If there were ever a television show so widely renowned for its inconsistencies its The Walking Dead and for the first time ever, I’m getting sick and tired of it. Season seven just may be the season that drives me to rage-quit the show, like many other viewers that have come before me. In today’s episode ‘New Best Friends’, the power of allegiance is at the forefront of the action – basically an hour long visual demonstration of the old adage ‘there’s strength in numbers’.
The episode opens on the outskirts of The Hilltop, where King Ezekiel and his men meet with the Saviors for their drop of supplies. Violence escalates between each group as Richard questions Ezekiel’s authority and Morgan is stripped of his weapon – a hugely sentimental staff that is genuinely sad to see him lose. However, it’s a classic Walking Dead move: end last week’s episode on the high note of Rick smiling in the face of an ambush, and then take almost half the episode to take us back to that moment. I truly believe that they think time and distance are the only two elements that can be used in television to create tension. After the shaky opening, Savior-hating Richard tries to recruit Daryl for his anti-Savior crusade, but it’s a failed attempt at crafting an allegiance which ends with a fight between the two and no Saviors taken down.
Just over halfway into the seventh season and The Walking Dead’s cast is so bloated that it is hard to keep up. As the world expands, viewers may find themselves wondering how the surrounding areas of Washington DC could stay so densely populated years after the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse, but it’s best to just gloss over those real-world questions. In addition to our main gang in Alexandria, we now have The Hilltop, The Kingdom, The Sanctuary, and the all-female group at Ocean Side. In today’s episode, we’re also introduced to a mysterious new community headed by a fierce-looking lady named Jaydas. If there’s one thing all of these groups have in common, it’s that they’re big, and as the viewer it’s becoming hard to keep up with the characters that one truly cares about.
Refreshingly, when Rick barters with Jaydas it’s diplomatic with assertive words rather than violence. Violence is undoubtedly an integral part of The Walking Dead universe, however it is stimulating to see Rick use his brain instead of his gun. Watching Rick barter the deal with Jaydas is not only a stark contrast against his timid interactions with Negan, but it also helps remind viewers that Rick has the ability to be a good and diplomatic leader. In fact, I don’t think we have ever seen Rick act pragmatically when it comes to another group or leader: the Governor, the Termites, even at Alexandria he took it somewhat by force. I look forward to seeing more of this kind of Rick in the future; the version of him that can form beneficial alliances and play with the big kids in the post-apocalyptic political arena.
The other major partnership that takes centre stage in ‘New Best Friends’ is Carol’s and Daryl’s – a fan-favorite friendship since day one whose reunion in this episode simply doesn’t cut it. Daryl shields Carol from the horrors of Negan’s bat, telling her that nobody was hurt when the Saviors came for their group. While Daryl cares for Carol, this is an act of character assassination: he has never been one to lie or pretend in the face of adversity. I also don’t believe that he would let Carol off the hook so easily for simply just leaving Alexandria. Undoubtedly, we will return to Daryl and Carol in the future but I can’t deny how disappointing today’s interactions between them are.
The preview for next week’s episode suggests that the show will be returning to its old, frustrating tricks, focusing only on the action and the characters at the Saviors complex. To do so would be just so classically Walking Dead. Perhaps it’s time that I adjust my expectations and, when tuning in to watch each week, try to remember that this show is essentially inconsistent.