Well, it’s taken a while, but The Walking Dead seems to be getting on track. In tonight’s episode, it choo-choo-chooses to gather its characters (well, most of them) for a single, coherent plotline that will lead directly to the final conflict with the Commonwealth. One could even say the show is running at full steam toward the end. Did I mention a train was in this episode?
All that positivity aside, if you look at the individual scenes of “Outpost 22,” it’s kind of a mess. There’s a lot of dead weight (not a zombie pun, believe it or not), and very little of the episode has those aforementioned stakes during its runtime. After everyone was captured and shipped out of the Commonwealth last week, Maggie, Rosita, and Gabriel—who are helpfully separated from everyone on the bus and guarded solely by a sleeping Commontrooper—easily manage to escape. They get separated, but that’s fine, because they quickly run back into each other without any meaningful incident. And Carol and Daryl show up, too!
Everyone remaining on the convey is taken to either a prison camp, such as Ezekiel, Carrie, and Negan, or the titular and mysterious Outpost 22. The prison camp scenes are there mainly as filler; the “exiles” are told they can’t use names, some random characters we’ve never seen try to escape and get shot, gruel is served. But there’s one exception here, and it’s when Negan sits down next to Ezekiel, and they have a chat.
It seems absolutely impossible to me that the two characters have never shared a scene together, at least since Negan was imprisoned, but that’s how it’s played—and for the life of me, I can’t remember any others. At any rate, it turns out Ezekiel has purposefully avoided Negan in fiction and on the show because he’s still completely furious at everything he did to the Kingdom and its people. But Negan is so desperate to escape and rescue his wife Annie, he asks Ezekiel to lead a “hope”-inspired mass uprising of the prisoners, something he cannot do. Negan can, however, be the “spark” that ignites that hope, which will likely end up with him being savagely beaten. It should go without saying this is saved for a later episode.
Meanwhile, Daryl, Carol, Maggie, Rosita, and Gabriel follow the train, discover Connie’s been put on it, and follow it some more. It takes some time, but it poses an interesting dilemma: If they rescue Connie, the Commontroopers on board will radio ahead to Outpost 22, whose soldiers might hurt the children and anyone else who’s been sent there. It’s a quandary, one that they solve by just… attacking the train and rescuing her anyway. It’s stealthy at first and then turns into a major gunfight, but luckily, uh, none of the guards ever think to radio in. One of the Commontroopers even gets away on a bike which, I shit you not, he crashes into a tree off-screen, allowing Daryl to do a sick slide under a half-fallen tree and into the dude’s legs.
So, yeah, despite The Walking Dead’s insistence to the contrary, the whole train/Connie situation isn’t an actual dilemma, and we know this because that evening, Rosita radios into Outpost 22 to ask for directions by saying she’s a Commonwealth trooper who was on the train when it was attacked. I imagine all the guards there will helpfully forget to do anything in retaliation. There, by the way, is the Commonwealth-conquered Alexandria, meaning when the five attack, they’re going to have home-field advantage. And once their people are free, they’re going to take the fight right to Pamela.
For a season that has so severely separated its characters, and for a glut of episodes where everyone seemed to be working at cross-purposes, giving five core characters a very clear set of stakes—return to Alexandria, save their people, then fuck Pam’s shit up—is pretty satisfying, even if we’ll have to wait until the final three episodes for it all to take place. But “Outpost 22” had other charms! Maggie’s freak-out when being forced to kill the little boy zombie, Gabriel praying with the dying Commontrooper instead of brutally finishing the job himself, the Negan-Ezekiel scene—there were good moments in there amidst the plethora of busy work.
Maybe that’s all we’re going to get for the remaining three episodes: a clear conflict, a few good moments, and some more busy work. It’s a shame for a series that used to be bigger than professional football, but it’s hardly surprising at this. “The end of each story is important,” Carol tells Maggie at one point. She’s right, of course. But clearly “important” doesn’t necessarily mean “exciting.”
- Seriously, I was shocked when Gabriel didn’t murder that guy who asked him to pray with him. This sort of sums up most of my problems with The Walking Dead over the years, I think.
- Why did the Commontroopers put bags over everyone’s heads when 1) they were already drugged and 2) could pull them off themselves the minute they regained consciousness?
- Whoever was in charge of making it look like Maggie stabbed that kid in the head blew it. It’s so clearly under his neck.
- Between the motorcycle and the jeep from the other week, Commontroopers can drive about as well as Stormtroopers can shoot.
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