by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 5.
This week we were back to the Saviors, to see what happened at The Sanctuary both before and after Team Rick’s attack. We started off with Gregory, the guy everyone loves to hate. Seriously, no one likes this guy. It really says something about you in the zombie apocalypse when absolutely no one finds you useful or cares if you’re around. But Simon loves Gregory, enough to make him sorghum pancakes. “Fill your belly up with my love.” Simon told Gregory, which sounds pretty creepy, when you think about it. But then, Simon is a creepy sort of guy. Every time he smiles, it chills my soul. He’s the perfect kind of person to be on Team Negan.
I can’t tell if Simon actually believes Gregory, or if he’s just doing a good cop/bad cop kind of thing on him with Negan.
“I’m still the guy! I’ve always been the guy!” Gregory insisted. That’s an interesting comparison to Ezekiel, who said last week that he was just ‘some guy’. And he was a lot more certain when he said it. Negan called out Gregory for playing both sides, and Gregory didn’t exactly deny it. Gregory’s proved himself to be pretty much useless to the Saviors, after the Hilltop people refused his command to leave the attack on the Sanctuary. I’m hoping that his days are numbered, but I’m suspecting that they are not. He’s a snake and will know how to hide out to protect himself as long as possible.
It’s amusing that with all of his bravado, Negan presides over his people at a conference table, like some kind of leather-jacketed hoodlum executive. But what was with the single glove he wore? Does Negan have a secret desire to be Michael Jackson? Maybe he could wear his leather jacket and moonwalk with the undead. Hmmm… I can see the Broadway show now…
But while Negan definitely is a character, he’s got a sharp mind. I’ve always maintained that his goal is not to kill people, but to have them work for him. And he laid that out clearly in this episode, saying that people are a resource, money on the table. People are the foundation of what the Saviors are building. While Negan doesn’t care for those people individually, he does want them around, to serve him. Because after all, he’s the master of this place, and the one who reaps the rewards of having all of these people working for him. I don’t think his ultimate goal is to be worshiped (although it certainly is an ego stroke for him) but to simply live the good life while others slave to provide that for him.
Negan also enjoys being the one in power, the one calling the shots. When he sensed that Simon was trying to take over, he dressed him down in front of everyone, so that all of the Saviors would know who was boss. Interestingly, Negan’s comment that Simon was ‘backsliding’ suggests that Simon might have been in charge at some point, and that perhaps Negan took over Simon’s group. In the comics universe, Dwight was in charge of a group, and when Negan joined, he slowly took it over by sheer strength of character. Since Simon doesn’t exist in the comics (although some people think he might be an offshoot of Negan’s lieutenant Connor in the comics universe) it’s possible that he had that role of starting the group that eventually became the Saviors. It will be interesting to see if this dynamic plays out further as the war with Team Rick progresses (especially if it goes for longer than one day in show-time).
It was also interesting to see the Negan/Gabriel dynamic. He treated Gabriel like everyone else at first, admitting that he was an asshole and reveling in it. He was clearly trying to convert Gabriel, just as he attempted to do for Sasha and Daryl, and successfully did for Eugene. Yet somewhere along the way, Negan respected Gabriel enough to make a real confession, revealing how he was unable to put down his wife when she died at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Certainly it wasn’t the kind of confession Gabriel was expecting, but clearly this incident was a turning point for Negan, and this explains why he named his weapon after his first wife.
When Negan first ‘met’ Gabriel (when he visited Alexandria, after the showdown at the beginning of Season 7) he declared that Gabriel was ‘creepy as shit’. And that’s exactly how Gabriel looked when he told Negan that he was there to take his confession. Simon’s creepy smile has nothing on Gabriel’s, perhaps because Gabriel doesn’t over-use his in the way that Simon does. But there is definitely an evil look to that smile, especially coming from a man in a clerical collar.
It was good to see both men realize that the only way out of the trailer alive was to work together to get through the herd. And when Gabriel fell, Negan was there to save him, and when that attracted attention, Gabriel pulled out his gun and shot the walkers coming at Negan. I would think that in the apocalypse, this is the closest male bonding possible: killing walkers together and fighting for your lives. This may have just been done out of necessity, but I also think that Negan did it purposely. He could have chosen to leave Gabriel, to use him as a distraction (similar to Shane and Otis back in season 2) while Negan made his way back into the Sanctuary. Yet he didn’t. As he said earlier, people are a resource and he wants to convert Gabriel, to bring him to his side. That was also seen when he told his men to escort Gabriel gently to room #2 (which turned out to be a cell). In turn, Gabriel appeared to be bonding with Negan, confessing his own sin of betraying his congregation and then kneeling with the Saviors when Negan appeared. Of course, all of this could just be an act. But Negan told Gabriel that he was going to be Negan’s ‘special project’. I am curious to see what that means.
Yet all of this seems to have been in vain. Gabriel appears to be burning up with fever, and we all know what that means. He was probably bitten in the fight outside. This would work with the suggestion I made in my analysis of episode 801, that Gabriel might play the same part as the woman in the comics who was left behind after the attack on the Sanctuary. We will have to see. If Gabriel dies, it will be the second Alexandrian whom Negan tried to convert and lost. Will that affect him? If Gabriel has indeed been bitten, he will become more reckless, knowing that he has nothing to lose, and being afraid of a meaningless death. He might cause some real havoc in the Sanctuary, particularly if Eugene chooses to assist him (even though it didn’t work out that well for Eugene when he assisted Sasha).
I really have to wonder what Eugene is going to do. We’ve seen that his primary motivation is his own safety. He does have some sense of loyalty, and does care for others, but he will go with whichever option is best for him personally, when push comes to shove. He figured out that Dwight was the one helping Team Rick when he saw the red paint on the bag (although how did he know it wasn’t blood?). I actually think that he suspected Dwight before that, because who else would have enough of a grudge against Negan to do it? So will Eugene turn Dwight in? He might not, if he thinks that Team Rick might actually be the winning side. Eugene is definitely the kind of guy who will jump ship when he sees it sinking. And I have a feeling that’s just what he’s going to do. So he may very well end up helping Dwight and Gabriel.
Dwight is very precariously positioned right now. He left Negan’s big meeting right before Team Rick showed up. Coincidence? It’s something that Negan is sharp enough to put together very quickly, even though he won’t see the paint clue. Dwight needs to move fast to save himself and put the nail in the coffin for the Saviors at the same time.
While Gabriel and Negan might have been developing a sort of weird bromance, the true bromance of the series is Rick and Daryl, and that had some interesting turns this episode as well. Previously we saw that Daryl was being more vicious and vindictive than Rick, and in this episode he wanted to take the explosives and blow up the Sanctuary. Yet Rick didn’t want to harm the workers (in that way, he is very much like Negan). And this led to two grown men brawling in the dirt like a pair of little boys. Frankly, I thought it was stupid, but then I’m not really the kind of person who likes to solve problems with my fists. When I saw the gasoline leaking from the truck, I knew it was going to explode, and sure enough, Rick tossed the bag and there it was. I don’t know that the resulting blast brought Rick and Daryl back together, but it’s clear that they still disagree. Yet they seemed to be at least civil when parting.
And where was Rick going? He saw a helicopter (which is freaky in and of itself, because the last time we saw a helicopter was back in season 3, near Woodbury) and is in the sights of a strange lookout. Based on the preview for next episode, it seems like he’s going back to talk to Jadis and the Heapsters again. I guess that makes sense, because they have taken out all of Negan’s other outposts. If the Heapsters stay with Negan, then they’ll have to go as well, so Rick’s giving them one more chance to change their minds. They won’t be very good allies, of course, but it’s in Rick’s nature to give them the chance. I can see why Daryl didn’t go on that mission.
The question is, do the Heapsters have a working helicopter in their garbage dump? Or is there another group in play? We’ll see if we get those answers next week.
As always, there were humorous moments in the episode, such as Gregory calling Maggie a ‘fox in his henhouse’ (wouldn’t that be a vixen?), Negan calling Gregory a ‘bearded prick’ and Eugene ‘Doctor Smartypants’, as well as Rick and Daryl’s brawl segueing to Eugene’s boxing video game. But my favorite line was when Eugene referred to the new medical person at the Sanctuary as ‘Dr. Carson 2.0’. That works on multiple levels and fits in with Eugene’s way of thinking. Perfect!
I’m looking forward to next week and seeing how this one long day continues to play out.
For those who play the Walking Dead: No Man’s Land mobile game, this week’s season 8 mission is Negan and Gabriel fighting their way through a group of walkers to the gate back into the Sanctuary. This mission was both expected and appropriate, and brings together two characters who are rarely used together in the game.
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