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The Walking Dead - Still Gotta Mean Something - Review

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The Walking Dead “Still Gotta Mean Something” was written by Eddie Guzelian and was directed by Michael E Satrazemis. The episode saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln) reach a new low. Also heading toward new lows are the ratings. Has the zombie-bubble burst or has the show lost its way? Have there been too many deaths at this point? At least there was one satisfying death in this episode. Is it the fact that so many of the interesting characters have been brutally under-used this season – I’m thinking specifically of Jesus (Tom Payne) and Daryl (Norman Reedus). The episode does give us some brilliant work by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) and Pollyanna McIntosh (Jadis). Melissa McBride also delivers a powerful performance, and it was nice to see Carol continuing to evolve.

The episode begins with a flashback to how Jadis survived Simon’s (Steven Ogg) attack. She cleverly finds one of her own dead people, hides him, and takes his place, mimicking exactly how he was lying in case anyone had already seen the body. She’s still lucky that when Gary (Mike Seal) paused to tell her she should have played that he didn’t pump a couple of rounds into her for good measure. And fyi? How did she keep her eyes open for so long?!?! Talk about a dead stare! We do see a tear fall as lies there – sadness or dry eyes?

Once it’s quiet, does Jadis actually wake up? Had she been asleep? Regardless, this is a new beginning and she sheds the costume of her old life. We fast forward to the present – the presence of Negan’s bat gives the time away – and we see that while Jadis may live in a junkyard, she’s actually a neat freak with a hipster’s love of IKEA. Really, her room is a spare and hard as she is – or was.

Jadis takes a moment to cry, and then she packs and writes in her journal before drying her eyes and visibly gathering herself for what’s next. She checks her watch, so she’s clearly on a timetable. She heads to the prison box and there’s Negan. He’s strapped to a rolling board – the kind mechanics use to get under a car and that I clearly don’t know the name for – he wants to know “What the shit?” You have to give him credit for still being all bluster. This episode is clearly an attempt to at least equalize Negan and Rick in our eyes.

Carol is chopping wood when Ezekiel (Khary Payton) approaches her to come with him to help find Henry (Macsen Lintz). Carol makes the excuse that Maggie (Lauren Cohen) needs her there. I loved that Payton uses Ezekiel’s formal, king-voice when he’s trying to convince Carol to come with him, but he shifts to his real voice when he states the real reason Carol won’t come: “You think he’s already dead.” But he slowly shifts back to king-voice as he gives her her own advice – pretend until it is so. He’s using his pretend voice to try to convince her to continue to pretend to have hope.

But Ezekiel has found Carol’s Achilles heel – it’s kids… and hope. Ezekiel is disappointed as he says that he thought Carol was the bravest person he knew – but she’s stopped by cowardice. He’s right. She is terrified of finding the body of yet another child who she failed to protect. I really did love Carol’s storyline in this episode.

Tara (Alanna Masterson) is still not sick and has been given the all clear by the Doc. Daryl refuses to believe that it’s because Dwight (Austin Amelio) shot her with a clean arrow. Daryl insists that she just got lucky. It’s not like a bite… except everyone else in the battle who got injured got sick. Daryl tries to insist that Dwight could have warned them. He asks Tara if Dwight just gets a pass now – and she’s ready to say maybe. Given Tara’s own redemption arc, I’m really glad to see the show paying that forward.

Tara points out that if she had killed Dwight, she’d be dead now too. She tells Daryl to do what he’s got to do, but to know that it’s just for him now – for his revenge. She tells him that she’s out – after reminding Daryl that they might need Dwight more than ever now.

Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) continue to grieve. Michonne finally reads Carl’s letter to her, and it’s a relief to see Rick actually attempt to comfort her. She offers to let him read her letter, but he’s not ready yet. And in fact, he’s still running. His excuse for leaving is that they need food. Michonne wants to know what Carl wrote to him – but Rick hasn’t read it yet.

Michonne tells Rick that he has to read it. I also loved that the show honored Michonne’s path – and her own self-awareness of it. She tells Rick that she did it too, when it happened to her – when she lost her own biological son. I don’t think that we are meant to feel like she actually feels Carl’s death less, but that she has grown as a person since then. She’s learned what it is to be part of this group. She tells Rick that she kept moving to move away from the grief. She tells Rick that Andrea stopped her, and now, she’s stopping him.

She reminds Rick that one of the last things that Carl ever did was to write the letter to Rick, and he wrote it because he wanted Rick to read it. I can only imagine that what Rick does instead of reading the letter is the exact antithesis of what Carl wanted him to do. Michonne takes Rick’s coat and tells him he’s staying, while she takes her katana to head out herself.

Carol sees Morgan (Lennie James) heading out and tries to stop him. He’s barely coherent. He tells her that he was supposed to and that the two of them are the same. And in many ways they are. This is another great parallel and reminder of their journeys. Carol became a killing machine after Sophia and Morgan’s entire reason for being was “to clear.” It’s why he has to go back out now. Carol sees that she can’t stop him, so she goes with him.

Maggie holds a strategy meeting with Dianne (Kerry Cahill) and Rosita (Christian Serratos). They don’t have enough ammunition left to hold off another concerted attack. Daryl joins them and suggests maybe they just need to go hand to hand now – the Saviors have to be low too, and there’s not a lot of places left to get more ammunition. Which really underscores the stupidity of using your bullets to kill other humans rather than walkers… Rosita reminds them that the Saviors have their bullet maker.

Negan is laid out on a tarp – Jadis really is a tidy worker! He keeps talking because that’s what he does, what he’s really good at. He knows Jadis’ salt fire is to burn away the stench of death. There’s got to be a huge pile of rotting flesh out there! He’s clearly figured out that something happened to her people and insists that he sees people as a resource. And that’s true. He firmly believes that he can get most people on the right path – his path. And it really looks in this episode that Negan is the reasonable and responsible leader!

Negan does own his mistake. He realizes that Simon is off the rails and he apologizes. I believe his apology. I don’t believe that Negan would lie to save his own skin. If he has one virtue, it’s that he doesn’t lie. He tells Jadis he can help get back everything that she lost – and then I loved Jadis rounding on him with Lucille, stopping what looks like a hair’s breadth from his face! I’m sure it was shot with angles, but it looked great! Negan has underestimated all that Jadis has lost.

Carol’s tracking skills come in handy and a discarded turnip proves that they are on the right path. Morgan takes off when he thinks that he sees Henry. I have to say that I was kind of hoping that the little shit really had gotten bitten and was a walker, but of course, he’s just a vision. He tells Morgan that he knew what he was supposed to do. His meaning is clear. If he’d cleared, the Saviors wouldn’t have killed Henry – or Ben for that matter. Morgan at least realizes that Henry isn’t really there – and wasn’t supposed to be there – Morgan is feeling guilty for Henry’s death.

When Carol catches up to Morgan, he states that she knows Henry is dead – just as he does. Carol tells him that she didn’t come out for Henry – she came for Morgan. Morgan tells her that she saves people – he’s seen it again and again. He also tells her that she can’t save the dead. It’s an interesting statement considering Morgan’s tag line of “I don’t die.” But of course, the Morgan who was a father IS dead – or so he thinks. Morgan tells Carol that he knows he’s not dead – but he sees dead people again and again.

We return again to that tight focus on Rick’s eyes. He’s watching Judith when he sees Carl’s hat – and he grabs his coat and a gun. He goes to Alden (Callan McAuliffe) to get information on where the escapees have gone. Alden tells Rick about an old dive bar that they might have gone to.

Alden asks Rick for a favor. He asks Rick not to kill any more of them than he has to. Alden tells him that when things went bad, a lot of them made a spur of the moment bad decision. Alden tells him that he could show them – mercy and a better way – by bringing them back. It’s exactly the plea that Carl – or Glenn – or Hershel would have made. Can we infer that Alden – as a moral compass – is on the short list to die next? It’s pretty clear that Rick has no intention of doing as he asks.

Negan tries to keep Jadis talking when she walks away, but he’s not just a big mouth. He’s also resourceful and he manages to get a flare, a gun, and the one thing he’s seen are precious to Jadis – pictures. I loved it when Jadis rolled out her latest artwork! It’s het another great special effect by Greg Nicotero and the gang. Negan suggests that Jadis can’t really want to do this if she left him alone with a bag of guns. It’s not smart, but let’s not forget that she’s still working through some pretty intense guilt and grief herself. He suggests that they keep talking.

Morgan is reckless and wants to keep going instead of waiting for the herd to pass. As the two discuss it, a walker stumbles up with Henry’s stick through it. Morgan takes it out and uses it to kill the walker. Carol’s eyes fill with tears, revealing that despite saying she believed that Henry was dead, she really did have hope.

Carol asks Morgan to take the other trail. Morgan insists that she knows what they’ll find, but Carol has had a change of heart. She insists that she’d decided what it would be, but she won’t know unless she tries. Carol tries to convince Morgan that he can try too. But Morgan insists that Carol saves people while he watches them die – and that’s what he’s supposed to do.

Carol insists that when Morgan found her, he saved her. He knew she could come back, and she insists that he can do. But Morgan doesn’t believe that he can be strong like her. He tells her that he knew something bad would happen with the prisoners, yet he did nothing – and now he blames himself for Henry’s death. The same way he blames himself for his son’s death. She tries one last time as she takes Henry’s stick from him, but he goes off on his own. It’s another beautiful moment as the stick – and all it represented – was Morgan’s hope. It was also his connection to Ben and Henry – surrogates for his own son. It’s very much the passing of the torch.

Jadis comes out of hiding for the photos. Negan questions how she kills people – slowly? It’s hard to see whose way is really worse… Jadis denies that this is how she kills people – people are a resource. And I love that resource here could mean raw materials for art! Jadis finally opens up. She tells Negan that the photos are all she has left. He took her people, her world – everything. “You took away me.” Jadis’ raw declaration draws one from Negan.

Negan tells her that his wife’s name was Lucille. She got him through everything in life – before. He admits that he gave her nothing but she still got him through life, but the bat got him through… “this.” Negan clearly understands what the pictures mean to Jadis. The bat really had nothing to do with his wife, yet it’s still really the only thing he has left of her.

The alarm goes off on Jadis’ watch, and we hear the helicopter. Jadis leaps for the flare and in the fight it ends up in a puddle of water. Please explain to me two things. A. the wire holding Negan to that board is too far up his arms – really, raising his hands over his head would get him out. B. how did he empty a clip into that walker at short range and miss his head? Yes, I saw the metal shoved down the front of its face – but what about shooting right into the mouth?? Negan is clearly surprised to see the helicopter, which fails to see Jadis, who was clearly waiting to be rescued. Who IS THAT??? Georgie?

Jadis is going to set the fire anyway. Negan points out that he didn’t burn the picture and actually gets close to begging for her not to burn Lucille. Jadis wants to hurt Negan, however. Negan swears that he can and will settle it. Jadis breaks down in tears, and Morgan is fabulous here as we see real emotion on Negan’s face.

Morgan comes on Rick in the woods and almost kills him. Morgan tells him, “I’m not right.” And yeah, Morgan, I think Rick had already figured that out by the fact that it took you a while to recognize him. However, it’s interesting that Morgan identifies Rick as a threat – because at this point, Rick really is a threat. Rick does suggest that maybe Morgan shouldn’t be out there – but Morgan isn’t leaving. Rick tells him that he’s out there for “them” – and then suggests that the two of them finish it together. It’s Rick embracing the madness.

The two find an arm and a leg that have been amputated before stupidly being knocked out by the escapees. It’s now surprise that Jared (Joshua Mikel) just wants to leave the two wounded guys there. Jared is determined to go back because delivering Rick will win them points. Most of the others don’t want to go back. Alden was right that they made a spur of the moment choice that they now regret.

For a moment, it seems like the old Rick – the Rick Carl wanted him to be – is back. He tells them that they can save their wounded if they come back to the Hilltop. He tells them exactly what Alden asked him to consider – they made a split second choice, and Rick is willing to forgive them for it and welcome them back to the Hilltop. He offers them a fresh start. And then he gives them his word. Oh Rick. Is there any coming back from this? A few months in a field isn’t going to wash this away.

Jared doesn’t believe Rick, and doesn’t believe that there’s a herd coming. Morgan, however, tells the truth. He tells them that he came there to kill every last one of them. And the herd really is coming. Morgan tells them that it never changes – he doesn’t die – but no one dies. Everybody turns. And his yelling does bring the herd. Rick tells them that they’ve already killed them. He seems remarkably calm that he’s going to die too considering he’s still tied up.

Rick calls for the others to let them loose so that they can help them. Rick and Morgan get released and the first one of the Saviors that Rick kills is a guy who saved him moments before. Morgan and Rick make sure they are all killed, and it looks like Jared is going to get away yet again. Kudos to Mikel for creating a character who is so horrible that I really enjoyed him being eaten as Morgan held him against the gate.

Rick goes back to the savior he hit with the ax, and when the dying man says that Rick gave his word, Rick tells him that he lied. The man mumbles the words of the title of the episode – still gotta mean something. Rick does take pity enough on him to shoot him in the head. Morgan walks past Rick after spiking someone in the head and says everybody turns. So does he mean turns into a walker or turns into some horrible version of themselves? Has Morgan turned?

Rick tells Morgan that he saved him – bringing us back to Carol’s words. Rick wants to know why Morgan saved him back then. Rick points out that Morgan took a chance – he had his son back then. Morgan tells Rick that he saved him BECAUSE his son was there. And it really boils down to this. You protect your children, but you also try to live up to what they expect of you and what you want them to become – good, better people.

This is a wonderful scene between Lincoln and James – and likely their last on the show. The scene also goes back to the recurring motif of mirrors. Rick sees himself, bloody, in a shattered mirror. This is not the better self, but another version of a very broken – shattered – Rick.

Jadis lets Negan go. He tells her that she didn’t lose herself. Negan asks Jadis to tell him what happened there – and is clearly curious about the helicopter. Jadis isn’t interested. He asks her to come with him and says he will follow a new path. Jadis’ answer sounds like the old Jadis – but let’s hope that she doesn’t go back there! Negan tells her that the offer stands – he’ll swing by another time.

Night has fallen, and Carol continues the search for Henry. She finds a bloody piece of his breastplate right before she hears his screams for help. I was prepared to kill this kid myself if he got Carol killed! In a wonderfully parallel setting to where we last saw Sophia alive, Carol finds Henry hiding in a riverbank and beset by walkers.

Carol saves him and pulls him into her arms as he sobs his apologies. Carol tells him that she was wrong – he can survive. And so can Carol’s hope – it seems she’s been fully pulled back into the world. I really hope that this isn’t the end of terminator Carol. Somewhere there’s a happy medium between crazy-killing and necessary-killing…

Jerry’s (Cooper Anderson) reaction when he sees Carol and Henry is the best. Anderson needs to grin in every episode!!! Henry runs to Ezekiel, and Carol just nods and smiles as she walks past.

The two share a moment beside the fire. Carol tells Ezekiel that he was right. She was afraid. He admits that he saw it, but he knows that she’s no coward. Carol tells Ezekiel about Sophia. And that she found a version of herself – a better self – with the people she was with. But she is still afraid that she’ll lose it all again – but that doesn’t mean that it will get swept away. And even if it does happen, it doesn’t mean that she couldn’t find herself again. So, I know that many of us have wanted Carol and Daryl to be end game, but I’m loving her with Ezekiel!

Carol’s words are the only real hope we are given for Rick. Carol and Ezekiel are interrupted by his return. I have to admit that I was surprised to see Morgan return with Rick. Morgan is happy to see Henry – though he checks for that bite mark. He tells Henry that he killed the man who killed his brother. Henry sees the toll that it’s taken on Morgan’s sanity and tells him he’s sorry. Morgan tells him never to be sorry. But Morgan is sorry, and we see him crying alone.

Rick also doesn’t appear to be sorry as he stalks past Alden without saying a word.

We return to Jadis and her IKEA pod. She unpacks and lies on the bed, simply staring at the ceiling.

Negan has found a car and is driving back to the Sanctuary with Lucille at his side. He stops to pick someone up and tells them they look awful. It's got to be Laura (Lindsley Register), right? And very bad news for Dwight. Negan arrives back at the Sanctuary but tells the guard not to say a word. He’s got surprises to roll out.

Daryl and Rosita see Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has the bullet factory up and running. Rosita tells Daryl that they don’t take out the machines to stop them – they take out the men. I can’t see Rosita ever forgiving Eugene.

Michonne comes to Rick after he’s cleaned up. He tells her that he’s sorry and he loves her. She says that she loves him too. The two kiss, and then Michonne leaves Rick to finally read his letter from Carl. I’m glad that the two of them are helping each other through the loss. This time, as the two kiss, Rick is also reflected in a mirror – this mirror is whole and contains Michonne’s image two – his way back to becoming whole again. Rick nods as he reads the letter.

I really liked this episode a lot better on second watch because of all the nuances and call backs in it. I was even more impressed by some of the performances. I do feel like the show is being a bit heavy handed in trying to equalize the relative merits of Negan and Rick, however. As always the performances are just some of the best you’ll see on any size screen. It’s a shame that this show will never be considered for awards because those that give them out won’t see past the special effects. Which are also some of the – if not THE – best in the business. What did you think of the episode? Is Carol embracing a return to hope her death warrant? Can Alden survive being a moral compass? Will Rick be able to come to terms with what he did? And what effect will Carl’s letter inevitably have on him? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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