UNITED IN FEAR – 8.5/10.
No one could ever accuse Robert Kirkman of playing the short game, and this month’s issue of the walking Dead saw a lot of very old seeds come to fruition. Firstly there was Eugene’s mysterious friend on the other end of his ham radio. Eugene has never been the savviest of people but he is smart enough to play his cards close to his chest until he learns more. They do exchange a few details, revealing that they are both in groups, although the stranger’s group is considerably larger than Alexandria. Eugene agrees to talk with the stranger again and decides to keep his contact secret from Rick and the others for the time being. Could the stranger be a member of a new community, or could it be a trick by one of Alpha’s Whisperers?
Elsewhere, Dwight continues to train Rick’s army, with Gabriel of all people turning out to be a natural soldier. While the priest has some reservations about his actions he will no doubt be more conflicted when he realises that he is being trained to take human lives. But the brunt of the story revolved around Rick’s encounter with Brandon, the teenage son of the would-be assassin he killed in issue 150. The Grimes family has history with Brandon’s family, his father was part of the assassination attempt on Maggie, and Brandon himself nearly beat Carl to death with a brick. So perhaps Rick’s attempt to reach out to him was somewhat ill advised. He shows incredible restraint when talking to the boy. Brandon shows less restraint, attacking Rick.
Rick easily fends him off, making it clear to the boy that he could end him if he wanted to. Not so much mending bridges as going full Bridge over the River Kwai. Michonne intervenes, allowing Brandon to run off with his tail between his legs. Rick and Michonne share a tense exchange that shows just how paranoid recent events have made him. It seems he doesn’t trust anyone anymore, not even her. While Rick worries about a potential mutiny, Brandon manages to sneak into the holding cells unnoticed. He offers Negan a deal; he will release him from his cage if Negan agrees to lead him to the Whisperers. Brandon intends to reveal Rick’s plan to Alpha and then let the Whisperers and the Alexandrians tear each other apart, obviously this appeals to Negan. By the time Rick gets to the cells it is too late, Negan is gone.
Well that was in incredibly intense ending to a very well written issue. It has always seemed apparent that Negan would eventually escape his cell; the only real question was what would he do when he got out? Negan is the ultimate wild card; he is unpredictable as demonstrated by his decision not to escape the last time the opportunity was presented to him. Perhaps he will lead Brandon to Alpha, he certainly has enough reason to want to see Alexandria burn. It’s also possible that he could head straight to the Saviours and reclaim his now vacant throne. Once again the question remains, what will his next move be? He is smart enough to know that Alpha’s mega herd could cause just as many problems for him as it could for Rick.
Bringing Negan back in to play is quite literally the best thing Robert Kirkman could have done. The mounting war between the Whisperers and the communities already felt incredibly tense but now it truly feels like anything could happen. Negan has a long list of people he could visit; Dwight, Andrea and Carl to name but a few and if he has gone then Rick would do well to draw these people close. He would also have done well to have choked Brandon to death with his cane; kids today, no respect. Everything happens in Walking Dead for a reason, just as Brandon’s attack on Carl paid off in this issue there is no doubt that the seeds of future events have now been planted. Not only from the aftermath of Negan’s escape, but also Rick’s paranoia, Brandon’s rage, Gabriel’s guilt and Eugene’s curiosity.
POINTS OF INTEREST
- Interesting that even after all this time Gabriel still considers shooting walkers to be killing.
- Maggie has been away from the Hilltop since she ordered Gregory’s execution, what will the political landscape be upon her return? Leaving Jesus behind in Alexandria seems like a tactical mistake.
- Rick is paranoid, he’s formed his own army and he is using propaganda to stop his people turning against him; Alexandria has become a Ricktatorship again.
- Negan is going to want Lucille back, that makes it seem very likely that Dwight will be the first person he visits.