Sometimes You're Nothing But Meat On The Walking Dead
The show breaks format to follow a half dozen characters one by one through their latest setbacks.
Previously: Carl got bit. Like, a lot. This bite was so bad it needed a bonus-sized episode to unpack. And we were sad for like five minutes afterward, maybe, remembering him as a tyke who wouldn't stay the fuck indoors when you asked him to, but then we were like, maybe Chandler Riggs can go to college and have a nice life and not be burdened by eight seasons of wearing a worn-out hat and having his name extended to multiple syllables by Rick Grimes. So, that happened. And Rick's going to be mopey af for a good, long while, so let's just lean into that with no regrets.
So, this episode: do you like anthologies? A series of stories that may or may not be connected? This week, our show is separated into six parts, each named after a character. We begin with a big title card that reads simply, "MICHONNE."
It's sunset, and Michonne is standing behind Rick as he kneels before his son's grave. The grave is marked by two sticks wrapped together in a cross. It's pretty grave-y as graves go. Which is to say, things are pretty grave. Oh, don't look at me like that, Shakespeare made the same joke once and your English teacher loved it.
As Rick is lost in grief, Michonne looks behind her toward the sun at her back. Rick stands up. He approaches the grave and puts the silencer-bearing gun Carl used to kill himself on the cross, hanging it by the trigger guard. This seems like a super-dumb idea. Why not hang Carl's eyepatch instead? We cut to Michonne off in the distance chopping down walkers so that Rick can have his moment. A sad fiddle plays mournfully for Rick, who ends up deciding to take the gun with him after all. Smart man. Michonne, looking shellshocked, sees all the burned-out buildings in Alexandria. She sees more walkers approaching through the wide-open front gate, so she goes over to close it. The undead, however, are blocking her. The best she can do is rip one of their faces off with the gate latch.
So Michonne starts stabbing and slicing heads in order to clear the space. But it doesn't really work; they just sort of clump up in one spot. Michonne, looking very tired, just wearily looks around, as if wondering how she got to this very dark place with this very white man.
Rick finds a walkie-talkie on one of the dead Saviors lying on the ground. Michonne slowly approaches him. Rick just walks past her, and she watches him go. Michonne goes to their house, carrying an olive duffel bag. On the porch, she spots the handprints Carl and Judith made together. She puts her hand on Carl's print and begins to cry. But before she can find some relief, she sees more walkers approaching. She grabs the bag and goes inside the house. She sees Rick loading up stuff from the kitchen and tells him they have to go; he just nods and follows her out. As they're loading up a van with supplies, Michonne notices that a gazebo is on fire. "He used to sit on the roof," Michonne recalls. Rick says they need to go, but Michonne wants to save the structure. She runs over with a fire extinguisher and starts spraying. Rick joins her with his own extinguisher. The walkers, though, won't leave them alone. Rick warns Michonne that she's in danger, and she swings the extinguisher, bashing the walkers. Rick has to do the same, but despite their efforts, they can't contain this small building fire. Rick calls to Michonne and shakes his head. They can't do this. Michonne tosses the fire extinguisher, cuts down one more walker in frustration, and follows Rick. They run together to the van, taking out a few more walkers on the way. Rick starts the engine and they drive off. They pass the burning structure as Michonne looks at it sadly.
Alexandria is a mess, smoking and overrun. We linger on the "Alexandria Free Zone" sign at the entrance. Michonne takes a deep breath while Rick wipes his eyes, driving. It's just smoke, not white-hot emotions! Rick finally wants to talk, asking Michonne what she thinks Carl meant about not fighting anymore. Did Carl want them to surrender to Negan? Michonne says they can pull over and read the letters Carl left. Rick's not about that; he doesn't want to do it now. Michonne looks through the notes and gasps. She tells Rick that Carl left a letter for Negan. Rick, believing a dumb Rick Grimes idea could steer the conversation away, says he needs to see Jadis. He says the Scavengers still have weapons and people; Rick and Michonne can't just give up on them. Michonne asks why now. Rick says that they were at the Sanctuary battle, so now they'll be a target, too: "We still need them. They're ours, not theirs." Spoken like a white man with post-apocalyptic privilege.
Rick and Michonne arrive at the dump, where it's eerily quiet. They go through a small tunnel and activate a tripwire that sends a bunch of debris raining down on them that they're able to avoid. It's like 70% lawn chairs, so no big deal. Rick also steps in some spilled blue paint, which will be relevant later. They can hear the snarling of walkers nearby. Suddenly, a big group of walkers approaches, and Rick and Michonne get extreme close-ups to show that they're scared.
The next story is titled "NEGAN." In his meeting room, Negan is telling someone on a walkie-talkie that he wants them to go "balls deep" searching for Rick's people around the Hilltop. Simon enters the room. Negan tosses the walkie-talkie on a table in frustration, and tells Simon that Rick and his one-eyed pride and joy had an escape plan. Negan, smiling, says that the boy played him, admiringly commenting, "Damn. That kid? That kid is built for this shit." Simon asks whether they've heard from Gavin. Nope, not yet. Negan doesn't seem worried about it.
Simon is pacing, annoyed that he's on Rick-chasing duty. Negan points to a chair for him to sit down, and says he wants Simon to visit the garbage people. Simon is thrilled: he wants to kill them all, even if it means losing some ammo. Negan leans forward and warns him to keep those feelings locked down; he's only to remind those "triple crossers" that a deal with the Saviors is still their best option. He tells Simon to only take one out, so the rest will fall in line. "Just one, Simon," Negan demands. Negan asks if Simon has something to say. Simon thinks they need to cut their losses, since Rick's people aren't getting the message, even after all the slaughtering at all these places. Simon suggests scraping the plates into the trash and finding other communities to save further out. Negan chuckles and says he's doing his best to hold things together, and that killing everybody is the easy way out. Saving people, on the other hand, is hard. But it works, Negan says. "Not lately," Simon retorts. Negan believes clipping Rick will solve everything. There's a knock at the door. Some Saviors enter carrying a coffin and place it on the table, along with a nail gun -- which they say is charged -- for dealing with what's inside. Negan throws them out. The coffin reads, "We have 38 more, stand down." Simon pries open the box and Negan nail guns the moving zombie inside. Simon is mad because this is one of the 38 from the satellite outpost: his people. "I'm gonna kill every last one of those farmers!" he says. Negan gets pissed when Simon keeps arguing. "You will do! Your job!" he screams. Simon's giant mustache twitches. Awkward bro moment.
Simon still wants to kill some farmers. And see what crops up. AH HA HA HA HA HA! Oh, we have fun around here, despite the coffins and the screaming, I tells ya.
"ENID." Enid and Aaron are being led into a room by the Oceanside folks who just captured them and OH YEAH! I had completely forgotten about this plot thread, and perhaps you had too because it seems so irrelevant to the rest of what's going on. Remember when Aaron and Enid went to Oceanside and sort of by accident killed their leader, Natania? And then thought these people would still want to help them? Yeah, all that happened! So now we're back at the moment when Cyndie, Natania's granddaughter, is confronting them. They're led against a wall and chained down to a radiator while Aaron tries to reason and ask for a conversation. Cyndie and her entourage go outside to discuss what to do with these pricks. Enid is having some remorse about killing Natania, but she thinks Natania made her do it, by which she means that she had to save Aaron's life. "I'd do it again. I'd have to," Enid says sadly, "even knowing it would feel this way." Cyndie's group comes back, and they undo the chains they just put on Aaron and Enid. They do get handcuffed, though, and are to be taken to the beach. Aaron tries to argue for their lives, and Enid says that Cyndie had better have a good reason for killing them other than that it'll make her feel better. Oh, I'm sorry, aren't you the person who just killed her grandmother? Her Nana? Her Mawmaw? Her GramGramms, if you prefer? Enid argues that the killing is already the punishment. If Cyndie kills them, their people will come looking for them and wipe out Oceanside. Frankly, I think Rick's got his hands full right now; he's doing nothing of the sort. "Your grandmother got herself killed, so don't make the same mistake," Enid says. You know, usually when someone's grandma dies, you just send a card. I'm not sure what the etiquette is if that happens and you pulled the trigger. Cyndie looks really conflicted for about three seconds and then decides, "They live." Excellent movie.
As he and Enid are walking out to go live their spared lives, Aaron asks Cyndie if she even wants to know when the war's over. "Yes," she tells him. Aaron wants their help to make sure they win. Cyndie says, on point, that she's helping by not killing them both: "That's our contributing to the cause." In the woods, Cyndie says goodbye by telling them not to come back. Enid, who can't leave well enough alone, turns around and tells Cyndie, "Stop trying to kill strangers." Hey, maybe stop trying to kill grandmothers! Cyndie steps up to her, but Enid goes on, lecturing her on right and wrong and that Rick and Co. know the difference between friends and enemies. Do you? Do you, really? Because Morgan's killing every damn person and Rick can't get a bunch of trash-heap people to stay loyal to him. Cyndie just says, "Don't come back."
Cyndie leaves Enid and Aaron in a clearing. With Cyndie probably still within earshot, Aaron asks Enid to go back to the car by herself. He plans to stay and convince them to join the fight. Enid says that's not going to happen. He thinks he can win over Beatrice and Kathy; he just needs more time. Aaron wants Enid to tell Maggie what's happening and not to come. Enid says they'll kill Aaron if he goes back there. "I won't go back there," he says. So...you're going to talk to Beatrice and Kathy with your Verizon plan, or what? Aaron insists that he'll be fine. Enid wants a promise that he'll see her again. Aaron makes Enid promise that she'll be fine. She just hugs him tightly. After she goes, Aaron squats in the woods. With a plan, probably. This segment could have just as easily been called AARON, right?
Next, it's "SIMON," who's quick-walking down the stairs at The Sanctuary. Someone asks him whether they're going to The Hilltop. He says they're going to sit on their dicks (ow?) a mite longer on that one, and instead they're going to the junkyard. Some bosses take their employees to a movie or baseball game, Simon.
We cut immediately to Simon arriving in time to catch Jadis taking off her art apron. Everyone starts pointing guns at each other, to which Simon says, "Whoa whoa whoa, Nelly, everybody keep their horses inside the gate!" He says they're friends. Jadis gives him some side-eye. Simon wants a genuine apology for their involvement with Rick in the Sanctuary battle. Jadis just looks at Simon like, "This mustache-waxing motherfucker be crazy." Simon says she's had plenty of time to work up a proper confession. He hilariously suggests that she can consult her notes if she likes. Jadis says she had no deal with Rick, and instead that she was delivering him directly to The Saviors. Simon loses his cool, screaming, "BULL! SHIT!" He takes a huge sniff to regain his equilibrium before telling Jadis that Negan is generous enough to let them just go back to the terms of their previous agreement and all is forgiven. He smiles and makes a lot of interesting choices with his face.
However, Simon says, his crew's going to take all the guns and ammo. That's not part of the deal, but Simon says they need that stuff, and they'll be giving them up as a sign of good faith. Simon says they'll get them back if they ever need them. Jadis agrees to this new term and the guns are taken. Simon spots a piece of Jadis's art and asks if it's her, and if she learned before or after the apocalypse. She says she didn't learn; she "come to know." He asks why the dump; there had to be a better place for them. "Our place. Ours," Jadis replies. He asks what the deal is with the helipad and solar panels in the back: "What was this place?" Jadis looks around and says, "A dump." That pisses Simon off. And he says he hasn't really gotten his apology despite the guns as restitution; he says he's not feeling the remorse. "There is remorse," she tells him. Not enough, though, judging by how Simon shoots Brion right in the chest. "There is remorse!" Jadis insists again, then shouts, "NOOO!" as Simon shoots her other best pal, Tamiel.
"Say it again!" Simon screams. Jadis punches Simon in the face, knocking him down. On his way down, Simon knocks over her blue paint can with his foot. "There is remorse, you son of a bitch!" Jadis screams over him. Simon chuckles as he rises. "Ohhh, no, no, no," he giggles. His boot is covered in blue paint. "I don't think you mean it," he tells her. He tells his men to light it up. They start firing, killing all of the Scavengers. This is some cold-blooded shit, you guys.
Simon drives the big truck back as Negan watches, bat in hand, from up on the Sanctuary entrance. Negan asks Simon, as he gets out of the truck, if he got it done. "That and then some," Simon understates. Still no word from Gavin. Negan says he already sent a team out on that. Negan asks Simon how it went. Simon says it was a standard message delivery: "There was remorse." One of Negan's men brings him a walkie-talkie, saying it's Rick on the line. Simon notices the blue paint on his own boot.
Next it's "JADIS." Rick and Michonne are fighting their way through the junkyard walker mob, and now we understand that the ones they're fighting were all Jadis's friends.
They're able to clear a path and climb some junk to find Jadis, wearing a slip and sitting at the top of the heap. She calls after Rick. Michonne asks her what happened. "The Savior," she says simply. Michonne asks how they get out. "Get out... how you got in," Jadis replies. Rick has had about enough of this horseshit. Jadis suddenly starts speaking in complete sentences. She tells them that before, it was all trash, no heaps. She'd go there to find things to paint on, like metal sheets and fabrics. After, things changed, and she realized the whole place was a canvas: "We were the paint. We could create something new, become something new. We did. This was our world, apart from everyone else, in every way." Rick is not about this fucked-up art installation and blames Jadis for what happened: "This is because of you." Watch it, Rick, those words might come back to haunt you. Rick takes a car door and bends the piping on it with a cloth in his hand to make two spikes; he says they're going to run for it. Jadis picks up a chair and offers to come with them just until they're gone. "Naaaah," Rick says, telling Michonne he's tired of all the Jadis games; he says she can't help them anyway. Michonne has a moment of guilt before they leave Jadis and make a push for the exit. Rick's plan works, but he has to use his gun, too. They push past the zombies far enough to hit the covered entrance. Jadis tries to follow, calling, "Rick, please!" Rick points his gun at her, then fires high to attract walkers toward her.
Jadis doesn't get bitten, but she gets pulled back enough to keep from escaping with them. She runs off as Rick and Michonne leave.
Later, Jadis is banging a stick on the ground, her feet bloodied as she sits. As she bangs, her walker friends approach. She bangs a nearby metal railing. They keep coming. They approach a chain that's holding them back. Jadis turns on a switch on a device, and we see that she's standing next to a big set of gear grinders. When she releases the chain, the dead Scavengers start to fall in. And they get ground up. Even by Walking Dead standards, this is quite a spectacular set piece.
Gears of gore, anybody? The worst part is we also see the result of this grinding: gross piles of ground meat. Jadis sees Brion approach. He gets ground up. And then it's Tamiel.
Jadis flashes back to their deaths. A tear rolls down her face. More ground meat. It's pretty awful. Jadis finally turns off the machine now that everyone is gone.
Later, Jadis is lying next to the bloody gears. She gets up and walks carefully through the dump. She finds a box of applesauce she's stored, opens a big can, and eats right from it. And that's where we leave her.
Next: "RICK." This is after the Jadis incident. Shaken, Rick explains that he shot above her head because he just wanted her gone. He's sure she made it just fine. "I didn't want her dead," he tells Michonne. "I just wanted her gone." Stating the obvious, Michonne replies, "Feels like what Carl was talking about. What we should do when we have a choice." Rick has to pull over as he's overtaken by emotion. Wow, that really blew his mind. "I need...I need a second," he tells her. Michonne, way more understanding than anyone would expect, tells him it's fine. Rick seems to have forgotten that others, including Michonne, are devastated by Carl's death, too, not just him. He grabs the walkie-talkie and Carl's little stack of notes, gets out of the truck and glances at the letters. He goes past "Dad" and opens the one for "Negan." The letter explains to Negan what happened with the bite. It guesses on some scenarios like "You might be gone....Maybe you got out...." But Carl believes Negan has to be who he is, and that working together is the way out. Rick reads all this and looks stunned. He wipes his eyes and sighs deeply. He finally pulls the walkie-talkie out and says, "Give me Negan." Someone wants to know who's asking. "It's Rick Grimes," he replies.
Negan, jolly, answers, asking if Rick wants to give him a location so they can do this face to face. "Carl's dead," Rick says. We cut to Negan, who has to sit down on that news as Rick tells him that Carl wrote letters, including one for Negan; Rick says that Carl asked them both to stop; he asked for peace. We cut back to Rick, who has already forgotten his promise to his son, and says, "But it's too late for that. Even if we wanted a deal now, it doesn't matter. I'm gonna kill you." Negan asks how it happened. Rick can't process this response, sputtering, "What?" Negan, dead serious, asks if it was his people, the grenades, or the fire that did it. Rick, angry, spits, "It wasn't you!" He tells Negan that Carl went out to help someone and got bit. Negan takes a moment. "Goddammit," he finally says. "I am sorry. I wanted him to be part of things. I had plans. That kid...that kid was the future."
Negan seems completely sincere. "The only future is one where you're dead!" Rick spits right back, and it's hilarious for the complete juxtaposition of Negan being kind and sympathetic and Rick being on his completely batshit warpath. He's lucky Michonne can't hear this. Negan, who suddenly is making lots of sense, asks why Rick is fighting and making this so hard; he says that Carl is dead because of Rick: "Because you couldn't leave shit well enough alone." Negan says that any one of them can die at any time, but in this case, it's Rick fault for not being there to stop Carl from doing something stupid. Stupid like saving a doctor who needed help? "You set this course, Rick," Negan says gravely. "Who's next?" "You are!" Rick fires back, shakily. Ha! You tell 'im Rick. Or maybe don't; this is embarrassing. Negan says he's not going to be the next to die, but somebody is. He tells Rick that he stops people from dying -- that he is the answer. Negan says it's time for Rick to hear this lesson. It's time for Rick to stop before his "shit decisions" get anyone he loves killed. Damn! He's not wrong! "That garbage? That sticks with you," Negan says, tying the episode together with a bow. He says it'll stick with Rick forever just like Carl will. Negan says he's feeling it too: "You could have just let me save all of you. That's why I killed your friends in the first place." He tells Rick that he failed -- as a leader and most of all as a father. Rick stands in a field alone as Negan says, "Just give up. Because you have already lost." We end on that wide shot of Rick staggering around, looking lost indeed.