The Walking Dead 6×13 ‘The Same Boat’: Good and evil

The Walking Dead 6x13 Cover

The Walking Dead has a “bad guy” problem. It’s a problem that many shows face. Dexter had a habit of using a different villain every season, and while that worked for a little while (Season 2 of that show was especially great), once the show entered Season 5, that structure imploded, doing more harm than good. The same thing happened in Sons of Anarchy. The first couple seasons did a great job utilizing a “Big Bad” in order to function. But around Season 5, and especially during Season 6, that structure also imploded and became absurdly repetitive. Playing it safe can work for a little while, but for shows that use singular human enemies, those enemies can eventually become more boring than anything else.

The Walking Dead 6x13-1

Source: AMC

It’s not necessarily the failing of The Walking Dead that this becomes a problem. There’s only so much you can do with human enemies, and after Shane, The Governor, The Claimers, The Cannibals, Pete, and The Wolves, it makes sense that The Walking Dead is running out of things to do with the “bad guys”. So it’s trying something novel, something that I appreciate, even if it’s inherently flawed. The Walking Dead is trying to make Rick and his group operate in a grey area, neither good nor bad, while also trying to position The Saviors in the same area. And that’s great, as it goes to show that Rick’s group is like the other groups in the world: savage, brutal, and unflinching when they have to be, but also kind and mournful to those around them. It’s a great way to invite complexity into both Rick’s group and The Saviors.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

But. As much as The Walking Dead wants to invite complexity, Rick’s group is still the “good guys” and The Saviors are still the “bad guys”. While Maggie and Carol end up killing pretty much everybody at the end of the episode, they’re kind of put in the place where it’s something that they have to do, something that they’ve resigned themselves to doing. And that’s different than The Saviors, people who extort other groups and kill them when they don’t comply. Of course, The Saviors have suffered their share of violence, from the slaughter at their base to Carol shooting one of them in the arm. But the show subtly does position them as the aggressor, and Rick as “doing what he has to do”. Even though The Saviors here don’t murder Carol and Maggie, they’re still positioned as highly aggressive to the point where killing them is justified (however thin that line may be).

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

So “The Same Boat” is kind of a shaky hour, even though the focus is funneled to the point that other great episodes of The Walking Dead are. But the focus on Carol and Maggie really is great, and pivots their characters into interesting new directions. Carol has been solidified as one of the most brutal characters on the show, and it has done wonders for Seasons 5 and 6. Carol in “No Sanctuary”, Season 5’s premiere, was absolutely fantastic, and provided a great deal of excitement to the show’s more action-oriented sequences (her presence in “JSS” was also absolutely fantastic). But that characterization has a timer on it, as she can’t be this way forever without either being killed off or simply becoming boring. In this episode, she’s positioned as being sneaky (downplaying her familiarity with murder) while also feeling bad about Maggie being in harm’s way. She may eventually go back to murder (as she does at the end of the episode), but seeing Maggie and her child in harm’s way shows her how she realizes that Rick’s actions can be harmful. Being ruthless can put innocent people in harm’s way. And an innocent person being harmed is something that can’t be taken back.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

Maggie’s character development is a little subtler, as she finds herself becoming more hardened and more brutal as a result of being put in harm’s way. Now that she’s pregnant and worried about her unborn child, she’s more willing to justify killing and maiming others in order to survive. It still bothers her to light a group of people on fire or stab a person to death, and she certainly bonds with her captors during her interrogation, but the choice she makes is ultimately the brutal one. She realizes that sometimes she has to do horrible things to stay alive, but understanding the humanity behind some of her victims can at least give her an honest understanding of what she’s doing and how she’s living in the world.

Side Note: I REALLY like how The Walking Dead has somewhat shifted its narrative from being gruff men grunting at one another to complex women living in a difficult world. That shift doesn’t get as much credit as it should, as it’s a remarkable shift from a popular, male-centric show.

“The Same Boat” attempts to add complexity to the conflict between Rick’s group and The Saviors, but really just adds complexity to Carol and Maggie, both of which become richer and more interesting as a result. This season is building to a turning point at the finale, and the season’s long game won’t really be revealed until then, but it makes sense for now that Rick’s group is being positioned as self-important and brutal, and that such a mentality will eventually bring them down a peg. Just as Rick’s tactics ended up slaughtering Jessie’s family in “No Way Out”, it’ll only take so long before he pays for his sins once more. And who knows how bad it’ll be then.

What did you think of “The Same Boat”? Who do you think will end up dead by the finale? Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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  • George Liapes

    I thought this was a pretty good bottle episode if it can be called that (it’s not entirely composed of just carol and Maggie) and a decent hour if the shoe altogether. I liked the focus on them, as well as Mcbride and Cohan’s performances.

    However, I thought carol’s newfound hesitation to kill seemed rushed after they hinted at the idea just last episode. I actually thought she was faking it at first to fool Paula (the ginger haired woman) but now it’s clear she wasn’t, at least for some of it.

    Likewise, the Saviors that captured carol and Maggie, while similar to rick’s group, were really just another group of assholes that were asking for their deaths, especially the one that slashed at Maggie’s abdomen. I mentioned last week that the pics of the smashed in heads kind of lessened the impact of Glenn’s killing of the Saviors and sadly, this trend seemed to continue, even though I still love the concept of Rick and his group devolving into a group of killers like the Wolves and Saviors are.

    Also, if the show was trying to convince us that the guy Rick killed at the end was the real Negan, it was almost as pathetic as the Glenn fake out from earlier, especially considering Negan’s actor was identified MONTHS ago and was confirmed to appear in the finale.

    As for the next casualty, my predictions are the Same from last week, though I’m adding Maggie to the list, given this half season’s increased focus on her, even though I still wonder if they’ll go the extra mile and kill off both a woman and her unborn child. Also Carol, as like you mentioned, she’ll either grow stale or get killed off and next week seems to continue her newly found softness when it comes to other people.

    See you for Better Call Saul!

    • Gui

      Well, I have a few disagreements with both of you regarding Carol’s characterization, so might as well make it a reply. I love the discussion here, though, that’s one of my favorite things. And I have to say, I loved that this episode had such heavy focus on female characters, I’m super pleased with that.

      Regarding Carol, I don’t think it’s acting for the most part. As Melissa put it in Talking Dead, the line between her acting and her real self is pretty blurry, and I honestly think both the frail woman and the fearsome warrior are quite genuine here. Her change makes sense, in my opinion: She already had a crisis of conscience like this back in Season 5, in Consumed, but after Beth’s death, followed by the loss of Tyreese, she ended up deciding to take into that fake persona when arriving to Alexandria and she stuck to her ruthlessness underneath it, and she decided not to doubt herself again. But then comes Morgan, with a view she’d like to believe in but her experience has shown her it just can’t work. And then she effectively witnesses the wolf saving Denise (regardless of how we interpret it, she’d see it that way as proving her wrong), and then she gets a few weeks to process everything after two big events in a matter of a few days (wolves and herd). And now, to give the finishing touch, she meets this Savior, Paula, who’s essentially who she could become if she keeps on the “fearsome warrior” course. Someone who stopped feeling a thing about her actions, someone who had been consumed by her ruthlessness and can’t believe the possibility of a good, prosperous future. That’s what she’s afraid of: Becoming just like Paula.

      It’s similar with Maggie and Chelle. Maggie sees someone that, had things gone differently, she could very well be. But unlike the case with Carol, where that made her reconsider her humanity and admit she’s not ok and she can’t handle keeping on that path, it just made her be even more ruthless. Her “I can’t” at the end came from a different place for Carol’s admission she’s not ok, it comes from the fear of almost losing her baby twice. She can’t keep going out on the field and risking that. And she can’t just keep putting herself in situations where Glenn could very well end up like Chelle’s boyfriend, blown up by a stranger and left in pieces in the middle of the road (I have to add, I like how they reminded us of what Daryl did a few episodes ago and how it affected someone else).

      Regarding the saviors and the idea of moral greyness, I think we need some of that reminder of how they’ve gone slightly further than what Rick’s group is going towards. We’re essentially looking at what Rick’s group could very easily turn into at the rate they’re going. Paula and Chelle worked very well as foils to Carol and Maggie, and I think that’s what made it worse. They’re not foolish townspeople easily manipulated by a charismatic yet dastardly leader. They’re not turning Alexandria into a trap for people so they either join or get eaten. And they sure aren’t devolving into barbarians who pillage and kill any settlement they can find. Negan’s group is closer to what a future of the current state of the group could be, basically a “zombie apocalypse mafia” of sorts. They essentially took a job as hitmen for supplies, but Maggie effectively made it so they’d take over Negan’s protection racket. While sure, Negan’s men were keeping up pictures of smashed heads, what tells you that as this group loses humanity one of them couldn’t start doing the same eventually? Once you stop feeling the weight of your actions, all bets are off.

      And regarding the fake Negan, I don’t even consider it a fakeout or them even trying to do something like that. It feels more as if they’re reminding us of the group’s overconfidence (namely Rick) and showing us the Saviors loyalty to their leader (“We’re all Negan” would make the group think there’s no real Negan, and Rick was pretty convinced the Saviors were basically a blowfish, making themselves seem larger and more threatening).

      As for next casualties? I’m worried about Rosita in the near future, it seems that she’ll be off on a run with Daryl while Abe and Eugene are going off on another one, based on the promo and the description for next ep, and Daryl mentions regretting not killing Dwight in the promo; while regarding the finale, I’m putting my bets on either Daryl or Carol. Mostly leaning towards Daryl (his screentime has noticeably increased this half), but this episode definitely added some weight towards Carol being a likely victim.

      • George Liapes

        You made some pretty valid points. i dont watch talking dead, so I didnt know about McBride’s interpretation of her character’s behavior. When you look at her behavior over the course of this season, it does seem organic. I just wish that they elaborated on it more to make it seem more plausible.

        The Saviors’ behavior does show how far Rick’s group could fall, but I still think it would’ve be better to tone down their brutality to drive home the impact of Rick and his group descending to a new level of ruthlessness. Also, we’ve already seen with the Terminites and the Governor just how far the group could fall, so any further examples seem repetitive.

        As for the Negan fake out, i see your point, but I would’ve preferred it if they had one last scene where we see one more Savior radioing back to The real Negan, just to confirm that the story arc isn’t gone. Also, On the “In Memoriam segment, was the guy Rick shot actually labeled as Negan?

        I could see Rosita dying next episode, if to bring back the Saviors as a threat and like I said, Daryl and Carol Are on my watch list.

        Glad to see you enjoy our discussions as much as I do! I also agree that the focus on female characters is definitely a good argument for those who complain about the show being dominantly male.

        • Gui

          Well, with the Governor, I always felt it was more personal, regarding Rick and not the group as a whole. And with the Termites, while there’s an argument to be made there for sure, when Gareth claims “You don’t know what it is to be hungry”, I instantly remembered the premiere of Season 3 and how they were desperately eating even dog food to make it through, and it made me think they got really close and still didn’t cross that line. The addition of characters like Paula and Chelle to the Saviors made them seem, to me, like a far better reflection of a possibility for the group compared to the comics where they feel just like generic bad guys.

          The In Memoriam labeled that guy as Primo and not Negan, so that’s that. Fortunately they’re very well aware of the fact that most people by this point know Negan is his own person and rather they seem to be focusing on the tension of his arrival, rather than try to trick people when they know it’d be just plain silly.

          • Michael St. Charles

            Hey everybody! I’m gonna keep this comment relatively short, but I wanted to be sure I replied to you all today.

            Carol’s characterization is a little wonky in this episode, not because it’s necessarily a bad direction to take her, but because it is kind of quick and jarring. We don’t get a real middle ground between the personal crisis we see here and the brutality of “JSS”, though they at least tried to build it in “Not Tomorrow Yet”. There’s certainly some mixture of hesitancy to kill and brutality that she’s feeling, and the complexity of that lies in her not really knowing which is which, or using one to cover up the other. It’s really interesting stuff, and I’m excited to see how her character is impacted in the future. Though I highly, highly doubt she’ll die, just because she’s too rich and interesting a character to kill.

            (light spoilers, maybe?)

            Honestly, it’s really difficult not to take what will happen in the finale (which you know about if you know the comic books) and factor that into the thematic work here. When you think about it as a whole, factoring in what’s going to happen, it could be a REALLY poignant story about what happens when you start to defy moral codes. Brutality creates brutality and so on. I have a good feeling about the finale. But it makes sense that they try to paint both The Saviors as human yet brutal and Rick’s group as human yet slightly less brutal. Rick thinks he’s justified in doing what he’s doing here, but he doesn’t understand the cost of it.

            (end light spoilers)

            For my “Who will die by the end of the season?” predictions:

            90% Abraham (he’s a goner)
            70% Daryl
            30% Glenn