This review contains spoilers.
6.13 The Same Boat
There’s nothing quite like a good bottle episode. The Walking Dead is a show with a huge cast, and most of them don’t get a lot of time to breathe, so episodes like The Same Boat, which separate a couple of cast members from the rest of the group and give them an opportunity to stretch their legs, tend to be a pretty welcome respite from the usual chaos of the normal Walking Dead episode. Some money is saved, and a couple of important characters get to be focused on for some much-needed character development.
Fortunately, this week’s episode features one of the show’s strongest characters and one of the characters that’s been neglected since the move to Alexandria. Carol and Maggie, last seen at the end of last week’s episode getting captured by a mysterious member of Negan’s crew, get to have a little time together after Maggie’s attempt to storm off and help Glenn and Rick and the rest of the crew with the Savior outpost turns into them getting captured and held for what is essentially ransom. That leaves Carol and Maggie stranded with a bunch of violent strangers—including Alicia Witt among others—who are clearly not all in the mood to play along with Rick’s little games.
The story is told in very economical fashion. We jump immediately back into the assault on Negan’s compound, with Witt’s character and her flunkies jumping out and capturing Carol and Maggie. We get the exact same scenes from the end of last week’s episode, just told from the other side of the walkie talkie, which is always appreciated. It’s interesting to see just how Maggie and Carol got captured, and a lot more fun to see them get away from their captors. The episode is in no hurry, and director Billy Gierhart makes the most out of the few zombies the episode has to offer, but there’s a clear ending point for this scenario, and the show doesn’t really waste time getting there, though the execution is perfectly timed.
We know that, at some point, they’re going to get free, but at the same time, the more we see of Negan’s Saviors, the more serious a threat they are. Granted, some of them had issues—the injured man left to bleed to death for lack of a belt, the woman coughing up blood due to her cigarette addiction, Alicia Witt’s character clearly being damaged emotionally—but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. These aren’t the Wolves; these are a genuine threat. Just because Rick and company can get the drop on them in the middle of the night, or because Carol and Maggie can pick them off one at a time, it doesn’t diminish their threat, only makes it grow, because it doesn’t look easy at any point. Indeed, it takes Carol to some very dark places, and Maggie faces baby-scrambling abdominal trauma pretty much constantly.
It ends up being a very tense episode, probably because Angela Kang imbues some real menace into Alicia Witt’s character, even if the other newcomers seem to be a little less dangerous, if only because they’re a little less competent. However, for temporary characters, they’re very lived in, well crafted by Kang’s script. They feel like they could be part of the survivor groups from a Walking Dead spin-off. It’s kind of an impressive feat; as one of the characters tells Maggie, they’re not the good guys in the story, they just think they are, and it seems like they all believe that. Of course, Rick and company just broke into a building and killed every person they found inside while extorting the same amount of material support from the people at Hilltop that Negan was due, and they point-blank execute a prisoner at the end of the episode, so the moral lines are sufficiently blurred all the way around so as to make Rick and his group just as scary as Negan and his group; Rick just happens to be our main character.
Carol, and the awesome Melissa McBride, get some wonderful scenes this week, and it’s nice to actually see Lauren Cohan do something other than hang out on a porch or dangle over a wall looking concerned. It feels as though Maggie’s pregnancy has been more pressure on Carol than it has been on Maggie, and it’s clear that Carol is struggling to deal with the level of violence that she’s been forced to inflict on people, which is an interesting idea for such a strong character. We’ve seen Rick go through similar, but Carol’s been immune to it so far.
Unless, of course, she was pretending to be more damaged than she is to pull the wool over the eyes of the Saviors. That’s one of the best things about the Carol character; you never know how much of what she’s going through is real, how much is exaggerated, and how much is just plain fictional. It seemed a bit heavier this week than usual; Maggie’s pregnancy might be more stressful on everyone else than it is on Maggie. Fortunately for Maggie, it looks like that she’s about done with adventuring while pregnant.