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I’ve been hard on The Walking Dead this season. But just as I am quick to criticize the series when it emphasizes gore over coherent storylines, I’m just as willing to praise the series when it gets an episode right. And “Say Yes” was one of the show’s better episodes in the past few seasons. Sure, the show’s major issues (a lack of an endgame, a lack of suspense when it comes to threats to Rick’s life, and the lingering issue of a poorly drawn villain) remained in place throughout the hour, but we were treated to some important character development and forward plot movement that it made it easy to overlook those recurring problems and just enjoy the show.
It troubles me that it’s taken this long for The Walking Dead to take a moment to examine the impact of Glenn’s death on Rick’s psyche. We don’t have a good idea of exactly how long it’s been since the premiere, but one can safely assume at least a few weeks have passed and it took until now for the show to look deeper into how Rick has been affected by the death of the man who once saved him. Rick is our central character. The show should have addressed this already. Heck, the show should have dropped some hints that this crisis of faith was happening. I suppose one could argue that Rick’s decision to bow down to Negan immediately following the deaths of Glenn and Abraham was a result of Rick’s mental anguish and breakdown, but I don’t like that the writers opted to keep such a major character beat from us until now.
That said, I’m glad we did get this particular arc for both Rick and Michonne. It’s been awhile since I last felt sympathy or any sort of emotional connection to Rick (which is a major problem when he’s meant to be our hero), but thanks to some deft writing from Matthew Negrete and two wonderful performances from Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira, I care about Rick again. I want to see him overcome these demons and succeed. It also didn’t hurt to have those delightful moments of levity throughout the episode. The series is at its best when it remembers to smile despite the dire situations the characters find themselves in.
I was also impressed by Rick’s speech to Michonne in the van. He was completely right (although it wasn’t the most romantic way to tell his girlfriend that he loves her and has complete trust in her). If Rick falls, Michonne needs to take up the mantle of leader. But she needs to continue to fight. It’s a hard lesson to learn- but one that is already clearly on display through Rosita, Sasha, and Maggie. At its heart, the show is about surviving in the face of insurmountable odds. Of taking one step after another forward following painful loss and defeat. When the series gets hung up on crafting ridiculous psychopaths like Negan, it loses sight of the struggles of its core characters. When it turns out an episode like “Say Yes,” it’s a great chance to remember how much these characters mean to us. How far they’ve come and that they have their own goals for where they eventually go. We need more episodes like this to keep the series focused and to keep the characters actively growing and changing.
— I’m glad we got some forward movement in the “Angry Rosita” storyline. Her anger is, of course, fully justified, but it’s taken so long for her to do anything that her character has become grating in the process. I do like the idea of her and Sasha FINALLY making a move to off Negan, even though I suspect only one of them will make it out alive (as I’ve mentioned previously, Sonequa Martin-Green has the starring role on the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery, so one assumes Sasha won’t make it out of the season alive). I also have a feeling that Eugene will factor into this assassination attempt, either as an aid or as an obstacle Rosita will have to deal with. Either way, I’m intrigued to see how it turns out (even though I suspect the attempt will, unfortunately, fail).
— I still don’t know what to make of Team Emo. I don’t particularly trust them, and I don’t like that they now have a host of guns (with more presumably on the way, now that Tara’s spilling the beans about Oceanside).
— Speaking of Oceanside, I’m disappointed in Tara. The last thing I want to see is the slaughter of the camp, and I suspect that is what we have in store for us. I could be wrong, and the ladies there could acquiesce to Rick, but considering how they treated Tara, I can’t see them being thrilled at whatever Rick will have to say. If they even let him say anything.
— As much as I enjoyed the episode, it was pretty obvious that Rick had killed that deer and hid to escape the walkers. It was a smart survival move, but a pretty jerk move in terms of failing to let Michonne know what was going on until it was almost too late. Not cool, man.