Wednesday, March 29, 2017

(TV) The Walking Dead: TWD Review: ‘Something They Need’

(Photo Credit: AMC)

The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 15
By Garrett Yoshitomi

After last week’s cliffhanger, The Walking Dead keeps the momentum going with a well-paced episode that smoothly intertwines multiple characters and storylines. It’s sad to say, but “Something They Need” is a rare example of just how good of a show The Walking Dead can be when all of its pieces are humming along. It’s a treat worth savoring for sure, although I will say that the writers have been better at crafting more enjoyable filler, during season 7B. But we’re out of the filler woods now, and there's just one more episode to go in season seven. This week’s episode succeeds in setting up next Sunday’s season finale, and manages to function as a satisfying episode on its own merits, as well. There’s a lot to unpack too, as a ton of story-telling needs to happen before things wrap up with next week’s finale.

“Something They Need” quickly gets the ball rolling, setting the table with a montage of the Rick Grimes crew marching on the all-women Oceanside community. There’s a part of me that wishes we get to see Tara spill the beans about Oceanside to Rick, but it makes sense to forego this potentially awkward interaction, in favor of getting right into the action. In a strange way, this episode actually makes the disastrous Tara-centric “Swear” better, retroactively. We get a nice sense of closure with the Oceanside community that was missing when “Swear” first aired. Plus, the growth we get from Tara is probably the strongest we’ve gotten from any of our supporting characters.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
Tara’s always been one of the show’s more peaceful characters- typically choosing to see the good in others, and resorting to violence only when necessary. However, she’s also always seemed a bit useless, due in part to how little screen time she receives. When she finally got her moment in the spotlight in “Swear,” she struggled to really make a narrative impact, and for a while, her solo episode seemed like it would exist as one of the worst filler moments in the history of The Walking Dead. But, Tara showed chops this week. She seems to spearhead the Oceanside operation- running point as the main negotiator, and setting the tone for the nonviolent approach that Rick and co. end up successfully taking.

We get to see a bit more of the Hilltop Colony this week, although it’s of tertiary importance compared to the previous episode. It would be nice to get a more in-depth look at Maggie’s time at the Hilltop; and her quick ascension up their corporate ladder, but the brief scenes we do get are solid. Her conversation with a Hilltopper (Hilltopian?) -about how to use a tarp for farming- perfectly captures the quite confidence she exudes as a leader, as well as her naturally caring persona. I’ve particularly enjoyed her juxtaposition with Gregory, who continues to be just as slimy as ever. He’s charismatic enough to garner a bit of sympathy from viewers as he fumbles his way towards an approaching walker, but he’s just so cunning that any hopes of a Gregory redemption arc are dashed just as quickly as they’re formed.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The highlight of this week’s episode is by far, Sasha. Her entire storyline takes place within the confines of a single room, but her interactions with Negan and Eugene easily steal the show. Sasha’s come a long way since her PTSD days of season five. But, her calm sacrifice for Rosita from last episode, as well as her staged pleas to Eugene this week, both demonstrate a well-honed ability to harness her inner rage into more subtle strategic ploys. Sasha’s storyline does take a rather dark turn with the Dave scene. It’s a touchy subject for any show to broach, but it is effective in demonstrating Negan’s rigid moral code. Negan’s been strangely absent for most of season 7B. Other than this week, he’s really only appeared in one other episode, “Hostiles and Calamities.” It’s likely that the writers are saving up Negan for an explosive showing in the season finale. Surprisingly enough, though, I don’t think the show’s really been hurting for Negan during these past seven episodes, as Simon and Gavin’s group of Saviors, as well as the Scavengers, have managed to successfully occupy antagonistic roles at various points of 7B.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
At this point, I think it’s pretty fair to say that Eugene’s gone full traitor. There was some fan speculation that he might be playing the long con- getting on Negan’s good side now to infiltrate the Saviors, and help take them down later. But after this episode, that ship has clearly sailed. Sure, there’s hope for Eugene’s eventual redemption- it’s obvious that he’s hitched his ride to Negan’s wagon more out of fear than outright malevolence. But, it’s going to be hard for some viewers to forgive him; or at the very least, find any future acts of heroism to be genuine. There’s only so many times you can take a character to the cusp of true change, just to drag their development backwards in the opposite direction. I fear that the writers will take the easy way out, and turn Eugene’s wishy-washy bravery into nothing more than a plot device, when he has the potential to be one of the show’s more compelling characters.

“Something They Need” is a pretty solid episode, and it wouldn't surprise me if it ends up being better than the season finale it’s meant to lead in to. There's a lot of loose ends that need to be wrapped up by next Sunday and I'm not entirely convinced that the writers have left themselves with enough runway to do so. I feel like an entire episode could be dedicated to dealing with this week’s last minute twist, but based on the preview for the season finale, it seems like this latest revelation will get resolved rather quickly. For the most part, The Walking Dead has proven capable of delivering a compelling finale, so I think it’s fair to expect a couple of fun, action-driven moments, even if all of the various loose ends aren’t fully fleshed up and tied together by season’s end.

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