Well, we made it to the mid-season finale. Although we are still licking our wounds every time Negan kills someone, we get a glimmer of hope as we come to the end of this episode. More on that in a minute. We first need to come to terms with a few things.
Over the last eight (nine including the season finale of season 6) episodes we’ve seen Negan orchestrating a network of tributes the very same way the ancient Aztecs did– through brute force and intimidation. He uses this in his favor to get people to literally bow to him and treat him like royalty. It works, until it doesn’t. Eventually people get tired of bondage in any form, and just as the Aztecs tragically came to an end, so will the tyrannical reign of Negan.
Each bottle episode brings so much character insight into the story. Although individually they usually don’t offer much action, when you put all the episodes together, we get such a broad picture and we are able to understand why the characters do what they do. For instance, over the last few episodes we’ve seen Michonne trying to come to some kind of understanding in regards to how Rick is handling this situation. She immediately wants to render vengeance for the deaths of Abraham and Glenn. However, after she car jacks the red-headed savior and she is taken to the top of the hill where she can see the entire layout of the compound, she then realizes that it is a fruitless task to go in guns blazing. She goes home to Rick and tells him that with a good plan, together they can do this.
Rick has come through a tremendous arch in these last eight episodes. He starts this season in such a “shock composure” that he is incapable of making a good decision. He is so caught up in fear that another beloved family member will succumb to Lucille that he mentally removes himself from a leading position to one of a follower. Negan capitalizes on this fear and he pushes the entire group to it’s breaking point. Rick finally gets consciousness back when Negan pays Alexandria a visit. His men beat up Aaron without cause and they kill Spencer and Olivia. This snaps him back into the now and out of the what could be.
We finally get to see Daryl escape from the clutches of the Saviors as he uses the key that is left for him. He finds a room where he changes from his symbolic Scarlet A jumpsuit to a new set of clothes more fitting for him. He also finds a jar of peanut butter that he immediately dives into with his fingers. When he finally leaves, he grabs an iron rod and goes outside to find his bike. Fat Joey interrupts him and sadly for him, Daryl beats him to death with the rod. Perhaps before the Saviors Daryl would have let him go; however after the constant torment of dog food sandwiches, incessant “Easy Street” soundtrack, and mopping up pee, Daryl is a different man. He’s getting out of there, whatever it takes! He and Jesus go back to The Hilltop.
Back at The Hilltop, Maggie settles in with Sasha and Enid. She mourns Glenn, but she is determined to become the leader that she is meant to be. She subtly gains control of The Hilltop by winning the thanks of the people through saving them from the walker attack. Gregory tries to intimidate her, but she is strong enough that she will not be moved. As Gregory attempts to keep control, Maggie asks him if he is going to eat his apple. He tells her yes, of course. But then as if to prove her point that the community loves her, the man on watch duty reprimands Gregory and reminds him that she is pregnant. She smiles coyly at him and he throws her the apple which symbolizes control switching hands.
The most unsatisfying piece of this episode is Carol. When Richard comes to her, he asks her and Morgan to help convince Ezekiel that they need to fight against the Saviors. Morgan is struggling with maintaining his no-kill attitude, but Carol is consistent the whole way through. She just wants to be left alone. She keeps holding to this idea that if she stays away, she won’t have to participate in killing any longer. However, she may cause more deaths through not being involved than if she is. The only piece of the puzzle that Morgan and Carol do not have is that Negan is responsible for the brutal deaths of Abraham and Glenn. At this point, however, I’m not sure if that is enough to get Carol to aggressively react.
The most intriguing part is the mystery behind the boots that have been following Rick and Aaron. I have a feeling that this is what the note giving the finger indicates. Whomever this is, he is going to get tangled up in this situation between the Saviors and the Alexandrians. The biggest question is will he be friend of foe? Episodes resume on February 12, 2017 and hopefully we will get some answers.