The Walking Dead is feeling delightfully retro these days. We got a Rick/Daryl pairing last week, Richonne was consummated, and now this week we got on a mission in an RV. It’s Season 1 and 2 all over again.
This time though the big news is the introduction of Hilltop Colony (looking ripped directly from the comics), the community of Paul “Jesus” Rovia, whom we met last week, and run by the creepy Gregory (professional creep Xander Berkeley). After Jesus interrupted post-coital cuddling last week, Rick and Michonne gathered their team including Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, and Abraham.
The last few weeks have done a good job of making the show thematically strong. From Abraham’s ongoing internal struggle to Maggie’s pregnancy to the significant chunk of the show spent introducing Hilltop, the show finally has a focus that allows it to explore its characters organically.
As much as I like Michael Cudlitz and his Abraham, his love triangle subplot is lacking. I find Sasha a boring character and Rosita might as well be called Nameless Hispanic Chick for all the characterization she’s gotten. At least they’re trying to give these people stuff to do, but it doesn’t really serve either female character and its not like Cudlitz is getting meaty material.
Meanwhile, for a comics fan like me, there was plenty of foreshadowing this week that added another layer to the proceedings. When Rick’s group rescued a Hilltop crew in distress, Glenn and Maggie find one of them is obstetrician and by the end of the episode the couple are viewing an ultrasound of their baby.
This nice touch was made ominous by drawing the battle lines in the coming conflict in this new world that’s constantly being talked about. Negan and his Saviors have had Hilltop under their thumb since the beginning of the apocalypse and this episode alone saw some residents driven to attempt to kill Gregory because of the Saviors’ blackmail.
But while Glenn and Maggie’s happiness seems set to be inevitably crushed, it was also troubling when Daryl spoke up so adamantly to take out Negan. His eagerness and Rick’s confidence could lead to disastrous results if they underestimate the threat Negan is. That consequence? Likely Glenn or Daryl’s death.
The best thing an adaptation can do is make the audience question the source material in new ways. And the fact that I don’t know if it will follow it and go with Glenn or diverge and go with Daryl is, simply, awesome. Both will hurt but the show isn’t playing unfairly (this time).
After a couple episodes out of focus, the rest of the Alexandrian community comes back into view next week when the deal – take out the Saviors in exchange for Hilltop’s resources – is brought to their attention. Carol got only a small cameo tonight but mostly, I’ve missed Morgan as well as their ongoing conflict.
Also, with five episodes left in the season and the playing board seemingly set, I’m in the dark as to how the attack on the Saviors plays out, since Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan isn’t due to appear until the April 3 finale. That’s a lot of time in between. Will we see back-and-forth attacks? Is any Alexandria drama going to bubble up? What about the new Hilltop alliance? Is it Sunday yet?