Whose Episode Is It?
This episode takes some time to give a lot of characters nuance, but the primary focus is on everyone’s favorite den mother/assassin Carol.
Most Obvious Metaphor
Sure, we open with Carol preparing homemade acorn and beet cookies to the delight of the whole town, but there are threatening storm clouds on the horizon. Do you maybe think the Saviors might turn out to be more than the Ricketeers bargained for?
A Shred of Humanity
This is a more interesting episode than most, as many of the characters have to seriously consider the effect of the violence they inflict, and the justification for that violence. Carol, in particular, is feeling the weight of her actions. It’s revealed that she keeps a running tally of the people she’s killed, and may be rethinking her "shoot first" position. She’s sworn everyone who knew about Morgan hiding the Wolf into silence, ostensibly to protect Denise (who helped Morgan) but more likely because Morgan’s arguments are getting to her. She also leaves a cookie at the grave of Sam Anderson, the little boy she repeatedly tried to toughen up, to no avail. As we know, Sam’s last thoughts were of Carol’s warnings that zombies would eat him, showing that she doesn’t always know best.
Carol also starts a tentative romance with Tobin this episode, and he tells her that she’s willing to do what she does because she’s a mother to everyone else in the town. Carol takes these words to heart and turns that protective maternal instinct towards Maggie, who’s along for the raid on the Savior compound. First she berates Rick for bringing Maggie along, then turns her anger on Maggie herself. Carol’s not just concerned for her safety; she doesn’t want Maggie to become a killer like the rest of them. Of course, this plot is then cut short when Carol and Maggie are captured by the Saviors off-camera.
The big question facing the group this week is "do the Saviors need to die?" Morgan, of course, argues for giving them a choice, but Rick says that will give up their tactical advantage. The rest of the group sides with Rick, but with private reservations. Many of them have not killed before, but they feel the need to start. Glenn and Heath want to defend their home. Aaron feels guilty for inadvertently leading the Wolves to Alexandria, and believes this is the way to prevent another attack like that from happening.
Gabriel, too, seeks forgiveness for his multitude of sins, and his character this episode is the most intriguing. When Gabriel tells Tara that Rick and Carl showed him how to use guns and other weapons, so he could "contribute," he says it without any emotion. And when he confronts a wounded Savior outside the compound, he simply recites a few Bible verses about heaven and executes the man on the spot. It’s possible that Gabriel, in his need to be accepted and forgiven by Rick and the Alexandrians, believes that the only way to earn their trust to become a stone-cold killer. There’s no one more zealous than a convert.
The raid on the Savior compound is tense, but it’s not triumphant. When Glenn kills a sleeping Savior, it’s not treated as a victory, but as a bit of his humanity being stripped away. Glenn even stops Heath from having to kill the other Savior in the room. He already knows what it’s like, and he’d rather keep Heath from knowing, too. They are obviously bad people, as evidenced by the collection of Polaroids on the wall of victims with their heads bashed in, but when Glenn and Heath gun down the Saviors pursuing them outside the armory, the display of massacred bodies is not dissimilar to the Saviors’ trophies.
Man Is The True Monster
Meanwhile, Rick, Michonne and Daryl kill without hesitation or remorse. They’re typical action heroes, gunning down wave after wave of Saviors and seeming none the worse for wear afterwards. It’s an odd dynamic for this episode, with most of the minor characters expressing doubts or fears while the three leads just charge forward with purpose. Of course, that remorselessness could be the point. If Rick was truly considering his people instead of focusing on victory, he probably wouldn’t have let Glenn’s first kill be stabbing a sleeping man in the head. And from the point of view of the Saviors in the compound, the Ricketeers aren’t any different from the Wolves that invaded Alexandria. When they capture the last remaining Savior, (escaping on Daryl’s stolen bike!) he screams, "Do it! Like you did everyone else!" To him, they’re the monsters who came in the night and murdered his friends while they were sleeping. The Saviors are the bad guys, but the Ricketeers are sinking to their level. Not only that, but the Ricketeers mission is a failure; there are more Saviors out there, and Negan wasn’t at the compound. Now they’ve instigated a much bigger conflict than they’re prepared for.
In less life-threatening news, Abraham breaks up with Rosita in basically the worst way possible. The night before the raid, Rosita finds him packing his things, and he simply states that he’s moving out. When Rosita demands a reason, he simply tells her, "When I met you, I thought you were the last woman on Earth. But you’re not." HOLY COW. That is ice cold. Apparently Abraham has never heard of letting someone down gently.
Achievement In Grossness
Seriously, Abraham, who breaks up with someone like that? Let’s hear it for Rosita for being a complete professional during the raid after getting horrendously dumped just hours before.