As “Knots Untie” begins, they’re running low on food at Alexandria, and none of the established characters are sure what to do about it. Newcomer, any ideas?
Jesus reveals he comes from another enclosed village of survivors, and that place has plenty of food — he might be able to convince the leaders to let the Alexandrians trade for something. They still don’t completely trust him, so they grab their giant guns and escort him to where he’s leading them, prepared for battle.
And Jesus wasn’t lying — there’s really another village, similar to Alexandria, walled off and protected (for the most part). It’s a big revelation for The Walking Dead, which has up to now been implying establishing something resembling civilization is so difficult in this harsh world that Alexandria is the exception, not the rule. But apparently there was another settlement within driving distance, and Jesus implies there might be even more. Who knew?
There are people who wondered if the wall made of logs surrounding the facility was erected by the survivors; those people have clearly never been to an actual recreated fort. There is one of these near my own city and I took several field trips there as a schoolboy. They are exactly what is shown here: a large field enclosed by giant log walls, with one mansion and a few shoddy structures inside. It’s so accurate I assumed the TV crew had found one in Georgia and was just using it, but a behind-the-scenes video on Talking Dead proved they built it from scratch. Great job.
It’s immediately clear Team Rick has something the Hilltop needs. When the villagers see the gang approaching, they threaten them with sticks. They could use guns and ammo, and Alexandria has plenty! This trade should be done in minutes, right?
That’s what you’d think, but as is often the case on The Walking Dead, human arrogance and stupidity gets in the way. This time, it comes in the form of Gregory, the latest in a long line of jerks who abuse their positions of power. Being the leader of the Hilltop community, he clearly feels threatened by the arrival of newcomers, and won’t broker a deal with them even though he clearly needs what they’re offering. There is one exception: he’ll make the food deal not in exchange for guns, but if Maggie will whore herself to him. He’s not only corrupt, he’s stupid — guns will save your life, sex won’t.
Let me tell you, I loved seeing the scene where Maggie completely trashed him. There are too many shows where pervy guys get away with this sort of thing and the women just cower in fear or take it. A lot of feminist groups have taken issue with Game of Thrones lately because of the character of Sansa, and I shouldn’t have to elaborate why.
The Hilltop’s bigger problem was the shadow of Negan. The Saviors have already established dominance over the place — they don’t rule it, exactly, but they come around every now and then and force the residents to give them things in exchange for not dying; your classic protection racket. In addition, Negan doesn’t really like Gregory, but who would?
A man named Ethan returns to the fort while Team Rick is there. He was formerly part of a group that Negan’s men caught and slaughtered, save two: Ethan and his brother. They’re holding Bro captive to make sure Ethan delivers a message to Gregory, courtesy of Negan. That message? “You’re dead, sucka.” Ethan stabs him in the gut. Since there are a lot of new people around, the popular assumption is that one of them did this, and a bloody fight breaks out until Jesus steps in the middle and hollers for everyone to stop.
The below image is how a lot of the villagers are introduced to Rick. I’ve borrowed the GIF from TV.com, but it’s too priceless to show any other way:
This deal will never happen unless Rick can prove he’s a good egg, and now he’s got to sweeten the pot. So who’s this Negan dude anyway? Some small-time mobster thug? Please! Rick just tangled with a gazillion Walkers at once! This will be a walk in the park! Rick cockily asserts that, in exchange for food, he and his crew will take care of the Saviors singlehandedly.
I like how this is flowing. Note that Rick might have been hesitant about taking on such a big job in any other season. He might have seen the danger and death-risk in taking on an armed gang of thugs he knows almost nothing about, back when he was constantly running from things and barely keeping alive. But now that he’s performed this manly act of badassery, he’s high off his own ego and Negan feels like nothing. We know he’s making a huge mistake, and huge mistakes are VERY tricky to write. It’s very aggravating to watch a TV character make an obviously bad decision that any thinking person would avoid. But if you had just taken on 10,000 zombies and lived, you’d rush right into the next dilemma without a second thought too. This time, it feels natural. I buy it.
Don’t count on the crew getting to Negan’s door right away, though. It looks like the following episode is going to be nothing but trying to convince Alexandrians to join the fight, followed by part of the trip there, maybe a couple encounters and fights in between. I guess I’ll know for sure when it airs about ten minutes after I finally finish this recap.
There was also something in this episode about Abraham trying to decide between his current girlfriend Rosita and his growing affection for Sasha, but….no one cares, so we won’t elaborate.