This is a spoiler-free review. Read on below after the broadcast for additional spoilery bits. For information on how to watch it, click here.
In this season’s penultimate episode, nothing really changes, as Alexandria prepares for war with the Saviours, but there is an extra spark in Something They Need that elevates it above what’s come before. It’s no surprising that this spark comes from Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the charismatic and devious leader of the Saviours, who was the subject of an assassination attempt by Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) at the end of last episode. He is used just enough by the writers to improve the track record of the latest episodes – his presence even seems to make the business-as-usual scenes more entertaining.
Since his introduction, Negan’s character has shifted between the downright evil of threatening Rick (Andrew Lincoln) to chop off his son’s arm to the more ridiculous, almost childish nature of The Cell. Through it all, his actions have cut with an edge of fear, but at times he has appeared less threatening than he should be. That all changes now. The camera angles even frame Negan like we’re kneeling before him. Once again, Dean Morgan is able to combine both dread and humour, making you smile as you shiver through his scenes and it’s that blend that makes him so compelling to watch and the episode that much more powerful.
Elsewhere, Alexandria have reached the ocean and have a whole plot laid out for how to get the weapons they need for their fight, with or without bloodshed. The two groups have clear connections, both losing people they love to the Saviours’ brutality, but will they be able to deal with each other peacefully? Tara (Alanna Masterson) is struggling with her decision to bring Rick to Oceanside – she doesn’t want there to be any animosity between the two groups, she has friends in both camps, and she knows that neither side will give an inch should tensions explode. The numbers and weapons will certainly aid Alexandria, if things go well and a flock of barnacle covered zombies don’t interrupt them.
At the Hilltop, Gregory (Xander Berkeley) continues his plot to stop Maggie (Lauren Cohan) taking over his community. Although he shows himself to be weak when it comes to physical confrontation, he has a cunning and devious nature that borders on the cowardly, as he decides that he’s already going to seek help from his new best friend in the Saviours. Gregory seems blissfully unaware, however, that the Saviours thrive on their ability to intimidate through physical dominance, meaning Gregory could only be making things worse for himself.
With an all-out war looming, one where there will be inevitably be casualties, only one side will win. It’s logical to believe, then, that, at some point, Negan or Rick will be no more, be that at the end of this season, next season or 10 seasons from now. Negan’s impact on the show has created a belief that even the untouchable characters could die, if they don’t kneel before him and follow the rules. Negan may have had more of an effect on Rick than he knows; his attitude and persuasiveness are showing themselves in Andrew Lincoln’s actions. With the show reaching the end of its seventh season, The Walking Dead has needed this level of threat, this injection of terror – if any of that is to be taken away by the finale, the series will certainly have lost its spark.
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Entrails and innards (spoilers)
– When last we saw Sasha, she was running into the Sanctuary with a gun and one plan in mind: kill Negan. The next we see, Sasha is imprisoned in a cell with a less than pleasant guard wanting to get to know her a little too much. It’s here Negan makes his entrance and uses his unique charm to try and win Sasha to his side. He makes a good argument and leaves her to mull it over with a knife, a freshly slain body and three choices running through her head.
– Eugene (Josh McDermitt) tries to help Sasha make up her mind. He believes that she’ll be a valuable member at the Sanctuary, if she chooses to make the right selection. He certainly seems like he is now a fully-fledged member of the Saviours and makes no hint that he’s playing them or even Rick for leverage. Later, Negan tells Sasha that a little bird tells him Rick is up to no good – would that little bird be Eugene and why is he giving out secrets other than to further embed himself in this group?
– Sasha asks Eugene for help – a gun, a knife, a razor blade, anything so that she can end her own life and not have to play for the Saviours. But it’s not suicide she has in mind. So when Eugene agrees to help her and passes her the poison pill he made, she is bitterly disappointed. What now for Sasha? She can either play along with Negan until she gets another opportunity, although that may mean turning on her friends to prove herself, or she could take the pill. Sasha doesn’t seem like the sort of character to take the easy way out, so expect her next move to be a tactical one to help her take the Sanctuary’s King.
– At the end of The Other Side, Rosita (Christian Serratos) is left tearful outside the Sanctuary after being approached by a figure in the shadows with a crossbow. It’s implied that this was Daryl (Norman Reedus), who had expressed concern over Rosita being missing back at the Hilltop – however, it is now revealed that it was, in fact, Dwight (Austin Amelio). Dwight has surrendered himself to Alexandria, but just like Negan has trouble trusting Sasha, so Rick is going to take some time to trust Dwight, who himself might feel he’s made the wrong decision when he has a gun pointed at his face and told to kneel. Is Dwight there on his own accord? Or maybe he’s there on the orders of Negan or even Eugene, if we are to believe he is anything other than a coward?