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.
After a somewhat light episode that introduced Jesus to the show 'Knots Untie' goes into the business of world building and raising the stakes as Rick and the other residents of Alexandria learn that their world is much bigger than they thought.
The episode picks up where we ended last week, with Jesus (having easily freed himself from Alexandria jail and found Rick's house) wakes up a post sex Rick and Michonne in what has to be one of the ballsiest moves possible. Of all the people's bedrooms to sneak into Rick and Michonne's is probably not the smartest choice.
Rick gathers the core cast as they group talk with Jesus, who tells them that when he stumbled across Rick and Daryl he was out on a scouting trip to find other communities to trade with. Jesus comes from a settlement called Hilltop, and the community has been actively trading with other settlements around the area.
Since the show began it's been very isolated, it's followed this one group of survivors as they travel from place to place trying to find shelter (Atlanta, the CDC, Hershel's farm, the prison) and the only settlement's they've found have all been bad news (Woodberry and Terminus), so this is really one of the first times the show is changing the way it's done things and expanded their world. In seasons past the group would have abandoned Alexandria after the horse broke in, instead they've taken it back, and now it looks like they're introducing other 'good' communities too.
Despite some reservations it's a prospect that the Alexandrians can't afford to pass up. They have weapons and ammo, but their food supplies are running low, so when Jesus tells them that trade can be possible Rick decides to take a small group to Hilltop and see if they can work out a deal. Rick and Jesus are joined by Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, Daryl and Abraham and set out on the days journey to Hilltop.
Along the way the group come across a crashed car that Jesus recognises and manage to save several members of the Hilltop community from walkers and take them home. Once they arrive at Hilltop the group are stopped by a pair of guards armed only with spears, at which point Jesus reveals that Hilltop has no weapons other than the ones that they can make themselves and that most of the community can't fight.
Hilltop itself is an old colonial building that was converted into a museum, and comes complete with working sawmill, blacksmith and some small farmland where they grow crops and raise animals. Hilltop is run by a man named Gregory (played by Xander Berkeley so you know he's a dick) who seems more concerned with keeping his house clean then meeting with any of the Alexandirans.
Knowing that he wouldn't be able to spend more then a few minutes in the mans company before hitting him Rick sends Maggie in to be their representative and discuss trade terms with Gregory. Gregory immediately tries to use leverage to try and get a better deal for Hilltop then they deserve, and generally acts like a dick to Maggie, to the point that it looks like negotiations are going to break down.
Before Jesus can attempt to talk some sense into Gregory though a small group returns to Hilltop after going on a supply run to a man named Negan, a name that instantly catches the attention of Rick and co. Nathan tells Gregory that their supply drop was too low, so Negan killed two of the group and is keeping another hostage. Nathan is forced into doing something drastic to get his brother back, and pulls out a knife and stabs Gregory.
On any other day his assassination attempt would probably have worked fine, but he picked the day that Rick was visiting and sadly ends up with a knife in his neck for his trouble, courtesy of Rick Grimes. The moment when Rick turns to the stunned Hilltop residents, covered in Nathan's blood and asks 'What?' genuinely puzzled is darkly comedic and shows just how commonplace killing has become to him.
Maggie tries to talk to Gregory a second time, this time using her own leverage on him, making him see that even if they keep giving supplies to the Saviours there will come a point where Negan will want more then they can give and will kill everyone at Hilltop. Reeling from the attack Gregory agrees to let the Alexandrians kill Negan and his Saviours in exchange for half of their supplies.
Taking one of the people who has been to the Saviour compound in the past, and Jesus with them Rick and the team head back to Alexandria with their payment to plan their assault on Negan and his men.
Whilst not a great deal happened during 'Knots Untie' the episode began to lay the groundwork for the coming conflict between Rick's group and Negan's, and with readers of the comic knowing how that conflict will end it certainly starts to build the tension for next week's violent encounter.
During the episode we also get to see just how much Maggie is growing as a leader too, with her expertly dealing with Gregory in a way that Rick could never have done. Is the show setting Maggie up to become the new leader of Alexandria, or at least one of the important voices in the community? Probably. She's pregnant now and will soon be at the point where going out on missions or fighting walkers will be beyond her, so setting her up in this kind of leadership role not only makes sense from a character development standpoint, but also keeps her involved in the over all story.
The only other development of note this week is the fact that Abraham is still struggling with his feelings for Sasha, despite Sasha appearing to have given him the hard shoulder. He has a relationship with Rosita, who does genuinely appear to care for him, but now that she's not the only woman in his life maybe he's looking at their relationship very differently.
Despite taking the time to build up the world and raise the stakes 'Knots Untie' proved to be a fairly enjoyable and engaging episode of The Walking Dead.