The Walking Dead "S7E9: New Best Friends" - Review: A Trashy But Entertaining Episode
New Best Friends – Rick tries to persuade this new group of scavengers to join them against The Saviours which comes at a cost. Tensions grow in The Kingdom as Richard tries to force The Saviours into war while Daryl is reunited with Carol.
So Rick smiled... and now we know why. More importantly many of us were joining this week as his scenes were by far the best parts of the episode as he gets acquainted with this rather fascinating new group. Despite initial speculations, the group is not The Whisperers, or in fact, any collective from the comics.... so for now let’s call them The Scavengers. Within minutes, they feel more interesting and fleshed out society than somewhere like Hilltop for their detached and feral nature. Not only have they carved a rather elaborate home out of a refuse dump, their hand signal coordination and leader Jadis’s deconstructed dialogue make them feel like a lost urban jungle tribe. Hopefully, we’ll get to learn more about how they reached this state further down the line. Then there’s Ricks garbage pit Thunderdome. The prosthetics team deserve fresh vegetables with their dinner, and no points are required this week because their feature creature is one of the show’s best ever creations! It looks straight out of some Resident Evil style experimentation, more metal than flesh and director Jeffrey F. January utilizes it for such a bizarre and unorthodox fight. The whole junkyard setup plays out with fantastic narrative efficiency. Over half of an episode, why get another group onboard Team **** The Saviours while still being entertaining sequence of events? Father Gabriel, in particular, has a terrific episode that really embodies the positive transformation of his character, not only within the show but in terms of being likeable to an audience. I spent a lot of Season 5 praying they’d just kill him off…. Now I couldn’t be happier he’s still around.
The stories around The Kingdom take a more dramatic focus and while plenty of the material is good, some it feels more like filler. It already feels like this will be quite a drawn-out story with The Kingdom being the final group to join up before All Out War. The catalyst is already in place: Ezekiel is most protective of young Benjamin so he’ll get too eager; The Saviours will get nasty with him, finally moving Ezekiel into action. The trouble is things feel rather more static while just being teased each week. However, the Richard material was much better and he is now king of The Kingdom. There’s some excellent morality themes around his sacrifice play to force the Kingdom into a fight, arguing about justifiable means, “I would die for the kingdom”. The way the roadside scene teases out the name of his Patsy for just a little longer makes it so tense before things hit the fan. Yet for all his intentions, we can’t hate Richard because Channing Powell’s makes it clear that his heart is in the right replace even if it’s back seat droving his brain sometimes.
It’s also worth celebrating that after what feels like an age, we finally have the old Daryl Dixon back again. From the moment he’s handed a new crossbow (“I hear you’re a bowman”), it’s like someone cranked his confidence back up to 11 and the rugged badass returns. While his Chronicles of Riddick-like moment of bonding with Shiva is cool (“It’s an animal thing”), it’s the Carol and Daryl reunion that really hits the spot this week. You remember Rick and Michone slicing through the walkers with the cars and cable last week? Imagine those walkers are your feelings and that’s the Carol and Daryl scene this week. Courtesy of some incredible work by both Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride, it develops into an absolute tearjerker of empathy and sympathy. It sets up for Carol’s eventual return to the fold while still being immensely rewarding in the meantime.
What I really love about The Walking Dead’s recent return is way so many more characters now feel like they have such a purpose rather the writers scrabbling to find enough jobs to go around. What’s more, there’s a terrific balance of optimism verses adversity. Everyone involved is still going through bad times but the show is letting their hope shine through rather than just making things overly dark and gritty. Sure, there is a darkness on the way but in meantime, we should be enjoying the light…. and right now, we are.