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The Walking Dead - Lines We Cross - Review

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The Walking Dead returned with “Lines We Cross” written by Angela Kang and directed by Greg Nicotero. Time has passed since the season finale, and there seem to have been a lot of changes. While there were some great walker-killing scenes in this episode, it felt more like a set up for the season kind of episode. I did really, really like the structure of the episode as it kept revisiting the same moment a la Roshomon and the addition of the subtitles.

The episode begins with Judith (Cailey Fleming) telling us the story of the previous season – which is delightfully mirrored by her telling RJ (Antony Azor) the story of a Brave Man – Rick – later in the episode.

When the scene suddenly shifted to a satellite, I have to admit that I thought either the network or my television had switched channels! However, the satellite ends up being a key way that the episode is tied together and unfolds. We also get helpful sub-titles – the first of which is “Training Day.” We’re at Oceanside, and start with one of Greg Nicotero’s signature featured walkers – this one with a huge piece of driftwood in him. He’s dispatched quickly by Judith.

On the beach we see folks from Oceanside, Hilltop, and Alexandria, all training together. We get some terrific shots of then using some cool shields and groups of archers to take out carefully – for the most part – released groups of walkers. Is this simply survival training or are they training for something bigger? To be ready for the return of the Whisperers and their herd maybe? The episode is really bookended by intense action. There’s lots of hero shots with Daryl (Norman Reedus) spinning his double knives, Michonne (Danai Gurira) with her katana, Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) side by side, and Alden (Callan McAuliffe) with his spear.

At Oceanside, Luke (Dan Fogler) and Jules (Alex Sgambati) untangle some net and very cutely flirt with each other. Michonne and Daryl discuss the success of the training, and Michonne is happy to have brought the kids to see the ocean. However, when Judith goes through RJ’s treasure from the beach, she finds a walker face – and the possibility that this is a Whisperer mask sends everyone into a bit of a panic.

The second part of the episode is subtitled “Skin,” and Aaron (Ross Marquand) gets on the radio, which now connects them all, to warn the other communities. He tells Alexandria to go on lock down, but Michonne intervenes saying that they don’t have evidence to support it – but that they should stay vigilant. Michonne doesn’t want to start a panic. Cyndie (Sydney Park) says that a lot of stuff washed up on shore due to the recent storm. Aaron wants to look for other signs that they might be back, and Michonne agrees to take a look. Daryl hangs back to wait for Carol (Melissa McBride) who is heading back to shore on the ship that she’s been on.

Three groups go out to look for signs. As Aaron and Michonne search, Aaron asks if they’re the good guys. And that is a good question, and one they come back to later. After all, everyone thinks that they are the good guys. And that’s exactly the conversation that Michonne had with Negan at the end of last season’s finale. Of course, this is the first time that they’ve faced an enemy who doesn’t care who the good guys are. Negan clearly thought he was, the Governor thought he was too. But in a world that is based solely on survival of the fittest, good and evil really doesn’t play a part, does it? And it will be interesting to see if our group can think like that because they will need to in order to fight the Whisperers. The three groups keep in contact via walkie talkie. Michonne points out to Aaron that they may not find an answer – to whether the Whisperers are back or not. Aaron admits that the Whispers do cover their tracks.

When Aaron sees walkers on a bridge, he gallops off and engages them – against Michonne’s orders. One almost gets him from under a car. Michonne is clearly freaked out that Aaron could have died on a bridge – because it reminds her of Rick – and this also ties into Judith’s story later in the episode. Michonne is angry with Aaron, pointing out that if it had been the Whisperers he could have died. She also reminds him that they’d promised not to cross the border.

Aaron, however, points out that they’ve been acting like everything is normal and it’s not. He tells Michonne that his whole life, he’s been the nice guy, the good Samaritan, but now Eric is dead – and so is Jesus – and he’s sick of being nice. Michonne says fine. Good is overrated and she prefers smart. It’s about staying alive and not letting people die over nothing.

Magna (Nadia Hilker) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) ride together and call Michonne to tell her that there’s something she needs to see. Theyhave found an old camp. Luke and Alden are there too. There are plenty of bodies. Luke posits that the campers must have gotten into a fight with the dead walkers. But what they’ve found that is alarming is a skin. Aaron points out that at least one of them have been on their side of the border – but there’s no way of knowing when.

Back at the camp, Michonne and Aaron continue their conversation. Michonne points out that fear is dangerous, and it can drive them apart again. I like that Aaron is stepping up and getting a bigger role to play. Aaron points out that fear can also keep you safe. Michonne tells him that she was telling him to be smart on the bridge – not afraid. She also circles back to who they are and who they’ve become. She tells him they ARE the good guys. She knows who Rick and Carl – and Eric and Jesus were. They have to choose to be the good guys even when it’s hard. When they start to question that, they lose sight of it – and that’s when the answer starts to change – and that’s the scariest thing of all. It’s hard to see who will fill Gurira’s shoes when she leaves.

I loved Fleming as she told her story – what a terrific little actor! Michonne overhears and immediately draws her children into her embrace. Fleming is also terrific as Michonne talks about their Dad and a wistful looks passes over Judith’s face. The three are interrupted by our first view of the satellite breaching the atmosphere.

The next section is titled “Bird Wisdom” and picks up when Aaron initially called Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) on the radio. We go from the conversation we’ve mostly already heard to a montage of life with baby as Rosita (Christian Serratos) works out and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) essentially conducts experiments – or at least tracks a LOT of data – on the baby. We get a quick glance at the charts and it seems the baby is at least 3 months old. Eugene then fills in Siddiq (Avi Nash) on how to look after the baby.

Gabriel calls a meeting in the church where Lydia (Cassady McClincy) is trying to learn how to read. In another interesting parallel, Lydia declares reading to be unnatural – just as Aaron declared things were not normal in always being on alert for the Whisperers. Laura (Lindsley Register) suggests that Lydia shouldn’t be present.

Lydia heads outside to practice with a stick – seems that she is following in Henry’s footsteps – or at least trying to. She’s observed by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who asks if she’s ok – and then tries to find out what’s going on – why the big meeting. Negan even winks at her. Is he trying to recruit new followers now? His guard tries completely unsuccessfully to keep them apart. Lydia tells him that they’re all on alert. He tells her to watch her back.

We discover that Siddiq is suffering from severe PTSD from being a prisoner of the Whisperers. We’re also introduced to the new doctor in town – Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas). Dante comes to check on Siddiq when the baby is crying. We don’t really get much of a sense of who Dante is in this first encounter, but he does ask about the Whisperers and it seems a bit curious that no one would has told him anything.

Gabriel checks on Negan when he quits work early. Negan tells Gabriel that it’s starting – and he offers him the “bird wisdom” of the title. He tells Gabriel that people tend to get mixed up on who they hate. Negan has worked hard to just be the guy who grows vegetables and picks up the trash, but until things die down, Negan is planning to keep his head down so that people don’t move him from the “semi-us” category to the “them” category. Negan is positive that it will happen – it’s why he was warning Lydia too. The boogeyman is back.

Negan warns that the alert just show indecision. He tells Gabriel that he needs to make people feel secure – even if it’s just for show. Gabriel doesn’t want to lie. Negan clarifies – it’s manipulating the truth to keep people alive – what’s the harm? In the end, Gabriel takes Negan’s advice and orders the gates locked and double security. He’s interrupted by the satellite, and Eugene runs to call Michonne – linking us back to the end of the previous part.

The next section is “Sea Dogs” and circle us back in time again to Aaron on the radio to Gabriel. This time we take the action to the beach. Kelly (Angel Theory) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff) are helping to bring in the nets. Kelly is upset when she can’t hear one of the Oceansiders warn her. Connie realizes that Kelly’s hearing is getting worse. Kelly is worried that she can’t predict when ambient noise will make it too hard for her to hear – and she’s afraid of what will happen if she can’t interpret for Connie.

Daryl arrives at the beach with Dog, who really likes Connie. Kelly and Connie exchange a look, and it’s pretty clear that Kelly knows that Connie likes Daryl… Daryl joins Ezekiel on the dock. The two pass awkward small talk, and Ezekiel confesses that he’s afraid of birds. When he worked in the zoo, lions and tigers were fine – but those ostriches! The two are joined by Connie with Dog. She tells Daryl she thinks he lost something – still using her pad of paper. He, however, signs back that Dog just likes her better. She tells him that he signs with a Southern accent! These two are pretty cute!

But Daryl and Ezekiel are both there to greet Carol who arrives on a fishing boat. It’s utterly awkward between Carol and Ezekiel, and she excuses herself to hug Connie hello and leave with Daryl. She’s been using the hard work on the fishing boat to help her cope. She’s also been looking for Alpha (Samantha Morton) – though she denies it. Daryl tells her that they found one of their masks and Michonne and a group have gone out looking for signs. He asks if she wants to go too, and she says no.

Instead, the two go for a ride on Daryl’s bike and have a shooting contest. These two are as adorable as always. The two also take advantage of a deer that wanders through. Daryl only wounds it however, and when it staggers over the line, he refuses to cross after it. Carol is angry that they are still respecting borders that they didn’t agree to even when Alpha isn’t even there. As always, McBride is terrific as we see that Carol has started the healing process through her time on the ship – but she’s also still harboring great anger towards Alpha.

The deer is quickly swarmed by walkers. Daryl apologizes for pissing off Carol, but Daryl tells her that there’s no reason to piss people off for no reason. And it seems like the same conversation that Michonne had with Aaron. Daryl then asks Carol to come home, but she insists that she’s now a sea dog. She tells him to get off her ass, and he says “sorry if I didn’t want my best friend to spend her whole life on a boat.”

I loved this scene with the two sitting on logs, sharing lunch, and Carol teasing Daryl about being best friends and asking if she should make them friendship bracelets – and a matching collar for Dog! But then she turns more serious and asks Daryl if he ever wonders if this is all there is. You run into people and kill each other until whoever is left says enough. Daryl says he feels like sometimes you just survive from fight to fight. And again, this resonates with the other conversations we’ve seen. Daryl, however, says that there has to be other people out there like them. He concedes that he gets what Maggie is doing with Georgie – taking him away from the violence.

Carol asks Daryl to come on the boat with her this time. He says run away, and she jumps on it, teasing, like pirates! But Daryl can’t be cooped up in a cabin. Carol suggests the bike, and Daryl sounds like he’s really considering it. He suggests they go west – New Mexico – and of course, Fear the Walking Dead takes place in Texas…. Daryl suggests no more fighting. Just get on the bike and go – and he’s the one to present Carol with a bracelet. Carol says it sounds good – are they really considering this? But once again, they are interrupted by the satellite.

The next segment shares it’s subtitle with the episode’s main title: “Lines We Cross.” We are also back with the satellite from the beginning of the episode – only now it’s on the ground and it’s on fire. Everyone converges on it with fire gear. Magna is adamant that they can’t cross the line, but Dianne (Kerry Cahill) points out that they don’t have a choice. They can’t let the fire spread. We get a nice close up of the deer corpse as everyone crosses over to fight the fire. Once again, this is a great scene for everyone to get a little piece of as we see all the communities come together to fight the fire.

And of course, it’s not just the fire that they have to fight.  The create a firebreak and fight through the night. Ezekiel is particularly adamant not to be beaten by another fire – the way the Kingdom was. They soon have to deal with walkers too. Let’s not forget that other big fire and how the walkers caught fire and helped to spread it.

We get some great slow motion shots of walkers being killed. The Alexandrians arrive in the nick of time. There’s a great shot of Carol using walker blood to douse some flames, and a wicked shot of Daryl throwing an ax to take down a flaming tree that takes out a bunch of walkers.

The fire is finally out and everyone helps to get everyone and their equipment out. Burnt bodies – hopefully its only walkers – litter the landscape. Eugene is adamant that he has to get the tech out of the satellite, but Michonne wants to leave. In the end, when it’s clear that Eugene isn’t going to just leave, Michonne finally gets people to help Eugene take the satellite.

I loved the little exchange between Luke and Eugene and especially when Luke calls him “Eugenius!” Luke is concerned about radiation, but Eugene doesn’t sugar coat things. Radiation is the least of their problems when they are already infected with some kind of disease that causes them to reanimate after they die! Eugene’s people skills have not improved as he mutters about Luke cutting in to his 10 minutes – completely ignoring the fact that Michonne told him he could have five! I love the way the show – and the actors can pack so much of their character into just one short scene.

Aaron has a brief word with Michonne, insisting that they made the right choice. Regardless of how angry he might be and might fight against it, Aaron will always be a good guy. He applies his own ethics and morality to the Whisperers, thinking that this might buy some goodwill as putting out the fire helps them too. But you can bet that they won’t see it that way. Fire is nature’s way of clearing old, dead growth and revitalizing the landscape – from a completely naturalistic viewpoint. Michonne underscores the dichotomy between them by saying this is enough good for her for now. We could also start categorizing everyone by the alignment system from Lawful Good (Aaron) to Chaotic Evil (Alpha)…

Carol and Daryl have gone off to check on the herd – which makes sense because they are so close. The herd is gone. Daryl asks Carol if she still wants to run away together, and Carol says yeah – tomorrow. So that’s a no. No way is Carol walking away and leaving the community vulnerable – is Carol Lawful Neutral or Chaotic Good?

Daryl tells Carol that he needs her to stay. Carol still isn’t sure, but Daryl tells her that he’ll have to punch holes in all the boats if she doesn’t!

The very final shot is Carol hanging back and looking down into the herd area and seeing Alpha come out of the woods. The two lock eyes – and it’s on! Two mothers and two fighters who will not back down. In the scenes for next week, we even hear Alpha tell Beta (Ryan Hurst) that there is clarity amongst the chaos – yep. Chaotic Evil….

I loved how this episode was so carefully structured with a very subtle Rashomon Effect. It’s clear that the good vs evil theme is going to be important this season – but then, isn’t it always? There were some great one liners and moments in the episode. Overall, this felt a bit like a filler episode, catching us up on the time that’s passed. We see the “new” people blending in, and even Negan starting to blend in. It’s hard to say exactly where he fits on the alignment scale, but I can’t think of a better team than Carol and Negan to defeat Alpha… What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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