This review contains spoilers.
As Negan grabs a drink by the river, a young man appears out of the trees, seemingly rather glad to have caught up with him! This young man’s name is Brandon, who we learn is the child of two former Saviors, now deceased. He is pretty much a Negan fanboy and has grown up on tales of this ‘hero’ and idolises him. So Brandon let Negan out of his cell right? Wrong! He says that it wasn’t him, so we still don’t know who let Negan out. My guess is that it is Carol. She might not care for Negan, but that doesn’t mean she can’t use him as a disposable weapon against the Whisperers! As for Brandon, he is eager to join Negan and tries to impress him with gifts of a new version of Lucille and his iconic leather jacket. Negan is less keen on these presents however, clearly showing that he has moved on from the Negan we knew from ‘All Out War’. Negan’s buttons are pushed even further when Brandon brings up Carl, the reaction from Negan here was fantastic. It was a heart in mouth moment and you thought something bad was going to happen. For now, at least, Brandon is given a pass.
Negan takes the crown for best kills this episode, first of all by garotting a walker and then crashing a walker’s head repeatedly in a door. This second kill occurred as Negan and Brandon came to the rescue of a mother and her child. We know Negan has a soft spot for children, and we get a rather touching interaction with the young boy, Milo. Brandon’s attitude continues to alarm Negan, so he tells him to leave and never return. For Milo and his mother, Amelia, this would prove to be a fatal action. As Negan returns to the camp, we are greeted by an all too familiar whistling noise. Brandon stands over the bodies of Milo and his mother, their heads caved in by a tire iron. Brandon is proud of his actions, Negan? Not so much. As Brandon yells out “We are Negan”, Negan crushes his skull with a rock, knocking him to the ground. The assault continues as Brandon’s skull is rushed. At this point I fully expected Negan to be caught by an Alexandria search party, but luckily they are not going down that route. We need Negan out of jail and able to start having a direct impact on the story. As night falls, Negan is dressed in his old outfit and taking out walkers. He’s clearly trying to draw the Whisperers out, and he is successful! Beta knocks him to the ground and Negan could not be happier!
We needed Negan to start getting involved more in the main plot. He’s been outstanding in his one-on-one interactions in his cell, but the show is so much richer for having Negan being in the thick of the action. Negan interacting with Alpha and Beta is going to bring so many amazing moments and interactions, you can just sense it. I’m very eager to see how they use Negan here, especially to see how different or similar it is compared to the comics. With the mid-season finale a few weeks away, the story needs to start speeding up a little. A good start is having Negan back on the chessboard!
Elsewhere, Kelly is struggling as her hearing continues to fade. Just like last season and the cornfield chase, the way they use sound to show the deafness is really well done. After being chased away from her hunting kill, she takes a fall and passes out, just as a walker goes to grab her. In the search for, the now missing, Kelly, Daryl and Connie have another great moment as Daryl tells her a story about Merle. It’s good that Daryl is now talking again, his Season 8 grunting was so tiresome. His character has been well course-corrected and we have a much better version of Daryl now helping to lead the show. They manage to find Kelly, and Daryl lets them off with a pass, despite their stockpiling of stolen goods. The moment that really got me the most in this story was when Daryl told Connie that they are family and she returned the sign-in kind. I’m not usually one to ‘ship’ people, but I’m totally behind these two!
At Hilltop, Ezekiel is struggling. As soon as he started coughing I thought “uh-oh”. Turns out he has thyroid cancer, it runs in his family. Siddiq tries to help him by suggesting some natural options, but Ezekiel is reluctant. Sadly, this feels like this could be the beginning of the end for Ezekiel. With Henry and Carol now out of the picture, I’m not sure what more they can do with him. He has seemed a little lost all season. With his ‘death sentence’ now all but confirmed, maybe he will use this as a way of fighting the Whisperers? Maybe he will sacrifice himself, giving us a relatively large character death that has meaningful ramifications? While the romance is gone, this would be another slap in the face for Carol, fuelling her rage further. This scene also saw Siddiq finally start to open up. The two have good chemistry, so if this is going to be a new pairing, I’m all in favour of it.
We had more revelations about Magna’s past, though to be honest, the whole Magna/Yumiko story is not grabbing me as much as the rest of the stories. I like Yumiko in the comics, but this is a story I could do with seeing much less of.
Down on the other side of the reservation, the Whisperers are confirmed to have been behind the tree felling at Hilltop. Gamma is spending her time this episode infecting the water supply, by slicing open walkers and spilling their guts into the stream. Aaron spots her, and after she cuts her hand he throws her a bandage. While she uses it, on her return to camp she is fearful of Alpha’s reaction. She is in fact pleased, and it looks like Gamma will now be playing a faux-Lydia role by trying to get Aaron to ‘save her’. I like this idea, but I thought Aaron was past his super good-guy routine? I doubt he’d be this gullible at this point, so I’m nervous about where this is going in regards to him.
Overall, an enjoyable episode of The Walking Dead. I loved the Negan storyline and I am really excited to see what happens next week, now that he is involved with the Whisperers up-close. It feels like things are gearing up to the bigger picture now, so hopefully, next week’s episode can be used to tie-up some of the other subplots. Let’s start to shift the show’s focus onto the war with the Whisperers!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know in the comments!