In ‘The Other Side’, exceptional female performances carry the weight of an episode in which not too much happens. We open in The Hilltop, a location that audiences haven’t visited properly for what feels like a long time. In The Hilltop, Maggie and Enid have settled in with the rest of the community whereas Sasha is making plans to assassinate Negan; plans that are set in motion when Rosita shows up with a gun and the pair of them set off to the Sanctuary. The B-plot in the episode revolves around a Savior visit in The Hilltop, but the real narrative action takes place between Sasha and Rosita on their assassination mission.
After almost an entire season of Abraham-related animosity between the two, Sasha and Rosita finally team up to take down Negan as revenge for murdering the man they both loved. It’s a breath of fresh air in the dynamic between the two – I, for one, am sick of watching two talented actors having their performance so deeply entangled in the male character’s decisions. And yes, while most of Sasha and Rosita’s interaction in this episode is still pre-occupied with the Abraham problem between them, audiences are finally privy to an in-depth exploration of the issue rather than angry glances and apologetic stares shared between the two. Christan Serratos (Rosita) and Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) must be commended on their performance in ‘The Other Side’, in particular during the close-up scene between the two of them while trying to start a car when Rosita spots the necklace that she made for Abraham, dangling from Sasha’s neck.
While seeking some sort of emotional reconciliation, Sasha and Rosita are philosophically at odds about how to kill Negan throughout the episode: Sasha votes for the sniper shot while Rosita seems to be on a kamikaze mission to get inside the Sanctuary and kill Negan up close. In a move that genuinely shocked me, Sasha breaks in and locks Rosita out, telling her “They need you. It’s not your time yet.” I didn’t expect this from Sasha, who runs into the compound, shooting a guard on her way. Rosita, to the character’s credit, is angry and frustrated. She doesn’t immediately start walking on sunshine as if her life has all worked out the way it should – it’s clear that she wanted to take the shot at Negan for Abraham, and she feels robbed. While Rosita cries, a shadowy figure with a crossbow appears in the background and watches her – I’ve seen it said on the internet that this is Daryl, but my money’s on Dwight.
Since her introduction in season 4, one of my criticisms of Rosita’s character is that we have never had any particular insight into her backstory – unlike Abraham and Eugene, the gang with whom she entered the series. In this episode we finally get to hear her open up about the men that she’s lost during the apocalypse – including Abraham but notably excluding Spencer, who Negan also murdered in episode eight of this season. The show also takes a moment here to explain some of the mysterious skills that Rosita seems to magically whip out in any given situation – dismantling explosives, hot-wiring cars and tying navy-strength knots, to name a few.
An honorable mention must also be given to Eugene, who pops up in the Sanctuary while Rosita and Sasha have the Sanctuary under observation. When they break in, Rosita and Sasha try to break Eugene out – but he says no. This gives audiences confirmation that he’s not playing a role when he says he is “Negan”, which is terrifying and exciting at the same time.
As previously mentioned, the B-plot for the episode centres on the Hilltop and the Saviours’ visit there. The performances are great, but I’d rather speak about Christan Serratos and Sonequa Martin-Green, who anchor the episode with their emotionally fueled performances. The episode delivers some emotional highs, but the action that we get only goes so far – Sasha runs into the Sanctuary but we don’t know what happens, Rosita runs away crying and we don’t see who’s there. The outcome of the episode is just a little bit lackluster, but I find myself (tentatively) looking forward to next week.