The Walking Dead Recap: Jesus saves, Negan rejoices, Walkers evolve

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— Courtesy of AMC

Evolution, the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, premiered last night on AMC. We said goodbye to one character. Another character said goodbye to their home. And Walkers finally returned as scary and worthy adversaries.

The Walking Dead hits its stride when it stays close to an hour runtime, with commercials. AMC Original Dramas have been trending towards running 10 to 15 minutes past their hour. It’s okay for something like Better Call Saul, where almost every scene ends up being paid off in the same episode or the next. Sometimes The Walking Dead will over-explain things in well meaning scenes that you forget almost immediately after watching them.

Evolution is a pivotal episode that should lead The Walking Dead onto solid storytelling ground for many episodes to come.

What Did Michonne Do?

When Michonne (Danai Gurira) arrived with the Newbies at Hilltop, things got tense and awkward.

The Hilltoppers knew riders were coming. Tara (Alanna Masterson), the defacto leader, was first to ask for an assessment of how many and how ready they were to fight.

Things are frenzied, but the Hilltoppers have drilled and lived through these situations. There’s nothing that can surprise them. But then, they identify the group as being led by Michonne. There’s a pall over both sides. It’s so awkward that everyone is paralyzed.

The Alexandrians have to surrender their weapons to enter Hilltop, which everyone does without question. Except for Magna (Nadia Hilker) who complains that “we just got these back.”

Luke (Dan Folger) doesn’t understand why the newbies would be considered enemies by anyone. He quips that they’re a good looking bunch of folks. Yeah. Have I mentioned I don’t trust this guy at all? I have? Good. Because I don’t trust this guy. At all.

When things get somewhat settled, Michonne and Carol (Melissa McBride) have a quick chat. Carol is all smiles, but she seems hesitant to talk to Michonne. It’s partially due to the fact that Carol wants to organize a fair between The Kingdom, Hilltop, and Alexandria. But, Michonne refuses.

A mixer of that size amongst people who almost all know each other could lead to something bigger. Something like a harmonious, sovereign country in the midst of the apocalypse.

But, Michonne reminds Carol that the large space between the communities is full of inherent danger.

What happened during the time jump? Based on the fear of the Newbies, Michonne’s security protocols, and those mysterious X’s that are carved on her and Darryl’s backs, I’m guessing that the outside world is becoming more ravenous. There are groups of people who want to survive and there are groups that want to thrive. It feels like there’s a third, far bigger, group of people who prefer the hunter gatherer lifestyle, with a heavy emphasis on the hunting part.

Oh, the Humanity

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Two things from this episode echo humanity’s descent:

One occurs when Henry (Matt Lintz) hangs out with some Hilltopper kids. Their idea of fun is trapping a Walker in a pit so that they can throw darts and play horseshoe with it while it bounced around gagging like a demon.

Henry is an idealist from the old world. He considers using a Walker for fun to be inhumane. When he jumps in the Walker pit to put it out of its misery, the kids get mad and leave him. Henry can’t get out because he also took his first swigs of moonshine. Will Henry die in some tragic event? Nope. In the next scene, we see that Henry got out and was promptly put in a drunk tank. His sentence is two days in the tank: punitive punishment for disorderly conduct.

Those kids told Henry point blank that they’ve lived in Hilltop more than half of their lives. So, these kids really don’t have any memories of the old world. All they know is a world where people die, come back to life, and have to be killed again. But it’s okay because Walkers aren’t people anymore.

That’s a path that can lead to some truly dark places.

The other moment comes in a brief exchange between Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Jesus (Tom Payne). They longingly remembers the old days where Aaron would go out scavenging for good people to include in their community. But they both admit that they were both naive to admit that they could find good people.

Sure. The Saviors still hang over everyone’s head, but, again, there’s this strong nod to some major stuff going down during the time jump. It’s altered everyone’s world view forever.