The Walking Dead 7x10: NEW BEST FRIENDS (or not)
Jerry is MY new best friend
I wish the show itself had the same tone as it’s titles. NEW BEST FRIENDS suggests something so much more fun than what actually happened during this (sorry, not sorry) straight up filler ep. I’m going to spit some hard truths about The Walking Dead in this post, you have been warned. I am also 100% including a gif of Daryl petting the tiger so there is still a silver lining.
Rick hobbling away with this cat statue also really tickled me
TWD has never been known for it’s groundbreaking writing, but this episode was…pretty rough. Yes there were nice fan service moments, but they felt like the sparkle stickers you would smack onto a terrible childhood drawing in an order to make it aesthetically pleasing rather than organic moments of emotional payoff.
The best of these was Carol’s reunion with Daryl, something that we have all been waiting for since Carol skipped town at the end of last season. Carol and Daryl have one of the best relationships on the show, beyond the natural chemistry of the actors, the characters have a deeply loving platonic bond that is rarely seen (I guess some people ship it- but I like that this particular relationship is non romantic). The great appeal of Daryl as a character is that beneath his external growling and badassery lies a gentle soul capable of unwavering loyalty and affection (I feel like this could be easily visualized in some way, maybe by connecting him to a some kind of -i dont know- predator animal? Something to think about). As genuinely moving as Daryl’s decision to lie to Carol rather than reveal the extent of Negan’s carnage was, it still felt a bit hollow and meaningless. Just as Daryl almost immediately discovered the truth behind Morgan’s lie about Carol from the previous episode, it is virtually guaranteed that Daryl’s own deception will be uncovered sooner rather than later. Literally all the people who visit Carol know the truth, as do all the people who would ever want to visit her. All that aside this was still the nicest scene in what was otherwise a slog of an episode.
Let’s move on to the German performance art troop that live in the dump. Woof. I try never to speak negatively about an actor’s performance (at least in a public forum), and it is a testament to the overall solid casting of The Walking Dead that a bad performance really sticks out. I’m talking here about Jadis, the monotone leader of the trash cult. She has a great look, I’m not sure who is maintaining that bob in the apocalypse, but I like the Fifth-Elementness of it. She also looks a bit like Olivia Williams, which maybe made me fantasize about what Olivia Williams would do with such a part. For a new group leader though, Jadis is just not cutting it. This is a world where leaders have tigers, fetish bats, and colonial mansions - there is no room for lackluster. The whole encounter with Jadis’ group was a bit underwhelming, even Rick’s fight with the Pan’s Labyrinth reject monster was a little anti-climactic, I mean he used…trash…to kill it. Also at first Rick’s smiling was roguish and assured, now its become a little disquieting and…contagious?
Overall though this episode acted to illustrate a larger problem with the series - which is that it fails to generate compelling conflict. Currently many episodes have been dedicated to setting up two sides of a “moral conflict” around whether or not to fight back against Negan. However, this is not really a moral conflict because there is not really a choice to be made. There is no peace to be had with Negan, the decision to cooperate with the Saviors is the decision to prolong a death sentence at the cost of steadily weakening the group. There is only one move to be made that will advance the story, there is only one move that makes any sense in the context of the show - and that is to kill Negan. There is no moral ambiguity in this choice, no matter what the writers seem to think. Morgan’s counter argument is not a viable choice or course of action - merely an obstacle to be overcome. To contrast this conflict, think about Game of Thrones, a show that is compelling due to the moral ambiguity of the choices it’s characters are faced with. In Westeros there are very few inherently ‘right’ or 'wrong’ choices. One character’s savior, is anothers executioner. What one character sincerely believes to be right, is not necessarily morally so.
But with Negan, there are no shades of gray, he is a BAD GUY. He is a ruthless bully who treats his own people just as brutally as his enemies. Negan has no redeeming qualities, he is not dark timeline Rick, he is a mustache twirling villain. Yes, people COULD die in an offensive against the Saviors, but doing nothing ASSURES death. There is nothing wrong with a character such as Morgan voicing objection, but to force the plot to resolve around this point of objection for an entire season is frustrating and nonsensical for the world the show inhabits.
It’s a symbolism
As entertaining as Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been as Negan, an over-the-top 'Big Bad’ has been disastrous for the show’s plot, and this season has been overall one of the poorest. The conflicts and drama that hit home on The Walking Dead have always been on a smaller scale. One of the series most memorable episodes is season 4’s “The Grove” where Carol is forced to deal with the increasingly unhinged behavior of Lizzie, a little girl who seems to think zombies are her friends (they are not). This is an episode with only four characters, there is no big bad, there is only a set of difficult circumstances our survivors must navigate. It is an emotionally visceral episode that deals with the cost of survival and the value of life on a small scale, but the punch it packs is anything but. No one is forgetting 'look at the flowers’ anytime soon. Even typing it was rough.
All in all I can’t wait for Negan to go, (and not just because he is a fucking asshole who killed my sweet Glenn), but because his presence has created a void of conflict that is challenging or interesting. Yes I will revel in the eventual massive group raid on the Saviors, but I will also be relieved to have this particular chapter of the show in the rearview.
Hey here’s that gif I promised:
PS If Jerry dies, we riot.