‘The Walking Dead’: Riding in Cars with Boys

The Walking Dead
“The Key”
March 18, 2018

Let’s get this silly B storyline out of the way: Rick and Michonne arrive at Hilltop, long enough for Rick to kiss Baby on the head, visit Glen and Abraham’s graves, hear Daryl’s apology for fucking up their Sanctuary plan, say some gravelly stuff about being OK (but not really being OK) to Daryl, thank him for bringing everyone to Hilltop safely, and to announce that he’s headed back out again to serve as a lookout for Hilltop. Alone.

As he leaves, Maggie and Rosita muse over whether or not Rick will come back from this, and agree that things will be better once Negan is dead. Maggie then spots a strange box just outside the gates, clearly placed there to catch their attention. Rosita collects it and brings it and three other identical crates inside the gates, inside of which they discover coordinates for a meeting place and a note demanding that they fill the crates with food and “phonographs.” In exchange, the mystery correspondents will give Hilltop the “key to their future.” “What kinda bullshit trap is this?” everyone asks, except Michonne who is like, “I dunno, maybe we should check them out?”

So the ladies load up into an SUV where they meet another lady van in the middle of the road. A sharply-dressed woman steps out of her lady van, introduces herself as Georgie and her two henchladies, Hilda and Midge. Georgie goes on to explain that she is there to offer an exchange: Maggie gives her food and records, and Georgie will give her “essential knowledge.” “Instead,” Maggie suggests as Rosita sneaks up behind them, taking their weapons, “how about I add y’all to my prisoner collection?”

At Hilltop, Michonne urges Maggie to make the deal with Georgie and let them leave before the Saviors arrive, but Maggie can’t afford to hand any food over at the moment. Enid suggests another option: they take the Georgians’ food and supplies because WHAT’S THE POINT IT’S ALL MEANINGLESS EVERYONE DIES EXISTENTIAL TEEN CRISIS. Michonne reminds Enid that Carl was good and brave, and Enid’s like, “YEAH AND HE’S DEAD,” before stomping out of the room. Michonne, who shows admirable restraint with Enid …

… then tells Maggie that Carl wanted them all to be better behaved than they have been for several seasons now.

So Maggie loads up a crate with whatever records she can find and tells the Georgians that they can fill the other three crates with whatever food they want, but they need to be gone sooner rather than later for their own safety. Georgie, however, changes the terms on Maggie, explaining that instead, she is going to take the crate of albums, but nothing else. In fact, Maggie should help herself to some of their food supplies, as Hilltop seems to need it more than the Georgians do. Georgie then hands Maggie “The Key,” a book filled with plans for windmills, water mills, silos, all the sorts of things a medieval community needs to stop existing in the stone age. Georgie urges Maggie to “build this place up,” and tells her that she expects big things from her.

THANK YOU, FAIRY DEUS EX MACHINA GODMOTHER!

And then Enid confesses to Michonne to killing Grandma of the Ocean Amazons and wonders how she’s supposed to stop fighting. Michonne is all, “I don’t know, but you better figure it out because there has to be something after all this bullshit. We can’t just be fighting constantly. RIGHT, WRITERS? THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING MORE? MORE THAN JUST ENDLESS FIGHTING? RIGHT, GUYS?”

Writers room:

While the women were busy fixing the world …

… the men were busy trying to destroy it.

With a few beers, Negan welcomes Dwight back while also giving him the Negan stink eye as Dwight tells him his story about being ambushed and escaping.

Outside, Negan orders the Saviors coat their weapons in walker blood and announces that they are headed to Hilltop to make a point. Once Rick sees this new strategy, Negan predicts, he’ll surrender immediately. For some reason. Despite not surrendering after killing some of his best friends and burning their entire city down. But absolutely, surrender is just around the corner this time.

Simon orders the Saviors to only wound a few Hilltoppers, not kill them, and to allow them to turn into zombies. This is about scaring the Hilltoppers into submission, not exterminating them.

Simon asks Dwight to ride with him in his truck, they can do some carpool karaoke, have some girl talk … it’ll be fun!

The caravan then heads out, with Negan and Lucille bringing up the rear.

On the ride over, Simon begins asking Dwight what he thinks of Negan’s plan, curious what someone who has been on “both sides” makes of it, before noting that Rick, Maggie, and King Zeke just don’t seem to scare easily.

Speaking of, Rick spies the caravan from his lookout position, but instead of signaling the others LIKE HE IS SUPPOSED TO, RICK, he jumps in his truck and begins chasing them down, eventually catching up with Negan’s car and t-boning it in the middle of a small town.

Car chase car chase car chase.

~offscreen crash because apparently The Walking Dead doesn’t have much in the car stunt fund~

And at some point, Negan regains consciousness in his overturned car just as Rick begins firing ALL OF THE GUNS at him. Fortunately for Negan, he’s wearing some powerful plot armor that allows him to make it into a nearby building and up some stairs before Rick runs out of bullets. Negan obviously thinks this is hilarious, until Rick hurls his ax at him, forcing Negan to dodge and fall off a landing, hanging onto the ledge by his fingers, and having dropped Lucille in the process. When Rick goes to chop Negan’s fingers off, Negan instead lets go and falls through a floor.

Rick follows him down into the basement and the two men wander around in the dark for a while, talking shit. Negan offers Rick a deal in the memory of Carl: they’ll return to their original arrangement, and Team Rick will only have to hand over 25% of their stuff, not 50%. But, also, Rick will come to work for Negan in janitorial services. “Thanks but no thanks,” says Rick, pointing out that he has no reason to trust Negan after he killed all of the garbage people.

Negan:

Rick then notices that no one seems to be looking for Negan, but hey! look what he found! LUCILLE.

Meanwhile, Simon saw the initial car accident in his rearview mirror, stops the caravan and orders the Saviors to set up a blockade and stay put while he and Dwight investigate the situation. While they look for Negan, Simon asks Dwight if he ever considered offing Negan, and Dwight’s like, “the man who stole my wife and burned my face? NAH. IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME.” Simon then begins suggesting that the Saviors need to “move on,” and find new communities. Dwight is not sure what to make of this.

They eventually come upon Negan’s overturned and empty car, and Simon is like, “I mean, chances are he’s dead or a zombie, right? So our choices are to go look for him and have to kill Zombie Negan or just walk away, go back to the Saviors, and start over. Whaddya say?” Dwight answers by lighting cigarette and flinging it into the pool of gasoline collected around Negan’s car. So … choice B? Is that a yes for choice B? I’m going to go with “yes to choice B.”

Inside the basement, Rick informs Negan that he has Lucille before setting her on fire (with a lighter that used to belong to Glen) like his very own Lightbringer!

Negan is obviously infuriated at this turn of events and tackles Rick. Fighting fighting struggle fighting and that’s when the walkers decide to join the fun. Fighting the walkers with the firebat, fighting the walkers with the firebat, fighting the walkers with the firebat.

At some point, Negan regains the upper hand, reclaims Lucille, and flees through a window. By the time Rick fights his way out, Negan is long gone.

As for the Saviors, Simon and Dwight return to deliver the bad news: Negan is “gone.” When the Saviors are all, “OH NO WHAT DO WE DO?” Simon reminds them who they are: “Negan.” They’re still Negan, and after what the Hilltop just did to Negan, it’s time to go there and put the fear of God into those people and exterminate them all.

Dwight:

And where is Negan? Oh, just waking up in a car being driven by his old friend Haircut who is NOT INTERESTED IN HIS BULLSHIT and who knocks him out as soon as he realizes what is going on. GOOD NIGHT, SWEET ASSHOLE.

Just a couple of quick notes about this episode. First, the overarching theme of the episode seemed to be these groups looking to the future, and making a decision about who they are going to be going down the road. Hilltop under Maggie’s leadership makes the brave choice to be cooperative and is rewarded for it; whereas the Saviors are looking towards a future after Negan and seem to be taking — somehow — a much more violent, darker turn under a potential leader in Simon. But could they have a better, more peaceful future under the leadership of a different Savior?

The other thing I only noticed for the first time in this episode, mostly because it was literally spelled out for me, is that Dwight is a liminal character. As Simon points out, Dwight has been on both sides (in more ways than Simon knows): he has been both Negan’s victim and his henchman, and he has been on Team Savior and Team Rick. Because he has experience with both sides, he has wisdom to share (as demonstrated in the previous episode when he leads Team Rick to the swamp as a means of escape from the Saviors).

Going into the future, I could see a scenario in which Dwight becomes the only suitable leader of whatever remains of the Saviors. As Rick says to Daryl after Daryl apologizes for fucking up the raid on the Sanctuary, Rick didn’t want to kill innocent people. Once this “all-out war” is over and Team Rick wins (because uh-duh, obviously) they are going to have to deal with all of those people who make up the Saviors’ workforce. They aren’t going to kill them all — they are, as Rick said, innocent — but they can’t all move into Hilltop, either.

Presumably, someone is going to have to fill the leadership vacuum that Negan will leave, and the show appears to be setting up a choice between Simon and Dwight. Simon would just be dragging out this Savior/Team Rick conflict interminably, and while I don’t put that past the writers, I hope they are just as ready to move on from this particular chapter as everyone else. This leaves the obvious choice: Dwight, the scarred man, the liminal being, who has been on both sides and can lead from a place of knowledge and empathy.

Or maybe he goes wandering into the woods looking for Sherry and we never see him again, who can say.

ALRIGHT. ON TO THE NEXT ONE!

The Walking Dead airs on AMC on Sundays at 8/9 p.m.

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