I can appreciate what The Walking Dead is trying to accomplish with its approach this season, even if the central conflict is so flawed as to undermine the whole thing. These first eight episodes, thus far, have attempted to show us how different communities operate, how they come into conflict with one another, and how different visions of society produce different civilizations and outlooks on conflict with other civilizations. There is a TON of interesting commentary to mine from this approach, and even if the commentary is only glanced at, it makes me optimistic to see that Gimple and Co. is at least attempting to look at and communicate this commentary. But what I’m looking for is those moments of breakthrough, when that commentary really shines through, when the show has something really important that it effectively communicates.
So does “Go Getter” have any of those moments? Maybe, but it muddles its way around those moments, relying on exposition to get us to the point when commentary can be even attempted. The opening scene really only reminds us where Sasha and Maggie are emotionally, as well as who Gregory is and how the relationship between him and the others operates. There is a lot of wasted time in this episode reminding us who people are and what they think of each other, and it takes away from time that could be spent examining the Hilltop and what kind of community the Hilltop is. The issue with examining the Hilltop, however, is that there really isn’t much to differentiate it from the others. Alexandria has the main characters, the Sanctuary has Negan’s authoritarian system, the Kingdom has Ezekiel’s attempt at utopia, and Hilltop has, in effect, a terrible leader that has no real grasp on how to keep his civilization alive.
It’s Gregory’s terrible leadership that defines the Hilltop, and while that could be interesting, a big issue with this approach is that we’ve effectively seen it before with Alexandria’s poor leadership before Rick (not that Rick’s leadership has ended up doing a whole lot for the Alexandrians). In “Go Getter”, the Saviors effectively stage an attack on the Hilltop, bringing zombies to the colony in order to retaliate against the attack on the Savior outpost last season. Nobody really knows how to fight off the zombies except for Sasha, Maggie, and Jesus, so the three of them fend off the zombies themselves. This is all very reminiscent of Alexandria and the way that Rick was trying to save the Alexandrians from zombies, only it doesn’t really say anything more than what was said before.
The conflict set up by Gregory’s poor leadership could move in more interesting directions if the show wants to take it there. The show seems to be positioning Maggie as a leader figure, which would be a way to show how a community like Hilltop would operate under different leadership. It would also add depth to Maggie’s character in a way that makes her feel like a real person instead of somebody attached to Glenn. Maggie has never really felt like a character with depth, so there’s certainly potential for her as a character if the show decides to shift the Hilltop storyline by switching out leaders. The same goes for her relationship with Enid. Maggie seems to also be transforming into a mother figure, not just because she’s pregnant, but because of the way she’s relating to Enid. She acts with this mature authority, with Enid as a sort of surrogate daughter, and it’s a good way to transform her into an autonomous character and not simply a part of Rick’s group. It would be fascinating to see Maggie take control of a second group, apart from Rick’s, and to compare and contrast the leadership of a woman with the leadership of a man. That would also be a great way to take a show that, at times, can feel awfully misogynistic, giving it a perspective it hasn’t really had before.
The Enid/Carl storyline isn’t particularly interesting either, with the romance between Enid and Carl feeling more like convenience than anything else. Really, that storyline is more about Carl than anything else, how Carl wants to take revenge on the Saviors in order to reclaim some sense of control. It makes sense; Carl is young, and while he’s been through more than a kid typically would, he doesn’t understand life and the consequences actions have quite like Rick does. So The Walking Dead is essentially setting Carl up for some sort of turning point in her personality. He’s always been rebellious and angry at authority, but his attack against Negan will either deepen that attitude or bring him low for it. At this point, it’s really too early to tell, but the show is setting the stage for what rebellion against Negan’s authoritarian regime will look like. And right now, it looks like it starts small, with individuals here and there fighting back, those individual rebellions inevitably giving way to larger movements. We’ll likely see those larger movements and how they form in the back half of the season.
Really, The Walking Dead is setting up the back half of the season by focusing on the new status quo and how it operates within these small diverse communities. Sure, not all of these communities are that interesting, and sure, we don’t see the connection between all of these communities yet, but this is all setting up intrigue for the last eight episodes of the season. However, we’ve seen what happens when The Walking Dead places its bet on payoff down the road making more tedious segments of the show worthwhile. I’m not saying that I believe that this setup is going to end with something as atrocious as Negan’s introduction, but it’s entirely possible for all of this to fall flat, especially with someone as tedious as Negan being the connective tissue for all of these storylines. It’s too early to tell which way this will go, that’s for sure, but as of right now, I’m feeling a strange blend of optimism and pessimism. We’ll see which half of that blend is validated.
What did you think of “Go Getter”? Do you think the back half of the season will be better than this one? Let me know in the comments!