Spoilers for Sunday’s TWD, obviously. Also, most of this will discuss the show and not what happened in the comic storylines.
Aside from the splatter-gore crowd who hate any minute of screen time that doesn’t have a zombie on it (preferably one that’s either eating someone or being killed by a survivor), probably the major complaint for the show has been “nothing ever happens.” Obviously I disagree, but I see where the argument comes from. Rick and his survivors have spent over five seasons ‘just’ surviving. There’s been none of the machinations and twists of a standard soap opera, even a dramatic evening soap opera. No “do this for me and I’ll do that for you”, no double crossing over votes or resources, and so on.
Last night’s episode, assuming the writers play it out without rushing, sets the stage for some inter-settlement dramatic opera on the larger stage of post-apocalyptic greater Virgina. That could sate the viewers who aren’t satisfied with merely watching people dealing with the PA world, focused ‘merely’ on surviving.
As of S06E11, aka 28Feb16’s episode, in that local area we have the Alexandrians, the Hilltop, and whatever Negan’s “Saviors” group calls their encampment. Rick and the Alexandrians are willing to rumble but uninterested in attacking what can conveniently be called “the innocent.” That is, the Alexandrians don’t raid others, they don’t steal from others, they don’t hold people up, they don’t do all the typical PA “bad-guy” things. The Saviors are effectively the polar opposite; they are perfectly willing to commit horrible atrocities to get what they want. And what they want is food, supplies, all the things needed for life.
They just don’t want to have to do any of the boring work to get those things. Alexandria, Hilltop; they’re farming, they’re scavenging, they’re making their way. The Saviors are like every other criminal graft enterprise in history; they use violence to get what they need. Specialists in fear, in terror, and in domination. Note that their ‘deal’ with Hilltop doesn’t even make Hilltop vassals of Negan’s. If Hilltop needs help with, say, defense against a non-Savior threat, nothing in the deal indicates the Saviors will be interested in stepping in to protect their subjugated farming scavengers. Honestly, as violent graft goes, that’s pretty short sighted on the part of Negan. But let’s move on.
In Season Five, we had Terminus. That was pretty macabre, and also wrapped up relatively quickly and quite definitively. And Rick’s group left that area and have now more or less taken over Alexandria. Bringing us to the current events.
If the showrunners play this out, we could be in store for a number of fun things.
First, the obvious conflicts between Rick’s people and the Saviors. There’s any number of ways, and any number of possible separate events, that could appear to serve this. Hopefully we won’t have to put up with any “Rick’s people are captured, tortured, etc…” crap, because I’ve already said in prior posts those storylines are supremely uninteresting to me. But we could get some ‘action’, probably even deaths on both sides.
Second, after a certain amount of clashing, there could be what The Sopranos would’ve called a sit down. Negotiations, communication, verbal back-and-forth, between the Alexandrians and Saviors. That would be where we’d get posturing, threats, and all that sort of thing.
Third, following the first real conversation between the two camps, we probably move into some escalation of the conflict. More fighting, more death.
After that, that’s where I feel the writers could ‘rush’ things; a mistake in my opinion. With prior storylines, the show wrapped things up with finality by having prior groups wiped out or otherwise scattered. We already had Woodbury with the Governor, and Terminus, as examples of that. The Governor is a really good example of my concern for ‘rushing’ because the Governor was unable to live and let live. He couldn’t leave Rick’s group at the prison alone; he had to be in charge, in control, seeking revenge. If the showrunners position Negan’s character ‘properly’, they could leave some room for something that doesn’t require Negan to slam his dick on the table and be unable to settle for anything less than total victory over Alexandria.
Negan can be written as an evil bastard who delights in his warlord-ness, occasionally getting sadistic thrills by killing people the Saviors get their hands on. That’s fine. But an opportunity could be here for the Saviors to be ‘fought to a standstill’ by Alexandria. Something that, after all the fighting and posturing, leaves the Saviors still present to act as a longer-term foil. Nothing says Negan has to die, or the Saviors have to renounce evil; but Alexandria and the Saviors could reach a point where they agree to stay out of each other’s ways, for example. Something like maybe the Saviors agree to terrorize people other than Alexandria or Hilltop.
Or, something really TWD-juicy; that point is reached after the Saviors level Hilltop and scatter the ashes to the four winds but take devastating losses from Alexandria in the process. Something like that would open the storyline to an “at what costs” sort of conclusion. We saw Rick and Darryl in this episode, for example, immediately and eagerly willing to go head-to-head against the Saviors. Maggie echoed it too. Things could play out where the standstill is reached after a lot of fighting, but the innocents at Hilltop pay the price in the process. Then we get a lot of soul searching from “the good guys”, wondering if it was worth it just to be ‘free’. Etc…
Regardless, I definitely feel there’s not going to be any sort of conclusion this season. In fact, knowing ‘tv’ the way I do and as much as I hate it, I’m betting the season’s going to end with someone or some group from Alexandria captured and about to die at Negan’s hands. Because tv can’t help itself but to take any possible cliffhanger, especially one that’ll make us all wait six months to see the other end of. But my ‘visions’ for how this could all be developed see this phase of story holding at least to the end of Season Seven, and it could easily go to Eight without any real vamping or filler.
The result would be an end to the casual ‘we’ll go out and get supplies’ kind of thing. Security, like on a nation-state level for each encampment, would be a real concern. Think something (without the cinematic level of cost that tons of extras and effects require) along the lines of Mad Max. Convoys, careful planning, big groups; no more solo wandering when it’s necessary to leave the base. Cold War style machinations.
It could be fun. A lot of fun. And give some ongoing drama that doesn’t constantly reset back to “and they’re ‘merely’ surviving.” That could silence a number of people who have searched for a place to grab onto the show as it goes on. Nothing short of dumping a tanker truck full of corn syrup and red dye each week will satisfy the gore fans, but I think the show has long since made it clear they’re not ever going to devolve the proceedings to that level of inane fumbling.
We’ll see. Five more episodes in this half of the season, then we’ll be off until around late September or early October when they kick of Season Seven. Remember, eat more brains!