Character motivation is more important than a lot of writers realize. If the person you’re supposed to care about is doing something deliberately stupid that you KNOW will get them into trouble, it’s harder to sympathize with them, or care when the harsh consequences inevitably hit them. For example: any of the 368,239,254 movies and television episodes where somebody lies to someone else. You know the truth is going to come out, you know the drama is coming, and you also know it’s completely avoidable and thoroughly dumb.
This season, there haven’t been many problems with character motivation, except with Ron (it’s hard to do worse than Ron). When someone from Team Rick got into trouble, it was believable why. I would understand why the normally defensive Daryl would lower his guard for that one guy; he seemed trustworthy at first. We were even headed for a totally believable road towards Negan: fresh off his victory over ten billion Walkers, Rick is now so overconfident that he thinks he can take over the moon. So he should be the one that leads Negan to Alexandria, right?
Unfortunately, this episode left us with several possible introductions to Negan and not all of them made sense. Carol left the group because she no longer wants to be forced to kill. How does she not realize she’s going to have to kill ANYWAY no matter where she is, and the odds of having to be the one to pull the trigger increase to 100% when you’re alone?
I thought she’d finally realized this in the opening scene, when she was driving along the road and ran into a few more Saviors. They shot out one of her tires, pointed their rifles at her and demanded she lead them to Alexandria. Looking at her weeping face while pleading “PLEASE don’t make me do this,” it seemed like it had finally hit Carol what a mistake she’d made. But no, she was weeping because she’d sewn a gun into her sleeve for self-defense and now she had to use it.
She hits all her targets in seconds, because she’s Carol — or at least she thinks she did. One of the guys is just playing dead, but that won’t be revealed until she’s gone. Another was just grazed and comes after her. After a struggle, she impales him on one of the spikes in the Porcupine Car and splits on foot. This is the last we’ll see of Carol for the rest of the episode.
If Carol wasn’t enough to deal with, Daryl has also rushed out on his own, because he can’t STAND the fact that Dwight, the one who stole his crossbow and motorcycle a few episodes ago, got the better of him. I get that Daryl has a big ego and doesn’t like having it bruised, but he should really know better than this. It’s the kind of mistake a random Alexandrian townie or Fake Doctor (whoops) should be making, not someone who’s lived in the raw wilds for several years.
Rick sets out in one of the remaining cars to find Carol. Morgan decides to come with. I doubt Rick was pleased, because he knew he’d be getting another one of those conversations. Morgan takes the downtime during the trip to admit he kept one of the Wolves tied up in the basement. Even though the guy got out and took a hostage with him, Morgan doesn’t see it as a failed experiment. The guy ultimately distracted the Walkers while Fake Doctor escaped, and in Morgan’s eyes, this means his act of kindness redeemed him. He also points out that the distraction let Rick carry Carl into the house without incident.
Rick will grant him that one, but he’s not convinced the current state of the world leaves things that black and white.
Meanwhile, Rosita, Michonne and Glenn head in a different direction to track down Daryl. Two of them have no idea why he would just leave, but Rosita was with him when the last incident went down, and has a good idea. They journey to the train tracks where Fake Doctor was murdered, and spot Daryl’s hawg disguised in some bushes. This was much easier than finding Carol.
As they head into the woods near the bike, suddenly–
Holy Moses, what if that arrow had actually hit Rosita? Imagine the conflict THAT would have set off. Daryl explains that he feels guilty that letting Dwight go ultimately resulted in Denise’s death, and that he can only atone for such actions through…nearly killing Rosita. And maybe finding Dwight and snuffing him.
Glenn and Michonne are like, “You’re on your own, man.” Rosita feels differently: “If this is what it takes, then I’ll help you.” This results in another group split, making four altogether now. If you count those left back in Alexandria you get five. And the split doesn’t work to their advantage, as the ones who weren’t looking for Dwight are the ones who find him.
Now captured by Dwight’s gang, Glenn and Michonne are tied up and helpless. Fortunately, Daryl and Rosita find them, and lie in the underbrush planning out an ambush. Unfortunately the former two were being used as bait….there is Dwight, now behind Daryl, with a loaded gun.
As Daryl turns around, Dwight fires and the screen goes to black, followed by Dwight assuring an unidentified person that “it’s gonna be all right.” Well, it won’t be all right for Daryl — Norman Reedus later confirmed the bullet hit him.
Significant losses in the episode included Maggie’s hair, and then Maggie’s baby. And then maybe Maggie, depending on how a zombie baby miscarriage works. I postulated earlier that nothing should really happen to her, given the fetus’s lack of natural weapons. It makes total sense, but Carol running away didn’t make sense either and that didn’t stop the writers from making it happen. I’d like to see Maggie stick around. These would be lousy ways for her and Daryl to go, especially with a big cliffhanger 90 minutes away.