The Walking Dead: Something They Need
When the Oceanside community was introduced, it was obvious that sooner or later Rick was going to show up and take their guns. It was the only reason for them to exist. Episode after episode, we were reminded that Rick needed guns. Conveniently, here was a community with guns to spare but without the will to use them. Sure, Tara promised not to reveal their location. But that promise was never anything more than a stalling tactic. She may as well have promised to keep their location a secret until the penultimate episode of the season.
“Something They Need” is built around a series of what are supposed to be difficult ethical questions. Tara breaks a promise to a group that makes it a practice to kill anyone unfortunate enough to stumble upon them. Rick decides to take all of the community’s weapons by force rather than attempt any kind of negotiations and ultimately leaves them defenseless. Sasha is tempted by Negan to betray her friends and join the Saviors.
There is some potential for drama in these kinds of conflicts, but the writer’s don’t understand moral ambiguity. When the choices come down to “Rick is always right and Negan is the bad guy”, you’re in Saturday morning cartoon territory. Rick’s fascism is acceptable because he is our protagonist. Negan’s is not because he’s bad.
Early on, the writers went to great lengths to remind us what a monster Negan was. He was introduced to us by having him kill two of the show’s regulars. Ever since, he’s been kind of a softie. Yes, he burn the face off a henchman or throw his only doctor into an incinerator based on a farfetched story told to him by a henchman whose face he mutilated. But he’s shown an amazing amount of patience towards characters who have tried to kill him.
Last week, Sasha went on a suicide run to take out Negan. It was extremely ill-advised in that it had no real chance of success. Presumably, Sasha threw herself into the lion’s den to prevent Rosita from doing the same thing. The writers choose not to show us how Sasha’s raid played out because realistically there is no way she should have survived her one-woman assault on a heavily armed compound.
Somehow, Sasha was subdued rather than shot in the head repeatedly. This makes her the third character this season to be taken prisoner by the Saviors after attempting to kill Negan. Counting Eugene, who did make a bullet for Rosita’s first failed attempt on Negan’s life, Sasha is the fourth such character. With the exception of Carl, who was returned home to his family unharmed, Negan has tried to recruit every one of his would-be assassins. How is that a good idea? Do you really want to surround yourself with people who want to kill you?
Before extending his offer to Sasha, Negan interrupts one of his men attempting to rape her. He responds by killing the would-be rapist. Attempt to kill Negan and you will be rewarded, but rape crosses a line. Negan gives Sasha the knife with which he stabbed his underling and tells her that she should use it to prevent “rapey Dave” from coming back as a zombie. D’uh.
Somehow this is presented as a moral quandary. If Sasha makes an effort whatsoever to defend herself, it will be interpreted as joining the Saviors rather than just a desire to avoid being eaten alive by the animated corpse of a man who had previously tried to rape her. Even Sasha seems to by into this logic refusing to prevent her attacker from reanimating until the last possible second.
Apparently no one on this show has ever heard of playing along with your captors. Daryl spent who knows how long in isolation rather than pretend to join the Saviors which would only have made his escape that much easier. And in this episode, Eugene reveals that his betrayal is no ruse. He is fully on board with Negan’s fascist agenda completely undoing any progress he has made as a character over the last several seasons.
Sasha tries to convince Eugene to give her a weapon so that she can end her life rather than be used as leverage against Rick and the Alexandrians. Reluctantly, Eugene agrees to give her the poison pill he made for Negan’s wives. It’s not much of a murder weapon for Sasha to use against Negan unless she figures out how to gain his trust. Since the show has paid it so much attention, one has to assume that Chekhov’s pill will play some role in the season finale. There has to be a payoff, right?
Screen time is spent reminding us of things we have known for a long time. Maggie is the de facto leader of the Hilltop. Gregory watches in jealousy and perhaps some admiration as Maggie effortlessly inspires everyone around her to make their community a better place to live. When she foolishly leaves the compound alone and unarmed to transplant a blueberry bush, Gregory follows her. We’re supposed to think he might attempt to take out his competition, but we all know Gregory doesn’t have the stone for that.
Instead, the scene ends with Maggie cheerfully and publicly demonstrating Gregory’s many shortcomings as a leader. When a single zombie shows up, Gregory balks at the idea of being defended by a pregnant woman (who still isn’t showing at all). But ultimately, he gives up on the idea of defending himself and hands his knife to Maggie.
So of course a second zombie materializes to attack the now unarmed Gregory forcing him to scream for Maggie’s help. Adding insult to injury, some Hilltop extras arrive just in time to witness Gregory’s humiliation. Maggie “helpfully” explains that Gregory has never killed a zombie before contradicting what the ineffective leader has been telling all of his followers. Ooops. We all know where this is headed. At some point (most likely next week’s finale) Gregory will betray Maggie and end up getting himself killed.
Meanwhile, Rick finally has his guns. Despite the questionable methods he used to acquire them, no one seems to feel the least bit guilty. Least of all, Tara. In a way, this is understandable. If the Oceansiders aren’t going to use the guns to fight their enemies (The Saviors or heck even Rick), then there’s no reason for them to hang on to them. If Rick’s group was able to find the Oceansiders this easily, surely the Saviors will eventually stumble upon them too. The smart thing to do would either be to join the fight against a common enemy or, if you’re going to hide, hide farther away from your enemy than walking distance. Seriously, cross a state line!