This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.
Next week sees the season finale of The Walking Dead hit our screens, and as so often in the past it falls to the penultimate episode to put pieces in place for whatever is to come in the final episode. In this case it's putting several of our main characters in the hands of the Saviours or outside the safety of the walls of Alexandria.
For Carol it feels fairly natural, she's reached a point where she's afraid of killing, afraid of the toll it will have on her so she chooses to leave the community and get away from the situations that have been forcing her to kill people. Unfortunately her leaving Alexandria is a perfect excuse to have others chase after her, and pretty soon Rick and Morgan have set out on her trail.
In an almost perfectly timed, but completely unconnected excursion, Daryl has left Alexandria on a revenge mission to try and track down Dwight and the remaining Saviours who escaped the fight that cost Denise her life, prompting Glenn, Michonne and Rosita to chase after him.
Out of the two the Carol story is the one that makes the most sense. She has a real personal reason for leaving Alexandria, whereas Daryl is acting without thinking. He's blaming himself for Dwight being alive, blaming himself for the death of Denise and wants to get payback for the events of last weeks episode.
It might be understandable, but it's stupid. Daryl knows that there are Saviours alive in the surrounding area, at least half a dozen from the attack, and must surely realise that he's no match for all of them. At the very least his actions will get him killed, and will then leave Alexandria without his help, but he knows that the Saviours want to get into Alexandria, and he's putting himself in a position to be captured by them.
Carol is running away from the conflict, she's trying to get away from the Saviours, but Daryl is running straight towards them. As such Daryl, and those who go out after him feel a little stupid. Actually, with Rick and Morgan knowing that four of the main fighters are already gone yet choosing to leave too they're pretty stupid too.
Don't get me wrong, the episode is very tense, with the ever present danger of the Saviours it means that most scenes have an undercurrent of tension as you're waiting for something bad to happen. Thanks to Denise being killed mid sentence in the middle of her big speech last week I found myself anxious when Glenn and Michonne were trying to talk Daryl into coming back with them because I was expecting an attack at any moment.
It's better than the tension of the walkers, who have been a mild nuisance for the most part, and unless there's a big crowd, prove to be very little trouble for our heroes. The Saviours, however, add a while new element of fear and dread to the show.
The episode makes good use of this tension, from the early parts of the episode where Carol is confronted by Saviours and forced to kill to the very last scene where Daryl takes a bullet from Dwight. Yep, you read that right, the episode ends with Daryl being shot point blank.
From the angle of the gun and the fact that you can see his face as blood hits the screen Daryl isn't shot in the head, more likely the shoulder or upper back, and there's a line of dialogue from Dwight as the screen goes to black that says 'you'll be alright', so it's doubtful that Daryl is dead, but it's certainly raising the stakes.
Things don't look too much better back in Alexandria as Maggie has complications with the baby, doubling over and hitting the ground in pain. Whilst Maggie's life, and that of her child, are in immediate danger, this complication could also be putting others in similar danger, as the only doctor around that our group knows about lives at the Hilltop community, which will surely be forcing yet more people out beyond the walls of Alexandria.
'East' is definitely a setup episode, one that is here purely to serve the season finale, but it's a tense one that builds on the events of the previous weeks episode. Is Daryl dead, where's Carol, what's going to happen to Maggie's baby are all questions that fans will be itching to hear answered, but the most important is, with so many beloved characters in the hands of the Saviours, who's going to be becoming acquainted with Lucile?