Season Six, Episode Eleven — “Knots Untie”
By Jarrod Jones. When you consider everything Rick Grimes and his merry band of walker slayers have survived in five and a half seasons of The Walking Dead — Terminus, The Governor, and each other, mostly — it becomes patently clear that the scars left from those scrapes run deeper than anyone lets on. Those physical and emotional wounds inform their community too, only we don’t get to spend too much time comparing their ideologies with those of the other ramshackle societies built upon this post-apocalyptic wasteland. With each successive bullet put through each successive walker, Rick and his family have become frighteningly effective at survival. Imagine what they must look like to other people.
“You look like trouble,” the blue-eyed Jesus says to Grimes (et al) as they approach Hilltop Colony, a squeaky-clean and prosperous fort populated by doctors and farmers and one hell of a prickly boss. And it’s true — they do. While it’s become only natural for Rick and Daryl and Michonne to strut about with their signature weapons, to the outsider, three people peacocking about with a handcannon, a crossbow, and a damn katana would appear to be quite dangerous indeed. (And remember, these guys are the heroes of this show.) With the specter of Negan still looming over everything and everybody, Rick and his crew are going to have to learn to adapt to what comes their way. If that includes turning into hired killers? For these people and what they’ve been through, that was probably inevitable.
And so The Walking Dead widens its canvas just a little further. It’s like Jesus said — the world “is about to get a whole lot bigger.” If only everybody wasn’t so cocky about it. If we’ve learned anything by watching this show, there’s no shame in treading lightly.
WHAT WORKED: Hilltop Colony runs rather smoothly for being set only miles from the oft-beleaguered hamlet of Alexandria. I suppose that’s largely due to Gregory, whose shitty, knee-knocking approach to running the encampment is far more effective than it has any right to be. (It appears that 50% of all Hilltop’s agricultural and bovine output gets shipped over to Negan’s outpost, lest there be any hyper-violent plundering.) Hilltop may be thriving when it comes to keeping the lights on and food on the table, but their perceived inability to go out and scavenge for ammunition leaves them in the dark ages. A fortified wall populated by pacifists wielding home-made spears? No wonder Negan’s getting fat off their land. For all its flaws, Hilltop is as well-realized a community as I’ve seen on The Walking Dead, and considering that the show’s crew built the whole damn thing from scratch (impressive in its own right), I’m sure we’ll get to enjoy the space more in the weeks to come.
Gregory, as portrayed by Xander Berkeley, is about as awful as well-to-do types on TV shows get. And seeing him sniff at Rick & Co.’s sweaty appearance in his laundered blazer (“go on upstairs and get cleaned up“) only makes you want to hate him more. And that would be enough — only for the fact that minutes later we’re watching him attempt put the moves on Maggie, who thankfully is far more savvy and clever than a sonuvabitch like Gregory is capable of perceiving.
WHAT DIDN’T: Abraham is an artifact of the past. He’s that dude who takes insult from emotional injury and acts out in kind, with little to no credence paid to those he purports to love the most. I enjoy Michael Cudlitz’s antics on The Walking Dead more often than I don’t, but watching him jump from Sasha to Rosita with nary a moment’s consideration marks him for the chopping block, if you ask me. That little charm necklace Rosita made for Abraham is the perfect metaphor for Abe’s bullshit this week: made from a ruby red reflector with a chain large enough to fit around his thick-ass neck, Rosita’s thoughtful and loving gift gets left out to pasture after a violent encounter. Abe’s mind is constantly floating elsewhere, which means — in this world — ol’ Abe’s ju-ju has just about run out.
“I took your truck, because my community needs things… and you guys look like trouble.” – Jesus.
“What?!” – Rick, after.
BEST MOMENT: Negan says ‘hello’. The long shadow cast by Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is finally beginning to affect the world of Rick and his miserable brood. It appears to already be affecting Gregory’s tight-nit community: we arrive just in time to see how far Negan’s reach actually is in this world, as an exhilarating flash of violence changes the dichotomy of Hilltop Colony and Alexandria in the time it takes to open a single throat. What brings the moment home is how nonchalant Rick and Daryl are in its aftermath — Rick is unconcerned with the flagrant display of horror, and Daryl insists that, despite this turn of events, that Negan “ain’t shit.” It’s that cockiness that will inform the episodes to come, as The Walking Dead inches ever towards a brutal reckoning.
EPISODE’S MVP: Maggie. With the show centering itself around its moral core — Morgan and Carol get individual moments to espouse their own philosophies, while Rick and Michonne learn what it is to love in a world like this — Maggie had become lost in the fog that came after the purported death of her husband, Glenn. But now that TWD‘s happiest couple have been reunited, Lauren Cohan gets her moment in the sun. How Maggie artfully maneuvered around Gregory’s come-ons and unreasonable demands and walked out of the room with 50% of Hilltop’s hard-won gains ought to be taught to diplomats the world over. Maggie tap-danced straight to victory.
BRAY OF THE DEAD:
– The fuuuuuck was up with that look you just gave Michonne, Coral.
– That’s Rick “I drive heavy-ass RVs through the mud” Grimes.
– Figures Daryl would evade a question about settling down.
– “When you were pourin’ the Bisquick, were you tryin’ to make pancakes?” – Abraham, whose little colloquialisms are officially growing tiresome.
– So for all you Dead comic readers out there, was it a surprise to see Maggie take on Rick’s role as negotiator with Gregory? I’m inclined to welcome the change, not just because Maggie hasn’t had much to do this season, but because Rick — ever the diplomat — concedes that he speaking with that rat-bastard probably wouldn’t be a great idea.
– Speaking of keeping true to the comics, I didn’t expect that little business with Rick and that open throat to be so… thorough. But it was. (Was I the only one who thought it was also pretty hilarious? Or should I seek professional help?)
– Talking Dead: my suspicions have been confirmed — Jesus’ hair and beard were fake. Extensions, yet.
8 out of 10
Next: “Not Tomorrow Yet”, soon.
Before:”The Next World”, here.