Skip to main content

The Walking Dead Redemption Club season 7, episode 15: Something They Need

The Walking Dead Redemption Club season 7, episode 15: Something They Need

/

We might be settling in with Negan for a long time

Share this story

Photo by Gene Page / AMC

Last year, AMC’s The Walking Dead sparked an outrage. The gory season 7 premiere threw away beloved characters in the name of archvillain Negan, and audiences followed suit: by the time the midseason finale rolled around, ratings had dropped 40 percent.

Now the show has returned for the second half of the season. It’s an opportunity to chart a new course, to correct the mistakes it’s made, and convince viewers that the story of Rick Grimes is still worth following. The only question is whether the series can pull it off.

Welcome to The Walking Dead Redemption Club.

Nick Statt: As we predicted last week, the penultimate episode of season 7 brings the Alexandria crew to Oceanside, which is stock full of the firearms Rick needs to convict Jadis’ group to join the fight. It’s the last community left that The Walking Dead hasn’t revisited, so it makes sense to see it as the final puzzle piece to this painfully obvious finale build-up. It’s also another great opportunity for The Walking Dead to do more of what it does best — stalling.

We harp on this point a lot, but I feel like it can’t be said enough. So much of the show’s 16-episode seasons feel like filler because there’s simply not enough the show can say and its characters can do that is worthy of this much meandering screen time. A comment I saw online in response to “Something They Need” compared it to a term paper a slacking student has doctored with a big font and double space formatting to help it hit the required page limit. I feel like that’s what we’ve been watching for weeks now: a show twice as long as it should be with script choices that serve the show’s bloated structure instead of its core story.

Bryan Bishop: I’d feel much worse about us sounding like a broken record on this point if I didn’t feel that nearly every single Walking Dead fan out there was feeling the exact same way. But after all that’s happened this season, I went into last night’s episode looking for one thing: what kind of season-ender would the episode set up? Showrunner Scott Gimple has been moving his chess pieces slowly and inexorably toward some kind of conclusion, but what’s the finale going to look like?

The past few seasons have given us climaxes that weren’t definitive — episodes that didn’t actually cap things off with any kind of thematic or narrative resolution (even a sad, bloody one). Instead they’ve been blunt-force teasers for the next season. Negan sat our heroes down in a semi-circle at the end of the sixth season, for example, and while we knew somebody died we didn’t know who. Instead, Gimple and his collaborators made audiences wait, without offering any kind of payoff for the hours of television they’d watched.

Given that whatever happened in “Something They Need” would basically determine what building blocks the season finale would be able to used, I went into the episode looking at it like a canary in a coal mine. An early warning system that could help answer one simple question: has The Walking Dead learned any lessons this season or not?

Photo by Gene Page / AMC

NEGAN’S FAMILY VALUES

Bryan: The episode starts juggling right from the start. There’s an ocean liner full of zombies spilling out onto a beach! There’s Enid, telling Rick about the guns that Oceanside has! There’s Maggie, finding zen through gardening! But the episode first gets its groove back when it reveals Sasha — who, you may remember, ran into Saviors HQ on a suicide mission last week — isn’t dead after all.

Instead, she gets subjected to some stomach-turning treatment by David, a creepy member of Negan’s gang who thinks it’s a pretty swell idea to rape a prisoner. In what seems to be the first whiff of nuance we’ve ever seen from Negan, however, he finds this idea unacceptable — and then slams an insanely large knife through David’s throat.

It’s hard not to hate Negan’s character

It’s the kind of moment that (I think) is supposed to make us think Negan isn’t all bad all the time, but then he goes on about how impressed he is by Sasha because of the “beachball-sized lady nuts” she showed by storming in on her suicide mission. Then he says some things about wanting Sasha to work for him, but I can’t recall the exact wording because I couldn’t stop screaming “I hate this character so much why am I still watching this show” in my head. Ultimately, he gives Sasha a choice: she can kill herself, let zombie David kill her, or take out the zombie and try life the Negan way.

She ends up deciding to take out the zombie, and Negan reveals he doesn’t just want to keep her alive because of her bravery. He actually wants to use her to make sure Rick doesn’t take out the Saviors. And even with all that, he’s not yet ready to trust her — and so back in prison she goes.

Photo by Gene Page / AMC

GREGORY, THE COWARDLY ASSASSIN

Bryan: Pathetic dudes that can’t stop demonstrating their utter cowardice was a micro-theme in last night’s episode, giving us David, the cowardice of Eugene — and then Hilltop leader Gregory. He’s been feeling pressure from both the Saviors and his own people in recent episodes, and last night Gregory decided it was time to take out who he sees as his biggest threat: Maggie. Traipsing down to visit her while she digs up a blueberry bush, Gregory starts up some small talk about working together, and then we see he’s got a knife in his hand.

Gregory’s not too quick to take action, however, and we soon understand why. A walker busts out into the clearing before he can make his move, and Gregory steps forward to take care of the threat before Maggie can. It feels like he’s doing two things: psyching himself up for killing an actual living person, but also trying to prove that he’s as tough as Maggie. He’s not, of course; he fumbles around and she has to run up and save him before he gets eaten alive. Gregory even gags at the sight of the blood, and as some members of Hilltop pass by she explains that it was Gregory’s first time killing a walker.

Pathetic dude demonstrating cowardice was a micro-theme of last night’s episode

That’s not what Gregory told them, they respond, and what started as a murder attempt becomes an exercise in complete and utter emasculation. It’s apparently enough to push Gregory over the edge. Later in the episode he pulls out a map and asks to be driven somewhere, which can only mean he’s headed to the Saviors to take Simon up on his offer to help him out should there be any unrest at Hilltop. I’m sure everything with that will end just fine.

Photo by Gene Page / AMC

THE OCEANSIDE INVASION

Nick: The main cast of The Walking Dead has spent so much of the last two seasons struggling through the slow burn of meeting Negan, and now meticulously planning to fight him, that it’s easy to forget they’re all supposed to be hardened survivors and experienced warriors. So when it’s time for Tara and Rick to coordinate on how to obtain Oceanside’s firearms, it’s a nice change of pace to see the group make a true power move and take the community by force. By setting explosions using the dynamite scavenged earlier in the season and locking down the armory, Rick and crew put all of Oceanside at gunpoint in a matter of minutes.

There’s no violence involved, save Oceanside’s leader getting a blow to the head from one of her own when she tries to shut down the negotiations. But the scene makes it clear that Alexandria knows exactly how to switch gears when necessary and use the kind of threat tactics you’d expect the group to be capable of by now, especially if they’re to take on the Saviors. It’s also quite obvious that Oceanside’s more seasoned fighters would very much like to participate in the rebellion, so the explosive display could end up earning them a few extra bodies to count on.

Photo by Gene Page / AMC

SASHA CHOOSES SELF-PRESERVATION

Nick: It’s not clear what Sasha really expected when she decided to lock Rosita out of the Saviors’ compound and go in guns blazing. So naturally she ends up weighing some pretty grave options in her jail cell, which all basically boil down (again) to taking Negan’s offer or taking her own life. Sasha decides to give the latter a try by asking Eugene for help, on the off chance he gives her a knife that she could use against Negan. Unfortunately, he just gives her the pill he made earlier in the season, while giving a little monologue of sorts about his spineless capitulation to the Saviors. It’s nice to see Eugene owning up to his weak moral character here, though I can imagine this is all some ploy to redeem him later on when a crucial opportunity to betray Negan arises.

Regarding Sasha’s fate, the writing has been on the wall for quite a while. Not only is Sonequa Martin-Green starring in the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery TV series — I doubt she’ll be doing two shows at the same time — but her character’s arc has pretty much meandered between shallow extremes for the last few seasons. When she wasn’t wandering the wasteland with a sniper rifle and a death wish, Sasha pretty much existed only to support other characters’ journeys, be it Rosita’s revenge plot or Maggie’s battle against grief. So when considering which characters will be written off for good in next week’s finale, Sasha is pretty high on the list.

Photo by Gene Page / AMC

DWIGHT DEFECTS

Bryan: Remember when that shadowy figure showed up at the end of last week’s episode? I thought it was Daryl at the time, but surprise, kids! It was Dwight.

When Rick and the gang get back from Oceanside, Rosita is there, and she’s brought Dwight back with her. He’s in the jail cell at Alexandria, and Daryl goes ballistic almost instantly. Rick holds him back, however, and learns that Dwight apparently came to help. “Okay,” Rick says, pulling out his revolver. “Get on your knees.”

Now look, I’ve been waiting for the Dwight shoe to drop for weeks now, and Rick and friends have every right to be furious. But when he shows up in what is literally the final episode before the season finale, am I really supposed to not see where things are going? Am I supposed to think Rick is going to just shoot him in the head, and Dwight’s defection will have nothing to do with the battle to come (even if it’s to turn traitor on Rick)? Now that I write it out, it would be amazing if Rick shoots Dwight in the opening moments of the finale, only to realize at the end of the episode that Dwight could have helped him with some vital bit of info and then his entire team is captured again… but I suspect even The Walking Dead doesn’t want to be that fatalistic.

Photo by Gene Page / AMC

ROAD TO REDEMPTION

Bryan: As a standalone episode of TV, I found last night’s show to be very well done. The Oceanside sequence was satisfying — particularly when the group united against the ocean liner zombie threat — and it was great to see Sasha alive, even if this does end up being her swan song episode.

But I said I was going to evaluate last night’s episode as a setup for what’s to come… and I’ve got to say, I don’t feel good about what we’re going to see next week. The pieces are all in place, but they’re all rather generic and bland: Rick and friends hate Negan, and Negan wants to stop Rick. And there are pawns (like Sasha) that will likely die, but it doesn’t feel as if the season is building to a massive crescendo as much as it’s just been slowly, awkwardly gathering its limbs beneath so it can pitch forward into the end of the season, like a weird, zombie TV version of QWOP.

I know I brought up Game of Thrones last week, and perhaps that is an unfair comparison, but just think about the epic, tragic stakes that faced nearly all of the lead characters in that show last season. Thrones has its fair share of problems, but it knows how to decisively end a season, and I cannot help but fear that next week we’ll just have another pseudo-ending, that’s really just there to tease the following season, and after all the angst and posturing both Negan and Rick will live to fight another day without much consequence.

Nick: The worst part, in my mind, is that most viewers will be comparing next week’s finale with last season’s, which was forever tainted by terrible creative choices and an insulting cliffhanger ending. I’m sure so long as The Walking Dead avoids some of those critical mistakes, it will pull off a season ender that most fans can live with, although I’m with you, Bryan, on not expecting too much. It’s not so much that the cards have been on the table for pretty much the entire half of the season now, but more so that we already pretty much know how the game is going to go.

Negan probably won’t die next week

We know with some degree of certainty, without needing any comic book context, that Negan is not going to die on next week’s episode. The Walking Dead has invested too much in the story line to get just a season and a half out of the Saviors, especially not when it’s done this much building up and foreshadowing to convince the audience that Rick’s plan will undeniably hit some snags. “People are going to die... good people” we’ve been told about 10,000 times in the last eight hours of television.

Even still, there is almost nothing I can conceive of happening that could have a substantial impact. Because while the Walking Dead is bold enough to make viewers wait six months to see who Negan killed, it’s not bold enough to kill off a character that is either essential to the plot or much loved by fans. When the stakes are so low, it’s simply hard to care that much anymore.