The penultimate episode of a television season typically serves the purpose of building tension and momentum for the finale. The Walking Dead, however, has always been weird when it comes to pacing. Its season finales often fall flat, lacking resolution or payoff. So I’m not surprised that this week’s episode, titled “Something They Need,” left me feeling almost indifferent going into the season seven finale.
This episode did not provide us with any new or surprising developments. Dwight was clearly going to betray Negan eventually, Rick and co. were going to get their guns, Gregory has always been an ass, Eugene has always been a coward, and Sasha’s suicidal mission never would have worked out in her favor. We knew all of this going in, so what was the point?
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy any aspects of this episode. Tara’s assertiveness with the Oceanside people is a welcome shift for the character. The group’s explosive plan is precise, and their argument for stealing the guns is practical. But the entire scenario plays out a little too conveniently. Tara makes her way into the house unseen (and offscreen). Somehow nobody dies, despite the fact that plenty of dynamite and weapons are involved. It’s also a stretch to think so many of the Oceanside women would end up joining the cause. Rick’s group lights up their home, steals their arsenal, and holds them at gunpoint. How does Rick always manage to be so persuasive? Maybe it’s the beard.
Regardless of how silly it plays out, it’s still cool to see the group work together on a mission. I’m a sucker for cold opens, and in this one we see dynamite planted and the walkers stumbling in off the shore. We don’t know exactly what’s going on, and the writers allow us to piece things together before revealing their hand.
Elsewhere, Gregory’s all-around awfulness remains amusing, albeit repetitive. He’s clueless at killing walkers, which leads to a fun scene in which he struggles to take one down, but this is something we’ve witnessed many times before during the early days of Alexandria. Gregory is supposed to protect the “pregnant lady”, but Maggie ends up saving him. This is especially despicable on his part, given how it occurs moments after Gregory contemplates taking Maggie out with a knife.
But it’s too obvious where this plot thread is headed. Maggie slowly gains the trust of Hilltop, while Gregory remains submissive to the Saviors. We’ve seen this for weeks. Eventually, Maggie is bound to become the community leader, but not before Gregory makes a final drastic attempt to stay in power. This is where Simon’s invitation from last week is likely to play a role.
The best part of this episode takes place in Sasha’s cell. The means used by the writers last week to put her in this scenario are absurd, of course, but it still allows for some fruitful dialogue. As viewers, we’ve seen Eugene’s betrayal already, but the gravity of it is emphasized when he comes face to face with a member of his old group. He pleads for Sasha to join him, at one point even claiming that Abraham would have wanted her to do it. He quickly, and wisely, rescinds that sentiment.
Negan makes his own case for Sasha to switch sides, and she goes along with it. Unlike Eugene, she’s not being genuine. She’s using the opportunity as an act of self-preservation. It could also lead to a chance for her to get closer to Negan. For now, she tries to con Eugene into providing her with a weapon, but all he gives her is the poison capsule he made. That plan is seemingly dead on arrival.
So what is the plan? Well, that’s the problem. Yes, Rick’s group now has Dwight on its side, but we don’t know what kind of help he’ll provide them. After spending this season’s back half preparing for a war against Negan, this finale should now provide us with at least part of that war. That doesn’t seem to be the case, as there is still a lot of setup to be done. It’s frustrating as a viewer, because we likely won’t see much (if any) payoff until next season.
I’ve learned by now to lower my expectations for this show, especially when it comes to finales. As long as our heroes don’t end up in another train car, and nobody’s head is bashed in while the screen turns black, I’ll consider that a win.