[Editor’s note: Spoilers for “The Walking Dead” Season 8 Episode 13, “Do Not Send Us Astray,” follow.]
Whose Episode Is It?
“Do Not Send Us Astray” features the biggest battle we’ve gotten in the back half of Season 8, as the Saviors arrive at Hilltop only to discover that under Maggie’s leadership the Hilltop is not playing around.
The episode has a little bit of everything — human vs. human action, human vs. zombie action, and even some significant character development for Maggie. It’s as busy an episode as last week, but — barring one particularly embarrassing subplot — it’s a much stronger effort.
The War Effort
The action is a cut above this week, as the usual “just shoot from behind cover” approach is replaced by some real strategy. It’s particularly clever to leave the gates open to lure the Saviors into a trap, since it catches the Saviors off guard and ensures the gates aren’t damaged so they can still keep out the dead once the battle is over. It’s a little bone-headed of the Saviors to break cover to approach the house but even that’s covered for a little by Simon noting that “these people have run before.” He doesn’t realize that this time they’re playing for keeps, and it costs him the victory.
Even more effective is the aftermath, as the wounded Hilltoppers (including poor Tobin, the Last Surviving Alexandrian) start turning in the dead of night and attacking their bunkmates. It’s creepy as hell and doesn’t wear out its welcome by burning too much screen time. The infected weapons idea has always been pretty dodgy, considering how often we’ve seen characters become coated in gore and still be fine, but the sequence is effective and hopefully future engagements won’t rely on the trick going forward.
A Shred of Humanity
After the successful defense of Hilltop (but before the zombie outbreak) Maggie confesses that she sent the dead hostage to Negan to goad him into coming to her, so she could ensure the last thing he saw was Glenn’s grave. She’s disappointed because she didn’t even get the man himself to show up, let alone atone for his crimes.
But the next morning, after the additional carnage of the zombie attack, she looks at the graves of the Hilltoppers that died fighting for her, and she reconsiders her priorities. These are people under her leadership and care, and they died in a conflict she instigated for purely selfish revenge. When faced with the weight of her choice, she can truly see the cost. Maggie has never gone full vengeance like Rick or Daryl have, and her kindness is rewarded when several of her Savior prisoners (led by Alden, the Sensitive Savior) choose to remain behind rather than escape with their former comrades.
Meanwhile, poor Dwight is still stuck with the Saviors, and can’t do much to prevent death on either side once the battle starts. His one contribution is nicking Tara with an arrow when Simon moves to flank her, saving her life. Dwight knew about the poison, so one assumes he neglected to treat his arrows, but the Hilltoppers don’t know that. Once Rick figures out the Saviors’ trick, everyone goes up to Tara’s room to make awkward sad faces. Tara is alarmingly cool with it, accepting it as karma for the way she treated Dwight, even though he so obviously wanted to switch sides.
In fact, Tara’s much more herself this episode — Dwight’s actions last week have finally turned her around on him. She also finally remembered that she was in Dwight’s position once herself. Daryl doesn’t see it that way, but Tara firmly argues that while she may hate Dwight forever for killing Denise, she does finally believe that he’s truly on their side. We’ll see what it takes to convince Daryl of the same.
Man Is The True Monster
The episode’s big misfire involves Henry, the kid who killed Gavin. Despite Morgan and Carol telling him that Gavin was the one who killed his brother, Henry’s still suspicious, and he goes so far as to steal an assault rifle, unlock the Savior prisoner pen, and demand answers. Naturally he’s overpowered and all the Saviors escape. Way to go, kid. The whole story requires everyone to be extra dumb, since Ezekiel and Carol let Henry (whose only character trait is “give me a gun so I can wreak vengeance”) wander around all episode unsupervised. I know there’s a war on but there’s no non-combatant that can keep eyes on the kid? What’s more, apparently the Savior prisoners are simply left unguarded at night so any kid can wander up with the key. Note to Henry: you could just shoot through the big holes in the fence wire. The less said about all this business, the better. At least Hilltop will have more food to go around.
- Congrats to the scene where Siddiq tries to help out at the infirmary and gets chewed out for no reason by the woman working there for being the most embarrassing thing I’ve seen on TV in a while. When Siddiq stands up for himself, she gives him the astronomically cliché “I like you” response and tells him to get to work. 20 minutes later she’s eaten by zombie Tobin, so there was no reason not to jettison the whole trainwreck of a sequence.
- Tobin does get a little scene with Carol before he dies, which gives Carol the opportunity to apologize for ghosting on him a few seasons ago. The belated resolution basically screams “Tobin’s gonna die!” even if you didn’t know all the weapons were poisoned.
- Gregory escapes along with the Saviors. His welcome at Sanctuary should be interesting.
- Gavin is haunting Morgan, yelling stuff like “You were supposed to!” and “You know what it is!” So obviously Morgan’s doing great.
- Jesus is back this episode. He doesn’t get any lines, but, y’know, he’s around.