Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 10: "New Best Friends," directed by Jeff January and written by Channing Powell.
Overview:: Rick and his posse figure out the lay of the land with their Mad Max-like captors. Father Gabriel is revealed as a hostage of the monochromatic collective. Back at The Kingdom, Richard thinks he has a like-minded ally in Daryl. Carol is reunited with her BFF. The Saviors are getting rammy when it comes to their "deal" with Ezekiel.
As Ezekiel would say, "Huzzah!" We spend a lot of time at The Kingdom once again this week as Daryl gets to see how the King runs his operation. Daryl may not like his new digs, but it's always engaging to see him, in his singular way, get to the core of a place with his mostly silent observations.
The episode itself starts when the Saviors come for their tribute. Richard is beyond frustrated at the Savior goon's behavior and the tense situation quickly devolves into a standoff between the sides. Ezekiel demands that Richard hand over his gun, which gets Morgan and young Ben involved with their sticks. That doesn't please Gary, the main goon, so he warns the King if the situation doesn't get docile real quick, Richard and others are going to pay with their lives. The Saviors leave with their collected booty, Richard's gun, Morgan's treasured stick and a little more of the Kingdom's pride stomped into the dirt.
Richard senses an advocate in Daryl and asks him for some crossbow tips. Then he takes him out to collect some of his secret arsenal with hopes that the man of action will join him in wiping out a Savior group on a remote road. As he's flapping his gums about sacrifice and The Kingdom needing to fight, Richard also drops that a lone, bad-ass woman is living outside the compound. Daryl asks her name and Richard under duress spits out, "Carol." Daryl gets real mean when Richard throws out that Carol might as well be dead living in that house alone. There's fisticuffs and another standoff until Daryl walks away and leaves Richard to his missed ambush.
That in turn leads to the best emotional moment the show has served up in some time: the reunion of Daryl and Carol. Prior to it, Ezekiel shows up in a faux mission to check up on Carol's homestead and deliver some cobbler. She's still not interested in connecting and closes the door, only to be annoyed by a door knock minutes later. On the other side is Daryl, which allows McBride and Reedus to knock us out with their resonant, wordless appraisal of one another. Relief, regret, sadness and genuine love (whatever kind you want to imagine) are on both of their faces as they embrace. I love these two actors together. This scene reminds us of how much they bring out of one another as performers and from their characters. And Daryl's almost timid query of "Why did you go?" really lands the extra gut punch.
Inside, Carol tries to explain why she had to disappear. After the Alexandria invasion, she tells him that she just couldn't lose any more of her family, including Daryl. She couldn't murder anyone else, which she would do in a heartbeat for them, without the terrible price of her soul. Her plea certainly gets to Daryl because when she asks him if the Saviors came back, he admits they did, but lies about the lives Negan took. Why? As Morgan forces Daryl to admit later, it's because they're all still holding onto something.
In that confessional moment, Daryl doesn't want to force Carol to lose herself by going back to war in vengeance for Abraham, Glenn and even his own capture and torture. Instead, he asks Carol's assessment of Ezekiel and then leaves her to her solitary bubble with a warm hug. It's all deeply felt and a reward for those who have been watching the series from the start. The sense of shared history and understanding between these two lands the scene beautifully.
The other big reveal of the episode is the introduction of Jaydis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and her collective of monosyllabic minions. Turns out they're the ones who took Father Gabriel and then Rick, Michonne, Rosita, Tara and Aaron in the cliffhanger last week. Obviously this crew watched way too much Mad Max before the apocalypse, as they've created their alt-society in a massive junk yard where their M.O. is "We take, we don't bother."
Jaydis, with her rock star black leather glove that waves out silent commands, is like Tilda Swinton light, and oddly it works. When Rick's crew is herded into the yard and encircled, I assumed for a second this was going into Futurama territory and "snoo snoo" was going to be demanded. Gratefully, Gabriel interrupted the moment by putting a knife to captor Tammy's neck after her tribe declined to join Rick's fight against Negan. The good father then announced loudly that Rick was pretty much miraculous and would give them whatever they request if they just give him a chance. To prove a point, Jaydis throws Rick into a fighting pit with an monster that would make Immortan Joe clap with glee.
Does Rick win? Of course, Rick wins and he gains Jaydis' limited agreement to fight Negan if Rick can get "Guns. A lot. Soon." The clock is ticking but Rick sees this as genuine hope and a big step forward in their war against the Saviors.
Ugh, Rick's fight with Winslow was way too short! When you come up with a Big Boss Fight of that quality, why make it such a quick scuffle? Once Rick used the garbage walls to his advantage, the fight was pretty much over and that was a bummer. I feel like we barely got to know what the monster could do before he was felled, and that's a waste of the fantastic creativity the makeup, stunt and props people put into that thing.
I get Rosita has PTSD and is pretty much taking up Abraham's mantle of impatience in the group, but there's something off about her bristle every week. She barks at Tara that she doesn't want to go back to Alexandria to get provisions and then seek the needed guns. If she's so hot about going out alone, why does she want to stay with the group? If all she cares about is saving Eugene, then go. But she knows she would never survive, which is why the hot-head attitude isn't working for me.
Again with the Savior thugs who are like cartoonish villains. The ass who tried to kill Richard and then took Morgan's fighting stick reminded me of the soldiers who used Kevin Costner's journal as toilet paper in Dances with Wolves. Yeah, we get it. The writers and performers can dial them back from the precipice of ridiculous and find other ways to make that lot menacing.
"Oh S--t!" Moment
Winslow the pit monster! The show hasn't imagined something that weird and wonderful in quite some time. It's ingenious, really: lance a walker with sharp sticks that are usually used in stationary ambushes and then fit it with a metal, spiked helmet to protect the zombie's brainpan. If Rick and company don't set about making an army of those things to use against Negan, then I give up on these people. Seriously, that's as H-bomb as you get in this New World Order.
It's a small moment, but I'll admit, it's nice to see Daryl raise a crossbow, as it's been a while since we've seen him with his signature weapon. Also, him charming Shiva in her cage is an ovary moment for sure. Per Morgan, the kitty doesn't like anyone, but of course, Daryl charms her stripes into a bunch. Loved it.
Subtle moment, but Rick telling Tara that she can tell them where not to look means she's going to have to make a decision about Oceanside. Does she keep their secret or does she sell them out in order to add their numbers to the fight?
"New Best Friends" was the strongest episode of the season since "The Well." There was action, there was the successful introduction of a uniquely weird group of survivors, the addition of another strong female leader with Jaydis and the reunion of Carol and Daryl. There was a bit of something for everyone, executed well. It progressed Rick's goal a little more and gave us a lot of strong character moments, including Rick gifting Michonne that weird metal cat.
What did you think of "New Best Friends"? What was your favorite moment?