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The Walking Dead 9.04 Review – ‘The Obliged’

October 29, 2018 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead – ‘The Obliged'
8.5
The 411 Rating
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The Walking Dead 9.04 Review – ‘The Obliged’  

Tonight on The Walking Dead, it’s a prelude to war as the levies break both figuratively and literally for our community of survivors. Tensions are high and things are not looking good for, well, anyone right now, but especially not for Rick Grimes.

The plot: After a montage of Michonne being a leader, caretaker, and mom, we also see that she is going out on a nightly basis to kill walkers. On this particular day, she ends up having to go talk to Negan because he won’t eat unless she does. Over a few instances, they talk, get a little personal and he waxes philosophical before trying to get her to let him see his bat, Lucille. She refuses and he breaks, banging his head against the walls after she leaves. Meanwhile, Maggie and Enid (I think) set out from Hilltop on their mission to murder Negan, but Jesus isn’t sold on the idea and sends a warning to Rick. Daryl conveniently offers Rick a ride, but goes off course and they get into a fight, only to end up falling to a sinkhole. They debate their differing viewpoints calmly if tersely until they hear gunshots and walkers start falling in with them. The gunshots are from the bridge camp, where Carol–packing up to return to the Kingdom–is confronted by Savior Jed, now armed and angry and wanting revenge on the Oceansiders. Naturally, Carol isn’t about to let that happen, but we don’t see anything beyond the opening volleys of that fight. Daryl and Rick, semi-reconciled and now safe, part ways when Rick determines he’s going to lead an approaching herd away from the bridge camp. However, he ends up nearly running into the other nearby herd, and, when his horse panics and throws him, landing on a pile of rubble and rebar, speared through the side, and passes out from pain as the two herds approach. And in some totally unrelated plotline, Anne nearly kills Gabriel, then doesn’t, and then leaves.

Well, this was a hell of a set-up for what we know will be Rick Grimes’ final episode. His exit could never be anything but epic, and we’ve had some pretty amazing exits from this show, so the bar is high. And I’ll give it to them, pinned between two herds, on his own, with a potentially fatal wound, and the very soul of the community he has given everything to create and grow into a peaceful place to live on the line? Yeah, that’s a pretty damn good set-up.

So let’s talk about Rick and Daryl. Their arc in this episode was fantastic. Daryl’s duplicity, Rick’s stubborn earnestness, the quick explosion of anger between them, the tempered discussion, and the reconciliation of sorts at the end. I’m glad we got to hear them both talk out their thoughts about Negan directly. There’s been a lot of big picture talk from Rick, focusing on the hopeful, the optimistic, speeches about building bridges by actually building bridges. And on the flipside, a lot of glowering, terse words, and surliness from Daryl. It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that these two are more than just their stereotypical roles on the show of charismatic leader and emo outsider (I love Daryl, but come on, we all know that’s how he comes off at times). But when talking plainly about the situation, they dig into the details, into what Negan’s being alive could mean both for their closest friends and for the community as a whole. And the thing is, neither of them is wrong. They both make valid points, they both have a right to how they feel and what they believe, and what’s more, they both acknowledge that the other is, or could be, correct. They don’t agree, but at the same time, they don’t deny what the other says. They’ve both considered the other’s point of view already, they simply each came to a different conclusion. Rick isn’t wrong that killing Negan could turn him into a martyr and symbol, and Daryl isn’t wrong that he may already be one. Daryl’s also not wrong to call Rick out on not having had enough faith in his friends to still do the right thing, and in that he needs to let go of Carl; Rick’s not wrong in telling Daryl he needs to let go of his anger, though he understands why both he and Maggie feel that way.

The disagreement doesn’t change their relationship–Daryl would still die for Rick and Rick would, too. Rick still calls Daryl ‘brother.’ That, I think, was the highlight of the episode for me. The reminder that Daryl had put his faith in Rick over his own brother way back when was well-placed in the last episode. That made it close enough to this moment for us to fully grasp it’s meaning without being too obvious, as it could’ve been if we’d heard it in this episode. And in what might be the last time Daryl and Rick see one another, that’s what they were: brothers. They may not agree, and that disagreement may be significant, but they’re still family, still looking out for one another, still having each other’s backs, and they still love one another. That’s something that even this insane and cruel world can’t take from them.

Michonne and Negan, meanwhile, are also holding onto something longer than they should, but for both of them, that something is a weapon. Michonne is happy, I truly believe that, and she believes in what they’re building. But at the same time, she can’t quite settle down and be at ease, and every night she takes her iconic sword out and kills walkers outside the gates of Alexandria. Negan is so desperate to see his beloved bat Lucille that he goes on a mini- hunger strike to draw Michonne out so he can talk to her and try to get her to bring the bat to him. When he learns that they don’t have it, but have left it out in the world, he has a full-on breakdown that leaves him crying and bashing his head against the wall! Despite that Negan is deeply changed from the person he was, however, the conversation that leads up to this moment is another good reminder that he is more than just the surface layer of bravado and assholery. Negan is smart, too, and very manipulative. He planned out his conversation with Michonne, what he would say, how he would make it count, how he would try to forge a connection with her in order to get what he wants. Coaxing out information about her dead son from before is an especially crafty move, and what he says about who they might’ve been with the people who didn’t make it is an interesting notion. Certainly no one who’s survived this long is who they would’ve been, but who would they be if those people had also survived this long? Would Negan be a better man with his wife there? Or would he be a weaker one? Of course, what constitutes ‘weaker’ in his opinion is a whole other question. And what of Michonne? Would she be weaker? She might be different, but I doubt she would be weaker. After all, Rick had his family with him, and that didn’t stop him from becoming who he is in this world. Hard to say, in the end, but the series of scenes certainly left me interested in how this relationship will develop when Rick is gone.

And now we must all prepare ourselves for Rick’s departure! I want her some theories on how this will play out in the comments. As for me, I’m thinking Rick will end up enacting Daryl’s plan for using the bridge to lure the herd to fall into the water when it collapses, and he’ll fall into the water along with them.

Other Thoughts:
– People still underestimate Carol? Really? Jed, how dumb are you, have you not been paying attention?
– I kind of couldn’t care less about Anne and Gabriel, and one flaw in this episode is that this storyline keeps popping up. Also, his sobbing over her leaving feels unearned.
– How widespread is Maggie’s mini-revolt? Relay 1 is fully in on it, but Jesus was not clued until he put the clues together himself. Hmm.
– I enjoyed Eugene’s method for naming herds, and also that they name herds now.

8.5
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Another really good episode in this season. I am increasingly impressed by Angela Kang as the new showrunner. The story pacing has been great, every episode has some great developments that feel well thought-out and executed, and there's always at least a little action. This one was no exception! We got to see a number of our favorites work with some great material: Daryl and Rick digging into the details of their disagreement about Negan's imprisonment while still respecting one another and still being there for one another in the end. Negan and Michonne do some verbal sparring that digs at the core of who they are, but Michonne maintains her moral upper hand. And a war may be about to envelop them all again--can Rick save them from that fate before he himself dies? I look forward to finding out (at the same time, nooo!).
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