FoCC Review: TWD 904 – The Obliged

by Transmute Jun

Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 4.

Well, this seems like an ignominious way for Rick to go out. Impaled on rebar and eaten by walkers? I have my doubts, even if that’s what they want us to believe right now. This episode was clearly setting up for Rick’s departure, with Rick unofficially saying goodbye to the only other remaining season 1 cast members: Carol and Daryl. Then he went off on his own to save the group, in a fitting way for a hero to die… except that it isn’t. If Rick has to be taken down by walkers, he should be fighting it every inch of the way, just as Glenn (successfully) did underneath the dumpster, or even as Madison apparently did on Fear. No one wants to see Rick lying helpless and becoming walker chow.

Rick started out the episode oblivious to what is going on with Michonne, going to the construction site to hear the bad news from Eugene that the bridge will likely be destroyed by the rushing waters, if not the oncoming herds. Yep, a raging river and 2 herds, and Rick still wants to save the bridge. You know that it’s all going to end at this bridge next week. The bridge is such an important symbol of what Rick wanted to accomplish, and his death needs to use the bridge to either further or destroy that goal. I’m hoping that he furthers it. The communities need to come together just in time to stand against the Whisperers.

Rick gave some badly needed encouragement to Eugene, then went to speak with Carol, giving her confidence as well. He even got a ‘Jefe’ salute from Jerry (which as a fan of Ash vs. Evil Dead makes me smile). Finally, Rick hashed things out with Daryl, even if it started in the dumbest, most stereotypically male fashion: fighting. Yep, I had to roll my eyes watching those two brawling in the dirt, getting themselves literally stuck in a hole. Daryl may be a little hotheaded, but Rick should know better than that. Still, shared adversity, depending upon each other for their lives, was clearly what was necessary to save the bromance that has been tested so far this season. Rick called Daryl ‘brother’ again, harkening back to their emotional scene after fighting the Claimers in season 4. While they don’t entirely see eye to eye, at least now they understand each others’ points of view, and know that they really are on the same side, and have the same ultimate goal. Will Rick’s coming death/disappearance cause Daryl to shift his attitude? Perhaps, especially if he sees Rick go down fighting for the survival of the group. Certainly, a departure as significant as Rick’s should have far-reaching implications on those left behind.

Of course, other characters were featured in this episode as well. Michonne is apparently chafing at her current restrictions. I think she likes being in charge (she wouldn’t be working so hard on this charter if she did not) but she is unhappy being ‘safe’ behind the walls, never experiencing the excitement of being on the outside. Still, I don’t think she is like Negan. Just because she enjoys the thrill of battle doesn’t mean that she and Negan have similar life outlooks. The bat imagery the episode tried to force upon us didn’t ring true for me (although it was amusing). Michonne is just restless and needs an outlet for it. That happens to many of us, particularly during times of significant change in our lives. And in Michonne’s case, she might already be hormonal from carrying a future Grimes-baby, so that could be another possible catalyst for these nighttime adventures.

Negan, on the other hand, is just desperate for company. He’s not used to being alone, certainly not so much. Being a social animal, clearly the worst part of incarceration for him is the solitude. It’s no wonder that he was willing to do or say whatever it took to keep Michonne (or anyone) talking to him. In the comic books, he bonded in prison with Carl by speaking to him when Rick’s son was going through his teenage angst and didn’t want to discuss certain things with his father. Yet in the TV show, with Carl gone, we learn that there hasn’t really been any regular source of conversation for Negan. It’s also not surprising that he is obsessed with Lucille. He named his bat after his dead wife, and became emotionally attached to the bat because it was all he had to get through the zombie apocalypse. The Here’s Negan graphic novel explores Negan’s background, illustrating how he was forced to be alone for a long time, with no one but bat-Lucille for company. Losing Lucille is almost like losing his wife again. He’s horrified to hear that Lucille has just been abandoned ‘out there’ because he thinks of it the same as abandoning a person.

In Negan’s absence, the Saviors are still trying to find their place. Carol tried to leave them in Alden’s care, but apparently Alden is one terrible leader if he allowed Jed to steal his gun. Still, the Saviors turned tail and ran when Carol disarmed Jed. We’ll see if they make it on their own with the Whisperers coming.

Father Gabriel had his own brief storyline in this episode as well, in the aftermath of what happened when he overheard Jadis talking to the helicopter people. To his credit, when he awoke to find Jadis terrorizing him with a walker, he kept his head about him, talking to Anne, telling her how he felt, and how sorry he was. His words were heartfelt, and clearly he touched Jadis, as she pulled the walker away. Yet she still abandoned Gabriel (although apparently regretfully, based on the note she left behind) to leave, likely because she knew that he was conflicted about leaving, and what she had to do to gain entrance into this other society. Ultimately, I think Jadis was testing Gabriel. Whatever the helicopter people want with prisoners, they likely want them alive (it’s really easy to find wandering dead people, so they wouldn’t be willing to trade for that). She wanted to see how Gabriel would react when she threatened to kill him, and she was pleased by what she saw and heard, enough to let him go free.

The other important part of this episode (besides Rick’s ‘farewells’) was Maggie making her way to Alexandria to assassinate Negan. She has made up her mind, to the point where she didn’t even listen to Jesus’ advice. When Jesus points out that Maggie is doing the same thing as Rick in making a decision that shouldn’t be hers alone, she dismisses him. Hopefully, after Rick’s departure, she’ll have a chance to think about things and reassess. On a selfish note, I hope that she comes to some acceptance of the necessity of Negan’s continued existence, because I enjoy watching him onscreen. He’s an interesting, compelling and entertaining character.

Sometimes the small things in an episode are interesting too. When Negan was talking about his dead wife, it occurred to me that we haven’t heard anything about his other wives from the Sanctuary. What happened to them? Are they still there, working away? Did they transfer to other groups? Or did they run off on their own (unlikely, given that they ‘sold’ their bodies to Negan for his protection in the first place)?

The other errant thought to cross my mind this episode was the behavior of Rick’s horse. That horse was insanely calm. It was walking in front of a herd of walkers and displayed no signs of nervousness. Then when they got closer, still nothing. At exactly the wrong moment (or the right moment, depending on your point of view) it got scared and reared up, throwing Rick. But then it just walked away. In the very last shot, where the camera pulled out and you could see Rick at the intersection of 2 different approaching herds, the horse could be seen at the edge of the screen casually grazing away, oblivious to the threat. Given how we’ve seen horses react to walkers before, this seems to be one Zen animal, making its throwing of Rick very unlikely.

For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this episode’s No Man’s Land seasonal mission shows Michonne sneaking out of Alexandria at night to kill walkers for excitement. Our World is also highlighting Michonne this week, with special infestations, each giving Michonne cards. Additionally, Michonne has a new upgrade ability and has increased attack speed all week.

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Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she's not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.

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