‘The Walking Dead’: Some Bangs and a Whimper (RECAP)

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier
Spoiler Alert
Gene Page/AMC
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier

[Spoiler Alert: Read on only if you’ve watched this week’s episode of The Walking Dead. You’ve been warned!]

I have a major love-hate relationship with tonight’s (February 19) episode of The Walking Dead, TWD fans. As queen of the Carol-Daryl ’shippers, so much love for their reunion. As for Bangs, Spike and the two-word talkers (and even more freakin’ people I have to keep straight), well, that’s going to take getting used to.

We open “New Best Friends” with Ezekiel and his entourage — Morgan, included — making the weekly Savior supply drop. Which goes all to hell when Jared the Longhaired D-bag gets up in Richard’s business (“No guns for bad boys!”), resulting in a quick-draw and the makings of a point-blank shoot out. Ezekiel and a weary Gavin tell their men to stand down (Jared) and hand over the gun (Richard). Richard does as he’s told, but offers Jared some helpful not-helpful advice: “Suck on it, you little s–t.” Jared takes this badly and tries to coldcock Richard with his own gun, but Morgan deals him an ouchie blow to the hand, sending the weapon flying. Jared relieves Morgan of his beloved Eastman-edition staff and no he will not give it back. Ben shows off some mad staff skills, too.

Gavin and Ezekiel — looking so much like exasperated dads — have had enough. Richard gets banished from future drops, then reinstated by Gavin, of all people, with one caveat: Any more lip and he scores a date with Lucille. In his fancy king language, Ezekiel admonishes Ben to think before he swings again. But Jerry (I love you, Jerry!) tells the boy his methods were “sick.” The good kind. Jerry officially bumps to the top of my “if [blank] dies, I riot” pile.

Back in the Kingdom, Daryl gives Morgan some guff about what Carol would think of his part in the drops — especially (oh hey, foreshadowing) if she knew what happened to Abraham and Glenn. She’d be leading the way to the Savior compound and that’s the truth. Morgan agrees. That, he says, is exactly why she left.

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Then Richard and Daryl have a little manly-man bonding time over bows and arrows and like-mindedness. Richard takes his new pal to his secret camper hideout in the woods and shows him the goodies stashed therein. Armed up, the pair roll out and end up at an abandoned semi trailer adorned with an excellent and oh-so-appropriate stagecoach-robbery mural. They’re going wait there for some Saviors to pass by and then strike, says Richard. Guns first. Then Molotovs. Then guns again to finish the job. Molotovs are necessary to make the carnage even more impressive. They need the surviving Saviors angry.

Here’s why — and what Richard has been up to out there in the woods. The Kingdom’s rogue thinker left a trail from the semi to a weapons cache he planted “at the cabin of someone Ezekiel cares about.” Oh oh. Some woman. A loner. More (figurative) balls than the both of them combined — but that can’t possibly save her. So when the Saviors come and find their buddies dead, they’ll follow the trail, find the weapons, attack the woman, make the King mad and boom! Ezekiel will be all in on waging war with Negan.

Except for one thing. Daryl knows exactly whom he’s talking about, and he isn’t having it a bit. As a group of Saviors cruises safely on by, the boys have a standoff of their own — no good, very bad day, Richard! Daryl stalks off, warning Richard that if anything happens to Carol — fever, a lightning strike, the walkers, the cooties — Daryl will take. Him. Out.

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Here’s where things get a bit … I don’t know what. We cut to what looks like the exclusive world premiere of Extreme Outdoor Hoarders In Vaguely European And Apocalyptic Garb. A shot of a run-of-the-mill dump pans out so we see that it’s actually some sort of garbage town. People in dark clothing emerge from doors built into the mess and scatter in orderly fashion. Like ants. We’ll call them the Ant People. Rick and the gang are in the swarm, too.

Ant People are apparently the reason that Rick was smiling at the end of last week’s episode. They’re also not the members of the lady village into which Tara wandered in what was my least favorite TWD episode ever … until, possibly, this one. Their milling gives way to the formation of two tight circles around the Grimes Gang. Then a tall woman with I-did-it-myself bangs (yes, I am an authority on this) and the hint of an accent appears. Rick says hi. Bangs — played by Hap and Leonard’s Pollyanna McIntosh — cuts to the chase: She and her group own the gang’s lives. Care to buy them back?

Turns out, Bangs isn’t too happy about the stuff that Rick and Aaron took from that boat a ways back. Thus, Bangs and Co. reclaimed it. The Alexandrians’ other stuff, too, since they were there and all. Plus, Gabriel for good measure. Rick’s sales pitch begins. He says his group really belongs to the Saviors, so if Bangs kills them, she’s really robbing a far more dangerous enemy. Better plan: Join the resistance. Bangs thinks that one over for about two seconds. “No.” She says it in a way that suggests Rick should return to his dickhead friends at the bar and let her enjoy the dance floor, pronto.

Then Rosita — who is one testy dame these days, what with a dwindling supply of nookie prospects and all — starts a highly improbable fight. Gabe makes it worse, holding a knife on a tough-looking gal named Tamiel (Sabrina Gennarino), who could take him out handily with a swift elbow to the gut. Bangs gives him the same withering look she just gave Rick and tells him to step off. Instead, Gabe opts for some windy schooling about the Saviors and their things and their places and their stuff.

Time for Rick to get a load of something called “UpUpUp.”

UpUpUp is actually the tip-top of the junk heap, where Rick can see for miles and miles. It’s a vista of junk heaps with a maze of trails throughout — and the Saviors’ compound on the horizon. (No, you are not the only one who laughed out loud at the visuals on this one.) Bangs begins to speak in apocalyptic freeform poetry about cans, rotting food and times of change. Which may be now, if Rick is totes for reals about all this … and worth the hassle.

Psyche! Bangs sends him flying off the heap. Aw! She pushed him down! She must totally like him.

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Or maybe not. She dropped him into a sort of junkyard version of the Thunderdome, where — am I awake? I’m still awake, right? — he will battle, for lack of a better description, Medieval Joust Walker. Who else is wondering if the Ant People helmeted an already-walker walker and then ran him through with swords — or if some living, breathing soul got pin-cushioned and left to turn into a death machine? We’ll find out in a bit.

In either case, the thing can’t see and probably doesn’t have nose, but it advances on Rick anyway. Rick wobbles, then bonks the monster on the head with a plastic computer keyboard, which buys him just enough time to stand back up and skewer himself through the hand on its helmet. Michonne, who is watching the action through a plate-size peep hole, tells her man to use the wall to his advantage, reasoning that if his hand got stuck on the thing, so will all that other crap, rendering the walker both padded and stuck.

It works. Rick filets the creature’s skull through his helmet then gives Bangs a little what-what. Aw! Git up-up-up here, ya big lug. So here’s the deal. Bangs wants guns. A lot. A lot. And then they’ll fight Rick’s fight. One more cheese ball shot of the junk vista and we have détente. Or at least negotiations. Do you know we will win, Bangs wants to know. Rick knows it. Cool. Then Jadis wants half the resulting bounty. A third, says Rick (er, who’s getting stiffed if he completely gets his way — Hilltop or The Kingdom?). And they’re taking their stolen stuff back, too. Her: “Half.” Him: “Third.” Half. Kiss me (OK, I made that part up, but it doesn’t seem entirely too farfetched). The deal is sealed on Bangs getting the guns, one third of the loot and half of the pilfered jars to keep.

“Jars and guns,” she says. “Guns and jars. Say yes.” Rick says yes. And with that, Bangs returns to talking exclusively in one-to-three-word chunks. Long time. We take. We don’t bother. Go. Deal expires. Soon. Oh and by the way, Joust Walker indeed had a pulse and a name. Winslow. I’m pretty sure that Gabriel was going to be the next Winslow. And Bangs’ name is Jadis. She and her followers take their leave.

The Walking Dead - Ezeekiel

Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Josh Mikel as Jared, Kerry Cahill as Dianne

Cut to Carol’s house where Ezekiel has come calling with his entourage. Carol says she told Richard that this is a major no-no. E says they’re just there to clear away the walkers. Didn’t mean for her to notice. But since they’re there, Jerry comes bearing cobbler. Take it, Mrs. Ma’am Lady. Carol takes the cobbler, then orders them to am-scray. A few minutes later there’s a knock on her door. She and Daryl gather each other up. I’m not crying … YOU’RE crying.

Carol asks how he found her and Daryl pretty solidly fudges the details. Then his voice wavers as he asks her why she left. I’m NOT crying!

Meanwhile, back in garbage town, Gabe explains himself to Rick. He heard something from inside the Alexandria wall and went to investigate. Maybe it was an unattended Judith finally having enough brain function to get ticked about that and wrecking the joint? Nope. It was a lady. She jumped him. She was mad about the stuff on the boat — I should have paid way more attention to the boat episode— and all the waiting. Rick says no biggie. The whole situation scored them more people for their army. Relieved, Gabriel yammers on about faith and hope and loyalty. Rick looks at him the same way I do. Then Gabey asks the question that was on everyone’s minds after the final moments of last week’s episode: What was that smile for? Someone showed me that enemies can become friends, Rick says. Gawd.

Ever the contrarian, Rosita opines that they should start searching for the Ant People’s guns immediately, rather than head straight back to Alexandria. Tara protests, citing hurt people and hungry people and that time-outs are sometimes good. Fine. Rosita will go it alone because it’s always a fight and there can be no slowing down. Um, Richard? Here’s your girl.

Time to pack up and head home. Gabe looks beatific and shows off his best posture. Rosita looks pissed, because of course she does. Tara’s got a secret (one we know) about the where-to-find-guns thing. And Rick — walking like something more than just his hand hurts — takes a rusty wire cat as a memento of their day.

Back at her homestead, Carol makes Daryl some dinner and tells him why she really left. She’s done being a killer — and if she’s not a killer, she is of no use to the group. Speaking of that, how is everyone? Good? Home safe and sound? Oh boy. Carol’s crying. And Daryl fudges again. Yes, some Saviors came to Alexandria. Yes, they got them, made a deal with the rest and everyone is peachy-dandy. Then he changes the subject to his growling belly and Carol’s opinion of the King.

Back at the Kingdom, Morgan comes upon Daryl having some quality time with Shiva and says Ezekiel will be impressed. Daryl lets him know he found Carol despite Morgan’s fib and Morgan says that he was just following the lady’s orders. Daryl tells him he’s the guy to make Ezekiel join the revolution. Morgan says he’s really not. Daryl tells him to grow up. Morgan retorts that the two of them are just alike. He knows Daryl didn’t tell Carol about Glenn and Abraham or else she would be there now. “We’re all holding onto something,” he says.

Daryl’s holding onto the weapons Richard gave him. He’s also headed back Hilltop. Richard and Morgan watch him go.

So much to think about. Ant People first. Safe to say that either Jadis — or, as likely, Tamiel (who looks like she could be Savior Diane’s dress-loving sister, if you ask me) — was the boot-wearing lurker watching Rick and Aaron on their supply run at the boat. Though I’m not sure I’m ever going to take a shine to Crapville, I do kinda like Jadis and her bangs and her accent and how she handles Rick. Plus, what if Tamiel is Diane’s kin? This group isn’t part of Kirkman’s graphic novel universe, so anything is possible. And Diane looked about as goopy/nostalgic as you’d guess Diane can look in this episode, so what if? But it’s tough to imagine that these people, in an encampment this expansive (and filled with smelly stuff), would escape the Saviors’ notice — so maybe a little suspicion of this group is warranted?

Rick versus Joust Walker: silly, or a campy thrill?

Did you award at least semi-props to Richard for what did seem like a pretty solid plan — in absence of, you know, a nice heart-to-heart — to turn Ezekiel’s thinking? Or did you want Daryl to finish the job for putting our Carol in danger? And now that Daryl knows Richards plan and can’t get Morgan to play matchmaker with Big E to head it off at the pass, what’s he going to do to stop it?

Are you jonesing for Negan’s return after a two-ep absence?

Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC