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 the setup of last week's episode it's time for Rick and the gang to launch a preemptive assault on Negan and the Saviours in one of the most intense and violent episodes of The Walking Dead to date.
The first half of the episode dealt with the build up to the assault, with the residents of Alexandria discussing the proposed action, the planning of the assault and some character building moments. In previous seasons the whole episode would have been given over to this, but it would seem that despite taking some time to prepare for the climax the show runners are staying true to their word about wanting the second half of this season to move at a faster pace.
The pre attack scenes play out as to be expected, Morgan is still preaching a message of peace and nonviolence even after making some incredibly stupid mistakes with the Wolf leader earlier in the season, but this time he's the only one who's thinking like this. It's amazing how when Morgan was first brought back a lot of fans thought that he might start a power struggle with Rick, with people siding with him for a less violent way of life, yet here we are with him being the lone voice of peace and once non-violent people such as Aaron advocating killing.
I don't know about anyone else, but Morgans attitude is really starting to bore me now. I think it's about time that he either ends up having to kill someone himself and changing his view, or gets killed because of his pacifist views. I know it sounds mean, but I just can't see his attitude being successful in the long run. Plus he's just generally annoying me now.
Elsewhere in Alexandria the Abraham story finally reached a boil as he decides to leave Rosita. It's very close to the comic counterpart, though in the book it's Rosita leaving him after discovering he's been having an affair, but the general feel of the scene is very much the same. They even use some of the same dialogue where Abraham tells Rosita he was only in a relationship with her because he thought she was the last woman on earth and that now that she's not he's leaving. It's hard and it's a horrible thing to say to her, but it shows a side to the post-apocalypse relationships we've not seen yet.
It's a very believable situation, and one that you can feel for both characters in. I'm not condoning the way Abraham ends their relationship, he was incredibly heartless in his approach, but you can understand his original motivations for dating Rosita when he thought she might be the last woman he'd ever see, and why carrying on a loveless relationship with her when he actually has feelings for another woman is tearing him up inside. Considering most relationships in the show end because someone dies it's a nice change of pace to see a relationship end for other, emotional reasons.
The majority of the first half of the episode's air time seems to have been given over to one of my all time favourite characters in the show, Carol, and this has me very worried about her chances of surviving the next few episodes.
The episode begins with Carol as she's gathering supplies to bake cookies for the residents of Alexandria, taking the time to visit everyone and making sure that everyone gets something. She even leaves a single cookie on the grave of Sam, which is the least she can do considering it was her scary monologue to him that helped push him over the edge and got him eaten.
You can see that the death of Sam has affected her, despite sending a season and a half pretending she didn't care about the kid at all. Tobin (who she gets to share a kiss with!) even points out to her how she is still a mother despite the loss of Sophia, a mother to the whole community, one who will bake them cookies and make sure everyone is okay, and murder anyone who threatens them.
Carol is definitely the 'mother bear' of the show, and has repeatedly put her life on the line for the people she cares about, and crossed a line many wouldn't in order to keep them safe. But this is the first time we've begun to really see the emotional toll that it has taken on her.
She complies a list of people that she has killed over the course of the show, and it's fairly accurate (as long as you only count direct kills, she may have only killed a handful of people at Terminus herself, but her actions led to walkers killing many more). She puts her human kills at 18. Now, in the context of the show most of these were understandable, most of them were killing people who were going to kill her or her friends, but that's still a hell of a big total, one that would make her a mass murderer in regular society.
With so much time given over to Carol, with her budding romance with Tobin and taking the time to explore the effect killing has had on her I'm starting to worry that it might be Carol becoming acquainted with Lucile later this season. Losing moma bear would be a massive blow to the community. I hope I'm wrong, Carol has some of the best character development in almost any show I've seen and I don't want her to die, but the way the episode ends doesn't make it look good for her.
With the first portion of the episode given over to character development the second half was devoted to the assault on the Saviours. Using a walker head made up to look like Gregory they plan to infiltrate the outpost at night and kill everyone before they even know that they're there. It's a ballsy plan, and as soon as it starts it's incredibly tense. Whether you know how things play out in the comics or not you know something bad is going to happen, you know Negan is bad news, and you can feel that dread of impending doom hanging over the whole scene.
The attack is brutal, and really starts to blur the lines of right and wrong for our heroes. They say that they need to attack the Saviours before they get attacked themselves, which is just a vague possibility because they don't even know about Alexandria. They choose to sneak in when people are sleeping and literally kill them in their beds. These are not the actions of people who are the heroes of a show, this is the kind of thing villains do.
We do root for Rick and his group during all of this though because we know Negan and his men are all sorts of evil (hell, one of them sleeps with Polaroids of people with smashed in faces above his bed) but we shouldn't feel good about it.
One of the parts that showed just how far over the line the group have gone this time was the moment when Glenn had to stab a man in the head whilst he slept. Glenn, the man who tries to save people even if they've tried to kill him, the man who has never taken a human life is forced to murder a man in his sleep. It isn't self defence, it's just plain murder. You can see that realisation on his face, you can see the pain the action causes him and it breaks your heart a little.
It wouldn't be television if a plan went off without a hitch, and as to be expected one of the Saviours hits an alarm and the sneak killing turns into all out gun warfare as our heroes make their way through the compound amidst a hail of gunfire. This feels a little better, with an enemy actually trying to kill our heroes it feels a little better to root for them, but it doesn't take the bad taste of what they've already done out of your mouth.
With the compound captured and everyone dead the group are preparing to leave when they capture an escaping Saviour. About to execute the man a woman starts talking to Rick over his walkie-talkie, telling them all to lower their weapons. Rick asks them why exactly he'd do that, and the woman tells him that they have Maggie and Carol prisoner.
It looks like Rick and the group may be facing a very, very high price in the coming episode for their evil deeds. Will the show have the nerve to kill a pregnant woman? Probably not, but they won't hesitate to kill off someone like Carol, or possibly another member of the group who tries to save them.
Our heroes crossed a line this episode, they started to turn into the very same kind of people they've seen as evil in seasons past. This won't go unpunished, the show won't let the heroes murder sleeping men without some kind of retribution, and whatever form that retribution takes it's going to hurt everyone, even the viewers.