KNOTS UNTIE – 7.5/10.
There are two ways to look at this week’s episode of TWD; 1) It was a great episode that expanded the world of the show and set the scene for the huge events to come, or 2) not much happened. Personally I favour the latter. You don’t need to be a fan of the comics to understand just how huge the introduction of Jesus’ community, The Hilltop, actually is. Similarly, you don’t need a crystal ball to know that Rick’s offer to take out Negan and his army of Saviours will have huge ramifications for the group. Maggie was right when she said that this would cost them something, it will and some more so than others. But while that storm cloud may be gathering overhead the focus is on the now, with the discovery of The Hilltop offering a new world of possibilites for Team Grimes.
For those who were still in doubt as to whether or not Jesus can be trusted, well you got your answer this week. Not only is he a ninja, but Jesus also appears to be the most level headed person in the zombie apocalypse. This unique blend of skills is why he was chosen to be The Hilltop’s representative for other communities. Yes, there are other communities and Jesus wasn’t lying when he told the group that their world was about to get a lot bigger. Despite still not fully trusting him, Rick, Michone, Glen, Maggie and Abraham allow Jesus to lead them to The Hilltop, pausing briefly to rescue several members of his group and provide the obligatory zombie splatter for the episode. Amongst the rescued is Dr Carson, who gratefully offers his services to Maggie and Glen.
The group doesn’t exactly receive a warm welcome at The Hilltop but Jesus once again lives up to his namesake, preaching about the importance of trust. They may be out of ammo but the community seems to be thriving in every other way, including crops and livestock, they even have a blacksmith. The Hilltop is built around a huge country estate and it certainly is impressive to behold. Far less impressive is the community’s arrogant leader, Gregory, who Rick instantly takes a disliking to, telling Maggie to deal with him because he shouldn’t. While there may have been some ambiguity to Jesus’ intentions, Gregory is pretty much an open book. He peacocks in front of Maggie, taking credit for the community and refusing to trade for anything other than labour.
Gregory’s smug bravado falters when a crew returns with a message from Negan; The Saviours have been taking half of everything The Hilltop produces in return for ‘protection’, but now they want more. Not only that, Negan has taken a member of the delivery crew hostage and is only willing to trade him back for Gregory’s head. The leader of the crew stabs Gregory but is fought off by Rick, leading to a bloody confrontation that ends in death for the would-be assassin. Clearly this doesn’t make the group very popular, but it does give them leverage to negotiate. Gregory may struggle with confrontation, but Rick’s group never has. They offer to take out Negan in exchange for half of the Hilltop’s supplies. Gregory accepts the deal, but it may well prove to be easier said than done.
I am unashamedly excited about Negan arriving on TWD, he is my favourite character from the comics and this episode brought him several dozen steps closer to our screens. But so much more happened in this episode beyond the simple foreshadowing of a new Big Bad; for starters we learnt that there was not one, but multiple communities beyond Alexandria. This is huge and will provide the show with material for seasons to come, particularly with a Negan versus Rick showdown drawing ever closer. But it wasn’t all fighting talk for the group as we saw the warm response to Richonne after they were essentially outed by Jesus. The show has put time into building the bond between Carl and Michonne and it was nice to see him give Rick his approval in a very teenaged way.
The introduction of Jesus has been handled incredibly well by the show. This combined with some excellent casting already has him feeling far more vital than many of the Alexandrians. We were also able to grab an immediate feel for Xander Berkley’s Gregory, he is an egotist and a coward and it was very wise of Rick to leave the negotiations to Maggie. While the episode tried and failed to get us to invest in the Abraham/Sasha/Rosita love triangle it was actually Maggie who had the most interesting arc. It seems as though she is stepping up in to fill part of the void left by Deanna’s death, which is a good thing. With a baby on the way and sustainability for Alexandria seeming like a possibility, Maggie has every reason to feel optimistic… although that usually spells doom in TWD.
POINTS OF INTEREST
- This is the second time we have been told that Negan likes to kill someone “right off the bat” to make an impression on new people. This really doesn’t bode well for the group.
- Still no Carol or Morgan in this episode, does Rick even know what went on between them on the day the walls came down?
- Understatement of the year goes to Rick Grimes for pointing out that “confrontation’s never been something we’ve had trouble with.”
- Can Rick really trust the leader of the Hilltop crew not to sell them out after killing his friend in front of him? We will find out sooner rather than later.