Whose Episode Is It?
Two main plotlines run through “New Best Friends”: The Ricketeers meet a new group of truly odd survivors, and Daryl considers his options in the Kingdom and reunites with Carol. This gives the episode a bit of tonal whiplash, since the Rick stuff is downright goofy (yes, goofier than the Kingdom), while Daryl and Carol’s scenes are emotionally fraught. Still, both storylines are satisfying in their own way.
Yet Another Human Faction
Hoo boy, this new group introduced this week. They take Rick and the others to their lair, which is a huge garbage dump. Rick’s still grinning, because he’s happy to recruit anyone into his war, even this group of high-wattage mega-weirdos. The Dumpsters are more like a post-apocalypse faction you’d find in “Mad Max”; they speak in short, clipped phrases and have odd terms for basic things (they refer to the peak of their trash pile as “Up-Up-Up”). It’s like they’ve been living in the post-apocalypse for generations instead of a few years. Or they just saw too many movies and it’s all a put on, like with Ezekiel? But there’s no sign of any irony from them.
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The Dumpsters’ leader, Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh, suitably eccentric), demands something from Rick in exchange for their lives, but Rick immediately goes in on the hard sell of fighting the Saviors. He’s unsuccessful at first, since the Dumpsters’ credo seems to be avoiding direct contact with the outside world, but Gabriel (who was indeed captured by the Dumpsters last episode) interjects, saying the Saviors have all the supplies the Dumpsters could want. Jadis wants something now, however, and Gabriel starts going on about how Rick is a god among men and can do anything if they just give him a chance. Jadis agrees, provided that Rick survives a zombie battle in a gladiatorial arena made out of garbage.
Obligatory Zombie Action
I’ll say this for the back half of Season 7 so far: It’s managing to find new spins on zombie fights. Rick gets tossed from Up-Up-Up all the way down into the trash arena to face a zombie that’s been turned into some sort of undead porcupine weapon, with blades jutting out of its body and a bladed skullcap to boot. Rick is Rick, of course, so while he gets cut up a bit, he does ultimately manage to get the better of the trash zombie. Afterwards, Rick asks why, if the Dumpsters don’t like to intervene, do they have a zombie gladiator fight all ready to go? Was he just there for someone to prove themselves? Jadis just deadpans, “No. His name was Winslow,” which is the cherry on the bonkers sundae that is the Dumpsters’ whole deal. It’s possible that after the grimness of the season’s first half, the show is now pushing a little too hard in the other direction, since the Dumpsters currently just seem weird for weirdness’ sake. But I’ll certainly take too much levity over monotonous cruelty any day.
After some negotiations, Rick convinces Jadis to join his war in exchange for a third of the Saviors’ goods, a bunch of guns, and half of the goods they stole from Rick. That’s a pretty sweetheart deal, considering Rick hasn’t seen these people fight and they seem like a bunch of gaunt performance-art types, but I guess he’s pretty desperate at this point.
A Shred of Humanity
Gabriel gives Rick the full story of what went down last episode: He caught the Dumpsters breaking into Alexandria’s pantry and they kidnapped him. Gabriel is of course overjoyed that Rick and the others found him, but he’s most excited to find that Rick didn’t think Gabriel stole from them. Aw, Rick believes in you, Gabriel! What’s more, Rick admits that Gabriel showed him that enemies could become friends, enabling Rick’s negotiations with the Dumpsters. Pretty sure Gabriel would be willing to take a barbed-wire baseball bat for Rick at this point.
Meanwhile, in the serious part of the episode, Daryl and Carol are finally reunited. Richard tries to get Daryl to join his plan to murder some Saviors and pin it on Carol, so that the Saviors will attack her, thus convincing Ezekiel to join Rick’s rebellion, but obviously Daryl doesn’t want any part of that.
Instead, he shows up on Carol’s doorstep, and their tearful reunion is the rare “Walking Dead” character-based emotional beat that really lands. The Daryl/Carol pairing has always been one of the show’s strongest, signifying a strong emotional bond while never becoming a full-blown romance. Not to mention that Melissa McBride has long been the show’s acting MVP, with Norman Reedus not far behind. McBride really does fine work here as she confesses that she couldn’t stand to lose any of her friends to the Saviors, and if she did, then she would kill again. “And there wouldn’t be anything left of me after that.”
She asks Daryl point-blank if the Saviors came and if everyone in Alexandria is okay. Daryl, knowing what the truth would do to her, tells her that the Saviors did come, but Alexandria worked out a deal like the Kingdom has, and that everyone’s okay. It’s a devastating moment, and one that’s sure to be even more so once Carol inevitably discovers the truth. For now, it’s Daryl doing what he believes to be a necessary kindness for his dearest friend.
Once he’s back at the Kingdom, Daryl insists that Morgan convince Ezekiel to join the rebellion, but Morgan’s still not on board. Daryl gets salty about Morgan’s pacifist stance, but Morgan correctly deduces that Daryl lied to Carol — otherwise she’d be back at the Kingdom getting ready for a one-woman murder quest. Morgan thinks Daryl made the right decision, and it certainly undermines Daryl’s crusade that he wants to draft everyone in the Kingdom, except Carol. It’s easier to send relative strangers to die than your loved ones. Daryl decides to head back to the Hilltop, which seems like the dumbest decision imaginable, but no one ‘s willing to contradict him at this point.
- Zero Negan this episode, and it’s all the better for it. Surprise! He’s more threatening as a concept than a character.
- With Daryl nixing Richard’s idea of using Carol as a sacrifice to trick Ezekiel into declaring war, I’m worried Richard will decide to use Benjamin, instead. I’m really just convinced Benjamin won’t last the season.
- Rick promising so much to the Dumpsters should make the inevitable post-war peace accords interesting viewing. Will the Hilltop and Kingdom be cool with the Dumpsters’ reward of one-third of the spoils?
- Morgan loses his stick to Jared, the Savior that’s always egging on Richard. His pleas to have it returned lead to the best line of the episode: “Read the goddamn room, sensei.”