The Walking Dead season 7 episode 5 review: The most filler episode in the show's history

*Spoilers for season 7, episode 5 follow*

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The Independent Culture

Paul "Jesus" Rovia (Tom Payne) promised viewers in season six that the world of The Walking Dead was “about to get a whole lot bigger.”

Season seven has backed him up impressively, each episode focused on a new location whether it be King Ezekiel's Kingdom, Negan’s Sanctuary or, of course, Alexandria Safe-Zone which has been our core group's stomping ground since the latter stages of season five.

Choosing to unfurl each location’s story in a standalone basis has largely worked for The Walking Dead, each week providing an insight into the machinations of new communities as well as establishing where each of the ever-growing ensemble are currently residing. However, in the setting at the centre of this week’s episode, ‘Go-Getters,’ season seven is thrown its first concerning curveball: not every location can be as engrossing as the last and with the Hilltop Colony, The Walking Dead season seven drastically stumbles.

It doesn't help matters that the episode’s writer seems to knows this, intercutting events with a subplot occuring elsewhere involving Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) - AKA not the series' strongest on-screen partnership. The latter, distressed about Glenn's death, wants to find his widow Maggie (Lauren Cohan) who’s resting up at the Hilltop despite its cowardly leader Gregory (Xander Berkeley) not wanting her or Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) living there. If this episode succeeds in anything, it’s in making Gregory devoid of any likability at all.   

It’s fast established that one of his ‘tics’ is getting people’s names wrong, something that may have looked irreverent on page but misfires completely when performed. Merge this with moments that don’t really make much sense, layered with unlikely character actions (a recovering Maggie decides to run over a horde of walkers with a tractor…) and the episode devolves into something of a head-scratcher.  

The Walking Dead’s strength lie in the way it plants seeds early on, seeds that flourish into enthralling plot strands later down the line; here, moments are shoehorned in with the viewer expected to just run with it. Take, for example, the moment where members of the Hilltop take orders from Maggie despite - we can only assume - having no clue who she is. That a later scene hints that she's being lined up to take over from Gregory as leader - an interesting twist for her character - it seems that this episode was merely designed to get us from C to E; the problem is D just isn't that engrossing. When people reflect upon The Walking Dead in the future, this episode could well be highlighted as one of the weakest in its seven-year history (or: the one where Carl and Enid go roller skating). 

The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 5 Trailer

A visit from the Saviours injects some tension into an otherwise musty episode. A crew arrive led by Negan's right-hand man Simon (Stephen Ogg). He’s all smiles and 'thank you’s until he feels compelled to let Gregory know who's in charge. The episode's highlight arrives as they’re about to leave his mansion: Simon stops, spins on his feet and orders the homeowner to kneel before him. The camera cuts to a wide shot showing Gregory - perched on his knee - surrounded by the grubby, intimidating and downright malevolent intruders. Your spine may tingle.

The beauty of The Walking Dead is in its ensemble; while some characters may not at first seem worth investing in, when moved about and paired with another, their chemistry could breathe new life into their existence. One such instance is Carl and Jesus, two characters thrown together at the episode’s climax after both sneaking into the back of a truck Sanctuary-bound. Let's hope this extremely filler hour of television - a disservice to the usually exemplary series - paves the way for something that won't leave a confusing disappointment loitering in the pit of your stomach.

The Walking Dead airs in the UK every Monday on FOX at 9pm.