either hand over the guns or use them. That’s the only option. They hand over the guns.
But that’s not the end of their problems. Their tribute is short one melon. King Ezekiel counted them before they left so he’s certain that’s an error. When he counts them again one is missing. Richard again? Now the Saviors have to punish them. Ezekiel tries to stop it. He offers double the tribute in one hour but that’s not how the Saviors work. Richard gets teary eyed. He knew the consequences when he set this plan in motion but it’s scary when you think you’re about to die. The jerky Savior aims at Richard’s head. He’s ready to exact revenge. Richard makes peace with the moment and tells him to do it. The jerk says, “Okay.” And shoots young Benjamin. Anyone who didn’t see that coming needs to rewatch the season premiere.
Luckily it’s only a leg shot but it’s enough to freak everyone out. Even the Saviors. The leader orders jerky to return Morgan’s staff, get in the truck and keep his mouth shut. Ezekiel is desperate to get Benjamin back to the Kingdom and their doctor but the Savior leader isn’t done with his lesson yet. He reminds the King about the rules of their deal. On time, full deliveries, or else. And they can start by bringing the missing melon tomorrow. As Benjamin bleeds on the pavement, Ezekiel grits his teeth and agrees. Finally they’re released to rush Benjamin home. They load up in a hurry but Richard is in shock. It’s one thing to sacrifice yourself for a cause. It’s another entirely when you make that decision for someone else.
Carol is working in her garden when her cabin is turned into a makeshift hospital. Benjamin is losing a lot of blood. He recites lines from Morgan’s book, The Art of Peace. Blood drips, drips, drips to the floor. And then he’s gone. Morgan storms away. He’s having a major breakdown. His brain floods with experiences. His wife. His son. Clearing. The anger. The sadness. The insanity. It almost breaks him. And then he figures it out. Richard. Richard did this.
Richard sits shell-shocked in his room when Morgan bursts in to confront him. Without Morgan saying a word, he knows the jig is up. He tries to justify why he did it. The Saviors said he would be first! He was sacrificing himself to save everyone! This happened because they didn’t do anything to fight against the Saviors! Morgan just stares and seethes. He doesn’t need to words to express his feelings. So Richard explains his history. When things turned, he went to a camp. He didn’t do anything to protect his family because he assumed the people in charge knew what they were doing. They didn’t, and his family died. They died because he didn’t do something. Because he waited. He can’t make that mistake again. He tells Morgan they have to regain the Saviors’ trust. Prove to them that they learned their lesson. And when they trust them again, they turn on them. “But this is it. Morgan. You. Have. To. Kill.” Morgan wrestles with the decision. Is it time to kill again?
King Ezekiel loads up a single melon for the Saviors. At the meeting site, Morgan wants Richard to confess to Ezekiel but they’re interrupted by the arrival of the Saviors. The leader asks about Benjamin and seems genuinely saddened to learn he died. He screams at jerky to walk back to their compound. Even so, he demands his melon. Richard starts his plan of regaining the Saviors’ trust but it’s too much for Morgan. He grabs his staff and starts beating Richard. He gets him on the ground with this hands around his neck. While everyone watches, Morgan strangles Richard to death. I guess he’s made his decision. It’s killing time. Morgan spills Richard’s whole plan, from making them late to hiding the melon. “He wanted to get something started between the Kingdom and the Saviors.” And then he takes over Richard’s plan of regaining the Saviors’ trust. Very sneaky, Morgan. Very sneaky.
Once the Saviors leave, King Ezekiel stands in complete shock. He doesn’t know what to do with the news that Richard got Benjamin killed. Morgan shares that Richard thought he was sacrificing himself and he did it to protect the rest of them. “He thought he could choose and that’s why Duane had to die.” Now Ezekiel is really confused. Duane? When Morgan realizes he called Benjamin his son’s name, he starts to cry. He’s cracking up big time. Ezekiel sees this and tries to take him back home. Morgan needs help but won’t accept it. He sends them away and drags Richard’s body to the grave he dug. As he’s covering him, he finds Richard’s little girl’s backpack. He buries it with the body. Then he goes on a walker clearing rampage.
Morgan ends up at Carol’s cottage. He tells her that he killed Richard and asks if she wants to know what happened in Alexandria. She does so he spills the beans. All of it. He tells her about Rick’s plan to fight back and starts to leave. He has a new mission in life. He needs to leave so he can kill Saviors, one by one, until they’re gone. Carol tells him he has another option. He can go and not go. He’s too angry to stay in one place but she begs him. He needs a home base. She visits King Ezekiel to give her condolences and tell him she’s moving into the Kingdom. She needs to get them ready to fight. He agrees, but not today. Today they’re planting a new garden with Benjamin’s brother. And just like that, Carol is back amongst the living. Morgan, on the other hand, is sharpening the end of his staff. For him, it’s war time.
Next week: Jesus figures out Sasha and Rosita’s plan. They do it anyway. The Saviors visit Hilltop. Daryl hides but Gregory might give him up.