This review contains spoilers.
7.10 New Best Friends
The Walking Dead has never been shy about showing its influences. The whole point of the show is that it’s a George Romero movie that never ends. Negan and the Saviors operate a bit like the Mongol horde did in the glory days of the Golden Horde, riding the open roads in vehicles, taking what they need, and giving communities the choice to either submit or die beneath their superior numbers and firepower—and an adept ability at breaching walls, for that matter. The Governor functioned as something like a cult leader, a David Koresh or Jim Jones type, with a little bit of Ancient Rome’s bread and circuses thrown in. And now, Rick meets a group of people who seem to be plucked straight from George Miller’s Mad Max universe, right down to the crazy, mangled way of speaking.
Technically, he met them last week when they popped up out of nowhere and took his group hostage. Still, this week we actually get an introduction to the group, led by the extreme bangs of Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) who lords over a community of people who live in a junkyard. The Junkers all speak broken English, as does their leader, and they all do all their shopping at the “Wastelander Unlimited” store founded in Tomorrow-morrow land by Captain Walker, of Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome fame.
The junkyard community even has their own version of Thunderdome, but rather than sending Mel Gibson out to fight a giant, he’s thrown down a pile of trash into a garbage valley to fight a walker covered in spikes and studs and wearing a spiked helmet, kind of like a mixture of the Road Warriors (professional wrestling tag team), one of the Triangle Heads from Silent Hill, and Negan’s pet fence walkers who are impaled on poles. It’s a bit of a ludicrous looking creature, and the fact that the Junkers seem to imply that it’s not something they created as a test, just a guy who got impaled on a bunch of stuff (I guess?) is a bit of a strain of belief.
I can’t help but think the fight – brief and messy and a little choppy – might have looked better in the hand of a different director, but it could have been worse. The escalating conflict between the Saviors and the Kingdom works a little better, with multiple antagonists, and the brief tussle between Richard and Daryl is handled efficiently. That Richard would throw Carol under the bus seems kind of like a stretch, particularly since he’s so effusive with praise. And wouldn’t her ties to the community probably lead the Saviors right back to Ezekiel, considering he keeps bringing her cobblers and baskets of food and there are presumably tiger tracks all around her house?
While there are problems, for the most part, the episode has good pacing, and Channing Powell’s script does a good job of finding a balance between introducing the new community and spending time with old friends reuniting with one another. Daryl and Carol are still the strongest ship on The Walking Dead Tumblr pages, and to see them brought together again so long—and to see Daryl grimace and almost shed tears while Carol openly cries at the reunion hug, is incredibly touching. Daryl has regressed as a character, particularly since punching Negan, but there’s a little bit of light back in his eyes now that he knows Carol is around and still out there in the world. He said more than a few sentences, and he even cracked a joke! As for Carol, maybe this will serve as a reminder of just what’s out there that’s worth fighting for, as implied by the discussion between Daryl and Morgan in Shiva’s cage room.
As Daryl stalks off, it feels like the plot goes with him. Rick’s made friends with a new group, albeit a strange one, and he’s going to have to find arms for his new friends so they’ll be willing to take up said arms in his war against the Saviors. Daryl has access to weapons, courtesy of his walk through the woods with Richard. There’ll be some sort of inciting incident, probably another scrap between the group and the Saviors, and they’ll join up with Rick. Tara’s still got an in with the beach people, so that’ll be another thing that’s going to happen.
The show is at a moment where things are starting to pull together, but there also feels like there’s a little bit of delay as well. Gregory’s refusal feels natural, but Ezekiel’s feels a bit false, as he knows just how troublesome the Saviors are, and how much they’re spoiling for a fight with the Kingdom. His peace will be broken, as we all know it will, and then Morgan’s counsel will take hold and get him involved (or Carol will pull a gun on him and drag him into the fray). That’s when things will really begin, and given the way the show’s been pacing this out, it’ll probably be full on war next season.
Progression is progression, even if it’s slow progression. It will be interesting to see just what happens when reality invades Ezekiel’s fantasy world. Clearly, every group is moving at different speeds; Alexandria had a normal life for the time after the apocalypse, Rick and the group have been through fire and have varying degrees of PTSD, and the Junkyard has gone full feral outback tribe right down to speaking pidgin English.
I can’t wait to see what they’ve gone through to turn out so weird.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is very surprised to be interested in the feral junkyard tribe. Then again, he is a Mad Max super fan, so that might have something to do with it. Find more by Ron daily at PopFi.