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The Walking Dead - The Obliged - Review

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The Walking Dead “The Obliged” was written by Geraldine Inoa and was directed by Rosemary Rodriguez. Inoa joined the writers room under new showrunner Angela Kang and has no other writing credits on IMDb. The episode is Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) penultimate episode and features two powerful scenes between Lincoln and Norman Reedus (Daryl) – best friends on camera and on set. There are some excellent goodbye scenes and some interesting debates over motives and the future for a number of different characters. Overall, I liked this episode even more on a second watch.

In a nice parallel to last week’s opening of Rick’s morning, we get Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) typical day. She cares for Judith (Chloe Garcia-Frizzi), looks after the running of Alexandria, and the sick, but she’s still not able to sleep at night – because her katana is calling to her. At night, Michonne lets her inner warrior out and keeps her edge by going out and killing walkers. This is also a nice call back to when they all first arrived at Alexandria and Carl and the others would sneak out to kill walkers. It also gives us some beautiful scenes with Gurira and that katana which are like dance. Finally, this explains the mysterious substance on Michonne’s arm in the opening of the last episode that she wipes off as Rick comes in the room – walker blood.

In the final part of the opening, we get a somewhat heavy handed reminder of the two types of justice that Michonne is fighting against when she comes upon a walker who has been hung – like Gregory. As she ponders him, she’s attacked by another walker and drops the katana. She manages to pick up a bat that just happens to be lying around and kills the walker. Of course, none of us can see a bloody bat and not think about Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) – and Glen. It gives Michonne pause about her nocturnal rambles.

This is a perfect transition, of course to the next scene. Back at Hilltop, Maggie (Lauren Cohen) looks out at all she’s accomplished after handing Hershel to his care giver – she’s a working Mom after all. She’s determined to finally get her revenge for Glen. She, no doubt, believes that this will be an end to it – but wasn’t hanging Gregory just the beginning of a return to violence?

Jesus (Tom Payne) brings Maggie another letter from Georgie as Maggie packs to go carry out her mission. Does anyone doubt that Maggie will take Georgie up on her offer because she’ll realize that the only way for her to truly break this cycle of violence and create a better world for Hershel – which Glen would have wanted – will be to go and work with Georgie – “at least for a while”? Maggie tells Jesus she’ll read the letter later – but he’s not stupid.

Maggie asks him to keep looking after things at Hilltop for her while she goes to make things right. And Jesus asks “like Gregory?” Maggie insists that she’s not asking Jesus to agree with her, and he tells her that there was a time that he did. I was a bit surprised that Jesus agreed that Negan deserved to die. However, his biggest criticism is people making calls that aren’t theirs to make with no consultation with anyone else. Rick for Negan – and Maggie for Gregory. Jesus sees both as wrong because he just wants to be sure that Maggie isn’t wrong in the same way that Rick was – and he wants to make sure that Maggie doesn’t regret what she does.

It becomes clear pretty quickly that a lot of people know what Maggie is about to do and support her. Diane (Kerry Cahill) – who we haven’t seen much of this year yet – is waiting with the horses to accompany Maggie. When Rick tries to stop Maggie from getting to Negan, the relays know what Maggie is about to do and don’t alert Alexandria or Michonne.

At the bridge – the metaphor for Rick’s new world – the water is rising and there seems to be no hope. The water, of course, is a metaphor for the violence of the world about to sweep away the beginnings of a new civilization. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) briefs Rick that mother nature has served them up some “whoop ass” and taken out the upstream levee. It is always a joy to listen to Eugene’s dialogue – but I do think that this season, it is in danger of becoming a parody of itself. Everyone is leaving the project – not wanting to work with each other anymore – and Eugene has little hope that they can save the bridge with their reduced numbers.

I did adore the fact that Eugene has named the herds for Shakespeare characters – much the way meteorologists name hurricanes, though much cooler. He tells Rick that the two herds that they’ve been tracking – Tybalt and Cordelia – are on parallel courses – a nice foreshadowing to when they aren’t at the end of the episode. I also loved Eugene calling the Complete Shakespeare “The Great Book.” The look on Rick’s face is priceless as Eugene explains that his big relief past the camp being safe if the herds didn’t merge was that any portmanteau of the two names didn’t sound good!

Eugene also apologizes for not having been able to do more. He’s clearly beating himself up and says maybe if he’d just read more books. And we get the first of Rick’s obvious good bye scenes. He tells Eugene not to do “that” – not to beat himself up or diminish his own importance to the group. Rick tells him he’s not just some guy who read a lot of books. He tells Eugene that he made something and got them this far. He gives Eugene the pep talk that Eugene needs.

Rick next moves on to Carol (Melissa McBride). She tells him she’s taking her people home – to the Kingdom. Rick is concerned about the Kingdom. Carol tells Rick that she’s sent Alden (Callan McAuliffe) to head off the group that left and bring them back to the camp. However, it’s clear to Carol that the time has come for the Sanctuary people to decide for themselves who they want to be – and of course, Carol, who Rick points out also had to decide who she wanted to be, is the perfect person to have recognized this in the group. She assures Rick that while they don’t want them in charge anymore, they also clearly don’t want Negan. Carol reminds Rick that they all had to figure out who they wanted to be.

Rick worries they might not be doing the right thing, but if anyone gives him hope for how things work out, it’s Carol. She assures him that she’s still trying to figure things out. Carol also apologizes to Rick – she really wanted it to work. Rick is clearly more emotional when talking to Carol – and I suspect that Lincoln was also struggling with saying goodbye to long time cast members. After all, only three from the first season now remain – soon to be two.

Jerry (Cooper Andrews) comes in with a message from Jesus that Maggie is on her way to Alexandria. Daryl is no doubt waiting to hear this and offers to give Rick a ride on his motorcycle which will be faster than Rick’s horse.

Back at Alexandria, Michonne – who is looking after Judith and is also a working Mom – receives her daily report from Nora (Tamara Austin). Michonne clearly doesn’t look forward to these updates. The news about the tomato crops is bad – they can’t stop the crows, and apparently this will start to be a theme this year. As the world rebalances with fewer humans, other things – like huge flocks of birds – start to be a problem. The other bad news is that Negan is apparently on a hunger strike. Michonne offers a solution for the crops and takes on feeding Negan his lunch as her responsibility.

As Daryl misses the turn for Alexandria, we get a nice shot of the cement with exposed rebars that is going to be a factor later. Rick immediately tells Daryl that he’s going the wrong way – another nice metaphor for Daryl’s moral journey. Daryl does pull over almost as soon as he asks. He then tells Rick he made sure that the message didn’t go through. The two begin fighting and end up in a giant hole – their relationship is truly at its lowest point. Truly, the metaphors are really not subtle.

Michonne brings Negan his lunch and tells him that the hunger strike ends today. Negan insists that he’s just not in the mood to eat. Negan wants Michonne to stay and talk. He reminds her that he’s proof that they are making civilization – at least that’s what Rick says. He knows he’s an important symbol for them. Michonne tells him that she’ll stay for 20 minutes. Negan knows his own powers of persuasion – or his power to get under people’s skin.

Rick is frantic to get out and accuses Daryl of putting them in the hole on purpose. But of course, Daryl wouldn’t have endangered their lives – it’s why he stopped before Rick could jump off the bike. Daryl just wanted to keep Rick out of the way – but Rick tries to explain the importance of Negan staying alive – exactly the point that Negan just made to Michonne. But Daryl is more focused on the importance of killing Negan to Maggie.

Once again, we get a re-iteration of where this all began. Daryl reminds Rick that he wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for Glen – Rick wouldn’t have found Lori or Carl – and so on. And Daryl gets to have first crack at saying fuck on the show when he tells Rick that without Glen, Rick “sure as fuck wouldn’t have found any of them.” Rick, of course, thinks about Glen and the debt he owes him every day. But in the end, the course Rick is following is the one that Glen himself would have endorsed. Rick is also sorry – every damn day – about what he took from Maggie – but he’s also given her something.

This is such a powerful scene between these two wonderful actors. Rick is surprised at how much Daryl wants Negan dead. Rick points out that Daryl let Dwight live after what he did to him. Daryl says what? Keeping him in a closet and parading him around so he couldn’t talk. Is Daryl repressing the horror of his incarceration or has he really come to terms with it? Is it not his personal trauma that he wants vengeance for but the death of his friend at Negan’s hand?

Rick and Daryl differ completely in the symbol that Negan provides. Daryl sees it as hope for those who want to see Rick’s civilization fail. Negan isn’t dead, so they could regain the upper hand. Rick was sure that Maggie was coming around, and Daryl concedes that she was trying, but she just couldn’t live with it – like Oceanside. Rick is shocked to learn that Oceanside killed the Saviors. And Rick is shocked that Daryl is ok with Oceanside executing the Saviors and didn’t tell him. Daryl admits that he was ok with it.

Rick tells Daryl that the war will be for nothing if Maggie kills Negan because he becomes a martyr. Every person who died, died for nothing – including Carl. Daryl asks about the rest of them and whether after all the shit they’ve been through – maybe they couldn’t handle it. Daryl points out that Rick keeps asking them to have faith in all these other people – but he feels that Rick doesn’t have enough faith in them. In their core group. Rick is shocked and denies it. Daryl tells him that he’d die for Rick and he would have died for Carl – but he has to listen to him. Daryl tells Rick that he’s chasing something for Carl that “ain’t meant to be.” He tells Rick to just let Carl go.

Rick points out that he never asked anyone to follow him. Daryl tells him that he knows – but maybe he should have. It would have opened a dialogue – as Jesus suggested Maggie do. This scene was such a master class in acting as the two actors brought the intensity, but also knew when to step back from that. I loved the passion of Lincoln speaking of Carl – and the way Reedus took the intensity down to Daryl’s laconic intensity.

Gurira and Morgan also knock it out of the park with their conversation – and set us up for their continuing interactions. Negan sees a kindred warrior in Michonne. Michonne denies that she’s “trapped” running Alexandria while Rick is out with his merry band having all the fun. She tells him that she has everything – the potential of the future – while he is rotting in his prison cell. And in case you still missed the connection to last week’s opening as she pushes off the bars of his cell, she wipes her arm in exactly the same place she wiped off the blood in last week’s opening scene. Negan has hit a nerve – she does feel like she’s being constrained by her new role – and she is fighting against it.

Negan tries a different tactic and starts talking about his wife – who he’s glad can’t see him now and who was an angel. It has the desired effect on Michonne who goes from insulting Negan to actual sympathy over his wife’s death – from cancer as it turns out. And Negan knows Michonne’s other weak spot – Carl. He starts by saying that he and his wife would have loved to have had a kid – a kid like Carl. That gets Michonne admitting that she thinks about Carl – every damn day. A nice echo of Rick and Glen. And why they are both committed to keeping Negan in the cell.

Negan – the perceptive bastard – realizes that Carl wasn’t Michonne’s first child. She seems to realize what he’s doing and gets defensive – telling him he has 10 minutes left to eat his lunch. Michonne – stupidly – tells Negan her son’s name was Andre and he just didn’t make it. Negan compares Andre to his wife – it was a good thing because they were weak. Negan knows his wife made him “not weak” – he’s not stupid enough to say he’s “strong” – he remains seemingly subservient and passive, the better to get under Michonne’s defenses. Again, he compares himself to her. Neither of them are made to be contained by walls – they need to be “out there.” It’s like an addiction. Michonne dumps Negan’s lunch – proving he’s hit a nerve – when he tells her that she’s glad Andre is gone because he would have made her weak.

We get back to the junkyard and Jadis (Polly McIntosh) has Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) tied up – with wire, of course. She tenderly wipes his face, and then as he wakes up, she’s got another walker on a stick ready for him. He tries to tell her she doesn’t have to do it, but she insists there’s only one option left to her. Gabriel is the price of admission.

Gabriel insists that he knows her – she’s afraid, but she’s changed. Anne insists that she hasn’t changed the way he did. She hasn’t opened her heart to let others in. Gabriel insists it wasn’t him – it was others doing it. I loved the way this episode had these parallel scenes between characters which examine how and why the characters change and their views and hopes for the future. Gabriel insists that he’s a better person because of her – and he takes the blame for what she’s about to do. Gabriel realizes that he pushed her away because he was afraid – and then he tells her that he forgives her for whatever she has to do – and hopes she’ll forgive him one day. In the end, she can’t do it and pulls the walker back at the last minute and knocks Gabriel out again.

Back at the camp, Carol is packing everything up. She’s hoping to make it to the Kingdom by nightfall, but naturally, Jed (Rhys Coiro) is back – with Alden’s gun – and a bunch of other Saviors. Carol is backed up by Beatrice (Briana Venskus) and the others still at the camp. I’m really hoping that Alden – who “wasn’t as fast” as Carol – isn’t dead! Jed knows that Oceanside has been killing them – and it’s war. Jed calls Carol a “weak little woman who got in a lucky shot” – and Carol actually drops her gun and steps aside! Jed takes the keys – and Carol takes him down. We hear shots – but never really see what transpires at the camp.

Michonne goes back to work but can’t keep thinking about what Negan said – her eyes stray from her legal books to her katana – and then she goes back with lunch part two. Michonne asks why he said what he said. He denies that he was trying to piss her off – of course, he wasn’t. He wants to get under her skin and manipulate her. She wants to know why he said what he did – why he cares what she thinks. He tells her that she never comes down – it’s always Rick or someone else. Michonne wants to know why that matters. He tells her that they are the same – it’s all or nothing, and she’s as trapped as he is. Negan insists that they are connected to the dead in the same way, and she can’t stand that they are the same. Michonne denies that they are. She tells him that they do what they have to to get shit done, but he gets a kick out of it, and she tries every day to make things better, to bring people together not pit them against each other. She admits that she sacrifices and compromises. She admits that she takes strength from the dead but she lives for the living, and she makes no apologies. She acknowledges the deaths of her sons, but insists that the world will be better for her daughter and every other person who comes into it.

Negan sees that Michonne isn’t scared that she is him, but that she’ll end up like him – with everyone she loves and cares about gone. Michonne finally realizes that Negan is desperately trying to connect with her. He tells her that there’s nothing worse than nothing. Michonne tells him that as long as he’s breathing, it’s not nothing. She tells him his time is up – one way or another, he’s eating. He takes one bite – and then he asks about Lucille! He knows that the katana is the same for Michonne. But Michonne has hung her katana up – at least during the day. It’s there to inspire her, but it doesn’t control her.

Michonne realizes that the entire conversation was about her being his best hope to get to at least see Lucille. Michonne tells him that they don’t have the bat. Lucille has been abandoned where Negan dropped her. And then Negan completely loses it and starts bashing his head into the cinderblock wall!

Daryl and Rick hear the shots and start frantically trying to get out of the hole – just before it starts raining walkers on their heads. Daryl takes care of the walkers as Rick tries to climb out – and then Daryl piles up the dead walkers as a way to get out. As they get higher, the pit fills with walkers trying to pull them back down.

Rick makes it out first. The coast is mostly clear – but more walkers are coming. He tells Daryl to hurry and then reaches down for him, encouraging his “brother” to take his hand. Daryl has to trust Rick to save him as he lets go of his handholds. Rick has saved Daryl’s life again. Rick refuses to leave – he’s going to lead the herd away from the camp. Daryl tells him to lead the walkers to the bridge – it isn’t going to hold anyway. But Rick refuses to sacrifice the bridge either. All of these last words will sit with Daryl – we know they will. Daryl’s last words to Rick are “Be safe.” And then the two ride off on their respective mounts. I have to wonder how long it took for them to find a “white” horse for Rick…

Gabriel wakes up to find Anne gone. She’s left a note pinned to the inside of his jacket: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I need to go fast.” She leaves Gabriel alone and in tears. But will she go alone? The only way out that I can see for Rick is if the helicopter picks him up as Anne’s “A.” Which is a throwback to the rail car in Terminus too…

Michonne is reading Game Day to Judith when she suddenly turns the page to see a bat. She asks Judith for a kiss, but she’s thoughtful in the quiet moment. Meanwhile, Maggie and Diane come across Michonne’s kills on their way to Alexandria.

Once again, Rick on horseback – just like in the first season, turns a corner to be confronted by an unexpected herd – he’s lead Tybalt to Cordelia. But unlike the first season, when the horse rears and Rick falls off, the horse gets away – and Rick is spiked onto a rebar – like a shish kabob for the walkers.

This was a nicely written episode with lots of parallel scenes. The acting was stellar throughout – especially Andrew Lincoln with Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus. I was a little worried about Michonne falling under the spell of Negan, but while both revealed a lot about themselves, I trust Michonne to be the smarter of the two at the end of the day. I’m still not convinced the show has legs without either Andrew Lincoln or Chandler Riggs, but there’s no denying that Gurira, Reedus, and McBride have the acting ability necessary. What did you think of the episode? Are you committed to continue with the show after the next episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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