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Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead was meant to do two things: develop the characters of Daryl (who despite being a fan favorite, really hasn’t seen all that much character development over the course of the series), Sasha, and Abraham, and introduce us to a terrifying and troubling threat living 20 miles away from Alexandria. “Always Accountable” did one of those things very well. As for the other, well, yeah, we really don’t know all that much more about three crucial characters despite spending an entire episode with them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Walking Dead can do great things with character focused episodes. The writers are able to craft nuanced pieces that allow characters to grow and change in meaningful ways. And I will always defend the show from those who claim it is only a violent zombie-fest, more concerned with killing characters than creating them. But “Always Accountable” is an example of how NOT to craft a character episode. Just two weeks after the excellent “Here’s Not Here” introduced the excellent character of Eastman (who was given astounding depth for his one appearance on the show) and expanded greatly on Morgan’s character, “Always Accountable” did neither of those two things. The stragglers Daryl encounters in the woods were thinly drawn and didn’t leave much of an impression (save for driving home some key points about the mysterious men in the woods tracking them), and the only thing we learned about our three main characters was that Abraham is actually a pretty creepy and strange guy (seriously, what was up with him propositioning Sasha?).
After spending an hour with three characters who desperately need to be developed, I only feel disappointed at the lost opportunity. So, Sasha has gotten over her death wish (which we’ve known for some time), Abraham is now all about taking needless risks to negate the realization that Alexandria has given him a sense of safety that he can’t understand or cope with (I’m interested to see how that changes when he finds out that things aren’t so great behind the walls now), and Daryl still wants to see the best in people only to get burned for his trust. Everyone remains unchanged from where they were at the start of the episode. There was no growth, no forward momentum, and nothing worth watching from a character perspective. It was just a disappointment.
However, while the character side of “Always Accountable” might have been a miss, the slick introduction of that mysterious band of heavily armed men in the woods was spectacular. Now, I’ve tried to avoid throwing out comic references in these reviews, as I know not everyone has read the comics or wants to know what might happen in the future on the show. So, if you don’t want to know what the appearance of those men in the woods might be hinting at (ok, what they almost certainly were hinting at), skip on down to the Final Thoughts section of the review.
So, those were definitely the Saviors, right? With the recent announcement that Negan has been cast (and will be making his first appearance at the end of the season), it was only a matter of time before some of his group appeared on the show. I think we can safely say that those mysterious fighters (including the faceless party leader, which is always a tip-off that the character is important to the show’s future) weren’t Wolves. They were incredibly organized and heavily armed. Not to mention clean and well-dressed. The Wolves that we’ve seen have been disorganized, dirty, and have lacked significant weaponry. The Wolves are scavengers. Those people in the woods were highly trained fighters. And they were terrifying. Hacking off an arm right after a bite and telling the guy to walk it off? That’s stone cold. I’m thrilled with the initial appearance of the Saviors (assuming that’s what the show will call them), and I’m really excited to see where this leads.
— While I wasn’t thrilled with “Always Accountable” overall, I do want to commend director Jeffrey F. January for his excellent use of color throughout the episode. I loved how blacks, whites, and grays dominated the color palette throughout the woods scenes, making Daryl’s skin and the blood on his arm pop. It was a gorgeous effect.
— So, I’m guessing Rosita and Abraham are no longer a thing? Considering the two characters have had a total of 20 lines so far this season, I guess I’m not surprised. Also, Abraham is a bit of a creep, so I hope Rosita gets someone better (and actually gets some decent screen time).
— It looks like the bulk of the gang will be back together next week (save for Glenn, who I still think is alive). As much as I’ve enjoyed some of these split cast episodes, I’m happy to have people back in the fold again.