|Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page|
As The Walking Dead gears up for the season finale, it slowly moves more chess pieces into place – mixing a combination of three different groups together as the war against Negan wages on.
After Sasha left Rosita in the dust and invaded the Savior’s compound, it didn’t take long for us to find out where she was. Held up in a cell, creepy Savior David quickly took advantage of a lack of authority by breaking into her cell and trying to sexually assault her. Sasha stood her ground as best as possible as she was tied up. Luckily, we guess, Negan sauntered in to rectify the situation and basically sliced David in the throat because that type of behavior isn’t allowed. He doesn’t condone rape, so that’s obviously a “great virtue” to many fans, making it seem like murdering and pillaging of other survivors is okie-dokie.
The truest thing Negan ever rambled on about was coining an Abraham-esque style description of Sasha: she has beach-ball sized lady nuts to break into their compound. It’s that type of courage and bravado that makes him want her on his team and for her to turn against Alexandria. There was no clean-up in cell two as Negan gave her time to make a decision, leaving her locked up to kill David before he turns into a walker, or letting him kill her. The former would be signing an allegiance with Negan to join his ranks, and the latter would be pretty much saying she should be dead rather than to deal with him as an enemy.
One of the best and worst things to come out of a character’s assumed demise is the sharp work the actor continues to put in until the end. This is how Something They Need shine against the din of similar episodes this season. Sonequa’s performance was absolutely amazing, blurring the line between whether she was resigning to Negan’s group and trying to arm herself by using Eugene as a tool. It wasn’t just Sasha playing a role and trying to one-up Negan, it was Sonequa at her best with Sasha.
Sasha might be cornered and captured, but like Abraham, she is not going down without a fight. No matter how much it might seem this fight is fruitless – aka I still believe Negan will “show her enough kindness” to make her comfortable before turning her into a walker and putting her on display in Alexandria in front of all of her friends, it's still one worth watching a little. However this ends for her, it's going to be heartbreaking, but the tightrope Sasha was on proved to be a great showpiece of what she can do, all of the little ideas she still has up her sleeve.
At first, after killing David, she agreed to be Negan and appeared scared when he wanted her to give up all of Alexandria’s plans; that a birdie told him Rick is up to no good. Later when Eugene entered her cell to talk about his choice to cross Alexandria, she had such stilled calm resilience to listening to him lie about who Abraham was, that he would her to join Negan, and trying to convince her to join their cause. I couldn't even believe those words came out of his mouth. The compassion in me wants to excuse his lying as survivor's guilt. The hater in me says he's just a jerk.
It was all the more brilliant when everyone pegged her to have nothing to live for, when she appeared to be crying in her cell and begging Eugene to get her a weapon to kill herself; that she couldn’t live herself to turn on Rick. She played into the assumption people have about her that she’s given up. Obviously, she needs a gun or knife to finally assassinate Negan, but it was excruciating to hear her through the door wail about not wanting to live anymore, even if there is a semblance of hopelessness from what she's lost. To see her smiling in her cell after Eugene agreed to commit suicide, obviously the suicide pills he made for Negan’s harems, was so impressive, it almost scary what she can do to put her plans into motion.
As impressive it was to see Sasha’s schemes in progress, her being held captive still feels deceptive. The big elephant in the room is that one of her biggest relationships is being used as a way to purposely devastate us: Maggie still doesn’t know that Sasha left to kill Negan. She’s off mentoring and being a leader to people at the Hilltop Colony, even though it’s been at least a day where they’ve had no contact with each other.
Walking Dead Logic: it takes Sasha an hour to realize Bob, Daryl and Carol are gone in season four as their fight with the Termites just ended, but Maggie nor Rick’s group hasn’t noticed Sasha’s absence for two days?
This is Beth 2.0. She wouldn’t notice Sasha didn’t join half of the Hilltop Colony on their Oceanside raid? that she’s not training the colonists with weapons? When you want to get a job done like Rick leading the walkers out of the quarry or going to Oceanside, Sasha volunteers herself. Because she’s always with them to get shit done. For the writing to make it deliberately seem like everything swirling around Sasha’s disappearance but doesn't acknowledge it until it’s too late and she gets killed behind their backs feels weak.
In a brief meeting with Gregory, while she was gathering a blueberry plant for their garden, they agreed to work together and not to have such dissonance in their different styles of leading, which is Maggie to build people up to be stronger and for Gregory to hide in a corner weeping and drinking. While they were out in the middle of nowhere, a convenient pair of walkers came by to attack them. Maggie saved them both, and was honestly kind enough to not let him get bit and saved his ass. But she hurt her chances of staying safe when she told hilltop colonists wandering by that Gregory's never killed one before, revealing a lie that he told his people different stories.
Her incidentally telling his followers that Gregory isn’t the hotshot he claims to be only fueled his decision to journey to the Savior’s compound and rat on her. We’ll see if he doesn’t drink himself into a stupor and has the gull to make the trip. He’s not a leader who thinks anything through, so whether or not he’s considered that the trust he’s built with Simon will be broken by harboring her and Daryl remains to be seen.
Similarly to No Way Out season six when Alexandria raided the satellite outpost, Rick’s crew makes plans to invade the Oceanside community without firing a single shot…at an innocent person. Like the Termites in the season four finale, using marksman to misdirect the ringleader, archer, samurai, and kid through the factory to the cable box car, Rick used their explosives to not only attract walkers to the area but scare the Oceanside community into one place and hold them until they could take all of their weapons. It was either supremely idiotic to use their explosives against a bunch of unarmed women and children instead of the Saviors, but also quite smart. They did secure the weapons and supplies, with protest by the leader and support by the community, in their fight for Negan. And saw a little bit of the Oceanside peeps in action against walkers.
However, they took everything they had to defend themselves and didn’t even add more numbers to their cause (unless they happen to drop in at the least second just in time for Alexandria’s showdown to begin). Isn’t leaving them unarmed and open to attacks pretty much killing them anyways? Rick and the group didn’t seem to think so as they sauntered back home, as Rick promised Tara she wouldn’t have anything to worry about or regret…
After a long day’s work of stealing, Rick and the group return home to some surprising news. No, it’s not that Sasha is gone, but that they have a visitor. Held up in Morgan’s trusty old cell, Dwight was waiting for them. Even though he killed Denise, another one of Alexandria’s forgotten red shirts except to Tara, Rosita swears that he wants to help them. H must have the most insane amount of conviction to get her to trust him, never mind that Rosita doesn't hate Dwight for colluding with Negan to get all of her friends killed.... Though his mere presence ignited Daryl to want to brawl, Rick held him back and tested Daryl 2.0's newfound allegiance - similar to Sasha's position earlier in the episode.
One of the best moments of the episode was ultimately the last few frames with Rick declaring to Dwight, “Get on your knees”. Anytime a survivor assumes this position, it doesn’t end too well. Negan might claim the phrase in the premiere, but it's Rick’s original threat from season five with the Termites. That didn’t end too well last time. Let the war begin.
Thoughts on the Season so far:
Is this Rick talking to Dwight or pushing fans into submission from season seven? To be honest, this was by far the worst season so far - for me, personally. The premiere marked a turning point to break the group up into pieces and rebuild them into a whole unit. However, as much focus as episodes spent deliberating drawing out changes in characters' motivations and resilience, the studies of various characters were pretty boring.
The interest to see Alexandria rise up against Negan lingered here and there, but it wasn't a constant energy carrying through the filler episodes. When Jeffrey Dean Morgan threw all of his acting chops into the premiere and then coasted in every episode since, the dynamics of wanting to see his defeat aren't there as a source of triumph but to squash the source of boredom once and for all. And it doesn’t help his image that Austin Amelio as Dwight, Steven Ogg as Simon, Christine Evangelista as Sherry, Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Xander Berkeley as Gregory – the list goes on, acts circles around him, and make Negan seem nothing but an empty caricature.
It’s one thing to have lost Glenn and Abe, and to feel the characters' mourning and disorganization about what to do next, but it’s another for a good portion of their motivations to feel stuck in neutral. Which is what a lot of the episodes felt like.
For our troop, subtle moments were worth going through like Maggie's brilliant strength and humanity alongside Sasha, Rick and Michonne’s episode Say Yes, Spencer’s death, the group reuniting at the Hilltop Colony in Hearts Still Beating or Carol and Dary's reunion. But I’m totally unsure how this season would’ve been worth it to watch.
When I look back on season seven, I’ll barely remember Glenn’s murder because I was sobbing too hard to watch the whole thing. But I’ll be inspired the fierce women and how they shouldered their grief and built everyone up to fight the good fight. Everything else in-between was just so-so. Let's hope the set-up for season eight gives us the storylines we need.