Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Walking Dead S7x6 Swear

The Walking Dead review
Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page
The Walking Dead has steadily expanded the world around Alexandria. After dedicating episodes to the Kingdom, Negan's compound and the Hilltop Colony, it's now Tara and Heath's turn to show us another corner of the apocalypse. After the refreshing Maggie and Sasha-centric episode Go Getters last week, could the show keep up the good luck, girl power, and decent pacing with SwearThis post contains spoilers - you've been warned!

After seeing the consequences of Rick's group and their failed endeavor to eliminate Negan, it's a bit forgetful to forget that two people directly involved on the satellite outpost still have no idea what's going on at home. On their own and held up in their RV, Heath wrestled with the moral implications of their actions, while Tara urged him to keep believing in themselves on a human level, even if they have to kill to stay alive.

The initial moral dilemma shared between the two was a bit of a broken records characters have played before, But Heath's claim of choosing you over someone in order to survive nicely set up the rest of the episode for Tara. In fact it wasn't long before the duo became uno, and Heath was removed from the picture as a new group of survivors were introduced.

Cut to two seaside wanderers Cindie and Rachel discovering Tara washed ashore on their beach and fighting over whether to let her go or shoot her on site, respectively. When Tara woke up to a supply of fish and a spear, it was only inevitable she would attempt to find out who these people were and if they were safe to get help from. Delving into the forest, she discovered a vast colony of women of all ages working and living in beachside villas, constructing supplies, and taking inventory of their ammo. It wasn't long before her unwanted presence was re-discovered and she was surrounded and arrested, only to be spared again by Cindie - who had the most compassion to let Tara live.

Tara had some very big questions to answer: How could a child (Rachel) be persuaded or taught to shoot a person with no questions asked? In a female-based community, where were all the men? Without showing an ounce of hostility, what made these people so on-edge against her?

A bulk of her quest was very slow-paced, but unlike the recent side-tracking episodes, I didn't mind this one. Not only was it refreshing to see  Tara period, but also watch her try to balance her humor as a defense mechanism, attempt to bridge the gap between herself and these anxious survivors, and subtly struggle with the ramifications of killing to survive.

While the story felt drawn out, the Oceanside leaders' perseverance reminded me of Maggie, Sasha and Rosita, even Saviors from The Same BoatSome are out for blood, some are wholly evil, and some still hold onto compassion not assuming everyone is dangerous, people shouldn't be left behind.

What we soon came to realize there might not be one town in all of Virginia that Negan doesn't rule. Tara soon finds out the women were survivors of a much larger group, where all of the men from age 10 and older were executed after getting into a skirmish with Negan. The remainders were going to be forced to work for him but they escaped and are trying to desperately to remain hidden.

A big excuse we give Team Family is that they have to take potential threats.While Alexandria isn't responsible for what happened to Natania's group and their men, the show is now exploring different sides of the so-called enemies survivors or bystanders, and how they just might be like our guys; trying to rebuild after they lose everything: "All of you thought you had to. None of you had to. You just did."

Despite Tara's persistence that their groups aren't too different, her little slip of trying to wipe out Negan's soldiers, was enough to make up Natania's mind of what to do with her. Any person who might be a threat is killed on site, and allowing Tara to linger too long especially with her connection to the Saviors cemented their decision. They promised to let Tara free in the morning and give her some extra help to return to her community.

However, that was just a rouse to try to get Tara killed. She with two "aides" Cathy and Beatrice barely stepped outside the grounds before they tried to execute her. Cindie ended up saving her for a third time, but only promised to help her the rest of the way to find Heath, if Tara swore to never tell anyone about their group. She did, together, they round up at the same bridge where Tara and Heath were separated.

Tara's visit at the camouflaged beach houses wasn't exceptionally powerful for the moment, but the use of flashbacks to slowly expose how she was separated from Heath were nice plug-ins. Their conversation of choosing yourself over someone else came full circle; as it was discovered that they were swarmed by walkers, and when it seemed that Heath was abandoning Tara to be attacked, he was a distraction for her; he was surrounded by walkers as she was pushed over the bridge into the lake.

As much as I liked the approach to Swear, it also felt a bit lackluster - particularly dealing with Heath's disappearance.

The Walking Dead is known for dropping homages to past episodes and easter eggs for future ones. As Tara returned to the spot where they were forcibly split up, the only evidence of Heath left was a random business card with PPP written on it left lying next to fresh tire tracks. Though theories abounded online of what it could mean,  i.e. the letter combination have not been used in any earlier episodes, let alone an exchange of bonding between Heath and Tara. So there's no telling what it could mean. And unfortunately, the bigger question is if fans are really engaged to find out. Heath's missing-in-action heroics felt like a recycled bit from Beth's kidnapping in season four, and who's to say this won't go down that same rabbit hole....

Heath's disappearance might be a missed storytelling opportunity, but a good move on Corey's part (who is cast in Fox's next 24 revival). Perhaps it's the show as it is now, or the fictional wounds of losing could-be-interesting characters, especially African Americans like Noah, to red shirt formula. Heath as a character didn't particularly resonate with me. He really only felt interesting around Glenn or Tara, and not by that much.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, his vanishing act allowed for Tara to contextually and emotionally pay homage to their friend Glenn throughout her journey, and the results delivered a decent solo episode.

The impact of Tara and Heath's mission hit harsher at the end. As she scavenged her way home and strolled up to the gates without her partner, but armed with sunglasses, a doctor bobble-head and a huge smile on her face, that rebellious exuberant expectation of coming home dissipated. We don't really need to hear Eugene share the news of what happened while she was gone; to see her and Rosita in Denise's old hospital wing was enough for her grief to hit home. As Rosita wanted to exact revenge and is desperate to find more communities that will help them take on Negan, Tara kept her promise to Cindie. One can only image that it might've been the same choice Glenn would've made too.

But how long will Tara keep this promise?

A growing claustrophobia is taken root as every episode revealed just how much and who Negan owns or has impacted. With so many people vying for a vanishing amount of supplies and racing against the clock or Lucille to provide for him, does this incite groups making enemies out of each other or helping one other? Will Rick's assumption that strength in numbers, theirs against his, can be his his downfall prove true? Does association by murder strain Alexandria's possible allies with Natania's group?

Swear could easily feel like a manipulative considering it's been weeks since we experienced Glenn, Abraham and Denise's fate as well as the Not Tomorrow Yet rampage. Instead of written to tease us with sadness of Tara not knowing what happened to her friends and girlfriend, the episode let her shine on her own, bring subtle reminders of what Glenn taught her, and show even more groups under Negan's control. It might've not needed a whole hour on it's own, but any episode focusing on the central group instead of the Saviors is somewhat of a blessing. Even if it moved as slow as a season one walker on the prowl.

Additional Thoughts:
+ Swear was a nice homage to how Tara and Glenn's friendship started....There was a lot nice moments lifted from episodes like Inmates and Us.

  • Tara trying to rally Heath to do more than believe he was going to die and forgive himself for what they did to the Saviors i.e. Glenn telling Tara she can't feel guilty about the Governor and she has to help him find Maggie
  • Tara trying not to get separated by walkers from Heath on the bridge reflected Glenn not giving up on Tara in the tunnel when she got trapped
  • Natania and her group trying to convince Tara to stay i.e. Abraham, Eugene and Rosita dragging Glenn/Tara with them to Washington D.C. like there was no going back to where you came from
  • Cindy trying to help Tara find her friend 'cause she's just that kind of person
  • Tara walking home to Alexandria only finding out it's not what it seems anymore i.e. GREATM arriving to Terminus believing it was a sanctuary

+ The women are so much more fascinating than the dudes. I wonder if any of their strength is going to pay off or will it just come down to Rick killing Negan. And we have to wait a whole 'nother season for anything to go down. *sigh*

+ AKA I'd love to just see all of the wounded women rise from the ashes and set Negan's shit on fire, and they all take turns getting their deserved vengeance. MUAWAHHAHAHA, *cough cough flu season*


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