‘The Walking Dead’: Signs of the times

The Walking Dead
“Warning Signs”
October 21, 2018

Things are good at Alexandria. Rick takes a morning stroll through the growing crops, finds a nice ripe tomato and places it on Carl’s grave.

Rick then returns to the house where he wakes Michonne up to talk about how her charter project is coming along, how Maggie is still angry about the whole keeping-her-husband’s-murderer-alive-in-his-basement thing, and Daryl is still angry about the whole keeping-his-torturer-alive-in-his-basement thing, but they seem confident the two will come around. All this rebuilding of civilization talk makes them hot and bothered and they decide it is time to make a baby.

Note: It is NEVER time to make a baby when you are in the zombie apocalypse.

Rick and Michonne then have a family fun day with Baby, playing hide and go seek, reading a little Wizard of Oz and practicing her sword skills. However, Family Fun Day comes to an abrupt end when some red shirt comes to inform them that they found Lunkhead’s body, and it doesn’t look like his death was an accident.

And, in fact, the episode begins with Lunkhead being nibbled on by a few walkers in the parking lot of a building with “FINAL WARNING” spray-painted along one wall, a building that appears to be a traffic sign warehouse? Are traffic sign warehouses a thing? I don’t know.

And I also don’t know or understand the rules of zombiehood. Take Lunkhead here, who is gently nommed on until the walkers lose interest and shuffle off. He then twitches a few times before getting up and shuffling into the woods. Why do the zombies lose interest in eating him? Do zombies experience hunger? Can that hunger be sated? Or are do they only stop consuming when they are distracted by something else? Why are some victims completely consumed and die die, while others are turned into fellow zombies? I JUST WANT THE RULES, MAN.

Any way, the point is, sometime later, Maggie and some red shirt are headed towards the construction site with a wagon full of food for the Saviors when who happens to cross the road but a bunch of belligerent Saviors, led by the director of Queens Boulevard himself, Billy Walsh. They explain they’re looking for Lunkhead who has gone missing and Billy Walsh is broadly menacing. After glaring and snarling at Maggie and some light tomato theft …

… , the Saviors wander off, only for Zombie Lunkhead to shuffle out of the woods right behind them.

Maggie and Hilltop Red Shirt bring Zombie Lunkhead’s body to the construction camp which sparks a near riot with the Saviors who are FREAKED OUT that they are being hunted down by someone. Fight fight riot fight until Carol shows up with her gun and is all ENOUGH OR I SHOOT EVERYONE IN THE FACE.

Billy Walsh and the Saviors begin speculating that Daryl or maybe Haircut killed Lunkhead and some of the men grab some axes. However, before the situation can devolve further, Rick rides up on his horse and is all ENOUGH OR I SHOOT EVERYONE IN THE FACE.

Rick asks Father One Eye where Haircut was the night before and he lies that she was with him the whole time. Rick asks Father Gabe to keep an EYE on her. And somehow Father Gabriel isn’t like, “WOW. WHAT WOULD CARL SAY?”

Father Gabriel later confronts Haircut about where she was for the rest of the night after they made the sexytimes, explaining that he lied to Rick for her. Haircut denies having anything to do with Lunkhead’s death before asking if he thinks she has something to hide.

Father Gabriel:

Elsewhere, Nice Savior tries to convince Rick to give maybe one or two trustworthy Saviors weapons so that they feel more secure, but Rick puts him off, insisting that they find who killed Lunkhead first.

To that end, he questions Daryl, noting that Lunkhead’s wound was a small puncture wound, the kind made by an arrow. Daryl reminds Rick that if he had killed Lunkhead, he would have done it out in the open, and adds that it’s not fair that the Saviors get a second chance when Glenn and Abraham and Sasha did not. But Rick is all, blah blah blah, we need to stop killing each other and also, too, remember how you didn’t kill me even though I left your brother on a rooftop to die? That was a good decision, right?

The group splits up into teams to search the grid for … I guess the people who killed Lunkhead? Maggie and Cyndie are paired up and Cyndie leads them to a house where a bunch of walkers has been drawn to a noisy roof tile? After alerting the others as to the situation via walkie-talkie, Maggie tasks Cyndie with fixing the roof tile while she kills the walkers by herself. Instead of just waiting for the others to arrive. Because all of these people are very dumb and it is a minor miracle they have survived this long. Cyndie, of course, steps on a broken board on the porch and falls just as the walkers trapped inside the house decide that now is a perfect time to break free, but don’t worry, Rick, Daryl, and Rosita manage to deus ex machina themselves there before Cyndie is bitten. Because of course they do.

The group then checks in with the other folks out in the grid and doesn’t hear back from Cyndie’s Sea Amazon friend, Bea. When they rush to her location, they find her unconscious and her search partner, the Savior Arat, is missing. WELL, SUPER.

But fortunately for Team Rick, Arat was the only Savior that they took with them on the grid search, apparently, because Rick implores the rest that they need to find Arat before the other Saviors realize that now she’s gone missing and walk off the construction job altogether. However, Jerry has a question: once they catch whoever has been killing and kidnapping Saviors, what are they going to do with them? “Gabriel or Negan?” Cyndie asks.

Yeah, Rick doesn’t really have an answer to that.

Elsewhere, Haircut sneaks off to the junkyard where she unearths a walkie-talkie and calls  … someone … informing them that she knows they are in range, she saw them fly by last night. The other end asks if she has an “A or a B?” Haircut asks if they are the ones taking the Saviors, but Walkie Talkie says there have been no pickups, before asking again if she has an “A or a B?” Haircut tells them it will just be her, reminding them that she has paid her share, but when that doesn’t seem to do the trick, she promises Walkie Talkie an “A” the next night.

And that’s when Father Gabriel pops out from behind a pile of trash and is like, “WHAT THE HEY?” Haircut reveals that she’s been trading people, and was planning on trading Rick and Father Gabe himself that one time when she kidnaped them. Look! She really tried to make it work at Alexandria, but he saw for himself: no one trusts her. So the plan now is that she is going to fuck off with these people she had been trading with, and if Father Cyclops wants to join her, he can! It’ll be fun! But Father Gabe is like, “Yeah, that is definitely not happening and in fact, I’m going to go tattle to Rick about all this.” So she bonks him over the head with the walkie, lamenting that all this time, she thought he was a “B.”

Whatever the hell that means.

Out in the woods, as Rick and Carol search for Arat, Rick confesses that he thinks about killing Negan every day, but that he always comes to the conclusion that the way to honor those they have lost along the way is to build life, not take it.

Carol:

Carol and Rick are jumped by Billy Walsh and some Savior Red Shirt who hold a knife to Carol’s throat and demand their guns. They just need protection before they fuck off, please and thank you. But Carol slides a knife out of her sleeve because: Carol, and as Rick fakes dropping his gun, Carol stabs Billy Walsh in the shoulder and that’s how Rick and Carol subdue the Saviors without killing them.

Meanwhile, on their search, Maggie and Daryl find a walker with a bolt in it, and Daryl suddenly realizes he knows who took Arat.

Maggie and Daryl arrive at the traffic sign warehouse (where FINAL WARNING! is menacingly spray-painted along one wall), and sure enough, our Sea Amazons have Arat on her knees and Cyndie is demanding that Arat beg for her life. The Sea Amazons reveal that this is where Lunkhead killed Bea’s husband and Arat killed Cyndie’s brother, and once they kill Arat here, they will have settled their score. Maggie argues that killing Arat will only keep the cycle of violence going, but then Cyndie begins telling her story: they used to live here, it’s where she played with her brother. But then Simon wanted what they had and gave them their “final warning.” After that, they ran away and hid until Team Rick asked them to fight. After, they got along because they thought they didn’t have a choice. But then! Maggie killed that asshole Gregory, and they realized that Rick’s rules weren’t the only rules — Maggie “showed [them] the way.”

Arat pleads that she is one of them now, that Simon would have killed her if she didn’t go along with him. But Cyndie reminds her that she made Cyndie beg her not to kill him, and Cyndie did! She begged that she loved her brother, that he was only 11-years-old, and you know what Arat here did? She smiled and replied, “No exceptions.”

Maggie and Daryl are like, “OH FUCK NO. Y’ALL DO WHAT Y’ALL NEED TO DO.,” before turning and walking away, leaving the Sea Amazons to their Savior-killing business.

The next morning, the rest of the Saviors take their toys and go home. Meanwhile, Maggie and Daryl also head home with Maggie’s ethanol in hand. On the way they agree that they gave Rick’s way a chance, now it’s time to see Negan.

Heads up, Negan.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this episode — we still have one more to tackle before Sunday’s au revoir to Rick Grimes — but I will say so far, I have been pleasantly surprised at how good this season has been. As you probably know, the show has a new showrunner, Angela Kang, and I’m pleased with both the pace of the show this season and her handling of nuance, of shades of gray.

For instance, the moment when Maggie and Daryl decide to turn their backs and let the Oceanside women do what they will with Arat was one of the starkest, most gut-dropping moments of the entire series. In that second, when the two of them look at one another, I had no idea what they were going to choose to do: would Maggie realize that she had erred in executing Gregory because it gave justification to others killing? Would Daryl and Maggie both see that Rick’s platform of forgiveness is the only way forward, the only way to build a functioning society? Or would they be even more resolute in their determination that Rick had made a huge little mistake in not killing Negan when he had his chance?

We obviously have our answer, and it is so brutal, so contrary to our notions of a civil society. Of course, this isn’t a civil society, this is a return to the wild west, to a culture and a civilization that only survives through brute justice and force. Maggie, who lost a husband to the Saviors, and Daryl, who lost his freedom to the Saviors, understand that in on a very personal level. In contrast, Rick, who also has experienced a profound loss — but to dumb luck, not to the Saviors — has the emotional capacity for forgiveness and hope. Maggie and Daryl, they can’t afford such luxuries now. Not just yet.

All that said, I do wish the writers would stop relying on so many deus ex machinas to get our heroes out of a jam. I am so tired of scenes where the protagonists are thisclose to being bitten when Rick or Daryl or whomever hadn’t been there a second earlier manages to pop into the scene and shoot the zombie whose teeth are a few precious inches above their target. It’s tiresome, it’s predictable and it’s wholly improbable. Do better with that, writers, and we will be all good.

ALRIGHT. ON TO THE NEXT ONE.

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

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