Sometimes The Walking Dead gives us intimate episodes that take place on a single stage. At other times, like tonight, the family is dispersed across the Virginia landscape. There is only one safe haven: the Hilltop. But, to make it there alive, they’ll have to avoid Saviors and walkers along the way. It’s a task easier said than done.
The sicker Father Gabriel gets, the more certain he is that God is shepherding Maggie’s OB-GYN to the Hilltop. Every stroke of luck is a sign. Dr Carson is more concerned with Gabriel’s raging infection than his religious zealotry. As the Father loses his sight (visually represented by cringe-worthy red eyes), his visions increase. The roster of miracles is quite impressive. They stumble upon the exact antibiotics needed. Gabriel shoots a walker, blind. They’re practically hand-delivered keys to a car and a map to the Hilltop. It’s too much to resist. The Doctor jumps on Gabriel’s cloud. God IS leading them to salvation. For a brief, shining moment, Father Gabriel feels the Holy Spirit. And then it’s snatched away. Captured. Doctor shot. Sorting ammo casings at the bullet factory. Gabriel is broken, in body, mind, and spirit.
Morgan has a homicidal kid on his hands. Which would be a big enough problem without being homicidal himself. The people around them are in a steady state of terror. Henry wants to know who killed his brother. Morgan has no issue telling him. Carol, unwilling to watch a ten year old kill again, suggests Henry doesn’t need more bodies on his conscience. Morgan compromises by telling him Gavin did it. No further need for vengeance, good excuse for the killing. Win, win. Carol isn’t convinced. She still looks at both of them in horror.
Negan has his own version of good cop/bad cop: flatter/terrorize. He needs ammo so he turns it on Eugene. Here’s some power/I think you’re working against me. I value your contributions/I need more and I need it yesterday. Eugene knows how to play the game. His biggest skill is lying. It’s how he got to Alexandria.The Saviors supply the ideal environment for a fellow of his proliquivities. Too bad they’re murderous thugs. For now, he’ll be Negan. Father Gabriel is his backup parachute when everything blows.
Daryl, Tara, Rosita, and Dwight lead Carl’s sewer evacuees to the Hillside. Tara is consumed by the burning desire to kill Dwight. It’s almost like it’s personal or something. Rosita has been a peacenik ever since Sasha sacrificed herself so she’s against it. Daryl has to cast the deciding vote: Dwight lives. For now. Their only safe route is through a walker-infested swamp. Because, of course it is. While Daryl and Rosita handle the bog monsters, Tara makes her move. She pulls a Shane on Dwight, luring him away for a private little murder. His apology only makes it worse. But a group of Saviors searching for the Father and the Doctor revenge-block her. Dwight rejoins them as cover. He knows it’s suicide but it’s the only way to keep the Alexandrians safe.
The Hillside is nearly out of food. Maggie has to make some tough decisions. The Saviors want privileges for good behaviour. Instead, she suspends their food rations. But is this the world Maggie wants? She has three choices: kill all the prisoners, support and guard them for the rest of their lives, or turn them into allies. Obviously, Maggie chooses the latter. She gives them the same rations as everyone else and time outside the pen. Her karma is instantly repaid when Siddiq shows up, looking for work in the infirmary. Maggie, meet your new Baby Doctor.
Carl’s sewer evacuees arrive at the Hilltop. The joy of reunion quickly turns to grief. The audience has had time to mourn Carl’s death but for them the pain is brand new. Daryl processes his distress by comforting Carol. Enid is devastated.
There’s a reason Negan has survived so long: ingenuity. He solves a problem (killing people is hard) with a new use (infecting people) of a readily available commodity (walker blood). Now all they have to do is wound someone. Mother nature takes care of the rest. It’s biological warfare in the zombie apocalypse.
Next week: The Saviors attempt to walker-fy the enemy. The Hilltop resists. With the help of Simon, Rick pulls Negan away from his entourage. The old fashioned car chase culminates in a cave maze. Is this finally the end of Negan?