This is a spoiler-free review. Read on at the bottom for spoilers in full bloody detail.
Once again, The Walking Dead takes us away from the politics between Alexandria and the Saviours, instead catching up with where Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Heath (Corey Hawkins) have been, since they left the group to scavenge after the slaughter at the satellite station. Two weeks’ drive away from home, the pair have been separated: Tara has washed up in an inlet… or is it an estuary… or a bay? The episode jumps between the before and after of how she ended up here and how she is going to stay alive.
Rescued by a new face, Cyndie (Sydney Park), Tara apprehensively finds herself introduced to a whole new group living deep in woodland, who have a secret of their own. This new group is made up entirely of women who don’t take kindly to strangers. Tara quickly learns one of their rules is to shoot anyone who enters their territory on sight, but, thankfully, Cyndie has taken an instant liking to Tara and is able to spare her life twice. Despite their hostility towards strangers, this group seems much more akin to the Kingdom than the Saviours, although there isn’t enough told about them yet to confirm that theory. They have a heavily stocked armoury, access to fresh fish and a young child with an unhealthy appetite for murder. (For her sake, we hope she doesn’t have to meet Carol, with her history of dealing with tricky young girls.)
Swear shows that Alanna Masterson is exceedingly capable of carrying an episode on her own. She has been one of the more quieter survivors, since her introduction back in Season 4 and has been kept off-screen, splitting her time between supply runs and spending time with her girlfriend, Doctor Denise, whom she still doesn’t know is dead. She is brave, confident and able to deliver emotion through her facial expressions, her eyes telling the truths that her words are unable to say. Tara hasn’t been defeated by the apocalypse and is still able to maintain her cockyness and wits, offering a fist pump in place of a handshake and joking to help alleviate the tension of her situation.
It’s refreshing to see that there is still some shred of humanity left within people and other groups, even if the rules of what it is to be human has shifted. With the survivors resident joker’s brains bashed in, it’s hard to find where the comic relief is going to come from this season. Negan is charismatic enough, but his jokes are always entwined with threat and fear. Whereas Tara, who may not necessarily be making a joke, is able to make light of a difficult situation and that’s somewhere she ends up several times throughout the episode.
One of those difficult situations is on the bridge where she and Heath were separated. It’s another wonderfully creative scene evolving the undead once again, this time emerging thirsty from under a pile of sand. Their dried out carcasses crack and crumble with such satisfaction when attacked that all rules are off the table when one is taken out not by attacking the brain, but the neck. But the living remain the ones who could potentially be the most difficult. With another new group entering the world, there is an opportunity for these communities to work together and start rebuilding civilisation – or more numbers that could start an uprising against the Saviours.
The Walking Dead Season 7 is available to buy and download on pay-per-view VOD. For more information, click here.
Entrails and innards (spoilers)
– This new group are trying to keep themselves hidden away from the world because they too have had an incident with the Saviours. Once working for them, all the men and boys over 10 were shot in the head forcing the women to band together and vanish before the same could be done to them. The massacre has forced them to adopt their own rules – the one they seem to live by is shooting any strangers on sight. While they may attempt to knock off Tara at first, there are then several opportunities throughout when they could kill her, but they don’t, and thus Tara gets away. Why aren’t these women taking their own advice, especially after learning that Tara has first-hand experience of the Saviours?
– It’s more confusing that they then offer her a place to stay, even after exposing her lies – there is no fishing boat called a larder. Although charming in her light-heartedness, for a group that has instilled its mantra into young children who act eager to kill, Tara had used up all her strikes and yet still is spared. Maybe their rules are more a threat than a way of life. They may want to distance themselves from the Saviours, but they also don’t want to turn out like them.
– Was there any significance to the Roman Numerals on Tara’s wrist? We have seen her right down co-ordinates on herself before; perhaps it was a reference to her location, when she was separated from Heath, or perhaps it was related to the time she has spent away from Alexandria, or the number of Saviours she has killed? The numbers translated to 26, 13, 22 and 9, but what do they mean, if anything?
– Tara protects this new community by telling Rosita (Christian Serratos), when she gets back to Alexandria, that she has seen nothing of any weaponry while out on her travels. Is she returning their kindness by keeping them secret? She did swear to keep them hidden, after all. But will that come back to haunt her? This group have been slighted and bashed about by Tara, as she tried to escape them twice; they may be looking for revenge, coming after Tara and Alexandria. And they may not knock as politely as Negan…