THE WALKING DEAD Season 7 Episode 15
Episode Title: “Something They Need”
Writer: Corey Reed
Director: Michael Slovis
There are spoilers ahead for last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, but don’t pretend that you didn’t know that!
There are many criticisms that can leveled at The Walking Dead, but toothless isn’t normally one of them. If any show is gonna go for the throat, so to speak, it’s usually going to be this one. But instead, The Walking Dead let a potentially very ugly situation go off without a hitch. Rick and his group invaded Oceanside, blew a few things up, and didn’t have to murder anyone to get the guns that they wanted. How very CBS of them.
It would be predictable if everything went bad on this show every single time. But this was so smooth that it was simply too easy. Aside from Tara being held at gunpoint, it went almost exactly as planned. And that was just boring, from a dramatic standpoint. Where’s the tension? Where’s the drama in that? Without the hint of any real danger, the walker assault and Rick’s handshake with one of the Oceanside ladies came off as far more comedic than they were probably intended to be. This series isn’t supposed to be funny, but that was just a bad joke.
The interesting thing is, the other parts of the episode actually did manage to create some real tension. The way that Gregory openly considered killing Maggie briefly made it seem like she could be in real danger. Likewise, Sasha’s mindgame with Eugene was brilliantly played, even if it backfired on her. In hindsight, it was very clever of director Michael Slovis to hide Sasha’s face as she tried to convince Eugene to help her end her life. If we had seen her facial expressions, it probably would have given the game away too early. Instead, the audience had to listen intently and wonder whether Sasha was sincere about wanting to kill herself before Negan could use her against Rick’s survivors.
Now, there’s a real question about how or if Sasha can use the poison pill that Eugene slipped her. That was a genuinely nice piece of writing that subverted our expectations. Eugene may have sold out for his own sake, but he still has affection for Sasha. That’s why he fell for her lies as opposed to Negan’s wives, whom he was right to distrust. Eugene needs Sasha to live, not only for his emotional well being. He needs her, because Sasha joining the Saviors would validate Eugene’s decision to do so. Appearances aside, Eugene is not an idiot. He knows full well that he betrayed himself and the group by selling out to Negan. Eugene even likes the sense of power it gives him. But it means nothing if he can’t sell himself on the lie that it was worth turning his back on his friends. Sasha’s death (which seems inevitable at this point) would force Eugene to realize just how badly he’s screwed up.
In all likelihood, these are probably Sonequa Martin-Green’s final episodes of the series. Considering that she’s going to be headlining Star Trek: Discovery, that’s not bad news for her career. These last few episodes have also been a gift to Martin-Green, as she’s never been more important to the series than she is now. In last week’s episode, Sasha had the really terrific bonding scene with Rosita. This week, Martin-Green carried most of her scenes with Negan and Eugene. She brought the life and fire to this episode, and the series will be poorer for her absence…whenever it eventually comes.
It’s a bit strange that the episode when out of its way for Negan to condemn “Rapey Davey” for trying to force himself on Sasha when Negan really doesn’t have any moral high ground. Remember, this is the guy who has a harem of wives who were coerced into being exclusively his sexual property. Is Negan’s position that he’s not a rapist because he doesn’t physically force his wives to submit to him? It feels more like the show’s creative team doesn’t want Negan to cross that particular line, but everything else is fair game. Yet somehow it seems even more dubious this way.
Back at the Hilltop, it certainly appears that Gregory is the traitor who tipped off Negan that Rick is moving against him. It’s not subtle, the focus literally shifted to Gregory almost as soon as Negan revealed to Sasha that he was aware of Rick’s plan. Xander Berkeley is actually giving us a tragically pathetic villain. Gregory had built up his own mythology about his leadership skills and his ability to kill walkers, and it just keeps coming apart around Maggie. Even when Maggie defended Gregory’s apparent cowardness to a few observers, it only furthered Gregory’s standing among his own people. He is his own worst enemy, and he’s clearly about to throw in with Negan in a bid to hold on to his power. Gregory just doesn’t realize that it’s over for him. And he’ll keep making bad decisions until reality catches up with him.
Heading into the season finale, this penultimate episode was an uneven and very flawed. The Oceanside story just doesn’t hold up to any real scrutiny. However, Sasha’s ordeal and the burgeoning betrayal at the Hilltop deserve praise. Next week’s finale has the opportunity to redeem this season’s somewhat sluggish storytelling. Just don’t expect an end to Negan in the final episode. We suspect that “All Out War” is being saved for season 8’s storyline.