'The Walking Dead' Episode 11: Who Makes It Safely to the Hilltop? (RECAP)
Let's call this one "A Tale of Maggie and Tara," Walking Dead fans. The Cliffs Notes version: One can still control her longing for revenge. And the other nearly let it cost the Hilltop-bound Alexandrians their lives. Or at least their tenuous freedom.
I'll say it again: Dead's writing team really needs to do something constructive with Tara and Rosita soon or deal them out of the game. I get that long waits for new TWD seasons make events seem much further spread out than they are. But until Dwight shamed himself tonight, I completely forgot that Tara wants him dead because she and Denise (remember, Denise?) were a couple-episode thing and Dwight shot an arrow through Denise's eyeball while aiming for Daryl. About 47,000 years ago. Being mad about it and championing Rick's shoot ’em up attitude is about all Tara has to do right now. Debating her and walking around looking sad are Rosita's main jobs.
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We start tonight's episode "Dead or Alive" with the march of the Alexandrians, who are doing their best to sidestep the Saviors. As previously mentioned, Tara blanked Carl’s Kumbaya lesson. When a walker approaches the group, she calls the kill, but tosses the moldy bugger at an unsuspecting Dwight instead. Only Dwight and Rosita seem the least bit concerned about that. Rosita tells Tara to knock off the vigilante thing. At least until Carl's gone cold in his grave. At least until the Hilltop.
Meanwhile, the newly sprung, Dr. Carson and Father Gabriel are on the road for Hilltop, too, only they're literally on the road. Neither Jesus—not the Paul Rovia one—nor a medical license prove much help to the directionally-challenged duo, not to mention that Gabriel's rheumy eyes make him pretty lousy at reading a map. There's a few walkers (well, crawlers) sporting nasty ankle injuries around as well, one with a spring trap still attached to his leg. During a little roadside eye exam, Gabe displays that thing where if you lose one sense, your others will sharpen.
He hears a bell. It's not a bell. It's a house. They're easily confused.
Hilltop, meanwhile, has gone back to the business of fortifying itself agains the Saviors. Still dressed like amateur Starship Troopers, Morgan and Henry are bumps on a log as they guard the Savior POWS. Unfazed by Maggie's execution of Dean, Jared hollers to his keepers (Carol’s here too now) that it's just a matter of time until he's a free man. "Which one of you killed my brother?" Henry hollers back. Jared doesn't fess up. Carol tells Henry to go grab a sammich instead of plotting his next kill.
When the kid is out of earshot, Morgan asks Carol while they don’t just tell him who murdered Ben and get it over with. Not after what Henry did to Gavin, Carol says. Morgan says that only proves the boy is going to live. He knows how to survive—and killing didn't seem to phase him a bit. Carol knows exactly how much trouble that last part is. She shoos Morgan, too.
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Back at ... where are the Saviors now anyway? ... Negan prods suspicions that a very nervous Eugene may have abetted Carson and Gabe's escape and that Genie might also care a bit too much about what happened at Alexandria, but he lets it slide. He has other plans for his resident rocket scientist: heading up an outpost that will make the very bullets to settle the score with Rick. Yes, people are still a resource. But if said resource acts up, it must be mowed down.
Meantime, Genie's bullet shop will be fully tricked out with a security detail and Negan’s wives to tend to his needs. What Eugene really wants is wine, and he shall have it.
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Seems Dr. Carson and Gabriel have stumbled upon the home of a ham radio operator. Gabe finds the guy's "you can do it, listeners!" script and tells Carson that even if he didn’t reach anyone, just believing he threw hope out into the nether probably gave him hope, too. Or not. Carson forces open a bedroom door and finds the homeowner, long turned and handcuffed to his bed with all the trappings of his suicide strewn nearby.
Hope is not dead. Couple minutes later, while rifling through the meds the dead guy didn't swallow, Gabriel finds not one but TWO full bottles of antibiotics, WHAT ARE THE ODDS?! Then Gabe knocks over a piggy bank and, looky there! Car keys and a map! Jesus—not the Paul Rovia one—loves you, Dr. Carson. The car keys tell you so.
Back in the woods, Dwight tells Daryl that slogging through a potentially zombie-infested swamp might be a fine plan after all. Seems Negan mapped all the best routes to Hilltop and, understandably, that one didn't make the cut. There's dissension in the ranks about whether to believe a guy who turned on his own people, and not just from Tara this time. “Didn’t just turn on them,” Dwight counters. “I killed them.” Daryl saw it and Rosita saw it and Tara saw it. He’s proven his loyalty. #TeamAlexandria rolllllllll. Tara's eyes never leave him.
Meanwhile Hilltop, and with a gurgling baby Gracie beside her (and a whole bunch of new mouths to feed on their way), Maggie learns that food rations are dire if she doesn't feed the Sanctuary prisoners and even worse if she does.
On their way to the swamp, Dwight and Darry have a little talk about Sherri (remember her? Dwight's wife before Negan claimed her, who set Daryl free and then went on the run?). Dwight says he's never been about enabling the Saviors; he's only done what he must to keep Sherri alive. She saved you, too, he tells Daryl, and they both wonder if she's still alive.
Predictably, there's a sea of homage-to-Swamp-Thing walkers in the bog, and Daryl needs volunteers to clear the way for the others. Dwight offers himself up, but Daryl opts for listless and also injured Rosita instead, because THAT makes a bucket of sense. Tara volunteers to stay back, too, and of course Daryl allows it because we all what's about to go down next. Except for Daryl, apparently. Psssh!
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Back at Hilltop, Gregory requests an audience with "Margaret." He's been a good boy and would like parole. No. "You can’t keep me in here forever," Gregory protests. "Give me good reason to kill you and I won’t have to," Maggie retorts. A captive who sort of looks like Heath Ledger's baby brother resumes the negotiations, but Maggie says she doesn’t have the resources to oblige them even if she wanted to—oh, and one other thing. No food for a day or two or maybe four. “My people come first; I don’t have a choice,” she says. "I think you do," he responds. Food for no-food thought.
Despite what a tenderfoot Siddiq was mere episodes ago, he’s a walker-killing machine now, boy. Meanwhile, Tara invites Dwight to bring a knife to a gunfight under the guise of taking care of some walkers who haven't yet fallen in the drink. And away we go. Dwight does all the work, while Tara just keeps her gun trained on him. When the last walker is down, she aims between his eyes and no amount of discussion can stop her from pulling the trigger. Dwight is saved by a tree knot and they have a dandy foot race through the trees. He's hurt, she's hearty and, sure enough, she catches him ... just in time for the Saviors to come wandering through the bush and make them duck for cover.
I'm not sure we established that something was actually wrong with Carson and Gabriel's car, but they opt to test drive the new find instead. Carson leads the way, but a flutter in the wind catches what's left of Gabriel's eye: A sign announcing the booby traps Carson just wandered into. Carson fends off the walkers the best he can while chained to the ground with a pulped ankle, but one looks like it might get him. Gabe fumbles in the grass and finds a gun. He tried to aim, then closes his eyes and fires. "You did it!" Carson crows with far more energy than a guy who should be in shock or bled out should have.
Considering his options—get knocked off by Tara or knock the Saviors off the Alexandrian’s trail—Dwight comes out of hiding, makes nice with the Saviors and leads them away. Bam! Tara's small heart grew three sizes that day! Doesn't matter. Daryl reads Tara the riot act anyway.
A still remarkably chipper Carson volunteers to take the wheel, never mind that his ankle just got crushed in a bear trap. The men have a hearty chuckle—which will be their last. Neganites show up and toss the men into the back of their truck, but Gabe still insists to Carson that Jesus—not the Paul Rovia one—is still leading the way. Apparently Jesus just told Carson to grab an enemy's gun and get himself killed in the process. On his way back to captivity, Gabriel cries and cries.
The Alexandrians do, however, make it to Hilltop in a slo-mo sequence that lends impact to Maggie, Carol and poor weeping Enid learning Carl's fate. Henry just wants to know how Carl died. "Saving a stranger," Carol tells him. "In the middle of all this, he was helping a stranger." Morgan finally gets the message. He tells Henry that Gavin killed Ben "and you got him, so ...". Don't become a killer, little boy. Become Carl's legacy. Someone has to.
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Happy that Hilltop has a new doctor in Siddiq, Maggie still looks around at her expanded community with a mixture of fondness and worry. So many familiar faces. So many more faces to feed. But something about that softens her stance on Ledger Junior's request. The prisoners will be taken out of their pen in pairs to work, exercise (even though their pen is plenty big enough for calisthenics) and get medical attention. Rations are reinstated. If we're all going to starve, we're going to do it fit, patched up and with all the work done.
Gregory doesn't take this as good news. Apparently still convinced that if he opens his eyes THIS WIDE, Maggie will be mesmerized into compliance, he tells her the only solution is to run for their lives. They surely can't win. "Look around, Gregory," she tells him, as the guards bellow Rick's arrival. "How can we lose?"
Here's hoping she's right, because Negan has fresh inspiration, too.
In Eugene’s bullet shop, Mrs. Frankie Negan volunteers to apprentice, but Dwight's not falling for her niceties again. She can procure his food order— scrambled eggs with tomatoes served in the cafeteria/break room/motivational-presentational cubby— and then wipe his brow. Oops. That's going to have to wait, though, because here’s Mr. Negan with the freshly captured Gabriel, who, Negan beams, spilled the beans about his escape. Eugene blanches, but Gabe puts the blame on Carson.
His fib earns Eugene another day on the planet and a helper. Negan says Eugene's not cranking out the bullets fast enough, so Gabriel will take sorting duties off his hands. Eugene suggests catapulting walker parts over the Hilltop walls as an interim solution. Interesting plan. Eugene knows that that won't do a thing but create a mess, but seems to think Negan's none the wiser. Negan is. But he spies a blossom of an idea blooming in the bulls--t.
Realizing that Gabriel got sick but not fatally sick from his exposure to walker slop, looks like Negan figured out they can use zombie cooties as a weapon.
Gathering his troops around a trio of chained-up walkers, Negan rolls Lucille's barbs into one's pulpy remains until the bat is covered in gore. Eying it appreciatively, he says the dissenters will indeed work for him—"dead or alive or some kind of [email protected]#$ in between."
So what's your take, TWD fans? Do the walkers have bark without their bite? Is Eugene still No. 1 with a bullet to Negan or are his days numbered? Is Tara finally a changed woman, or is Dwight safer back in Negan's ranks, even if he is Team Rick? Can Gabriel possibly recover from this affront to his faith—and, the writers room maybe lay off the religious allegories, imagery and yuk-yuks for a while? We get it. God and the devil are in all of us. God rest ye, Saint Carl. May your teachings abide.
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC