It’s episodes such as the latest instalment of The Walking Dead that makes you grateful for sticking around when your recent thoughts while watching the series may have been more focused on the location of your remote control.
Much has been spoken about how this season has languished in specific locations placing the microscope upon certain characters for whole outings at a time (it’s all in service of the future war to come) but, with just two episodes to go until another season finale arrives, ‘The Other Side’ does what The Walking Dead once did best: puts its money where its mouth is.
Yes, the familiar season seven formula is - for the most part - upheld in this outing; location wise, events are based at the Hilltop Colony, but unlike previous occasions we’ve been treated to a (fleeting) hangout with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), insufferable Gregory (Xander Berkeley) et al., this week’s visit has a purpose. In fact, the opening shot - at first blurry before snapping into focus -seems to exemplify the Hilltop’s entire storyline this season. Following this is a dialogue-free montage sequence showing Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) - who made it there safely after leaving the Kingdom - training up the Hilltop crew for the oncoming war.
All of this is a side attraction to the main event - Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Sasha’s revenge mission teased at the climax of ‘Say Yes. Using the arrival of The Saviours as an opportunity to make a dash for it, this episode sees the duo hit the road, arrive at the Sanctuary and enact their plan to assassinate Negan in the space of 43 short minutes. In fact, what makes this episode work on a wavelength most episodes this season have failed to is through the weaving in of the very plot points the writers have taken time to flesh out; viewer’s patience continues to be rewarded. Take, for instance, both Sasha and Rosita - they’re both seeking to avenge the death of the man they both loved and, while this has made them more adversary than ally previously, we see them learn to find respect for each other with inevitable death approaching (more on that below).
Consequently, their interactions as they sit and ponder their past, a sniper rifle perched on laps, are far more moving and believable than it would have been if merely compressed into a few episodes; it’s moments such as these where you realise you care for these characters more than you initially realised. Then there’s the moment they jump into action to rescue Eugene (Josh McDermitt), still pulling rank as Negan’s new right-hand man at the Sanctuary. As expected, however, the “lying sack of shit” refuses to be rescued, and instead scurries back towards the very man they’re trying to kill. It’s hard not to see him get caught in the crossfire of the gunfire Rosita hears ring out as Sasha goes it alone in The saviours compound (again, more on that below).
The most shocking Walking Dead moments
The most shocking Walking Dead moments
1/10 Sophie's a walker (season 2, episode 7)
Much of season two's opening half is spent looking for Sophia, the missing daughter of Carol (Melissa McBride). Turns out she was locked up in Hershel's barn as a zombie all along.
2/10 Shane reanimates without being bitten (season 2, episode 12)
When Carl (Chandler Riggs) guns down a deranged Shane (Jon Bernthal) to protect his father, the shock arrives when he manifests into a walker despite not being bitten; turns out everyone's infected with the virus and will turn whichever way they die.
3/10 Axel's bullet to the eye (season 3, episode 10)
A character introduced in the show's prison arc, Axel is a reformed prisoner who strikes up a friendship with Carol - until he's gunned down mid-sentence.
4/10 Carl kills Lori after she gives birth (season 3, episode 4)
Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) goes into labour at the very moment a zombie siege breaks out at the prison. Unfortunately, she doesn't make it through the procedure with her son Carl being the one to put a bullet to her head.
5/10 The Governor slays Hershel (season 4, episode 8)
The Governor makes his dramatic return for a showdown at the prison after he captures Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Hershel (Scott Wilson). Rick reaches out, attempting to reason with him - but The Governor starts a war when he proceeds to decapitate poor old Hershel instead.
6/10 "Look at the flowers" (season 4, episode 14)
In a standout episode from the show's fourth season, Carol is forced to take drastic measures when young teenager Lizzie murders her sister Mika in the belief that she'll live on as a zombie. Realising Lizzie's depraved mind would endanger those around her, Carol puts a gun to the young girl's head and, telling her to "look at the flowers," pulls the trigger, fighting back the tears.
7/10 Carl's bullet to the eye (season 6, episode 9)
Season six returned from its mid-season break in typically dramatic fashion when an iconic moment from the graphic novels came to life: Carl takes a bullet to the eye.
8/10 Beth is killed (season 5, episode 8)
Upon being kidnapped, Beth (Emily Kinney) is taken to Grady Memorial Hospital managed by Atlanta Law Enforcement. Forced to reside there against her will, the group - including Rick and Daryl (Norman Reedus) - eventually find her - only for her to be accidentally shot in the head by her captor. The worst thing? Her sister Maggie (Lauren Cohan) had just arrived outside.
9/10 Negan kills Abraham
Season seven opened in brutal form as we discovered it was Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) at the opposite end of Negan's baseball bat. "Suck my nuts," the soldier growls as the Saviours' leader brings Lucille raining down on his head until nothing remains but a pulpy mess.
10/10 Negan kills Glenn
Negan decides to punish the group once more after getting clocked round the face by Daryl. Without expectation, he thwacks Lucille round the head of poor Glenn. With his eyeball popping out of his head, he manages: "I'll find you, Maggie before Negan proceeds to finish the job ending the former pizza delivery boy's life.
Back at the Hilltop, we learn that Daryl is carrying so much guilt over the death of Glenn that he can’t even bear to look at Maggie. The pair are later thrust together when forced to face his grief while hiding from The Saviours. The moment is written so simply by Angela Kang and played tenderly by Cohan and Reedus that your wobbly chin can be excused. It’s just one of ‘The Other Side's many scenes that evoke the sense that - hey, wheels are in motion.
The episode’s climax sets things up so breathlessly that you’ll be left staring at the screen lamenting the week wait ahead of you. Sasha decides to go it alone - she nobly locks Rosita out of the Sanctuary as she sprints into Negan's compound, fully armed, prepared to die while avenging Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). In a series where the moustachioed soldier's death was - somewhat understandably - overshadowed by original character Glenn (Steven Yeun), this moment feels like the Abe tribute he's deserved for some time now.
It's the final shot that brings chills; Rosita is seen staring at an unknown long-haired crossbow-wielding figure stood in the shadows, leaving viewers with the sense that Daryl has come to help. Perhaps not - lest we forget, Negan’s once-loyal aide Dwight (Austin Amelio) also has a crossbow. Maybe this is his time to shine. we’ll find out next week, an episode which you’ll be tuning in for perhaps a lot more readily than you have been this season.
The Walking Dead airs tonight (20 March) in the UK at 9pm on FOX.Reuse content