Lessons are immediately forgotten. Trips are wasted. Obviously poor decisions are made. Hell, Jadis, Queen of the Garbage People, somehow became the episode’s most sympathetic character. When that happens, you know your Walking Dead episode has major, major problems.
Ugh. Let’s just... let’s just get into it.
The episode is divided into chapters based on characters, mainly so the episode can provide the opening with a cliffhanger by mucking about with time. It’s forced, but it’s basically fine.
We start out reasonably strong with “Michonne,” where Rick and Michonne are both dealing with the emotional aftermath of Carl’s death. Michonne is upset, Rick seems… less so, which I first assumed was because he was in too much shock to process the unimaginable loss of his son, but the episode made clear he’s already moving on—or rather, immediately getting back to fighting Negan despite his son’s dying words.
It’s Michonne who finds Carl and Judith’s blue handprints on the deck and cries; it’s Michonne who continues trying to put out a fire at a gazebo in Alexandria because Carl used to sit there, even when she’s about to get swarmed by zombies and Rick has given up a while ago. Rick, meanwhile, literally asks Michonne what the hell Carl meant by “stop fighting please and try to live together with Negan and everybody.” And then he decides to go back to the Garbage Dump to try and ally with Jadis and the Garbage People again.
Michonne is baffled—understandably so, since in the two times they’ve partnered up, these weirdoes have 1) betrayed them and 2) abandoned them—and I legitimately wanted to yell at my TV. Given how stupid it was that Rick thought he could trust them a second time, this third time is insanity, based on that quote that the definition of it is “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” As if the show really wants us to know Rick is a nincompoop, when entering the garbage dump a pile of garbage blocks the doors behind him and Michonne, they get blue paint on their feet (more on that in a bit) and they’re surrounded by a horde of zombies.
Cut to “Negan,” which is really just Negan and his lieutenant Simon, the latter of whom really, really wants to kill everyone at all these colony’s and just find other people to bully and take their stuff. Negan is adamant about “saving” them, reminding him it’s hard work, and orders Simon to go visit the Garbage People, tell them their original deal is still on, but kill one of them as punishment. Simon bristles but accedes. (I’m not sure I entirely buy Simon’s transformation from loyal, cool-headed company man to seething tower of suppressed rage, but actor Steven Ogg does a great job portraying it.) Simon’s attitude is not improved when some minions carry in the coffin Maggie sent to them last season, containing the zombie of the biggest Savior asshole Jesus had captured, with a carved-in note stating she has 38 more prisoners and to back the hell off.
“Enid” checks in with Enid and Aaron at Oceanside, where they’ve been captured after she murdered Grandma Natania to save Aaron. Cindy, as Natania’s grandchild, gets to decide whether to kill them or not. Cindy decides to kill them, Enid makes a straightforward and effective speech about how killing them will just get the ex-Alexandrians to come kill them, and there’s no point (at least someone knows what Carl’s talking about), Cindy decides not to kill them, and lets them go and tells them never to come back. So this was all very worthwhile. In the end, Aaron sends Enid back to Hilltop to tell Maggie what the deal is, while he stays in hopes of finding a way to get the Oceansiders to join forces despite their explicit promise that they will kill him if they see him again, so that should go great.
We return to Simon in “Simon,” as he enters the Garbage Dump to parley with its denizens. He tells them Negan’s deal—not even slightly concealing how much he wishes to just kill them all—and takes all their guns as retribution. When he also demands an apology, Jadis replies, “There is remorse,” and Simon immediately shoots one of the Garbage People, as instructed. But when Jadis says it again, louder, Simon improvises and shoots another Garbage Person, which causes Jadis to punch Simon, knocking him back and knocking over a can of blue paint. (See? The cold open happened after this scene! Madness!) And this causes Simon to tell his guys to gun down everyone.
Well, everyone but Jadis, as we see since she’s the subject of the next chapter. We cut to right after Rick and Michonne enter, where they spy the stunned, devastated ex-leader at the top of a nearby garbage mound, unable to do anything but cry and talk—and I mean really talk, in complete sentences and everything. She talks about coming to the dump before, as an artist, and how the apocalypse made her realize she could create something much bigger with it.
Rick tells her it’s all her fault and leaves. When she begs to come with them, Rick says no and abandons her in the dump.
Yep. I’ll get back to that in a second.
Jadis’ storyline continues: After scrambling to safety, she briefly lies in anguish at how her people and her life has been destroyed, but then she proceeds to do her duty by her people, which is to stay to destroy their zombies. In what is arguably the most convenient deathtrap seen on the show, Jadis lures all the zombies down a narrow path that leads into an industrial shredder/mulcher. All she has to do is watch them all walk in and get turned into rotting hamburger meat.
After being weird and irritating for 100 percent of her previous appearances on the show, it’s both humanizing and compelling to see Jadis’ stripped down like this, having lost everything, including her pretensions.
The problem, of course, as always, is Rick, whose chapter ends the episode. If you thought callously abandoning a woman to a zombie horde might not jive with what his dying son was talking a couple of hours earlier, you’re not alone. Because as they’re driving away, Michonne points it out to him, too, although she positions it as a question. Rick explains he didn’t want her dead, just… gone, which is a pretty worthless distinction since he abandoned her surrounded by walking corpses who all want to eat her flesh.
Still, Rick stops the car to think, but mainly but read Carl’s letter to Negan. Then he calls Negan on their walkie-talkie to tell him Carl died—which Negan is genuinely sorry for—and explain how Carl hoped they could both stop the fighting, and find some way to live together in peace. Then: “It’s too late. … Because I’m going to kill you.”
Negan immediately starts talking some more shit at Rick about him failing Carl and getting his son killed before the credits roll, but who cares? The death of Carl has had zero impact on Rick’s beliefs, goals, and decisions, and it’s just fucking maddening. It’s narratively unsatisfying to have an event this huge to have zero impact on his character, but it also makes him deplorable because when he promised Carl he would try to make peace to make his vision of the world happen, he was lying to his son’s dying face. It’s reprehensible, but at least it’s so awful it made me forget Rick thought asking the Garbage People for help a third time was a good idea.
There’s a chance—a chance—that Rick is just trying to process his son’s death and come to terms with his wishes, and needs a bit more time to shift gears, but even when the show is at its best it’s never attempted that kind of subtle, slow character arc. So it unless something changes, it appears that Rick will be the murder-first, question-never jerk that he’s been since like season five. And if the death of his goddamn son can’t make him become a better person, I can’t even begin to imagine what will.
• So the Garbage Dump has a bunch of solar panels and a helipad in the back? That’s weird. I, like Simon, would like to know what the hell this place is. Hopefully, Jadis will live long enough to give us the answer, assuming she actually knows.
• Speaking of Simon, I find it pretty damn stupid that he lied to Negan about how his meeting with the Garbage People went. Even if none of Simon’s men rat him out to the big boss, it seems like Negan’s going to notice that an entire colony has been wiped out dead sooner rather than later, and put two and two together pretty quickly.
• Real question: If Rick died, would you care?