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The Walking Dead - Dead or Alive Or & The Key - Review

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My apologies for the lag in posting reviews on The Walking Dead – it’s been a bit of a zombie apocalypse around here! I’m just going to touch briefly on “Dead or Alive Or” written by Eddie Guzelian and directed by Michael E Satrazemis, and go into more depth on “The Key” written by the team of Corey Reed and Channing Powell and directed by Greg Nicotero.

The action in “Dead or Alive Or” takes place on three fronts. Daryl (Norman Reedus), Rosita (Christian Serratos), and Tara (Alanna Masterson) lead the survivors of Alexandria toward the Hilltop. They are aided by Siddiq (Avi Nash) who steps up in a bit way to help Daryl clear the swamp. They are also accompanied by Dwight (Austin Amelio), who Tara is stupidly trying to get killed or outright kill when he can still be of value to them. It looks like Tara is going to lure Dwight away to kill him, but when a group of Saviors comes upon them, Tara let’s Dwight lead them away. Maybe he’s finally convinced her that he’s sincere in trying to help them.

When the Alexandrians get to the Hilltop, the news of Carl’s (Chandler Riggs) death hits everyone hard – especially Enid (Katelyn Nacon). It’s clear that it’s going to have a profound effect upon her. In the short term, it makes Maggie (Lauren Cohen) rethink her decision to cut the prisoners’ rations. Instead, she’ll share the dwindling resources with them and even give them some exercise outside their prison. Morgan (Lennie James) attempts to mitigate the damage done to Henry (Macsen Lintz) after Gavin’s death, but telling him that Gavin was the one to kill his brother. Could someone just go ahead and kill Jared (Joshua Mikel) already anyway? Don’t you just know he’s going to cause some catastrophic problem?

Finally, what I thought was the most interesting part of the episode found Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Dr Carson (R Keith Harris) making their way to the Hilltop. Gabriel is still quite ill and is losing his eyesight – likely permanently. Carson even asks him at one point if he isn’t terrified to be blind in this world – hard to avoid being bitten at the best of time, let alone when you can’t see them coming! But as Gabriel’s eyesight fails, his faith in God seems to grow – and seems to be proven at every turn… right up until it isn’t.

The two end up at a farmhouse where they find exactly the antibiotics they need to treat Gabriel’s fever. They still have no car at this point and no idea where they are until Gabriel knocks over a ceramic while flailing blindly and there are keys and a map in it! All through the episode, there are clues about what’s going on. Gabriel keeps being distracted by a clanging metal sign – that clues him in to the bear traps – that explain all the walkers chained to the ground and crawling about missing limbs. Gabriel’s shouted warning comes too late to save Carson from stepping in a trap. Gabriel, however, manages to make it through the field and manages to shoot a walker and save Carson despite his encroaching blindness! That might be my favorite scene in the entire episode! Gabriel’s luck runs out, however, when the Saviors show up and take them prisoner – and Carson ends up shot by one of the Saviors.

Gabriel is taken to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who puts him to work sorting bullet casings for Eugene (Josh McDermitt) who is busy making bullets – and enemies – as fast as he can. Eugene has certainly become a jerk to everyone around him. But I suddenly have more hope for him, and I wonder if he is stalling in making the bullets as fast as Negan wants, and I also wonder if he’s actually making blanks? Will Gabriel help him? Maybe Gabriel will be able to do something to sabotage the bullet making if Eugene isn’t???

In keeping with the recurring theme of the season, “The Key” begins with close ups of Negan – smiling – Simon (Steven Ogg), looking annoyed – and Dwight, looking concerned. We pick up with Dwight back in his room. He’s looking at the remains of the last cigarette he shared with Sherry and their wedding rings. Negan drops by with some beer to tell Dwight he’s happy he’s back. He needs his best guys out in front. There’s time for Dwight to have one beer… and then there’s work to do.

Negan’s plan is to gather as much walker guts as possible. He’s going to catapult it into the Hilltop, let them turn and take care of themselves. He’s got Simon on gut duty, and Simon is not a happy camper. Simon is toeing the party line as he gives his men their orders. He clearly doesn’t want to be giving the no headshot, no killing order.

Simon insists that Dwight ride with him. Negan is taking care of his own transport – but he doesn’t want Dwight on his own on his motorcycle. Somehow it felt like Negan suspected Dwight on some level… Negan watches the convoy pull out before getting in his own car. Lucille is in her own bucket of guts in the front seat…

Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) make it to the Hilltop. Rick is handed Judith, and Daryl nods an acknowledgement at him that he’s fulfilled his promise to get her there safely. Rick goes to have a moment by Glenn’s grave, and Daryl joins him there.

Daryl tells Rick that he looks around and thinks about the people who are gone. And the people who are still there. “And it ain’t fair.” Daryl tells him that he just wanted it done, and he didn’t want to risk anyone else – that’s why he did what he did at the Sanctuary. Rick isn’t mad and understands – and he’s ready to keep fighting.

Rick is determined to go out as a lookout – and rejects Daryl’s offer to go with him. Rick insists he’s ok… or at least that he’s going to be ok. Rick thanks Daryl for getting the others there. I love these two together, but I really wish that Daryl had pushed harder not to let Rick go on his own when he clearly knew Rick was a long way from ok.

Maggie asks Rosita if she thinks Rick can come back from Carl’s death as the two stand lookout on the wall of Hilltop. Rosita says that they just keep going. Rosita points out that it will be harder once it’s quiet – keeping busy is keeping them from dwelling on what they’ve lost. But Maggie points out it will be easier for her once Negan is dead – and Rosita says it’s the same for her.

Maggie spots a crate left outside the walls with a flag on it. The note asks them to fill the crate with food or phonograph records and they will give them the key to their future. There are coordinates for a meeting. Michonne says it’s not the Saviors. It’s too obvious for a trap. Michonne is the only one to think that it’s just someone reaching out to help. Maggie is cautious. If it’s someone reaching out to help, they miss out. If it’s someone trying to kill them, they live. Enid insists they should stay where it’s safe. Michonne insists on reaching out. Maggie, insists that she’s going too – they’re starving after all.

Simon asks Dwight what he makes of their road trip. D suggests it’s an opportunity to close and there’s nothing wrong with that. But Simon wants some candid conversation. Simon pushes that he doesn’t think “these” people are going to cave. Dwight insists that they aren’t paid to think – and Simon backtracks. Negan’s plan will get it done… but Simon can’t help himself and keeps talking. Rick, the Widow, the King – they just don’t scare.

Naturally, it’s Rick who sees the convoy coming. He’s about to hit the horn as a warning when he spots Negan’s car – and then he’s off after Negan without sounding an alarm. Simon sees Rick coming and knows it’s coming for Negan – he doesn’t let on he sees and lets him hit him.

Rick doesn’t immediately stop Negan, but he does separate him from the convoy. I loved that we hear police sirens – it’s Officer Rick after the Perp! We also get a close up of Rick’s almost insane glare behind the wheel.

Simon stops and as Dwight tells the others to stay put, Simon blocks he way with his truck – and smiles to himself. Simon maintains that Negan can take care of one car on his own. He tells the others to wait while he and Dwight go to make sure Negan is ok.

Negan has crashed his car – and is covered in his bucket of guts. Miraculously, he doesn’t seem to have sustained any cuts or ingested any of it, so as Rick comes up on him blasting away with an automatic rifle – and missing, Negan crawls out of the car and disappears as the two are followed by a herd of walkers. Negan runs up some stairs as Rick runs out of bullets. Negan taunts him, as he waves Lucille around. Rick reaches for his ax – which he throws at expert level! Negan ends up hanging onto the floor when the railing gives way and lets go as Rick is about to chop off his fingers – disappearing in broken wood and dust!

Michonne, Maggie, and Enid arrive at the rendez vous point. They get out weapons drawn. Georgie (Jayne Atkinson) emerges from a military-looking van wearing a suit jacket – professional casual. She introduces herself with a little bow and then introduces her friends Hilda (Kim Ormiston) and Midge (Misty Ormiston) – twins! They are dressed quasi-military. I was super surprised – and happy to see Atkinson, who I got to know on 24, but have enjoyed in many things since. I loved the little nerdy characteristics that she embellishes Georgie with!

She realizes that they are suspicious but is glad that they are also curious. She is quite specific that she wants records of music – NOT spoken word! She likes that they can clearly take care of themselves. She doesn’t like to share with the weak. And that seems a bit threatening. However, Rosita takes that as her que to pop out and get the drop on the others. Georgie just smiles as they frisk her and take their guns. Maggie insists that Georgie give them what she has – but she can’t. It’s knowledge, and most of it is in her head. And she prefers to keep that where it is – on her shoulders! I love that she has this cocky sense of humor even in a tight situation.

Michonne clarifies – you’re trading knowledge. Georgie tells them she’s done it before. Fill the crates. Get the knowledge. It’s a fair trade. It’s not a trick. It’s an act of benevolence. Maggie wants to know why she would do that. Georgie asks what else she should do. Georgie tells them that what they have is special and unusual. She hasn’t found many other communities like theirs – and none in a very long time.

The dead have brought out the best and the worst in humanity and the worst have been out-pacing the best. Georgie doesn’t think that can last forever – at least not if people can believe in people again. They need a sustainable future. They need to trust – and that sounds like a made up word at this point. Midge and Hilda come up with their own made up words – like “clump” and “moisture” – at which Georgie gives her the most quizzical look ever – have I mentioned how much I like Georgie already?

Georgie has already decided that they are a fine group – even though Enid doesn’t believe you can survive doing what she does. Michonne urges Maggie to make the deal, but Maggie decides that they and the van are coming back to Hilltop.

In the dark – no pictures for most of this part!!! – Rick is still looking for Negan – who is alive against all odds because he’s a cat! Negan is searching through the rubble for Lucille. Rick goads Negan about where his people are and that Negan is going to die alone in the dark. Negan wants to know why Rick is such a stubborn dick! Because Rick won’t bow down to Negan – anymore than Negan would ever bow to Rick… Negan insists that he’s all about saving people. Why wouldn’t Rick just let him save him?

Negan goads Rick, rubbing in Carl’s death. And making Rick a one time deal – if Rick gets everyone to fall into place and comes to work for Negan, Negan will let them keep 75% of their earnings! But Rick asks why he should believe any deal Negan offers after what he did to Jadis’ (Polly McIntosh) people. And of course, Negan doesn’t know about what Simon did. And it’s Negan’s turn to say son of a bitch…

Negan’s day gets exponentially worse when Rick finds Lucille.

Simon continues to try to get an honest answer from Dwight. Simon asks if he ever thought about putting a bullet in Negan. Dwight is clearly angry when he talks about Negan taking Sherry and burning his face, but denies thoughts of murder. Simon is willing to believe him – though he sounds completely insincere as he denies any thoughts of murder – and spins it that Dwight put living ahead of honor – that he just did what he had to do to survive. He was an adult who did what he had to to survive.

Simon says that Negan isn’t acting like an adult. If it was his call, he’d say enough! They’d branch out, cut their losses, make new relationships. The Saviors would move on from past discomforts as Dwight wisely chose to. Simon points out he’s completely exposed himself. Dwight clarifies, just move on?? He’s clearly confused and tempted. It solves his problem of being caught between the two factions.

The two find Negan’s car. Simon muses that the blood could be Negans. Simon points out that he could have walked away – could be alive or dead. This is a critical moment in their history. They could find him – but maybe he’s more dead than alive – what if they have to put him down? This is something they could tell their grandkids about. Dwight takes out the cigarette butt from Sherry – he lights it and in a beautiful shot, flicks it onto the car, lighting it and the evidence on fire, sealing Negan’s fate. I liked how Amelio started slightly as the car went up. He’s still taking a chance on Negan finding out, but he’s desperate to stop the killing.

I loved Jerry (Cooper Andrews) checking in with a report to Maggie. Michonne urges Maggie to make the deal and let Georgie go before the Saviors come. Maggie insists that they need the food they have. Enid comes in and seconds Maggie’s decision. But it comes from her having lost all hope and faith in humanity. They take their stuff because if they don’t someone else will. Why should they give a shit about people who don’t give a shit about themselves. We take their stuff and we live and we stop pretending that things just work out – is she giving up on “JSS?”

Michonne points out that Carl rescued Siddiq and now they have a doctor and a friend. Michonne sees how distraught Enid is and takes her gun from her. But Michonne is also hurting and doesn’t want Carl’s wishes and legacy put at risk. She tells Enid that Carl was brave – and Enid throws back that now he’s dead. Michonne tells her to step back – and she doesn’t mean just physically.

Maggie says that things don’t just work out. And Michonne agrees, but she says that she thinks Carl knew that, but he didn’t give up on who Rick wanted him to be. And Michonne adds that they can’t give up on who Carl wanted them to be. And it’s in that moment that Maggie realizes that she can’t give up on who Glenn and Herschel wanted her to be. This is just a terrific scene between all three of these actors.

Rick accuses Negan of not caring about anyone and just using everyone. He accuses him of only caring about Lucille – right before he lights her on file and starts trying to break her! At which, Negan – predictably – loses it. This is an epic fight scene – and massive kudos to Nicotero and his team for the flaming zombies! Negan isn’t wrong to call Rick a psycho at this point. And it’s a miracle that they both get out.

Maggie brings out a crate of records – no spoken word! I really, really want an explanation of what Georgie has against spoken word! Maggie looks pissed when Georgie says she’s changing the deal. She tells Maggie that she just wants the one crate – no more – but in addition, she’s giving them a sizable portion of her food stores. Maggie is suspicious all over again. But Georgie is bartering for good faith and trust – it’s not a gift. She promises to return – and she’s expecting great things. The knowledge isn’t just in Georgie’s head – she’s written it all down: schematics for windmills, aquaducts, how to refine grain, medieval human achievement – so that they can have a future from their past. She makes some oblique reference to discussions at a coffee shop – there’s another little mystery that I want to know more about! And is anyone else setting her up with Eugene in their head???

Maggie thanks her, and Georgie tells her to build the Hilltop up. She’ll want her crates filled when she comes back – cheeses for Hilda and pickles for Midge. Hmmmm – cheese was Eastman’s thing and pickles are Eugene’s – but we know that someone at the Sanctuary can already make pickles… Maggie promises to see what they can do. For the first time in a long time, Maggie looks hopeful.

There’s a great scene with Michonne and Enid on the wall that is shot from below with the sun in the background. It makes it very confessional and intimate. Enid confesses that she killed Natania. But she excuses it because Natania was out there trying to kill anyone she could – and that’s exactly what Enid was just advocating for – but exactly the opposite of what Carl wanted. But it doesn’t make sense to her. She killed someone, and she’s alive, but Carl saved someone, and he’s dead. Enid is clearly suffering from survivor’s guilt. But she wants to honor Carl. She asks if they are just supposed to stop fighting?

Michonne tells her that she doesn’t think that Carl wanted them to stop fighting – but that to get to their future it would take more than fighting. Enid points out that the Saviors are on their way – and Michonne confirms that they’ll fight them, but there’s got to be something AFTER.

Meanwhile, Simon returns to the Saviors and tells them that Negan is gone. Simon makes them repeat the mantra that they are all Negan. Simon points out that they don’t know if he’s gone, gone – he could come back. Negan’s plan was to make sure that the Hilltop got with the program. I adored the reaction shots of Dwight as Simon suddenly reveals that he’s planning on killing everyone – expunging them – before moving on. Dwight suddenly realizes that he’s make a terrible mistake.

Finally, Negan also gets a shock as he wakes up in a car – that is being driven by Jadis – who tells him to shut up before knocking him out again! She’s wearing plaid…

This was another fast paced episode with amazing special effects. Great performances from Cohen, Gurira, Nacon, and Amelio in particular. Special mentions to Morgan and Lincoln – who just play off each other so well. I really want a storyline that puts Morgan, Lincoln and Reedus together! Finally, we have the interjection of some hope with Georgie. I’m not sure how the show is going to keep Cohen – who has the lead in a pilot – but the Hilltop needs Maggie – and the entire group of survivors need her baby! Lastly, Jerry giving the chopping sign in the promos is my new spirit animal – someone needs to get me a gif of that! Let me know what you thought of the last two episodes in the comments below!

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