This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 10
Despite its obvious flaws, last week’s midseason premiere showed at least one spark of promise: an intense and very entertaining action sequence that proved that the show still knew how to have fun. For a very brief moment, it felt like the unbearably self-serious Walking Dead of today had finally let loose and embraced the campy zombie carnage it had cut its teeth on in its early seasons. Fortunately, “New Best Friends” delivers even more camp, and it’s all the better for it.
In retrospect, it feels like it took Rick and friends way too long to encounter a group like Jadus (?) and the garbage gang – a group that’s so wholeheartedly embraced the apocalypse that they live in a dump, wear tattered clothing like its their Sunday best, and speak a degraded version of English as their official language. They even have their own trashy version of the Thunderdome with which to test whether a hero is worthy or not. Max Rockatansky would feel right at home with Jadus and friends.
There’s a delightful mystery that surrounds the group’s origins. Jadus tells Rick that they’ve been in the dump since the beginning, yet it doesn’t seem likely that enough time has passed by for the group to have lost command of the English language. Maybe they already lived in the dump when all hell broke loose in 2010? Or maybe the group is putting on an act in the same way the Others did on Lost…
It’s great to see a new group on the show that isn’t interested in saving the world or fixing it or building a new one or oppressing others. “We take, we don’t bother” is about the most refreshing mission statement I’ve heard all year from any of the now six settlements on the show. Jadus and her people simply adapted when the world changed. And now Jadus senses the world is changing again, which is why she ultimately agrees to fight alongside Rick – for a price.
The Thunderdome scene lasts about a minute, but still more than stands out as one of the season’s most memorable moments thanks to Winslow the gladiator walker, a zombie who’s had most of his face and scalp replaced by a metal helmet decorated with knives. Watching Rick get thrown into the ring with Winslow is exhilarating, even if we know there’s no way the Sheriff’s going to lose. I almost wish they’d thrown someone else into the garbage arena, at least to give the fight a bigger sense of danger. Gabriel vs. Winslow would have been fun.
“New Best Friends” is certainly the most multi-faceted the show has been all season, giving us more than just one flavor of storytelling during its extended airtime. Daryl and Carol’s reunion is easily the most emotional scene of the entire season, and that’s in part due to the fact that it’s in stark juxtaposition to the stuff at the dump. The reason why most of 7A’s “emotional” storytelling felt either shallow or boring was because there was so goddamn much of it. In “New Best Friends,” the writers find the right balance and give each part of the episode room to breathe. The fact that this episode made me cheer and tear up is a very good sign indeed.
I’ve been burned pretty much every other time I’ve ever said this, but here goes: “New Best Friends” makes me hopeful about the rest of the season. The episode felt fresh and fun, all while still delivering some of the emotional moments the show loves so much. If The Walking Dead can continue to remember that its subject matter should be as fun as it is serious, it may yet make up for its disastrous first eight episodes.