The Walking Dead - S7E15 Something They Need" - Review: Walking Dead Builds Up in Style
Something They Need – Rick and the group arrive at Oceanside to take their guns with or without consent. A captured Sasha, following her failed attack on The Saviours, faces an unexpected proposition while at Hilltop Gregory feels increasingly threatened by Maggie.
Going into this episode, I imagined that it would be a lot of rushed ground covering in setup for the finale. While that ground does indeed get covered, at no point does it feel rushed and all three stories/locations on show are brilliant within the context of this episode rather than what they are leading towards. It’s a setup episode that feels like a payoff, and after last week’s slice of filler, it feels quite awesome. Although I can’t say I’m thrilled about “Rapey Davey” becoming a nickname, the Sasha/Saviours follow up was the best feature of the episode. What I’ve really come to love about having Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the show is that every time we think we’ve seen the best of him, every time we think we’ve seen the full Negan routine, he pulls something else out. His introductory scene with Sasha was outstanding as he carries an air of courtesy while still being menacing underneath as he sees Sasha’s kamikaze antics as less of an attack and more of a recruiting opportunity. Then we have the contrast of Sasha wrestling with the convert or die ultimatum against the early season comparisons of Daryl and Eugene. Chief Engineer Haircut himself even weighs in about the rewards of safety and escaping future terror being worth the sacrifices. He’s fantastic in his mix of empathy and honesty towards his own vulnerability. He accepts that he is a coward but Sasha is not so her choice is not so simple.
Then we have return the trip to Oceanside. This has long been coming and always seemed like it would be a full episode story but writer Corey Reed condenses it with surprising efficiency to less than half that time. A continued strength of the show is it’s ability to use opening montages and narrations to skip over time sections of story, and these early minutes cover the Tara’s reluctance to tell Rick of Oceanside and the group getting there nice and smoothly. The events here also carry a nice theme of necessary force in build up to a Saviours conflict through all the little character interactions. Eric still hates the idea of Aaron (or himself) fighting but now accepts it must be done. Enid and Carl form an excellent framing exchange about the balance of violence and mercy: that while Carl thinks about the people he has killed, he also thinks about those he chose not to and that helps him keep going. It builds towards the idea of the greater survival requiring some people to die. I also really liked the way they Alexandria contingent were shown as carrying out a hostile takeover of Oceanside without vilifying them. The sudden mass walker attack visualised key Oceanside members accepting the idea of uniting towards a common enemy. Plus, how gruesomely awesome are the festering barnacle ridden Oceanside walkers? While their leader Titania’s may come across as stubborn and ignorant, it feels more believable for her to embody lingering resistance within her community. The two groups are still relative strangers and it feels more natural for trust to be built over time like we’ve seen with The Kingdom or The Scavengers.
Finally, to Hilltop and unlike last week’s stalemate affair, these few scenes to a fantastic job of progressing the Gregory story. It presents both Maggie and Gregory as the right leader either side of zombie outbreak. Gregory is ideally suited to be an old world leader. He thrives on the political game and diplomacy but the world has changed. Now a leader needs to be someone like a Maggie. Someone that can lead from the front by example rather than at the back shouting orders and we see Gregory come to understand that through his close encounter with the new world. Yet like an old school politician, he favours scheming to keep himself in power, which looks to follow up on last episode’s Simon/Gregory friendship. In many ways, you could liken Eugene and Gregory. Both in their own way are cowards not fit to survive this new world alone, and so they lie to convince others of their value in exchange for safety.
As Negan remarks about having big plans for the next day, it would appear that will be getting at least the start of an All Out War based conflict next week and the trailer footage certainly shows a lot people gearing up. For now though, this is a terrific Walking Dead episode in way plays towards our expectations while still packing surprises and sets the finale without ever feeling like required reading. It really was something this season needed.