Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched the penultimate episode of season 7 of “The Walking Dead,” titled “Something They Need.”
If there’s one place where “The Walking Dead” consistently delivers, it’s raids. Rick and co. are so damn good at running up into other settlements and taking what they want, as much a testament to their apocalyptic skills as the show’s directors. In this case, the credit goes to Michael Slovis, who previously directed the infamous “Thank You” episode and worked as cinematographer on the unimpeachable “Breaking Bad.”
But before we get into the great action of “Something They Need,” let’s take a step back and recap what’s going on in the rest of this crazy world. Sasha, unsurprisingly, has gone and gotten herself captured by the Saviors. Some creep named David visits her cell and immediately starts throwing out rape vibes when she asks for water. It’s an uncomfortable scene, instilling worry that we might have another gratuitous television rape imposed on us. Fortunately, Negan steps in and shuts it down. The show’s resident villain draws the line at rape. And he drives home the point by driving his gigantic knife through David’s neck.
Now that rape’s off the table, Negan attempts to recruit yet another Alexandrian into embracing the Sanctuary. But not before making sure Rick didn’t put her up to the one-woman assault. Her response is excellent, especially with the irony of Rick’s army recruitment right under Negan’s nose. “Rick? Your bitch? No.”
Negan hands over his gigantic knife and allows her to make a choice. She could use it to attack Negan—not a good idea when he still has Lucille. She could kill herself. She could do nothing. Or she could use it to kill “dead-alive Rapie Davie” and go on to join the Saviors much like Eugene. To strengthen Negan’s pitch, Eugene himself makes a visit and urges her to follow his lead. His cowardice has been exceptional this season, even by his standards, but he explains that he enlisted so that he would never have to see something like his friend Abraham getting his head bashed in again.
Of course, this is flawed logic. We’ve seen Negan do some absolutely brutal things, from maiming to murder, to his own subjects. I’m not sure when exactly Sasha figures this out, but she does. She kills the newly-zombified David and promises to come onboard. Negan is still skeptical and reveals he’s heard rumblings of Rick up to no good (more on this later). He wants her to help out with this little problem.
Sasha may or may not have been making her initial pledge under false pretenses, but we see she’s definitely still down to kill Negan after this little reveal. She shows off some acting chops and convinces Eugene she wants to kill herself so she can’t be forced to kill her friends. She pleads for something to do the job: a knife, a razor, a piece of glass, anything. But she’s let down when Eugene caves in and slides her a suicide pill he concocted in “Hostiles and Calamities.”
As to the birdie in Negan’s ear, it appears to be more of a snake. And that snake is Gregory, the prospect of whose death I’m now looking forward to even more than Negan or anyone else’s. Most of the Hilltop scenes drag on, really slowing down this episode, but we see three important things: Gregory considers literally stabbing Maggie in the back, Gregory has never killed a walker before this episode, and Gregory likely raises his suspicions about Maggie’s friends’ whereabouts with Negan via Simon.
Seriously, screw this guy. I hope Rick guts him like he did Gareth.
The whereabouts of Maggie’s friends aren’t all where we thought either. Daryl and Jesus have joined Rick and the rest of the group in their raid of Oceanside. “Something They Need” opens up foreshadowing doom with some signature not-so-subtle dialogue between Rick and Tara, and Carl and Edith. But the raid ends up going about as perfectly as it can.
Tara makes the first breach and pulls a gun on Natania and Cyndie. She tells them what’s about to go down: the Alexandrians are going to take their guns, but no one has to get hurt. Oceanside can even join in on the war. And if Natania obliges, Tara will give the signal and prevent the whole raid. Natania is not having it though, and she and her granddaughter are able to get the drop on Tara with Cyndie pulling a gun on her. Tara doesn’t hesitate to hand over her gun, which it turns out was not even loaded. The Alexandrians really don’t want to hurt anyone, a welcome change of pace for the series. But it’s too late for Natania to slow things down, and the dynamite goes off as the raid begins.
Despite the explosions, the Alexandrians are still dead set on not hurting anyone. In a ruthlessly efficient and exciting sequence, Michonne uses her sniper rifle to scare off Beatrice and Kathy from securing the armory. And everyone else is able to round up the women of Oceanside, most of whom simply went running into the forest. It all looks said and done until Natania rolls up with a gun to Tara’s head and demands they leave. This isn’t going to happen, whether Tara and Natania die or not, and Cyndie knows it. They try to convince her to enlist in another unsuccessful pitch. So Cyndie has to get her hands dirty and punch out her grandma.
All those explosions didn’t go unnoticed, bringing on a herd of walkers that look like the crew of the Flying Dutchman in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” We’re treated to yet another ruthlessly efficient sequence, as the Alexandrians and even a few Oceanside residents clear the walkers with ease. But this cooperation doesn’t go any further. Natania hides to nurse her wounds and ego as she allows her guns to be taken. Oceanside will not, however, join the fight.
Someone else will, though. Rosita has a little surprise back in Alexandria, and an answer to whose shadow we saw at the end of “The Other Side.” It was Dwight, who’s ready to betray the Saviors in an arc straight out of the comics. His shadow’s similarity to Daryl is also a nice nod to his comic book character’s influence on Daryl, who was never in the comics.
“Something They Need,” written by Corey Reed, is a solid episode as we gear up for the season 7 finale. It felt a little long because of the familiarity of several scenes: the recruitment of Sasha and the recruitment of Oceanside. But it also forced some tough decisions on several characters and utilized the show’s strength in large, cooperative action sequences. Hopefully there’s a lot more where that came from next week. It’s the least we can ask for after another half-season of buildup.