‘The Walking Dead’: Pit stop

The Walking Dead
“The Obliged”
October 28, 2018

Michonne spends her days tending the gardens of Alexandria, playing with Judith, taking care of the sick, settling disputes … fixing things. But at night, Michonne goes out alone with her samurai sword and hacks up the undead. One night she comes across a walker who has been lynched, and upset and distracted by the site, she is almost ambushed by a different walker. In the fight, she drops her sword and, grabbing the closest available weapon, she kills the walker with a bat. Seeing what she had just used to protect herself, Michonne is horrified and disgusted, having been reminded of Negan.

Later, an Alexandrian extra informs Michonne that they’re losing crops to crows and that Negan is refusing to eat. Michonne is all, “SIGH HEAVILY. I’LL HANDLE IT.”

Michonne takes a meal down to Negan in his basement cell, informing him that the hunger strike ends today. But Negan is not interested, not unless she sits and talks with him for a while. Michonne belligerently agrees.

As for their conversation: Negan tells Michonne that she is not cut out for gardening and kissing boo-boos. She’s like him, they’re meant to be out there. Michonne insists that they are rebuilding civilization, creating government and laws while he rots in this cell. Negan admits that he is glad that his wife didn’t see him like this, revealing that she died of cancer before the zombie apocalypse. He adds that he wishes he and his wife had a kid like Carl, that Michonne was lucky. Michonne agrees, noting that she sees Carl everywhere, even in Negan himself.

Negan somehow figures out that Carl wasn’t Michonne’s first son, and she admits that her first boy, Andre, he didn’t make it. Negan insists it’s better this way: his wife wasn’t designed for what the world became and her death made him “not weak.” However, he and Michonne were built for this world, his wife and her son would have just made them weak. Michonne, unsurprisingly, does not take this nugget of insight kindly and throws his meal across the room before storming off.

Michonne stews on this for a while before returning to Negan’s cell with a new sandwich. Negan insists that he wasn’t trying to piss her off, noting that she wasn’t ready to hear it, that she is like him. That they do what is needed to get shit done. Michonne argues that they aren’t the same: he enjoys it, she is trying to make things better. Her sons might be gone, but she is going to make this a better place for her daughter and all the other children who come into it.

Negan finally takes a bite of his sandwich before asking if he can see Lucille. But Michonne is all, “LOL WUT? Nah, we don’t have her, we left her out there somewhere.” Negan has a sad.

Later, Michonne reads a book to Baby about kids playing a baseball game and ends the story prematurely when the book features a picture of a baseball bat.

Over in the C Story, Haircut has an unconscious Father Gabriel tied down with the intention of killing him with one of her walkers in the heap. When he wakes up to find his girlfriend lowering a zombie into his face, Haircut explains that she has to do this, he’s the “price of admission.” He tells her that he forgives her: that whatever she is doing is his fault for not being able to help her, and he just hopes that she can forgive him one day, too. Haircut gets all verklempt at this and realizes that maybe she can’t feed her boyfriend to a flesh-eating zombie after all. But she can stick a rag full of chloroform in his face and knock him out.

When Father Gabriel wakes up again, he’s inside a storage container, and Haircut is nowhere to be found. All that remains is a note pinned into his jacket: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I want to go fast.” Father Cyclops has a good cry.

Meanwhile, in our A Story, Maggie hands off Hershel to a Hilltop extra before grabbing a backpack and loading it with a crowbar. Jesus catches her and is like, “Cool crowbar. So, you’re not about to do something stupid are you? Like try to kill Negan even though we all agreed to not kill Negan? Because I’m not saying that Negan didn’t need some killing, I’m just saying that moment has passed and it’s not your place to kill Negan.” But Maggie is unconvinced and heads out to Alexandria with that one Kingdom lady.

Over at the construction site, Rick is concerned that the not-completed bridge will not survive the rising river, and Dr. Mullet’s like, “Yeah, I don’t have great news for you about that.” Dr. Mullet then apologizes for not having read more, but Rick assures him in the first of a few farewell speeches that Dr. Mullet is not just a guy who read a lot of books: “You made something. You got us here. After everything… that’s everything.”

Next, Rick goes into Carol’s tent where she informs him that she is heading back to The Kingdom. She sent Alden the Nice Savior to lead the Saviors back to Sanctuary, and now it’s time for them to stand on their own and figure out who they want to be. Rick confesses that he doesn’t know if they did the right thing, but if there is one person who gives him hope in all of this, it’s her. And with that, he tells her goodbye.

As he leaves the tent, Rick is told by Jerry that they’ve received a message alerting them that Maggie is headed to Alexandria and that he would “know what that means.”

And in fact, Rick most certainly does know what that means, and it means NOTHING GOOD. Rick sends a message to Alexandria via walkie relay to NOT LET MAGGIE INSIDE. Rick then goes to mount his horse, but Daryl offers him a ride on his motorcycle — it’ll be faster.

Riding on the motorcycle, riding on the motorcycle, riding on the motorcycle. When Rick realizes Daryl missed their turnoff, he demands Daryl pull over and let him off, with a “HEY! YOU TRICKED ME!” Daryl admits that Rick’s message to Alexandria was never delivered because he’s Team Maggie. When Rick tries to call on his walkie again, Daryl knocks it out of his hand and the two engage in a slap fight that ends with the two of them rolling into a giant pit of some sort.

Well, dummies, now what.

Finding themselves in the classic “two characters mad at each other trapped together in a broken elevator and forced to talk out their differences” plot, Daryl and Rick yell at each other about Negan for a while. Daryl reminds Rick that Glenn saved his life — if it weren’t for Glenn, Rick would have never found Lori and Carl, he wouldn’t have found any of them. Rick claims he’s sorry about taking revenge away from Maggie, but that it’s what he has to do. Daryl argues that keeping Negan alive gives the Saviors hope that things might return to the way they were, but Rick insists that keeping him alive prevents the Saviors from turning him into a martyr. As for Maggie, Rick is baffled, he thought she was coming around. “Yeah, well,” Daryl explains, “she couldn’t live with it, just like the Sea Amazons couldn’t live with it.” And that’s how Rick comes to learn that the Sea Amazons were the ones killing all of the Saviors.

Rick insists that if Negan dies, the whole war, Carl’s death will have meant nothing. Daryl tells Rick that he would have died for him and Carl, but that Rick has to let Negan go.

Meanwhile, above ground, the Saviors, led by Billy Walsh, have found themselves a couple of guns and have returned to the construction site to make trouble. He knows the Sea Amazons have been killing Saviors, and so if Carol would kindly step aside so that he could kill all the Sea Amazons, that would be great. Instead, a shoot-out erupts.

But we don’t know what happens because it takes place off-screen, from Rick and Daryl’s perspective in the pit. Rick and Daryl realize that the gunshots are going to draw walkers, and so they work together to pull themselves out of the pit, all while walkers keep dropping onto their heads from above. Very irritating.

They manage to get out, obviously, and Rick sends Daryl back to the campsite to manage whatever shenanigans are happening there, while he takes his horse (who deus ex machina-ed himself to the scene) to lead the horde in the opposite direction. However, Rick’s horse becomes spooked when it is cornered by two converging hordes of walkers, and throws Rick off his back, onto a piece of rebar. And that’s when Rick begins to lose consciousness as the walkers close in, OH NOOOOOO.

OK, look. I could lie to you and tell you that I have no idea what is going to happen in tonight’s episode regarding Rick’s exit from the series. I could do that, but the truth is I happened to see an official description of next week’s episode and it was enough to give me a strong suspicion how it’s all going to go down. Because I’m not a monster, I’ll spoiler font it here for those of you who have self-restraint. Scroll over to see for yourself:

Six years after Rick’s disappearance, a group of strangers test Alexandria’s trust and patience.

Catch that? Six years after Rick’s DISAPPEARANCE. This means a number of things: 1. We can just go ahead and write off any hopes for some big emotional reunion for Rick and Michonne and Judith or anyone else for that matter. And 2. Rick won’t remain on that piece of rebar. My guess is he somehow manages to remove himself from the rebar, get back on that horse and lead the herd away, literally riding off into the sunset, ever the hero.¬†

But also, SIX YEARS? I knew this season was jumping ahead in time, but I thought that the time jump at the beginning of the season would be it. But six years! That’s a real narrative reset and a bold and direction for the new showrunner to take. I have to admit, I’m excited to see where it goes.

As for non-spoilers, I want to begin with the biggest question I have about this episode: what the what is going on with Haircut? I do not understand what the A and B business is about. At all. What are these mystery helicopter people doing with the people she is offering in exchange for supplies, and does this “A” thing have anything to do with the Terminus cannibals? Remember, they were the ones that put Team Rick in a boxcar labeled “A” and then there was the “A” they marked on Gabriel’s church. But “A” was also on Daryl’s shirt when he was held by the Saviors, and Haircut put the Team Rick members into a storage container marked with an “A,” so it may not be about the Terminus cannibals at all.

But more confoundingly, in the previous episode, Haircut seems to suggest that she needed Father Gabe as an “A” to trade to the helicopter people in exchange to be taken with them. Which, fine. So why, then, does she nearly kill Father Gabriel in this episode? Doesn’t she need to hand over an “A?” What is even happening here?

Also, where’d she rustle up that walker? How long was Father Gabriel knocked out for that she went out, trapped a walker, tied her up and rigged up this whole weird scene?

And if she didn’t take Father Gabriel along with her to trade to the helicopter people, who did she give up? And if she didn’t give anyone up, why did they take her?

I just have a lot of questions regarding this whole subplot.

And then there was Michonne and that wonderful surreal opening sequence which, thanks to very artful editing, upon first viewing felt more like a dream sequence than reality — especially since Rick wasn’t in the bed most nights that she leaves to hunt walkers. I genuinely wasn’t sure if I was looking at some sort of distorted reality, like a dream or fantasy, or not. But upon second viewing, I think what is happening is that the sequence begins further back on the timeline than the previous episode, that a number of these nighttime wanderings are happening while Rick was at the construction site, through the Family Fun Day in the previous episode (which does also briefly appear here), and then after he leaves again. So, basically, Michonne’s wanderings are real and have been going on for a while.

However, aside from the editing, the thing that made the whole sequence so dreamlike is the very thing that makes me kinda wish it had been a dream sequence: the hanged man and the bat. It is an upsetting moment when she finds the hanged walker, one that clearly jars Michonne. And the symbolism is immediate and obvious: the hanged walker represents Gregory and Maggie’s brutal justice which Michonne disagreed with; the bat is Negan, and Michonne’s discomfort with her similarities to her captive. All of that is great — if it is symbolic. But to have both of these two very obvious symbols manifest together in the same scene feels not just improbable but a bit like ham-fisted writing.

But aside from the obvious relation to Maggie and Gregory, that hanged man might also offer us an interesting insight into Michonne herself. I will start by saying I am probably reading too much into this and it may not be at all what the writers intended. That said, the hanged man in the major arcana tarot is an interesting and somewhat contradictory symbol. Tarot cards depict the hanged man as being hung upside down by his feet which was a traditional and shameful punishment for traitors in Italy. However, others note the serene look on the hanged man’s face, and the halo around his head, possibly representing some sort of enlightenment and have suggested that the hanged man is a representation of the Norse god Odin who hung himself from the Tree of Life in search of knowledge.

In any event, the traditional interpretation of the card tends to be surrender, self-sacrifice, suspension — either that one must surrender to an unexpected change, or if one feels stuck or suspended, they should try to see their lives from a new perspective. Both of these apply to Michonne: she is feeling stuck, almost trapped by her domestic life in Alexandria, and Negan offers a new perspective, one that allows her to own her inherent strength. But she also is about to be rocked by the loss of her partner, Rick, an enormous and unexpected change to which she will have to surrender if she is to survive and move forward, and not become trapped in her anger and grief like Maggie. Michonne recognizes Gregory in the hanged man, but she recognizes herself, perhaps, too.

Alright, my chickens. Get your stuff and thangs ready for tonight’s big, sad goodbye to Rick Grimes. I’ll see you on the other side.

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

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