The Walking Dead: “Go Getters”
Season 7, Episode 5Photo by Gene Page/AMC TV Reviews The Walking Dead
Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters.
There are four communities that we know of in this little corner of Virginia, and the Hilltop is, by far, the least interesting. Jesus is kind of a badass when he’s fighting, but he started so meekly this episode. Gregory is a cartoonish figurehead with no heart and not much brain. So the idea of an episode set almost entirely at the Saviors’ most docile serfs didn’t thrill me. Thankfully when the men of The Walking Dead cower and kneel before their new overlords, it’s the women and children who take action.
“Go Getters” opens with Maggie dealing with both Glenn’s death and her own high-risk pregnancy. Sasha, too, is mourning, having lost her second love interest just as things were starting to progress. They can’t get back at Negan just yet, but they stand up to the weakest of all bullies in The Walking Dead world, Gregory, a man who neither sympathizes with nor respects these women.
But it’s the women who save The Hilltop from the zombie trap set by the Saviors, a bizarre and elaborate Mad Max-inspired scheme to scare the residents back into submission after their dealings with Rick’s gang. Farm girl Maggie shuts the plan down with a good ol’ fashioned tractor pull.
Meanwhile Rick’s getting ready to gather supplies for Negan, and Carl is having none of it. His teen angst takes the form of total rebellion against both his dad and the sadistic bastard who killed two of his friends, and for the first time in quite a while, it’s hard not to be Team Carl. This was his coming-of-age story in one big montage—wreck a car, kiss a girl, go on a skating date and go off to war.
This season is about making the decision to pacify a tyrant or to fight back, and our heroes have been through too much to do the former. Negan focused on breaking Rick, but Rick’s not the only leader, and his actions only served to piss off the rest of his gang. Like Gregory, he may have underestimated the women in particular. Even Michonne needs to go figure some things out.
It’s heartening to see that development in the show, but unfortunately, this episode felt more like a throwback to Season 2, when not much happened. The zombie opera was kind of interesting, but it was a manufactured crisis—locking everyone in their homes, flooding the town with walkers and then coming in to rescue the day. It provided some great Jesus round-house kicks and Maggie’s demolition derby moment. And there was some satisfaction in seeing Gregory lose his stash of Scotch, but most of the show was quiet, serious moments that mostly struggled to hold my attention.
So, Shane, what was your take on tonight’s Maggie and Carl-centric episode? Was your heart warmed by two teens skating and laughing, holding hands and sharing a kiss while a knock-off Stranger Things soundtrack played in the background? Or are you so jaded that even Negan’s equally smiley, loquacious and unstable lieutenant putting on a big show failed to excite?
You’re right that this was a slower episode when it comes to recent Walking Dead installments, but—I’m trying to be positive here—there were some strong points.
First off, can I just say that I wish the actor who plays Lieutenant Simon (Steven Ogg) was playing Negan? That dude has all the brutality and humor you want, and he carries the added bonus of not looking like a sad older man trying out for a community theater Grease revival. He’s more earthy and elemental, somehow, and I can see him being the kind of leader people get behind, but who also has a sadistic streak. He’d be the perfect Negan, especially compared to the smirky, monologizing version we have now. Every time he’s on screen, the show becomes more interesting, and I thought his scenes with Gregory were the best part of this episode.
Second, I’m all about Jesus, even with the meek beginning. Watching him do his zombie karate was great, and I really hope he becomes some kind of ninja assassin. I want a ghost killer to take out Negan and everyone else one by one until the Saviors live in fear, and I know he’s the man to fill the role. However, I am worried that the writers are pulling a “Daryl and Beth” move by teaming him up with Carl. You know the logic: If we have a shitty character that we don’t know what to do with, put him with an awesome character, and maybe some of the awesome will rub off by osmosis. It didn’t work with Beth—if anything, it diminished Daryl—but maybe you’re right when you say that Carl is coming into his own as a character, and this will be a fruitful partnership. Personally, I still kinda hate him and his emo stylings, but old habits die hard.
(Digression: Ogg is so good that I just automatically assumed he wasn’t American, since apparently we don’t produce good TV actors anymore, so I looked him up, and yup—Canadian.)
As for the rest, I’m pretty ambivalent. None of it was bad, per se, but I agree with you that it felt like the show was spinning its wheels. (Which wasn’t written as a roller-skating pun, I swear.) I really don’t care about Sasha, who is one of the characters the show has changed over and over again, Carol-like, in an effort to find her niche. Now she’s a cigar-smoking, knife-honing killer? Whatever. I’m slightly more curious about Maggie, but only slightly, and Enid remains a weird enigma. It occurred to me while watching this episode that The Walking Dead is pretty bad at writing female characters. They all fluctuate between emotional messes and badass vigilantes, with very little middle ground. It’s almost like they had some success with Michonne, and had a moment where they were like, “wait…what if every female character was like Michonne?” And, to state the obvious, it doesn’t work.
So, kicking it back your way, how do you see this playing out? Are the communities going to form an alliance and completely wipe out the Saviors, or is there some kind of middle ground solution here, where they end up incorporating some of the members into a new society? And is Rick going to come to his senses any time soon, and realize that making concessions to Zombie Apocalypse Hitler is never going to satisfy him, and he either has to rebel or slowly die? I’m ready for open rebellion, Josh, and I’m wondering how much longer we have to wait.
I thought we’d switched places for a minute there with me complaining and you defending the show, and then you had to go ahead and throw shade Maggie’s way. She’s the most consistently grounded and least cartoonish character on the show. She’s endured significant trauma, and her response has been both believably affected and resilient. Lauren Cohen is one of the best actors among the regular cast, and her character is proof that The Walking Dead writers can write women well, they just often don’t.
By the way, in looking up Steven Ogg, did you notice he’s popping up in lots of great shows right now? It’s like every show I love said, “Get me Walton Goggins!” And the ones that couldn’t get him said, “Well, get me the Canadian version!” In addition to The Walking Dead, he’s been on Better Call Saul and Westworld. Before that, he was mostly a voice actor for the Grand Theft Auto series and “Creepy Locksmith” on Broad City.
As to your question on how this will play out, I’d answer, but it’d be cheating since I read the comic. Of course that was years ago, and my memory is pretty terrible, so let me just surmise that Carl gets captured and Enid channels her inner Carol, destroying the Sanctuary single-handedly, rescuing Carl and setting herself up as Teen Queen of the Apocalypse. Her reign is hard but fair, and her Queensguard is a rolling-skating force that you don’t want to mess with, Shane. Seriously, don’t even try it.
I think it’s clear, though, that the first signs of rebellion are forming, with or without Rick on board. And with Carl headed to the Sanctuary, Rick might not have much choice soon.
So my question for you this week is: Now that The Saviors have all the guns and a fortified camp, how do you fight back? It seems like the only chance was when Negan came to Alexandria for the first time and Rick’s group still had guns. Now they’ve only gut Kung Fu Jesus and Michonne’s katana. Rick’s gone all Neville Chamberlain, Shane. What’s your plan?
With Rick gone Chamberlain, obviously you need a Winston Churchill. And I don’t just mean a political analogue-I want an extremely heavy dude who meets with other leaders while naked in the bath, and is also a great orator. Do we have anyone like that on The Walking Dead, and if not, why? A mere lack of food? Pish-posh!
On a serious note, Rick gets a vote of no-confidence from me, and it can’t be long until the other Alexandrians follow suit. But there’s an enormous leadership vacuum without him, especially with Glenn dead. All the native Alexandrians are completely feckless, Daryl’s sidelined, Morgan’s caught up in his dumb philosophical war, and elsewhere we have the likes of Gregory and King Ezekiel, who are figureheads at best. Jesus is interesting, but he’s not a natural leader of men. What about the women? Carol is off doing her own thing, Sasha can’t decide who she is, and Michonne is tied by loyalty and love to Rick. It leaves your favorite, Maggie, and I think we got a hint from Jesus as they looked out the window that she might be on the ascent. Pregnant or not, she’s decisive, and she’s savvy, and she managed to watch the love of her life get his head beat in without becoming a raving revenge-crazy lunatic. Barring the emergence of a 74-year-old socialist from Vermont, #ImWithHer. Maggie is my Khaleesi slay kween.
In terms of how the rebellion could possibly work, that’s a tougher question. Everyone at the Hilltop and the Kingdom seems to be of a submissive disposition, at best, so I tend to think a series of targeted assassinations would work best, especially in the absence of any guns. Now, if the Negan-ites are smart, they’d crack back on killings like any good dictator, by brutally punishing innocent people until the price of assassination was too great. But this is The Walking Dead, which means that by the time the uprising happens, the hundreds of troops Negan commands will mysteriously have shrunk to like 30, they’ll have no discipline, Negan will embark on some 340-minute monologue rather than attacking, and Michonne will kill 20 armed men with her katana while they stand around trying to load their guns.
And I’m okay with that, because the show needs to move on. I just hope it happens fast, and I hope Simon—who is ABSOLUTELY the new Walton Goggins, by the way, terrific call—stays on board in some capacity. And now that I’m thinking of it, holy shit, how good would Walton Goggins have been as Negan? I like to think he would have taken one look at the script of the Lucille scene, crossed out every bit of his text, and jumped into the Boyd Crowder preaching scene before bashing Carl’s head in with the bat. And all the writers and directors would have looked at each other, mouths agape, and whispered, “it’s perfect.”
These are my dreams. Before we go, Josh, a commenter pointed out last week that we forgot to close with our usual “don’t die, Daryl!” send-off. But since we know Daryl isn’t going anywhere, is there anybody we care to bless? I’m not super-attached to anyone at the moment, but I’ll spare a shout-out for one man I definitely want to see again:
Please don’t die, King Ezekiel.
Shane Ryan is a staff writer at Paste and author of Slaying the Tiger: A Year Inside the Ropes on the New PGA Tour. Josh Jackson is founder and editor-in-chief of Paste.