Why do they do it? It’s more of a death wish than licking a live power cable than mockingly dangling your scrotum into the gorilla enclosure and even worse than voting for Donald Trump. Why, oh why do people try and take Daryl Dixon’s crossbow? It’s the single biggest death-marking The Walking Dead can bestow and let’s face it: they’re not shy about bringing down the axe on people. This week, another name gets added to that ever expanding list of morons, idiots, and fools.... or could they finally be the one to break the curse?
Always Accountable – As they reach the 20-mile safety point Daryl, Sasha and Abraham turn and head back towards Alexandria when an unexpected ambush leaves them separated and caught in the middle of someone else’s fight. Abraham re-finds his focus while Daryl takes a chance on some potential new recruits.
The biggest problem last week was feeling too much like an overblown hour of setup. This week, actual does a lot of that again but in more enjoyable manner. The smaller quantity of known characters means we can spend some good meaningful time with our intrepid trio. Abraham becomes the standout as Sasha gets his head back in the game. It nicely signals her character turnout following last season’s death wish craziness. Despite Abraham claiming he came along to look after her, Sasha quickly shows herself as the rational thinker. She stops Abraham, making unnecessary walker kills or other moves that will advertise their holed up presence following the early doors ambush; whereas Abraham just wants to kill everything in sight and spout off gruff one liners (“Loose ends make my ass itch”). Yet his forced confinement with Sasha becomes oddly therapeutic. There’s some excellent dialogue as Sasha evaluates Abraham’s fears of accountability, that he prefers the freedom of chaos rather than the sceptical constraints of rational action. Yet the episode has great fun in showing him learning the faults of his ways on the rooftop scene over the RPG launcher. He tries to make a rash action to grab it, which almost ends really badly as his head trips out over seeing a fellow soldier in such a state. Then by contrast, he sits, smokes a cigar, and the impaled walker shakes himself so much that his flesh tears apart on the rail, leaving just the RPG behind, and thus the big ginger war daddy learnt that good things come to those who wait and immediately starts thinking about the long game. Though Sasha’s role in that game comes as a bit of a surprise and it’s unlikely Rosita will be onboard with any timeshare arrangement. It’s worth noting that Sasha doesn’t seem entirely repulsed by his notion, and if anything her teases carry the hint of maybe. Considering Rosita’s been a minor character at best this season, the show could well be going there, possibly killing the current Mrs Abraham off. As for the RPGs, well they could prove rather fun when the trio return to the hordes of walkers at Alexandria.
Daryl’s primarily serves as build up and teasing for this new, as yet unnamed big bad. In terms of who they are, one immediate theory comes to mind. Many will have the heard the freakin’ awesome news this week that Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian in Watchmen, John Winchester in Supernatural.... hiss badass credentials check out) has been cast as the hotly anticipated comics antagonist Negan; the baseball bat-wielding, profanity spewing leader of The Saviours. Of the strangers trio, Daryl encounters the malecalled Dwight, a comics character and a member of The Savours so it looks like this is the start of a long journey to both Negan’s and The Saviours introduction (most likely, we’ll get the gang name in the mid-season finale before Negan appears in the second half). Whether Saviours or not, we do learn that these people are highly organised and knowledgeable; they display active radio communications along with the quick and efficient field amputation following an arm bite (anyone else love the way Wade took the guy’s watch off his severed arm to give back to him; true friendship). There’s mention of their home settlement being a good place for a while before turning bad based on people being willing to give anything to survive (again, this links for The Saviours extortion style supplies for protection system) and a heavy mention of rules too, further implying an operation in scale to rival Alexandria.
There’s also a good sidebar to Daryl’s story that echoes his season opener flashback argument with Rick about the need to keep finding new recruits (which considering their recent death count, now seems pretty smart). The series of events that unfold do a great job walking us through Daryl’s mindset of concluding his 3 reluctant captors are in fact good people just trying to survive. The simple little touches like sharing their limited water with Daryl or the care they show over their diabetic group member, which is a nice character in the show that we haven’t seen for a while. The group has a very curious back story as it appears they caused the scorched earth setting of the episode but starting a large forest fire “back in the beginning” in the hope of a mass walker cull. This delivers some great visual imagery as we seem some walkers that still survived but are so physically withered as they’ve been reduced to immobile almost motionless skeletal figures. For the first time in a while, we hear Daryl bust out the infamous questions, prompting Dwight to make some good notions about never being able to go back after taking a human life. The interactions of Daryl and this unknown group form an overall very satisfying story. There’s plenty of good action, both human and walker-based. The only down side is a certain predictably dumb fate. We’re clearly all supposed to be wondering if a certain someone was the concluding “help” on the radio but the rest of the episode is so enjoyable that such a vague tease deserves no further consideration.
When done well, these small character episodes of The Walking Dead can be immensely rewarding, and Always Accountable is just that. Writer Heather Bellson shows such an understanding of her characters, you’d think she spend a few years as their roommate, especially Abraham, who makes a real cigar smoking bid to follow Daryl and Carol as the show’s next emerging star figure. Who knows, next year you could be drinking out a “Mother dick” mug from Hot Topic? After last week’s slip, this episode places entertainment firmly in the driver’s seat with character elements comfortably in the back, along for the ride.