‘The Walking Dead’ Continues to Excel at Go-Nowhere Plotting (TV REVIEW)

[rating=4.00] “Knots Untie”

Wasting no time with its leaps and bounds over logical storytelling, the creative team behind The Walking Dead continues to aimlessly stagger forward, as if it suddenly dawned on everyone that it has five episodes left to seal up a comprehensive conflict with the forthcoming big bad, Negan. After last week’s cartoonishly terrible chase between Rick, Daryl, and the newly found Jesus, when he’s taken back to Alexandria and imprisoned (again, because that worked out SO WELL earlier this season), and yet, stealthily able to creep into Rick and Michonne’s bedroom.

Side-stepping the narrative from the point where it left off, Abraham gets a little screen time for an anecdote with Sasha about a camel eating his keys. Sasha, in turn, had to break it to the guy that she was changing shifts in Alexandra, and wouldn’t be seeing him. Because we all know just how difficult it is to keep in touch with the 53 other people (more, according to Maggie) living behind you in a small, walled community. Thanks for that emotional goodbye in a show littered with death.

Back at Rick’s house, where suddenly everyone gets really good and realizing there’s an intruder, long after he’s been in the house, chilling in the hallways and silently critiquing the decor. Also, kudos to everyone on the street that was somehow granted x-ray vision long enough to storm in, guns drawn. What follows is a discussion of a mutual agreement between Jesus’ camp and the Alexandrians, which by Walking Dead logic is only a day’s drive. Seriously, it’s written in that way.

Either way, you know what that means… Walking Dead road trip!

Looking past the trope and excusing its very nature as such, the episodes that follow characters to other camps of survivors usually tend to be the most interesting. That’s not the case here, but it usually is. Anyway, the first pit stop takes us to a mysterious-looking crash that puts Jesus back into suspicion (and handcuffs), and has Maggie doing something besides falling over and offering Enid 80s sitcom-era guidance. Even if it is playing Caril Ann Fugate to Rick’s Starkweather.

It also affords an all-in-one subplot that includes dark, claustrophobic spaces, daring human rescues, and zombie head-stabbings. After rescuing/kidnapping (six and one, in this situation) the members of what we find out is known as the Hilltop, they head back that way, only to find their RV 2.0 stuck in the mud. It’s an obtuse and unnecessary plot point that allowed for this riveting bit of dialogue between Rick and Jesus:

“We’re stuck.”

“That’s okay. We’re here.”

They’re greeted at the gates by guards who legitimately think that bringing spears to a gunfight gives them some kind of leverage, and once they’re inside, we see their makeshift community with their laundry and their spear-carving staging, all centered around some grand southern mansion. Jesus then explains that because it was a popular field trip destination, this makes it an appealing location to seek out for sanctuary.

Although, we find out it’s not nearly the utopia it seems to be, and not just because of a creepy, sport-coat wearing leader — although we do get one of those in Gregory — but rather another ominous mention of Negan. This time, however, it comes from one of the Hilltop’s own, who really turns the whole ‘don’t kill the messenger’ thing to inside out and stabs Gregory.

Naturally, the efficiently oiled-up fighting machine of Rick, Daryl, and Michonne go into full effect, with the exception of Abraham who is overpowered and nearly choked to death, then immediately afterwards describes his current mood as “better than alright.” Okay, then.

Granted, Abraham using the phrase “umpin’ buglies” was the highlight of the episode, so the above can be overlooked, I suppose.

Then, after an extremely limited backstory that includes some inevitable foreshadowing with the story of a kid named Rory, it’s abruptly decided. The Ricktatorship will take down Negan in exchange for some food, making it the laziest way to re-direct a fractured, aimless storyline.

Side note: It’s hard not to imagine what the average Hilltopper thinks about having given half their food to a murderous psychopath, only to give half their food to another murderous psychopath in exchange for murdering the first murderous psychopath.

Ultimately, it’s irrelevant, because now we’ve got five more episodes of staunch discussions about morality before the upcoming finale. And just like that, the Ricktatorship leaves the Hilltop with a bunch of their food in an RV that is all the sudden not stuck in the fucking mud anymore.

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