Drama, Horror, Review, Thriller, TV

“It’s a long life, and then it isn’t.” A Review of The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 14 “The Other Side”

And then there were two. Tonight’s episode leaves us with two more before the season finale, a finale that is shaping up to be some sort of major showdown between multiple groups in the Alexandria region. There will be spoilers and implications and thoughts galore – scroll down only if you’re all caught up on the show.

[Spoiler Alert: The following article is a review and synopsis of tonight’s episode, and as such will discuss plot points of The Walking Dead S07E14, “The Other Side” – read further at your own risk.]

The episode opens on a montage set in and around the Hilltop. We see what passes for normal life: Maggie teaching Hilltoppers to throw knives (Enid is particularly apt); Sasha sharpening her knife; Enid smiling at an ultrasound of Maggie’s baby; Sasha going over a map of the Sanctuary; Maggie and Enid, eating and going over plans; a new day dawning, and Sasha training Hilltoppers in knife fighting, and then tending Abraham’s grave; Maggie asleep, and Jesus quietly handing a completed map of the Sanctuary to Sasha; Daryl sitting alone, Maggie handing him a plate of food, no words passing between them; and ending on Sasha again tending the graves, where grass has begun to grow between the stones. We’re seeing here the passage of time, and the leadership role Maggie is slowly taking on with a goodly number of Hilltoppers.

This is emphasized when we cut to the next scene. Gregory is nervously peering out his shades at a group of people surrounding Jesus. He’s not happy, and goes to pour himself a whisky – but he’s right out. As he sits there, Rosita comes in through the main gates. She goes straight to Abraham’s grave, and we get the conversations from this week’s sneak peek video – she’s there to ask Sasha for help with killing Negan.

Cut to Maggie and Jesus chatting on his stairs. He tells her about how long he felt like an outsider, how difficult it was to make friends, to make boyfriends. It’s nice that it’s just dropped into the middle of the conversation in a matter-of-fact way, as too often shows will make a big point of someone revealing their sexuality. Here, it’s just another fact in a string of facts about Jesus’s experiences at the Hilltop. The important piece of information he relays is not his sexuality, but the fact that Maggie, Sasha, and Enid arriving have made him feel more a part of the group. Maggie, for her part, talks about making more spear tips to trade with The Kingdom for body armor. In a shout-out to Glenn and the days at the prison, we hear her say, “Thing is, what we really need, is some riot gear.” Sasha, overhearing this, smiles and heads into Jesus’s trailer.

Inside, Jesus and Enid walk in on Sasha going through his hidden bullet stash, which is kept in a hollowed-out book (fittingly, Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms). She stumbles through a lame excuse about looking for a book to read, and he tells her she can have the bullets, although he doesn’t approve of her making her attack now. She tells him that she and Rosita are going to leave, and both he and Enid offer to help – she refuses, telling them that Maggie needs them. Jesus agrees and leaves, but before he does, tells her, “It’s a long life, and then it isn’t.” He knows attacking Negan in a frontal assault is a suicide mission. At this point, we get the conversation between Sasha and Enid from the second promo video from last week, ending with Enid telling Sasha that she’s going to expose the plan to Maggie in two minutes, giving Sasha enough time to gather her things and run.

Before she can, however, there’s a loud warning from the gate – the Saviors have arrived. Rosita follows Sasha to a hidden exit through a wood bin – they’re heading outside the walls. Maggie and Daryl run for the larder under Gregory’s house, and hide behind a shelving unit. Upstairs, Simon and three truckloads of Saviors pay Gregory a visit. Gregory tries to suck up to Simon unapologetically, offering Simon a drink – “You’re a gin man, aren’t you?” But Simon refuses, explaining that gin is no good anymore – he’s much more into tequila. He brushes Gregory off and tells him the reason they’re at Hilltop a little early: “You have a certain somebody that now needs to be Negan’s certain somebody.” And who is this certain somebody? Dr. Carson – they’re taking him back to Sanctuary to replace his murdered brother.

In Carson’s office, Simon shows Negan’s magnanimity – they’re trading a crate full of aspirin for the good doctor. Gregory actually tries to stand up to Simon just a little, but Simon knows exactly who Gregory is, and plays him like a fiddle. Gregory’s reasoning is that he’s going to lose the trust of the Hilltop residents if he can’t keep their doctor, so Simon tells him to come see him if anyone gives him trouble. It’s all so smarmy and fake, and yet Gregory only sees what he wants to.

Meanwhile, a burly Savior in a Tyreese-style toque goes around back of the house near the cellar entrance. Enid comes running with a basket full of melons and other vegetables. What ensues is a creepy interaction, where he insists that she calls them “Vegetables” rather than “Veggies” because – and he leers as he says this – they “have all the time in the world.” Ick! He then turns, and orders her to not only take the basket to load the truck herself (she was trying to distract him from the cellar doors by asking for help), but to give him her knife. She does so, and leaves – he enters the cellar.

Inside, Maggie and Daryl shrink further and further back as the Savior comes closer to their hiding spot. He goes through some of the food, grabs a few things, and then turns without finding them. Daryl, knife in hand, starts to come out of hiding, but Maggie holds him back until the Savior leaves. “He was going to find us,” Daryl says. “No, he wasn’t,” Maggie replies. She comes up behind Daryl. “Ever since you got here, you haven’t said a word to me. Would you look at me? Please?” Daryl slowly turns toward her – he’s fighting back tears. He apologizes for Glenn’s death – “It was my fault” – but she forgives him. “You’re one of the good things in this world,” she says. “That’s what Glenn thought. And he would know. Because he was one of the good things, too. I wanted to kill that guy, too. I want to strangle him and watch him die. But we have to win.” She comes up to Daryl and embraces him. “Help me win.” They’re both in tears at this point – there’s a ton of history between these two, and the shared grief not only of Glenn, but also of Beth – who was it that carried her dead body to her sister from the hospital back in Atlanta? Their connection in grief is deep indeed – truly one of the more heart-rending scenes in the seven year run of the show.

In the courtyard, the Saviors are finishing up packing the trucks, loading Dr. Carson into the back of one of the pickups. The Hilltoppers gather, and they look surprised and a little angry – Gregory is definitely losing his grip. Some indefinite time after this, we get one more shot inside the Hilltop. Jesus is in Gregory’s office, and Gregory, emboldened by Simon’s “promise” to help him, threatens Jesus. He tells him that it might be in his own best interests to betray Maggie and Daryl to Negan, in order to protect his own hide, and he implies that he’ll take Jesus down at the same time. “Are you threatening me?” Jesus asks. “No,” Gregory says, “I just know who my friends are.” He calls in the wall guard that alerted everyone to the Saviors’ arrival earlier, and asks him to open a bottle of tequila – his sycophancy knows no bounds – and tells Jesus to leave. Outside the office, Darryl is waiting – “Where’s Sasha and Rosita?” he asks.

Outside Hilltop, Sasha and Rosita make their way on-foot toward Sanctuary, but they are actively looking for a car they can hot-wire. The two aren’t experiencing much luck, and the strain starts to tell. Sasha leans over to speak with Rosita inside one of the cars, the necklace she took from Abraham dangling in front of her. “Like it?” Rosita asks. “I made it.” Sasha tries to ask her where she learned to disarm bombs, and Rosita again cuts her down – “I’m not here to play get to know you, so either we talk about the mission or we don’t.” Sasha starts to walk away, swallows her comeback, and returns so that they can plan things out. Rosita wants to make a frontal assault – go right in to find and kill Negan. Sasha, however, wants to set up somewhere a few blocks away, in a building with a line-of-sight into the rear vehicle compound at the Sanctuary, where she feels she can get a good shot at killing Negan, and maybe see both of them survive the encounter.

A little later, they find a fenced-off lot with several cars, and they decide to try to find a good one there. They light a fire in one car to distract a few walkers, get inside, and successfully hot-wire a ride. Backing over a walker or two, they head off toward their date with Negan.

Once nearby, we see that Sasha has won the argument – for now, in any case. From their vantage overlooking the compound, the two women see Eugene walking around giving orders to workers as they move guardian walkers around. He also checks how well those covered in molten metal are attached to the fence. No Negan, however. To pass the time, Rosita makes a series of knots in a large rope. Sasha asks if she can show her how to make them, and though Rosita briefly resists, she quickly relents. She starts to talk about the men she’s been with since the apocalypse, and all of the skills she learned for them. She’d stay with them a while, absorbing their skills, and then moving on. “The sex,” she says, “was just a bonus.” The depth of her pain over losing Abraham twice – to Sasha and to Lucille – comes home when she tells Sasha that he was the first person that actually saw her as an asset, as someone who could hold her own and help with survival. She did love him, as did Sasha. Rosita tells her that she thought at first that she hated Sasha, but it was more the losing of Abraham that she hated – the two find common ground, and cry together. Sasha is pissed off about the way Abraham went – she says he would have wanted “To go out with a point to going out.” To “go out fighting.” They end by telling each to the other that they’ve got each other’s backs.

Just as they finish, they hear noise from the compound. Negan’s back, and he’s got Dr. Carson. First Carson and then Eugene get in the way of a clean shot, and the women decide to take another tack. That night, we see Eugene talking with a Savior in the yard, walking to check the fence. Suddenly a bullet goes right through a walker’s head and into the Savior’s skull, taking them both out. Eugene cowers with his hands up. Sasha and Rosita run up – “Eugene, get up,” says Rosita. “We’re rescuing you!” Eugene hesitates, then says, “No. I’m not going with you.” He stands and turns to walk back inside. “I didn’t ask you to come, so go. People gotta be en route.” He goes inside. Rosita has choice words – coward being the nicest – and the two quickly cut through the fence to get inside.

Sasha asks Rosita to keep watch while she preps their entry, but while Rosita has her back turned, Sasha clamps the fence closed again with a big metal bar – Rosita’s not getting in. “Go,” Sasha says, “it’s not your time. There’s got to be a point to it. They need you.” She turns and heads toward the door, taking out a Savior coming out with a single shot to the forehead. Moments after Sasha goes inside, we hear shouting and some gunfire, and then two Saviors come out the same door. Rosita grabs their duffel bag and takes off, running until she has to stop, panting and sobbing. She turns, a movement in her peripheral vision. It’s a silhouetted figure, a crossbow on its back.

So who do you think it is? For half a moment I thought it was Daryl, but then came the realization – he doesn’t have his crossbow anymore. Dwight does. This opens up some interesting possibilities for next week’s episode. If it is Dwight, is he there to help, or to hinder? The last time we saw him, he was going through a crisis of conscience – he may just about have had enough of Negan’s ways. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like Dwight in the slightest, but I think it would make for an interesting movement forward with his character if he doesn’t try to take Rosita down. We’ll have to wait and see.

Speaking of waiting and seeing, Sasha’s in a world of trouble right now. Negan keeps dozens of armed soldiers around him at all times – how far is she likely to get? And will she still be alive next week? Her speech on dying with a point suggests to me that she will be, and Negan does like to toy with his prey. I’m hoping that he makes the mistake of not killing her, so that she gets another shot at him. And how about Eugene? Is he really, truly, unequivocally Negan now? Is he playing some angle we just can’t see? Or is he just too much the coward to be able to take opportunity when presented to him? I’m really holding out for option number two. If it were Rosita potentially being captured rather than Sasha, he’d have more motivation to betray Negan – we know he has feelings for Rosita, after all. Again, questions waiting to be answered.

In Hilltop, Gregory’s days are definitely numbered. If he doesn’t get replaced by the Hilltoppers themselves, don’t be surprised to see Simon simply force a replacement on the settlement himself. Speaking of Simon, Steven Ogg is doing a bang-up job of the third-most-hated Savior (after Negan and Dwight). He just seems to relish the role, and is a lot of fun to watch whenever he’s on-screen.

Jesus’s admission to Maggie (although she certainly appeared to already know it) that he was gay opens the door to some possibilities, not the least of which is that either Aaron or his husband Eric’s days may be numbered. They’re the only other gay men in the show, and wouldn’t Jesus just be the perfect mentor for Aaron? Sorry Eric.

The key to tonight’s episode was, however, one of reconciliation. Just as important as gathering enough strength to fight against Negan and his Saviors, it is essential that the group avoid in-fighting (I’m looking at you, Gregory) and bad blood. Seeing reconciliations between Rosita and Sasha, but even more importantly between Maggie and Daryl, were key movements in this direction. Watching the two of them embrace and relive Glenn’s death was one of the most touching moments TWD has produced, and was, for me, finally a fitting tribute for the gratuitous violence of Episode 701. Now I finally feel the emotional payoff for losing one of my favorite characters (plus Abraham, whom I really liked as well). Now, it’s time to start kicking some ass.

Steve’s Rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars (7.5 / 10)
A good episode, with some long-overdue tears. Are we finally going to get some action on a grand scale?

Episode: 714
Airdate: March 19, 2017
Directed by: Michael E. Satrazemis
Showrunner: Scott M. Gimple
Written by: Angela Kang (written by); Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore (graphic novels); Frank Darabont (creator)

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