As Jesus promised, our world just got a whole lot bigger. This week on The Walking Dead we meet the inhabitants of Hilltop, which is where Jesus comes from and works as a recruiter (just like Daryl and Aaron did). Yet before we get there he must convince Rick and Co he is trustworthy (enough) and can work out a beneficial trade to help out Alexandria and Hilltop.
Rick agrees to a meeting and brings along with him the A-team (minus Carol who is strangely absent these past episodes along with Morgan). Along the way they run into a wrecked car which Jesus identifies as one of his. Almost immediately, Rick thinks this is some sort of trap. Jesus convinces him to help save his people who must be close by.
While this pit stop ends up being little more than a token zombie appearance, it does highlight yet again one excellent aspect of season 6 and one we have been waiting to see for six years: Rick has a badass army. Every person in the core group here are seasoned veterans of the zombie apocalypse. They are quite arrogant though because they really do know how to take care of themselves. This is not the same ragtag group of survivors we have known for years, but a hardened group of badass-ery.
For example, before entering the building Rick handcuffs Jesus (not that it would stop him as we have seen) and has Maggie keep an eye on him. Rick tells her if he whistles to kill Jesus, and without hesitation or any tint of guilt agrees. Inside the building, the group takes care of the Walkers and finds the group in what feels like a perfectly executed Counter Strike. Seriously, they know how to get things done.
When they reach Hilltop, it is revealed how relatively derelict the place is. Sure, they have trailers, a blacksmith and the place is pretty neat and tidy. Yet what do they have for defensive weapons: spears! Even their supplies are not as ample as one might think. We get to meet top doushbag Gregory (played superbly as expected by Xander Berkeley) who appears more confident and arrogant than his situation warrants. We later discover this settlement has only survived because a group called The Saviours, led by the yet to be seen Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), has basically allowed them to in exchange for half of their supplies.
“Negan is being set-up as a nasty man and I hope the payoff meets my high expectations.”
When a group of Hilltop runners returns with news one of their own is being ransomed and have a message from Negan, things get a bit ugly real fast. This whole scene reveals two things. First, the foreshadowing of Negan being a truly bad person (worse than we have ever seen). It reminds me of The Dominion in Deep Space Nine, we heard whispers about them on and off all season and hints of how nasty they were. When we finally do meet them they end up destroying a Galaxy-class starship (like the Enterprise) in a suicide run. The Dominion was nasty and the payoff worked. So far, Negan is being set-up as a nasty man and I hope the payoff meets my high expectations (though I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan is going to be awesome in the role).
Secondly, we see yet again how awesome Rick’s group are – when things go south they take control of the situation fast. Rick ends up killing one guy and his face gets covered in blood, and when he stands up he just says, “What?” A single word perfectly delivered by Andrew Lincoln. This almost makes his group look like thugs or brutes, but you would need to be to survive in this new world. If anything, Rick’s Army is the least worst option we have seen.
“Rick’s group almost look like thugs or brutes, but you would need to be to survive in this new world.”
This turn of events allows the group to trade their military prowess in exchange for goods, which Maggie ends up extorting half from Gregory – finally giving her something more to do than be defacto Mayor of Alexandria. Yet we also see how cocky Rick’s group is when they offer to go get the captured Hilltop guy and kill Negan at the same time. Thing is, from what we have seen so far you know they are probably capable of doing something like this.
However, we know things are not going to turn out well. In fact, it is interesting to see things ramping up so quickly when Negan is only to be revealed in the last episode in April. Yet in the third episode back we are already heading into his compound. I am thinking this is either a trap or Negan is testing out Rick’s group to see how tough they really are. Negan must know about this new group of people who managed to kill a dozen of his men and The Wolves.
Better still, next week’s episode is directed by Greg Nicotero who has been responsible for some of the best episodes in this series (not to mention his superb work on the special effects). So you know things are going to be pretty amaze-balls.
The Walking Dead keeps on rolling along as we head towards the confrontation between Rick’s gang and Negan’s Survivors. The tension is becoming palpable as we are slowly learning just what Negan is capable of in ruling this corner of his world. “Knots Untie” opened up the world to us a little more as Jesus promised with Rick and Co showing us yet again how amazing they are at taking care of business. Thing is, we know trouble is ahead and next week involves a direct assault on Negan’s compound (and it is directed by Greg Nicotero). It is about to get a whole nastier, and I am so looking forward to it.