Welcome to the fifth installment of a weekly column where Gingernutters Kayleigh Edwards and Kit Power take to a shared Google Doc to discuss this week’s Walking Dead broadcast episode in a conversational exchange. Enjoy! Warning: The following conversation contains SPOILERS for The Walking Dead, up to and including the events of Season 7, Episode 5. If you don’t want to be spoiled, please turn away now. For those of you who have seen S7 E5, please join in with the conversation in the comments section.
Kit Power: And we’re back with Maggie! And Jesus! How did this one grab you, Kayleigh?
Kayleigh Edwards: Consider me grabbed. I liked that it wasn’t just set at Hilltop and we had a little bit about Alexandria as well, but I really enjoyed how the Maggie/Sasha/Jesus/Gregory dynamic unfolded.
KP: Oh man, oh man. Yup. Can we start with Maggie? Because I loved just about everything about how she was handled this week. In contrast to Rick’s psychological obliteration, here we have an amazingly strong woman, who is hurt and mourning but, like, the opposite of broken. No mucking about with ‘is the baby okay?’, no staring into space like she’s just been at the chest burster scene in Alien, yes she’s pale, yes she’s hurting, but holy mother of God she came to play and she isn’t even close to done. Thoughts?
KE: Yeah I enjoyed that too. Her reaction to Negan seems to be to get her shit together and fight because she hasn’t endured all of this horrible stuff just to give up now. I think one of the first things she said to Rick after Glen was killed and Negan left was something like ‘you have to fight Negan’. And that bit with the tractor!
KP: Yes! Glorious. And I liked the follow up afterwards, about how she’d done that before to an ex-boyfriend. Maggie always had grit, that’s the thing. Also, it seems like she’s decided to take the spirit of Glen forward in a lot of ways, which I think is going to get very interesting down the line. And between her and Michonne, it seems like the rise of a new matriarchy is more and more likely, as the men falter, fail, or die.
Talking of failing men, I feel like Gregory is a very interesting element in this now. He was always a creep, to put it mildly, but I think now his full weakness and cowardice has been revealed. There’s a way in which that cravenness makes him a perfect front man for the settlement, of course - Jesus might not be able to pull off the kneel as well, for example - but it also seems like conflict and betrayal are all but inevitable there. What did you think about the constantly shifting power dynamics at play here?
KE: Oh yeah, Gregory is totally self-serving. I noticed that he didn’t help when Negan’s group rolled that car through the gates to attract all the zombies! Gregory is quite interesting because he’s the most cowardly person I think we’ve encountered on the show, but in a weird way I think that’s why his group wasn’t wiped out by Negan’s group. He’s quite clearly compliant, and it’s almost like it’s not even an act that he’s going along with the Saviours because he doesn’t seem to even resent the arrangement.
The other thing I like about him as that he talks the talk, like ‘I’m in charge’, but when someone does something to challenge him, he’s just all ‘okay…’, like when Maggie punches him, he doesn’t do a thing. I knew that Maggie and Sasha wouldn’t leave, regardless of what he said! And I don’t really see Jesus as a leader, but definitely an influence that the Hilltop needs. What did you think of the ‘Hey you guys, that’s my song!’ walker battle?
KP: That was a great scrap, yeah. I always think TWD has a tough line to walk, in that it’s essentially a character driven drama, but with a sizable fanbase that demands big horror set pieces on a regular basis, and I thought this was a great example of how to marry those two needs in a way that not only made sense narratively, but actually moved the story forward. And I feel like Gregory kind of sort of missed the point a bit in his conversation with Simon - The Saviours had intended to swoop in as rescuers, not for Gregory’s people to defend themselves. By doing so, they’ve already marked themselves as more powerful than The Saviours thought, which is obviously dangerous.
I agree with what you’ve said about the Gregory paradox, too, in that he is both weak and craven, and yet that cravenness has probably spared his people, so far. The problem is that, as students of history, we know where these kinds of stories end up - if you don’t become a Saviour, sooner or later you become consumed by them. Either that or they get fat and complacent enough to be overthrown, but that takes time (and a leader less frighteningly competent than Negan, frankly).
And as you’ve mentioned Sasha... One of the other things I liked was how quick the power relationships got messy - Jesus is allied with Sasha and Maggie but still nominally Gregory’s right hand, but already Sasha and Jesus are keeping information from Maggie - bad news if she’s to become de facto leader (with G as figurehead, which is how I’d play it). What did you think about Jesus in this episode, and his relationships with the others?
KE: Well firstly, I just have to say… Ninja Jesus! That was so awesome, especially because Tom Payne, who plays him, did all those fight scenes himself! Jesus just seems like an all-round good guy, that would make a perfect right-hand for Maggie when she takes over (because she’s clearly going to take over as leader of Hilltop, right?). I think that his constant arguing with Gregory about letting Maggie and Sasha stay shows his loyalty to doing the right thing. In that way, I guess he reminds me of Glen a bit. I loved that he knew that Gregory would probably try to hand them over as well, so he switched the whiskey and hid them in the wrong closet! Maybe that was a lesson to Gregory about what happens when you start turning on people who have had your back, especially since Sasha and Maggie were the main reason that the walkers were managed without the Saviours swooping in (but as you say, that probably won’t go over too well with Negan)! Would you care for some behind-the-scenes trivia about the walker fight scene?
KP: Hit me with The Knowledge!
KE: Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) was like, severely ill with this sickness virus thing and was throwing up between all the takes. I couldn’t tell at all that she was ill. Tom Payne said that she was the most ill he’s ever seen someone and couldn’t believe she’d turned up to work, especially to shoot a sequence that had her running around and fighting! I thought it was one of her best performances actually! There you go, info.
KP: Bloody hell. That’s pretty impressive. I bloody love Tom Payne in this role, I gotta say. I mean, you’re never going to go wrong with me by making the guy with long hair and blue eyes the biggest bad arse this side of Michonne :) But I love seeing him trying to navigate the ever shifting sands, while trying to maintain a moral compass. It’s a very intelligent acting performance, I think, with so much happening on his face as much as in the script. Smart stuff.
And wow, we didn’t even talk about Carl yet! Do you have Opinions, by any chance? :)
KE: Haha you know I always have opinions on Carl - so hard to pick a favourite, but he’s my favourite. That last ten seconds of the episode was kind of hilarious, when Jesus is in the back of the van and Carl’s just like ‘hey’. It was the slow smile on Jesus’ face, like ‘what is this little lunatic up to?!’ I liked the contrast with this episode. There was that carefree scene where they’re rollerblading along the road, and that’s probably the most normal activity we’ll see a pair of teenagers enjoy on this show, Enid’s had it pretty rough too. But he was roller skating towards his plan of getting to Negan, with no thought really as to whether he’ll survive. He’s kind of impulsive but he’s not stupid, I think he knows it’s a suicide mission but he’s hoping to take out the Head Chief before he goes down, so that Rick and co. have a chance. Aaaaand I like that even though he’s a teenager, he has higher priorities than a girl he likes, he’s willing to die for his group!
KP: So much going on. As the same time, it felt like a Boy Soldier bit to me - like, he's a teenager, and therefore fundamentally convinced of his own immortality. It’s like, even with the season opener, he has no conception of how bad things can really get - or like he’s flipped some switch and it’s all a game at this point. I loved the moment with him and Jesus in the back of the truck - and if anyone can get the kid out alive, it’s Jesus - but I keep thinking back to that shot of Carl’s epicly bad darts skills, and I get a terrible sense of foreboding. This almost can’t end well, I don’t think.
And the rollerskating was lovely. For my money, the show doesn’t have enough little moments of light like that, it was such a breath of fresh air, even with the eye-of-the-storm quality you also talked about it - two kids goofing off. It was sweet and well played.
I still think Enid was right to try and talk him out of it, though. Because Carl’s ‘plan’ is clearly insane.
And on that final scene - two things. What did you make of Jesus taking a swing and then emptying the rest of the bottle? And what the blinking flip is going to happen next time?!?
KE: Welllll I think that Jesus was like ‘hmm I’ll just have some of this’, and I think that tipping it out was partly a petty funny moment of ‘the Saviours aren’t having this’, but mostly a F you to Gregory.
And I think that for the first time ever… I’m going to disagree with you! I don’t think that Carl is convinced of his own immortality - though he and Enid are teenagers and they both just go outside the walls whenever they want, with what appears to be less worry about the danger out there, than all of the adults have. I just think that he’s in the same frame of mind as people like Maggie and Michonne, who want to fight, but he’s having a lot more trouble taking his time to figure out how, because you know, he’s a growing boy and he’s full of testosterone and all that. I don’t think he can bear following Rick in his opinion to comply with Negan, after watching what happened to Glen and Abraham, especially because all he’s seen since he was little, is Rick fighting like hell - he even watched him bite that guy’s throat out to protect him, so seeing his dad crumble has probably stirred up a lot of confusion and rage. And I’ll stop my Carl defence/rant now!
I think you’re right about that horrible sense of foreboding though… Carl can’t even aim straight. Oh my god I hope he doesn’t die. Kit.. what if he dies?!
KP: Maybe. I wonder how much if it might also just be that this is basically the world as he’s always known it - half his life at this point has been spent in post apocalypse world, after all. Maybe it’s a simple as that - he’s internalised the risks, because he’s always been living with them.
As to what if he dies? I just don’t know, man. I’m wondering if Jesus might end up going the way of his namesake to protect the boy.
So as season 7 rattles towards the mid season break, what do you think about the current state of play? And what hellish cliffhanger do you think we will be left on this time? :)
KE: I didn’t even consider that about Jesus…. NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! We’ve only just got him! Ooh that would be a dangerous move - he’s already way too popular! I think that probably will be the hellish cliffhanger actually, now that you’ve brought that to my attention. Oh dear lord.. The suspense!