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 intense and disturbing events of the last episode of The Walking Dead it would have been very easy for the show to let the pacing slow down for a moment and give audiences a break, instead 'The Same Boat' just kept on piling up the pressure and kept asking the question of is our heroes have gone too far in their actions.
After the focus on Carol last week I was genuinely worried for her chances of getting out of this episode alive. It's become a bit of a pattern on the show that when a character begins to develop or become a focus something really, really bad is going to happen to them and I thought that was going to happen here.
With Carol and Maggie taken prisoner by a group of Saviours it seemed highly unlikely that Maggie would be killed, the show has done some brave things over the years, but executing a pregnant woman might just be too far even for The Walking Dead, which left Carol up for most likely to die.
The fact that Carol seemed to be breaking down added to this. At first when Carol begin to hyperventilate and cry in front of the Saviours I thought that it was all an act, this is Carol after all, she's a killing machine, these can't be real tears. But over the course of the episode you begin to suspect that it might not all be an act, maybe things have just gotten too much for her.
The acting by Melissa McBride in this weeks' episode is fantastic, and she sells the idea of a woman who has seen and done too much and whose conscience is finally starting to break. The Carol from seasons one and two was beginning to show through again, the soft and caring woman afraid to take action.
Carol has had some of the best character development on the show, and having her now beginning to feel the weight of her actions, of not wanting to kill anymore is a great new direction to take her. She won't stop killing, as with the events of this episode, when push comes to shove and she has to protect her own she will take up arms and kill, but she doesn't enjoy it. Where in the past she's shrugged off a lot of the lives she's taken as being necessary, each and every one of them are going to haunt her now. In the scene where she tells Maggie that she has killed eighteen people, then corrects herself to twenty you can see the pain it is causing her.
Maggie has a few moments to shine in this week's' episode too, her kill crazy rampage shows a side to the character we rarely see as she sets up a walker to bite on of the Saviours before proceeding to beat the woman's skull in with her weapon. It might be the mother coming out in her, fighting desperately to protect her unborn child, or it could be a further sign of the ever loosening morals of the group and their further willingness to kill.
The shift in the group is brought to the forefront more than once by the Saviours, who very much treat Carol and Maggie the way out group has treated villains in the past. They see them as a group that has come out of nowhere to attack and kill them. And for the most part you can see why they'd think that way. One of the Saviours tells Maggie that our heroes weren't the good guys in this scenario, and they might be right.
The episode shows us that despite what we've seen and heard of the Saviours maybe not all of them are cold blooded killers. They do nothing to harm Carol and Maggie, they stop one of their own from attacking them, we even see that some of them have been through very similar journeys to our heroes. Negan might be a monster, he might be the horrible person we're told he is (as someone who knows him from the books he really is!), but maybe not everyone who is with him is as bad.
Could it be that the Saviours are more like the residents of Woodbury than those of Terminus? Could some of them be people like our heroes, trying to survive but not knowing how truly evil their leader is? If so, then how many 'good' people did our heroes kill in their sleep?
The lines between good and bad, hero and villain are becoming very blurred in this half of the season, and only some of our characters are recognising that. Maggie wants to fight to the death and kill everyone as Carol just wants to escape or give the Saviours the chance to run away and live. There are divisions forming between members of the group over what is and isn't the right thing to do.
'The Same Boat' is a great episode that keeps the tension turned up throughout, and on paper was the episode I expected Carol to die in. The constant fear that one of the best characters in the show was going to be killed created such an intense viewing experience that it made for a great hour of television.
Whilst a lot of this tension will be lost on a second viewing where you know the characters are going to make it out alive there's enough great character development and interesting dialogue to maintain it's place as a great episode of The Walking Dead.