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The Walking Dead's Midseason Finale Disrupts The Best-Laid Plans, And Also Rick's

The Grimes boys end up getting everyone into deep crap.

We're picking up right where we left off last week, at the moment when Rick looks down at the Sanctuary -- which is now to all appearances abandoned by living and undead alike -- and realizes that his latest plan has gone in the direction of all of his plans, i.e., the shitter. As he leads his new Scavenger minions around the perimeter for a closer look, he keeps flashing back to a conversation he had with Carl after their first brief encounter with Siddiq. While they mysteriously walked back from that abandoned gas station that Carl had driven himself to, Carl lectured Rick that hoping for the best for their newest and briefest acquaintance isn't enough. Rick didn't point out that helping people in this world gets you killed; he just scolded Carl for his potty-mouth and silently regretted ever letting him read The Road. Also, Carl is going to be taller than Rick unless something drastic is done soon. Not that I'm suggesting anything drastic be done soon. No, not me.

Back to this episode, rather than a deleted scene from two months ago. Rick and Jadis, with the rest of the Scavengers behind them, make their way to the gap in the Sanctuary fence through which the Allies crashed that RV. From here, they can see that a tunnel below the loading dock looks as though a bulldozer recently came out through it. And furthermore, it left a grisly path between two embankments of squashed yet still-squirming zombies. So they are no longer walkers but wigglers. "Different from picture," Jadis obviouses, and before Rick can respond with an eloquent yet verbally economical "duh," machine-gun bullets start ricocheting around them. Rick dives for cover, from which he shouts some instructions to Jadis as to how to deal with the shooter in the window above. But she's way ahead of him, in the sense that she and her Scavengers are already fleeing the scene, leaving Rick pinned down alone. Great alliance you put together there, Richard. Still, Rick barely has time to be annoyed by this before an SUV rolls up to the conveniently-timed rescue, driven by Carol with Jerry riding shotgun (though not literally, as useful as that might be right now). Don't ask me what happened to Henry, who was still following Carol around when we last saw her. Maybe Henry is a Pokémon who evolves into Jerry, which would actually be pretty awesome. Carol drives the newly ventilated SUV out of there as Rick says that they have to split up and warn the others. But even in this fraught moment, he has time to think back to Carl lecturing him about how fighting and killing is easier than finding a way forward together. "That's something more," he says, dutifully busting out AMC's slogan from a few years ago. And then he outs himself as a Third Eye Blind fan as he concludes, "That's how it's gotta be." Carl has also joined in on this season's habit of remarking on which characters are going to live and die, by grouping Rick among the latter. We've seen that same kind of meta-commentary from Michonne, Morgan, Eugene, and Dwight, and it's always jarring. I sure hope it isn't being used as cover for something. Rick seems to reflect on how quickly Carl has grown up, mostly because that means that at least it can't be long until he moves out. Then we get some film-school close-ups of Rick, and Carl, and Carol, and King Ezekiel, and Maggie, and...Negan. And the last of these is whistling, and smiling, and riding in a vehicle, all three of which are very much contrary to Rick's plan.

Aaron and Enid are off on their road trip, in one of those wall-mobiles from the Sanctuary attack, which Aaron has not bothered to de-armor. Good thing they aren't traveling on a busy freeway, because having the right-side windows blocked off like that must make it tricky to change lanes. On the other hand, having that side of the car protected by a heavy sheet of corrugated steel must also make it very easy to change lanes. Aaron is woolgathering about how he used to take these kind of road trips with Eric, and now it looks like Enid is his second replacement passenger in as many days. And although I had initially thought that Aaron was returning to the Sanctuary to make sure the plan was holding together (which we know it isn't), it turns out that he and Enid are schlepping all the way out to Oceanside to try to convince that all-female community to join them in war. With what, hand tools and kitchen utensils? Y'all took all their guns, remember? This actually still bothers Enid, and she wishes they were bringing something the Oceansiders could use for weapons. She also mentions Cyndie by name, as a reminder to the viewers that at least one member of that community was willing to join their alliance, and that her name is Cyndie. Aaron shuts down the idea of Enid offering to share her weapon, and offers to let Enid drive as a consolation prize. Then she does her second completely out-of-character thing in as many episodes: she smiles. With teeth and everything. And somehow her face doesn't break. Some time later, she turns off the main road because she wants to see if they can bring their hosts something else. Aaron agrees that it's good to observe the "social graces," as they pass a sign directing them to a distillery. That's probably supposed to be dryly amusing, but I'm not entirely comfortable with the show telling us that a young woman and a gay man during the end of the world are planning to get a bunch of chicks drunk so that they'll agree to do something. Just remember that the most important point of this scene is to remind us that Oceanside must be approached with extreme caution. Those people are nervous and angry and paranoid, and it's crucial that none of them feel startled, offended, threatened, or killed in any way. They're twitchy like that.

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At Alexandria, Michonne kisses Judith goodbye, promising to bring her dad back when she returns. Judith seems like she could take that idea or leave it, frankly. Michonne meets up with Daryl, who's in a good mood over how well his alternate plan worked, even though he apparently came straight home from there and didn't hang back to ensure its success or anything. Michonne apologizes for bailing on him back at the Sanctuary, but he's feeling magnanimous because again, "it worked." Sure, as far as he knows. It punched a hole in the side of the Sanctuary, but he obviously doesn't have any idea what happened after that.

Meanwhile, Carl has just finished writing a letter to his dad. He's sitting on the floor in the corner of his room, so I assume it reads, "When are we going to get new beds already?" Whatever the message, it's clearly making him very very sad. And speaking of notes, he looks at the one Enid left him long ago that consists entirely of her old three-word motto, "just survive somehow." This has been Carl's entire lifetime of written correspondence thus far.

Elsewhere in town, Tara finds Rosita unloading crates from the back of a pickup like she's on Law & Order, and reports that the new plan worked. Rosita is a little chilly toward Tara, as she explains that the crates and cases are mostly smoke-grenade and noisemaker-type stuff from the cache she and Michonne found last week. Wonder if any of that will come in handy in the next hour or so. Rosita makes Tara carry everything, possibly to get her back for yelling at her in the last episode. Unfortunately, it also serves as an effective symbol of how overburdened Tara is as "the funny one" now that Glenn and Abraham are both gone.

Enid and Aaron pull over for the night, her still driving the wall-mobile and him now driving a delivery truck that they must have picked up from the distillery. Later, in the darkness, Aaron is sitting watch in the driver's seat while Enid is crashed out in back. He spots a figure lurking around the truck. Both Alexandrians silently get out of the car, guns at the ready, and circle the truck in opposite directions to find out who it is. As she goes around one side, Enid hears a woman's voice saying that they shouldn't have come. As soon as Enid comes around the corner and sees someone standing over Aaron, she fires. A body drops. In the next second, she and Aaron are surrounded by spear-wielding Oceansiders who are not thrilled to see them. Oh, hi, Cyndie! Nice to see the friendliest Oceansider here among the welcoming party. Do you think she'll intervene again on behalf of the visitors? I mean, yes, one of them just killed her grandmother, but these things happen. We leave this subplot unresolved for the rest of the year, closing out with a close-up on Enid as she desperately misses all those scenes where she didn't do anything at all. And Aaron regrets failing to specifically indicate that one of the things they wanted to avoid at Oceanside is killing anyone.

Back at Alexandria, it's presumably that same night. In a spot behind some of the houses, Carl heaves a storm drain cover open, because sure, those things are light enough for a teenager to slide them around single-handed. He's got a couple of grocery bags handy nearby, so presumably he's on his way to deliver some food to Siddiq. Because sometimes you have to show your parents the way by not actually allowing your new recruit to enter the town. Also, these are suspiciously well-preserved grocery bags, considering that there probably aren't many new ones being made these days. Michonne happens upon this odd scene, and asks Carl what he's up to. He's in the middle of explaining that he's helping someone when a series of loud, metallic bangs echoes through the town, as if someone's banging on the gate with a sledgehammer. You get maximum portent that way, you see. The next sound is Negan's amplified voice coming from the other side, faux-jovial as always. After some lip service about what happened to their lookouts, Negan moves right to tonight's top story: "You lose. It's over. Now here's Chris Hardwick." No, what he actually says next is this: "You're gonna line up in front of your little houses and you're gonna work up some apologies, and then the person with the lamest one is gonna get killed. Then I kill Rick in front of everybody and we move on." He generously gives them three minutes to open the gate before they start "bombing the shit out of you." And no, that doesn't mean the helicopter is coming back, but you'll see what he means. Obviously none of what Negan is demanding is actually going to happen, not least because Rick isn't even in town right now. Carl quickly hauls two hundred pounds of solid cast-iron sewer grate back into place, snaps Michonne out of her panic-trance (did that beating she took break her nerve as well?), and leads her at a dead run away from there. Only two and a half minutes left!

Meanwhile, three lone drivers are racing in separate cars back to, presumably, the three colonies. We can assume that Rick is heading back to Alexandria, where his kids are; Jerry to the Kingdom, because he lives there and his first loyalty is to Ezekiel; and Carol to the Hilltop, because at least Maggie is her fourth-oldest surviving friend. That'll turn out to be wrong for semi-sensical writers' reasons, but for now it's moot, because Jerry's drive is abruptly interrupted by headlights at his left, and a crash. So it's probably just Rick and Carol now. And I would just like to take this opportunity to say Noooooooo, Jerry! We need another "funny one"! Tara can't do it alone!

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As Negan's mighty vengeance descends on the region, would you believe me if I told you that King Ezekiel is spending this crucial moment continuing to mope alone on the theater stage? Well, believe it. In fact, at some point he got up, changed his shirt, maybe took a remorseful dump, and came back here to get back to what he was doing. He also picked up his mail, because we can see that he's got a note from Jerry reading, "Your Majesty, I had to bounce. We said we'd do it and we can't flake. I want to be there when we win. And I want you to be there too, man." As aggressively in-character as this missive is, Jerry's wish will not come true. Partly because "we" are not about to win, but also because Ezekiel is still just too sad to move. Again. That is, until his pity party is interrupted by the sound of an explosion from without. Ezekiel suddenly manages to hop up and limp-run up the center aisle of the auditorium, but does an about-face when he hears Saviors ordering each other, "Spread out and find him!" He ducks into the wings just ahead of him. Gosh, that leg had better heal quickly if he's going to avoid immediate capture! (Don't worry, it will).

A convoy from the Hilltop is heading up the road, presumably to the Sanctuary. At the head of the column, Jesus is driving Maggie, Dianne from the Kingdom, and some bearded Hilltopper we've never seen before. I can't believe this episode is an hour and a half and yet there wasn't time for a scene where that dude was like, "Hell naw am I taking the fourth seat in a vehicle with three familiar speaking characters. Does this shirt look red to you?" And then Maggie was like, "We'll give you a line and call you Neil," and he was like, "Okay." Anyway, in the scene that is actually happening now, Jesus wonders aloud whether the Saviors will surrender as expected. Maggie figures they will, "...eventually." Because it's not like she or anyone on their side would give up that quickly. "DAMN STRAIGHT!" comes the reply from the back seat as the sacrificial Hilltopper sells his one line for all he's worth. Remember that steely resolve and refusal to back down in about a minute. Before long, they have to stop because a tree has been felled across the road. Jesus thinks it's a coincidence, because apparently his moronic optimism applies to more than just Savior rehabilitation. But Maggie is certain: "It's them," she says. And that's why she's the brains of the operation. Over a walkie-talkie, she gives another driver the order to turn around, but there are already more cars approaching them from behind, blocking the Hilltop's convoy and hemming them in. Now, remember when everyone agreed that the Hilltop would never roll over? Watch now as every single person who was en route to demand surrender at the Sanctuary just sits in their vehicles and lets the Saviors control every aspect of this situation. Nobody starts shooting; nobody jumps out of a car and disappears into the woods to embark on a hit-and-fade campaign. They're all like, "Well, this sucks, but what can you do?" That includes Jesus and Maggie, who watch through the windshield as a panel truck pulls up in front of them on the road, coming to a stop in their headlights. The rolling door in back of the truck opens up, revealing a couple of Saviors and a very large body. So Jerry is still alive, but with greatly depleted CP. One Savior rolls him down the ramp while two others lean a long, heavy crate against the hood of Maggie's truck so that it's the only thing she can see out the front. You know, I had begun to despair of the Saviors' dramatic flair since we met Negan, but this little vignette is as chilling as anything they put on while they were hemming in Rick's RV at the end of Season 6. I guess it's just that the Saviors do their best guerilla theater while actually on the road. During all this, armed Saviors are going car to car through the stopped convoy behind them. With the scene properly set, Simon hops out of the truck to call out a hearty greeting. "What a damn nice night," he remarks while perspiring freely. Hail, daemon, well met.

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At Alexandria, the amplified sound of Negan's whistling floods the town as Carl quickly gathers up Rosita's new supplies and barks orders to minor Alexandrians like Tobin, Scott, and some other guy. The plan is to make it look like everyone's escaping out the back, then cut their headlights and double back to attack any pursuers in the dark. We're not getting more details than that right now, other than the apparent indication that they're abandoning Alexandria. While Rosita agrees with Carl, Michonne and Tara would rather fight. As for Daryl, he's abstaining for the moment in favor of glowering. But Carl pulls his nonexistent rank, insisting that they're doing his plan. Which he came up with in literally less than a minute, which we know because Negan just gave his two-minute warning. Carl, Michonne, Rosita, Tara, and Daryl split up to do their thing as Negan gives them one minute. Wow, that second minute sure went by a lot faster than the first one.

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At the Kingdom, Gavin wearily climbs up onto the bed of a pickup truck with a bullhorn to address Ezekiel's assembled subjects (most of whom appear to be Nabila, the hijab-wearing Kingdommer, because everyone else we know in this town is either away, hiding, or dead). We've already seen that Gavin's heart isn't really in the sadistic side of the Savior brand, and even as he's here to smack down a rebellion that could have easily killed him, he's more like a disappointed dad than a vengeful vice-warlord. "You folks wanted to order off the menu and look at that!" he lectures. "Now you have to eat shit. God knows I didn't want to be the one serving it up." So now that everybody knows how bad he feels about it -- which is, after all, the most important thing -- he declares the Kingdom and everyone in it the property of Negan. All able-bodied workers will be transported to the Sanctuary to make repairs, and the Saviors will be moving in here. Well, I smell wacky roommate hijinks on the way!

Out on the road, Simon tells Maggie that the detained Hilltoppers will all have to hand over their guns, right now. If anyone tries anything, Jerry will be shot, and so will anyone in the cars. Everyone complies, including Jesus and Dianne. Even Maggie puts her revolver directly into Simon's hand instead of his mouth.

Alexandria's three minutes are up, and it only took fifteen minutes of show for that to happen. Outside Alexandria, a rank of armed Saviors prepare to fire over the walls as Negan, assuming that Rick can hear him on the other side of the wall, goes on about how Rick could have worked with him, but now he finally has to go. "Scorched earth, you dick!" he hollers into his microphone. Truly a moving rhetorical moment there. Just before he's about to give the order to fire, Carl calls down from the ramparts, "He's not home." Carl's just standing up there in full view, where anyone can pop him with almost no effort. How has he lasted this long without ever having learned a thing about self-preservation? Rather than ordering Carl killed on the spot, Negan mocks him, saying that Rick's going to get home to a "big old smoky surprise." Carl affects a shame-on-you voice to lecture Negan that there are kids inside, which doesn't cut much ice with their visitor given that there were also kids at the Sanctuary. Negan even wonders what happened to the baby at one of the outposts, and alludes to Carl's having to kill his own mom, not that that has anything to do with anything. "None of this shit's fair, kid," he says. "Ergo we need someone in charge who's willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that shit doesn't happen. Oh wait, that's me!" I'm not really following Negan's logic there, but I suppose any time he makes an argument that ends in "me," it's consistent with the character. Carl offers to figure it out together, which also doesn't impress Negan because Rick said he had to die no matter what. "So now we're gonna need a new understanding," Negan blusters. "Apologies, punish--" "Kill me," Carl interrupts. That brings Negan up short, and he asks if Carl wants to die. Carl says he doesn't, but "it's gonna happen" (see? More meta-commentary, and not at all a spoiler) and it'll be worth it if doing so can make things different for everyone. Carl goes on at such cheese-smothered length that I really hope it's part of whatever scam he's running on Negan. Who, by the way, is eating this up, even though I've seen less mawkishly insincere speeches on Community. "Is this who you wanted to be?" Carl asks Negan. Negan, in response, has the unmitigated balls to stand there looking sad and remorseful. Christ, Negan. You got here by being an arrogant asshole. At least own it.

Meanwhile, inside the walls, Daryl leads a small caravan of large vehicles into motion. He's at the wheel of another one of the Scavengers' garbage trucks, followed by Michonne in another trash-wagon. Rosita is behind them in that chick-magnet van with the eagle on the side, and Tara's following her in an SUV, as if to prove that the chick-magnet is working. There's probably enough transportation represented there to effect a complete evacuation of what's left of Alexandria. It's true that a lot of people would have to ride in the cargo areas of the garbage trucks, which would be gross because they were once used to transport Scavengers, but still. And yet each vehicle contains its driver and no one else. Outside the back gate, Dwight and Laura (she of the neck tattoo) are in charge of a detachment of Saviors who have presumably been tasked with preventing exactly what's about to happen. Laura frets that the cars they've parked across the street aren't going to be enough, but Dwight tells her, "Just get ready for cleanup," seconds before Daryl's truck blasts through the closed gate and the parked Savior cars alike without even getting slowed down. So here's where I have to admit I was wrong and something good came out of Rick's misbegotten alliance with the Scavengers after all: this small fleet of garbage trucks. They are not speedy or nimble, but they are unstoppable rolling fortresses. At least that's been my experience when playing Grand Theft Auto. And presumably that of the writers, too. Anyway, Dwight and Laura and their non-speaking minions report into their walkie-talkies and jump into their surviving vehicles in pursuit. Hearing the commotion, Negan looks up to see that Carl has vanished. "Was that just a play?" he bellows. "I thought we were having a moment, you little asshole!" We know, Negan, you sucker. The bad guys on this show always seem so scary and invincible until it actually comes time for the heroes to fight them, at which point they turn into idiots. It's disappointing. Negan orders, "Bombs away!" The men at the front shoot off their weapons, which must be incendiary grenade launchers because fireballs begin to blossom inside Alexandria's walls. And now we suddenly know why this scene is happening at night.

Carl falls most of the way down the ladder inside the gate, which detracts somewhat from his big moment just now. He struggles to his feet, wastes precious seconds replacing his ricockulous hat, and starts limping away, activating and dropping Rosita's smoke grenades as he goes. The Saviors' bombs have already leveled a house, so additional smoke seems unnecessary. Plus it's already dark and it's not like there's an abundance of street lights. But Carl keeps doing it, even as the church goes up in the background. And then Carl gets knocked over again when a car goes foom right next to him. Someone's having a rough couple of minutes right now.

Back at the Kingdom, Gavin is telling his captive that they will need to give up Ezekiel, "or this moves into something traumatic." Nobody says a word, even when Gavin warns them, "There's goddamn kids here, they don't need to see this shit." Gavin gives them five minutes to change their mind: "Then it's Negan's way. And that's on you, not me." Of course, based on the way time is passing right now, that should get them safely to the end of the episode. Meanwhile, we (and of course Nabila, the one familiar face in the Kingdom crowd) see a figure sneaking out of the theater in the background. I must say the Kingdom's loyalty to Ezekiel is touching, after he got any number of their family members killed and has been avoiding everybody ever since without saying a word to anyone. Wait, did I say "touching"?

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Out on the road, Maggie asks Simon how he and the other Saviors escaped the Sanctuary. He's not sharing that information, because that gives the writers a couple more months to come up with something. Hell, it'll probably fill up a whole episode in the spring. As for what's happening to the other communities right now, Simon cheerfully informs her that Alexandria and the Kingdom are having "[their] innards splayed out for the world to see." But the Hilltop will get to continue enjoying its status as "the breadbasket of our nascent civilization." He adds that Gregory let him down, so he hopes Maggie will be the one to make things right. There is literally no reason for Simon to let Maggie live right now, given that it was established that she was the driving force in Hilltop's rebellion even before Negan ordered her killed along with Rick and Ezekiel, but it looks like she will be allowed to keep clawing her way toward the top of the opening credits. Simon draws their attention to the music now being heard in the distance, and proudly tells them how Eugene is leading the herd away after solving their problems with what he euphemistically calls "the cold and impolite." And now, after killing a sufficient amount of time, Simon gives Maggie her choice. Option #1: they "kill this likable gent on his knees over there, drag [her] out of this car, and put [her] in this box," meaning the one that's currently blocking her view out the windshield. Which, unlike Sasha's last mode of transportation, at least has air holes. That means Maggie will survive long enough for the Saviors to kill her in front of everyone at the Hilltop, then put her on a spike outside the Sanctuary, and then Simon will lead the walker herd to the Hilltop. "Pain in the ass for everyone concerned," he says theatrically. Maggie's other option is to turn around and get back to watering the sorghum, which I have to admit sounds like a better option all around. Maggie doesn't disagree, so Simon calls out to the man threatening Jerry to stand down. The only downside? "We're gonna have to kill one of your people," Simon says mock-ruefully. "But then we're aces!" Then he blows "Damn straight" guy's brains out, as we all knew was going to happen the minute we clapped eyes on him. Everyone else in the car pretends to be shocked and horrified, as though there were any other possible outcome. That done, Simon starts in to yelling at Maggie to make sure she's properly traumatized until she gives in, just like everyone agreed she wouldn't. She just wants one favor from Simon. "I'd like that box," she says, indicating the coffin-like crate currently leaning against her hood. "Take Neil home, to bury him in." Sure, that's what she wants it for. In the movies, the defeated hero always asks the bad guy for some seemingly insignificant boon at the last minute, and the villain always grants it, unaware that it will be unexpectedly turned against him somehow in the final act. Thus Simon agrees to let Maggie have the crate, because I guess he doesn't get out to many movies lately.

A clock radio changes silently from 11:59 PM to midnight. Someone turns on the light next to it. Looks like Eugene (who is in his room at the Sanctuary, not zombie-herding like Simon claimed) still can't sleep, so maybe he needs to finish that second half of Tanya's wine bottle. He sits up to get going on exactly that, looking miserable as he fills and drains a shot glass, and turns the lantern back off. Then he turns it back on and scrunches his face up at the ceiling as though he is struggling to excise either his tortured conscience or a big steaming load.

Dazed and wounded, Carl gets up to see his fellow Alexandrians, armed and led by Tobin, running through the town tossing smoke grenades everywhere. He gives a smile to let us know this is part of his plan, replaces his hat, and makes it to a house before hearing one of its windows shatter. As if perhaps a grenade just got launched through the window. Knowing what comes next, he dives off the porch just before the place gets blown to hell, along with the house next door. Then he limps on through what has become a smoky hellscape. In the background, the fire through the church window looks like a flaming headless angel, which is probably supposed to be symbolic of something, but all I can think of is that this means it won't be able to get back up again when it dies.

Gene Page / AMC

Daryl, Tara, Rosita, and Michonne have stopped their vehicles in the road, and are using more smoke grenades to obscure them from the approaching pursuers. They've taken up positions among the trees by the side of the road to lie in ambush for the Saviors to catch up to them. Tara, sounding as if she's trying to convince herself, says that the truck stunt isn't what allowed the Saviors to escape. Rosita says even if it was, it was just a mistake, and she made one herself by going to the Sanctuary to try to kill Negan. She says that, if she hadn't, maybe Sasha would still be alive. Or maybe Sasha would have gone. Maybe everything would have happened exactly the same way: "I didn't want you guys to do it but maybe you needed to. Maybe you needed to play things out to figure things out." Michonne hisses, "Where the hell are they?" Which is her slightly more polite way of saying, "Shut the fuck up, Rosita." Ah, here comes the sound of approaching vehicles. Not a moment too soon, either. This isn't the time or place for introspective character work.

Dwight's at the wheel of the lead car; Laura, in the shotgun seat, tells him to stop when she sees the wall of smoke up ahead. Dwight keeps driving, saying he wants to take a closer look, when of course he really just wants to lead the Saviors right into the ambush. Don't ask me how he's been able to coordinate this impending Savior defeat without communicating with his secret allies, or, indeed, why he's even still on Alexandria's side after they dropped a Zimbabwe of zombies on his head last week. Whatever the case, when the Saviors stop at the roadblock, the four Alexandrians open fire on them. Sure enough, the Saviors obligingly jump out of their cars and return fire from behind them -- all except Dwight, who just jumps out of his car. He peeks over the hood to do a quick headcount of which Alexandrians are doing the shooting, then turns his gun on his fellow Saviors, efficiently taking all of them down from behind the lines. Well, all except Laura, who comes around the car and wings him in the left shoulder before he can kill her, too. It hasn't taken her long to figure out why he didn't want to block the back gate with the trucks, and why he led them all straight into the ambush, and that he, in fact, has been the traitor all along. "Tell them to stop!" Laura orders. Dwight says it doesn't work like that (because the people shooting at them hate him even more than they hate her, he doesn't say), and she ducks away from the gunfire before Dwight can grab a dropped weapon to use on her. Though it's not for lack of trying on his part.

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Back at Alexandria, the Saviors crash a semi-tractor right through the front gate. Negan hops out, remarking that they could have used the solar panels that, presumably, he just destroyed. He figures that even if everyone else got away, Carl must still be around: "Find him, tie him up, don't kill him." There he goes again, wanting people alive. It just causes so much trouble for him. Negan should just tell his people every time, "Kill everyone, then kill each other, then come back and kill me." His life would be so much easier that way. At least Negan's plans for the rest of Alexandria aren't so merciful: "Blow up every other house. I'm going to go to Rick's, make a little spaghetti. When he shows up, send him my way." Or just kill him on sight, maybe. No? Fine. The Saviors move in and get to work, while Negan strolls toward Rick's street, jauntily swinging Lucille as he goes.

Elsewhere in the town, it's not long before a couple of the Saviors spot Carl and order him to give up. Instead of doing that, he sets off a smoke grenade and vanishes. The Saviors advance on his former position, without any clue that he's already down under the sewer grate that he moved before, and moved back into place over himself. Those things are getting lighter and quieter all the time.

In the dead of night at the Sanctuary, Eugene has his handy-dandy headlamp on as he makes his way to the infirmary, where he silently rouses both Dr. Carson and Gabriel with short puffs from a handheld fan. As per usual, however, he's here to deliver his message in much longer blasts of wind. The gust is that Eugene will help carry out Gabriel's wishes, though he will not carry out Gabriel himself. He tells the confused Carson that "Gabriel believes he's on a mission from God to return you to Hilltop to tend to the birthing of Maggie and Glenn's child." Carson says that Gabriel can't go anywhere in his condition, which Eugene says is between the two of them, but it may interest them to know that the guard at the north gate is off the board. "His coffee was compromised," Eugene explains. "In fact, unless he was fleet of foot, he may be catastrophically crapping his khakis right now." Gabriel asks Eugene why he's helping them, and Eugene, acting all cool for once, just says he's planning on sleeping tonight. "You two, not so much," he fails to add. Gabriel invites Eugene to come with them, and says that their friends will take Eugene back, but Eugene merely replies, "I shan't be doing that." It's not clear whether that means he'll start working against Negan in secret, or that he plans to keep helping Negan in earnest, in which case Maggie will be dead in a matter of days anyway. Whatever the case, Eugene now "accidentally" drops a set of car keys. Gabriel tells him he's doing the right thing. "As previously debated," Eugene says, "that assessment is relative." Gabriel disagrees, but Eugene is done talking. At last.

Ezekiel -- suddenly nimble despite having been hobbled by a .50-caliber round a few episodes ago -- sets a collection of fuel barrels to burn in some neglected corner of the Kingdom. Gavin sends a bunch of his men to go check out this obvious diversion, and while Gavin is left relatively unguarded, Ezekiel crashes onto the scene at the wheel of a school bus. Nabila throat-punches a Savior and takes his gun while the other Kingdommers flee in the commotion. Ezekiel brings up the rear, still carrying Shiva's chain in one hand. Gavin just barely stops one of his men from shooting the King, saying that they need him alive. Once again, how very inconvenient that's likely to turn out to be. Carol shows up outside the walls while everyone's running around, and the first person she meets is Nabila. Because Nabila has a gun -- and, more importantly, a speaking role -- Carol charges her with getting everyone to the relative safety of her house two miles outside town. Then she runs toward the open gate just in time to see Ezekiel getting ready to shut himself inside with the Saviors. "Your Majesty," she pants, trying to stop him. "Save them," he says. "Like you saved me." So that they'll get captured later the same day and soon be horribly killed? That doesn't seem like such good saving. With that, the big old martyr chains and padlocks the gate from inside, then turns to face the oncoming Gavin and his Saviors. He regards them calmly right up to the moment one of them drops him with five across the chops. And yet he does not smile.

Maggie and her convoy return to the Hilltop. Full of deadly purpose, she gets out and marches right to the stockade where the captured Saviors are being held. Gregory tries to make an appeal to her, but Maggie -- even less in the mood for him than usual -- coldly tells him to shut up, and points out one of the prisoners. Not coincidentally, it's the same guy who tried to kill Tara and Jesus back at the satellite outpost in "The Damned." Maggie orders him removed from gen pop and brought out to her, and then asks one of the guards for his gun. "This one tried to kill you," she reminds Jesus and the viewers. Among the Saviors, Alden steps forward and tells Maggie she doesn't want to do this. Jesus's would-be killer doesn't appreciate Alden's intervention: "If Cupcake wants to put on a show," he snaps, "let her put on a show." So "Cupcake" immediately shoots him in the face. Good show, but a little short. Will there be an encore? Maggie actually does offer one to Alden without lowering the gun, asking, "You wanna be next?" He politely declines. Maggie tells the rest of them that the Saviors killed one of them on the road tonight: "We aren't even yet, but that was a start." Actually, the one Maggie killed has had a lot more lines, but nobody seems to be in the mood to point that out. So Maggie orders Jesus to increase the guards, fortify the walls, and bury Neil. "First light, everybody else starts tending crops." And what are you going to do, take a nap? Jesus says he thought they didn't give up. Uh, yeah, Jesus, were you not there when you all rolled over for the Saviors ten minutes ago? Maggie points out that, according to Simon, the other communities are under attack. "Which means there's no more supplies going in, but there might be people. We have to be ready. Gonna be up to Hilltop to make the last stand." As Maggie walks away, her face crumples. Most likely she's thinking about how very screwed they all are, and about how one of her people was murdered right behind her, and that she just murdered a fellow human being in cold blood, and about what kind of world she's going to bring her child into. But mostly about how very screwed they all are.

"It's over!" Dwight calls from where he's still squatting down behind his car. "Now here's Chris Hardwick!" Not really. With shooting called off, the Alexandrians come out and circle him, guns leveled at him. Before they can do anything irrevocable, Dwight points out that he made sure they could get through the roadblock, and drove his fellows right up to the ambush. Daryl lowers his gun, and although Tara doesn't, it's obvious that she's all talk where Dwight-icide is concerned. Dwight adds that Laura got away and is going to tell everyone about his betrayal, so his days as a Savior are over either way. Daryl becomes the second person tonight to ask how they got out of the Sanctuary, clearly bothered by the possibility that it might have been his fault. Unlike Simon, Dwight provides an explanation: "Eugene," he says. Okay, well, thanks for clearing that up. He offers to continue helping the good guys, saying that they can still use his inside info on how the Saviors work and how Negan thinks. As if that isn't all common knowledge by now. Dwight's closing argument is this: "I want you to win. I want Negan to die. And we can settle up after." Tara's the only one who hasn't lowered her gun by now, but Daryl puts an end to the negotiations by reclaiming his vest. This he does by roughly yanking it off of Dwight's back, heedless of the bullet wound in his arm. "We need to get back, now," says Michonne. Rosita is left staring down at Dwight, and thus is the one left to help him to his feet. Look who's turning into an old softy, everyone.

At Hilltop, the dead Savior is loaded into the box Maggie requested from Simon. After two of her guys place the lid on it, Maggie squats down to write something on the top in marker: "WE HAVE 38 MORE. STAND DOWN." Because of course the Saviors are so powerfully motivated by respect for one another's lives. And what does "stand down" even mean in this context? I'm not convinced Maggie's thinking this through. "Leave it where they'll find it," she orders her men. She's just not in the mood to give specific instructions to anyone right now, is she?

At the Kingdom, Gavin is giving Ezekiel a verbal beating to go along with the physical one. He says he felt bad about Benjamin too: "Now a lot more people have to die. Sometimes you just have to swallow it. I do. Jesus, I thought you knew that too." Awww, poor Gavin. He says that he liked Ezekiel, but now his people are going to see him dead on the Sanctuary fence. What neither of them knows is that Morgan is lurking on the other side of the wall, listening. Try to look surprised that, of all the snipers formerly posted around the Sanctuary, he's the only one who survived. I guess if you say "I don't die" on this show, it becomes true. I don't know why more people don't say it.

Outside Alexandria's walls, Daryl hauls open a manhole cover and drops a big rock down there to a nearly immediate splash. Of course the sound was added in post, so Norman Reedus is left listening for it for several seconds after we heard it. He lowers himself down, followed by Tara and Rosita. Michonne is distracted by the sight of a walker wandering in toward the busted-open back gate -- the first of many, it looks like. Dwight turns to her and says he's sorry, then follows the others down. But Michonne stays on the surface, because she's got some business to take care of. Or something.

Well, look who's returned to the neighborhood! It's Rick, who's been absent for quite some time. What, was he driving back in a Flintstones car? He stalks the Savior-free areas of Alexandria with his rifle leveled, and makes his way home. Once inside, in the dark, he whisper-shouts the names of Carl, Judith, and Michonne, carefully moving forward into the house. And then Lucille cold-cocks him from around a corner. "This shit isn't funny anymore," Negan says, clobbering Rick in his gun arm while he's down, and preventing him from drawing his service revolver. Actually, I think it's pretty hilarious to see a guy who carries a knife, a hatchet, and two guns getting beat down by somebody with a wooden stick. Rick tries to dodge the blows as Negan describes how he's going to cut Rick into pieces and feed them to the zombies while Rick watches, then kill him when he's just a stump with a head. For once, Rick speaks for all of us when he asks Negan, "You ever shut the hell up?" "Nope," Negan chirps, nearly landing another blow. While he stalks Rick around the dining room table, he informs him that Carl volunteered to die: "What kind of boy you raise, Rick? I'm gonna fix him, 'cause I like him. A few years, he's gonna be one of my top guys." Someone should tell Negan how threatening to usurp Rick's fatherly role worked out for Shane. Sure enough, this taunt gets Rick fighting again, but only for a second before Negan throws him through some shelves. Still not shutting the hell up, Negan vows that nobody is ever going to try what Rick did again, not aware that Rick has gotten his hands on some kind of metal curio, which he now uses to bash Negan in the mush. Negan goes down like a sack of potatoes, and Rick snatches up Lucille to turn her on Negan. Except all he does with the bat is sort of poke Negan -- with the wrong end, no less. It's the kind of blow that might conceivably have done some damage to Judith. Negan's not as bothered by it as by the desecration of his totem. "Don't you touch her!" he screams, then kicks Rick hard enough to make him drop the bat again. God, Rick sucks at this. Negan faces him down, and Rick spots his service revolver on the floor where it got dropped. He dives for it and manages to get a wild shot off, but not before Negan tackles him right through the window. Instead of chasing after him, Negan just says "Shit" as he stands in Rick's dining room and watches Rick disappear into the trees out back. Anyone else who might have hoped this would be a decisive confrontation (it me) agrees with Negan.

Michonne is walking the streets scalping walkers with her katana, while a wounded Rick continues fleeing. Suddenly a Savior grabs Michonne from behind. He mockingly tells her that everyone is dead, she missed it, and it's her fault. Seriously, do all these people read some kind of Bizarro Dale Carnegie as part of their orientation? Michonne deals with him the way all trolls should be dealt with: she runs him up against the corner of a porch, gets her arms free, and skewers him through the eye socket. And then she gets to work hacking his body to pieces on the ground, because it's not like there's anything else to do with people missing and houses burning and whatnot -- plus, she seems to have finished healing since her fight with that other Savior earlier today. Fortunately for everyone, the much more calm and steady Rick, fresh from his beating, finds Michonne like this and calms her down, as if she wouldn't have given him that long-overdue hand amputation in the state she's in. Rick has a question for her: "Where are they?"

Cut to the sewer tunnels, where the entire population of Alexandria squats in the sludge. I know the main cast has been through some shit before this, but this has to be a serious step down for the people who have been living in Alexandria since the beginning. At least they should be safe here -- at least until the Saviors discover a storm drain in the exact spot where Carl vanished before their eyes. Which they really should have done at the time, but this show generally isn't really about what should happen, is it?

Gene Page / AMC

Are you ready for more arty individual close-ups to close out this half-season? I don't know why this is a thing now, unless The Walking Dead is planning to bring back old-school opening credits that feature the cast's faces in them and these are dry runs. Maggie stares blankly into shadow; then Jesus looks Christ-like up into the light. A little on the nose there.

Rick makes his way past Tara, and they exchange a look. Tara appears abashed that she departed from Rick's plan, as though it turned out to be such a work of genius.

Carol and Ezekiel both look resolved and very, very close to the camera, if not each other. And yet, Ezekiel -- oh, screw it, you know the rest.

Morgan, wherever he is, draws back into the shadows, presumably biding his time, though it's getting harder and harder to know what's happening in that increasingly fault-lined mind of his.

Rick spots Dwight among the survivors, and makes his way on past without a greeting.

In the sanctuary, Eugene is still not sleeping, and neither is Gabriel.

Rick goes on past Daryl, who doesn't even look up at him, so I guess they're still fighting. Finally, Rick gets to the last man at the end of the tunnel: Siddiq. I'm sure Rick recognizes him, because he never forgets a face that he sent a warning shot over. From behind Rick, Carl pipes up, "I brought him here." Yes, I'm sure Siddiq is thanking his lucky stars that he's no longer sleeping under them and is instead surrounded by strangers who are hiding in shit. Rick nods his approval rather than subjecting us all to another one of Carl's lectures. Not that Carl seems like he's up to it anyway; in addition to whatever other injuries he sustained during the course of his fraught evening, he seems sweaty and feverish, which generally indicates only one thing on this show. As Rick crouches down at his side, Carl says, "That's how it happened." With that, he raises his shirt and peels down a bandage to reveal a grody bite mark on his torso. Michonne drops to her knees, looking more devastated at this development than Rick does. Rick seems to know that he should be upset, but can't quite pull it off. Probably because this solves more of his problems than he cares to admit.

So that's where we leave things for 2017, and it's somehow fitting. Carl survived zombies, the Governor, more zombies, Terminus, dozens of zombies, Claimers, getting shot twice, Wolves, hundreds of zombies, and Saviors, only to be felled during a scrap with a group of walkers small enough to fit into a minivan. And I know it's supposed to be sad and all -- not to mention the fact that Carl has been both a big part of the reason Rick challenged Negan and leverage for Negan to use against Rick, and now all that's off the table. On the other hand, Carl has been just about my least favorite character since this thing started, and I had resigned myself to being stuck with him for the duration, simply because of his importance to Rick. And this explains a lot of what happened in the Carl scenes this week, not least of all his big hero sequence. So I really can't be too upset. And even if I were, the glacial pace of this season so far means Carl could well survive into the Season 8 finale and bravely sacrifice what's left of his life, but for real this time. Yeah, none of this is probably what the show was going for, is it?

Okay, then. My friend and your regular Walking Dead correspondent Omar will be back to cover the second half of the season, as is meet and proper. There are a couple more of my recaps in the hopper yet to be posted, but I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to the Indiegogo campaign to bring old-school recaps -- and my old-school recapping skills -- back from the dead. That especially goes out to the generous soul who invested in the Name The Show perk and got The Walking Dead on the roster. And thanks of course to Tara and Sarah and Dave for letting me be a part of it.

So let's wrap this up with the episode's final shot. The camera slowly pulls back from the tragic trio, further and further away into the dark tunnel. It creates an effect in which our heroes are inside a shrinking circle of light in an otherwise black screen. So what else is there to say but, th-th-that's all, folks!

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