Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Sunday night's The Walking Dead Season 6 episode, "The Same Boat."
Editor at Large Aaron Sagers and Contributing Editor Tara Bennett give their reactions to this episode directed by Billy Gierhart.
Tara: I'm relieved that the moral issues surrounding Rick and company's assassin-style attack on a Savior's compound last week were further explored this episode. We pick up where the last episode left off but with Carol and Maggie's perspective on the attack. Kidnapped by Saviors outside of the satellite compound, we get to watch Carol and Maggie live out their new "kill first or be killed" approach to threats. In particular, Carol got to meet her mirror self in Paula (an intense Alicia Witt), who dramatically evolved from a D.C. secretary and mother of four girls into a hard-nosed, strategic killer for the Saviors. Wily Carol again whipped out her shrinking violet routine for Paula and coughing Molly to great success, which convinced the pair to fess up some more personal stories that Carol used to her advantage. Meanwhile, Maggie is separated by the mean-looking doppelganger of Olivia Munn for an interrogation that also gets personal about the wisdom of having babies in the apocalypse. All of it made for a more delicate exploration of the cost of taking lives, and what you become in doing it over and over, that was sadly missing from last week. At least we get it handled beautifully here, especially by Melissa McBride and Witt, who managed to reveal the damaged souls of their characters in very subtle and potent ways. For Paula, swallowing tears remembering her family, and for Carol, the look of utter devastation after purposely pushing her nemesis to a gnarly, face-ripping death. This is where the show lives best, when there are repercussions to explore when terrible things are done. Having Carol tell Daryl she's not OK, and Maggie frantically tell Glenn she can't do this anymore gives me hope for the choices these characters are going to make in the near future.
Aaron: I applaud The Walking Dead for this episode, which combined a quintet of five complex, layered women and provided us with the opportunity to get to know each of the three new characters. The close confines gave the episode a nearly stage-play element, and it worked. While I know detractors will say this moved slowly, I appreciated the conversations between each of the women.
Likewise, it’s refreshing to see familiar characters question their decisions and feel remorse for their previous actions. The cold-blooded Carol was feeling too one-note, and Melissa McBride reinvigorated her with renewed humanity. Meanwhile, Maggie has become ruthless upfront, with regret settling in after the fact. That strikes me as a way for this soldier to survive.
Alicia Witt’s Paula was such a nice addition to the week. She really is a mirror of Carol and, what’s more, she’s right that Team Rick could have walked away after taking out T’s group on the road. I would have liked her to stick around a little longer to be a viable, complex female villain.
Tara: Some other positives, I really enjoyed old, smoker's lung, Molly. She is an often unexplored demographic in this world, and her "yoga breath" comment to Carol was a winner. Namaste.
The "We're all Negan" strategy from the Survivors is brilliant and insidious. That's a mindset that I immediately want to know more about as the big bad gets closer.
Aaron: The “We’re all Negan” line was was intriguing but annoying to me. I like the groupthink philosophy of the Saviors all embodying their leader. Yet I know Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is on the way, and I know the level of nastiness and authoritarian evil he will bring to the show. So I know that the Saviors aren’t all Negan; there is only one guy, and he’s a bad piece of work. In fact, Morgan-as-Negan looms so large over the rest of this season that any other Savior character kind of feels like filler. Plus, these women don’t especially seem like lieutenants in Negan’s army; he doesn’t seem like the most female-friendly leader. I enjoyed this episode, but I think I’d have liked it more had these characters not been part of the next big threat.
Tara: It's hard running a TV show that's globally popular. There's an intense pressure to move the story forward and keep things exciting, but as a viewer the churn of new characters becoming chum is a bit exhausting. Whether it was the Terminus crew, the Wolves and now a lot of Survivors, a lot of interesting story potential has gotten stomped on for plot progression. Yes, Negan is coming but does the show have to barrel towards him just because the comics says he's on deck next? All of the Saviors - except for brutish, dullard Donny - felt like fascinating stories left on the table in order to sustain a body count, or a bloody point. Even Primo, someone medically inclined working for the Saviors, popped as a story worth exploring. But nope, everyone got wiped out and it's hard to sustain a lot of my attention and interest when it's becoming rinse, repeat with just about all of the Saviors. There's no nuance, or reality, to only having Negan be the interesting Savior in the end.
"Oh S--t!" Moment
Tara: The Ricktator move of Sheriff Grimes' headshot to Primo was another ruthless move that doesn't put our "hero" in the best light, morally or strategically. Certainly, Primo was worth more than becoming another corpse? It's understood that Primo wasn't going to spill information easily, but he had barely registered the carnage of what Carol and Maggie had wrought on his people, or uttered, "I'm Negan" before Rick offed him. Is Rick that dumb, or blinded by his own goal, that we're supposed to believe he didn't think there was any chance to get more information out of Primo, or even to use him as leverage? And on the opposite side of that coin, are we supposed to believe that Rick took Primo's defiant assertion of being Negan at face value? Not smart on a lot of different levels.
Aaron: I agree Rick was ridiculous popping Primo before getting additional intel. Will hubris be Rick’s undoing? Because that was certainly some ruthless, cocky behavior.
Beyond that, I was taken aback by Maggie’s insistence on Carol killing Paula. I understand how Maggie got there, but it was cold. The conversation between the two before they lit up the Savior scout team was equally striking. And speaking of Carol’s fiery act in the episode: she’s not OK, but is still willing to kill in heinous ways. I’m curious to see how she will balance her renewed morality with that brutality.
Tara: About now, I'm worried the TV narrative is hitting a wall in trying to service the comic book too much. Rick's decision to leverage Hilltop's assets and kill mercilessly to gain them, while dragging moral touchstones like Glenn and Maggie into the abyss with him is hard to swallow right now. It may play out well on the page but in the performance of it, there's a much wider chasm in restoring your heroes to a place of respect or admiration. Meeting their actionable equivalents in the Saviors and having to process statements from them like, "Your people are killers and that makes you a killer" creates a moral stalemate that is very problematic if they stay on this path. My hope is that Carol and Maggie have both hit their own moral basements, and that their realizations will mean that a moral standard will have to be returned to the foundation of Alexandria, and most-importantly, Rick. Morgan is certainly waiting in the wings to help service that, but I'm not sure the show or the writing is selling the value of that well enough. Most fans are frustrated with Morgan, and any other character in the show's history, who found abject killing a soul-killer (Dale, Tyrese, etc...). I'm not certain by Rick's actions he's anywhere near feeling any remorse for what they've just done to survive, and I'm worried by the time he does, will we still root for him at all anymore? Or will we have to lose someone who matters a lot to get him there, and is that price worth it?
Aaron: I am worried we are rushing to Negan, when I think the pace could slow down a bit. I want this show to take its time, and to go off on some non-comic book detours. I am intrigued by the question about whether Team Rick are the good guys. It is certainly becoming harder to believe they are, and if they aren’t, what must happen in order for them to realize that?
What did you think of “The Same Boat”? Have the Alexandrians gone too far or not far enough yet?