The Walking Dead 7×05 ‘Go Getter’: Change in leadership

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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.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

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.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

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.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

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.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

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!

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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  • Gui

    Honestly? I loved this episode, even moreso coming from my perspective as a comic reader who doesn’t exactly love Kirkman’s execution. While there were some parts that didn’t work as well and the Hilltop’s still a bit undefined (though I think there’s more to Gregory than you bring up), the series is doing a pretty good job at making things work better than the comics. But before anything, I must bring up another important issue that you’ve been talking about: Pacing.

    If you feel the series is moving at a slower pace than usual, it’s because it is. Everything points out that this half is covering a heavily modified take on Volume 18 (if it was straight up, we wouldn’t see Maggie until the second half of the season) and they’re setting up the second half to be volume 19. Usually we’d move at about 4 volumes per season. That was one of Service’s bigger issues, but I’ll retroactively post on the Service review about the issues with it. But it’s worth mentioning that so far, we’ve only really gotten content from issues 100, 101, 102, 103, 108 and 110. And while this episode had a panel recreation from 109 (Maggie at Glenn’s grave) it really was mostly TV original.

    And boy, did that help this episode. Kirkman’s arc with Maggie in the comics was honestly far more abrupt and didn’t have good setup, but between her moments with Deanna and this episode, that won’t be a problem for the show. I think we’re in for some really good stuff with Maggie that already is a noticeably improvement from her comics self.

    But I think it’s also important to bring up Sasha. Again, I didn’t comment in Service last week, but a very fascinating thing here is how Rick’s not getting his own comic arc, shockingly enough. This episode actually changed things around giving it to Sasha. Comics Rick instantly gets up and talks to Jesus to figure out where the Saviors live and starts planning how to get ready to fight, but that’s going to Sasha here and that’s REALLY interesting. I found that the way Rick was handled in the comics in the transition between the Negan arc and next one was a bit off, so his development here should change into something that flows better while it makes sense Sasha would take his role of preparing to take the fight to Negan. In fact, it seems women are leading the charge against Negan for the most part, unlike the comics, and that is a very exciting prospect.

    Gregory’s leadership, this one’s another thing I wanted to bring up. We’ve been seeing conventional ideas of power and how dangerous they are. Negan is this huge spectacle, he’s in love with his own power and flaunts it. But he keeps underestimating people while overestimating himself, and the more he feels he controls, the more people can build up resistance under him. He keeps looking at the people who’d seem stronger and takes them out or breaks them, but keeps underestimating the seemingly weaker people. Then you have Rick, who has this “Father knows best” kind of leadership. He’ll make choices to keep people safe even if they’re sometimes foolish or even cowardly, but they all come from a good place. But he needs to realize he can’t protect everyone, that he’s not the wise man who has the answer to everyone’s problems. He got overconfident and even now he seems to believe his way is the best to keep everyone safe.

    But then you have Gregory. He’s a man who clearly once had power and is trying to hold onto the illusion of it. He claims to be a leader and yet does everything but lead. Sneak back into the shadows of his room when his community’s attacked. Betray the women who saved the community the night before. Kneel to a tyrant and claim he improved relations with their oppresors. He’s only in it for himself, and he’s the “leader” only because he’s around people who don’t believe they could be better and just thought “he’s our best bet” when no one else was there for it. And seeing this power slip out of his hands and change into someone who’s already being heard by the community (see how Jesus and those Hilltop guards immediately heard out Maggie’s orders?) is gonna be very satisfying.

    As for Carl, he’s one to look out for (I wanted to avoid an unintentional eye pun but all my lines led to it). While Negan will still keep on being comic Negan who clearly Kirkman isn’t letting anyone change (seriously, his dialogue in Service was almost exactly the comics but with some additions for non-comic moments), comic Carl does get a very interesting arc here and if the show can improve on what’s coming for Carl, we should be in for a good ride. They’ve shown they can improve on the souce content multiple times before, I hope that ends up being another example of it.