For those keeping track, the four episodes of The Walking Dead that have aired this season have done nothing but bring the audience up to date on one of the communities within its world. Last week’s “Service” could easily be combined into one episode with this weeks “Go Getters.”
Maggie and Sasha have made it to Hilltop, and Maggie’s baby is safe for now, though she continually pushes her luck with physical exertion throughout the episode. There’s internal strife at Hilltop over whether to shelter the pair or turn them out, lest they incur the Saviors’ wrath. Ultimately, Jesus wins them the right to stay, and is convinced by Sasha to seek out the Saviors’ HQ. Meanwhile, Carl escorts Enid to the Hilltop, then sets out on his own mission to assassinate Negan.
Padding out the rest of the episode is some bullshit about the Saviors punishing Hilltop for all their people’s deaths last season. First, in the middle of the night, they somehow break into the community, roll in an armored car blaring music to attract zombies, and set a bunch of fires. No one notices until there’s a swarm within the walls — somehow there are no guards? A weightless action sequence follows, though it does have the one fun beat of Maggie silencing the car by crushing it with a tractor.
This is all prelude to yet another series of scenes in which the Saviors humiliate and taunt their subjects. What audience member does not get their cruelty by now? This repetition does not make these guys more effective antagonists — it only makes them tiresome. It’s perfect that, in this iteration, one of Negan’s lieutenants is doing little more than an imitation of his leader’s swaggering dickhead act.
Oddly, it’s not as if any of the put-upon victims act terribly differently under pressure. The show sets us against the cowardly Gregory, even though he doesn’t really act measurably different than Rick does when forced to do tricks by his extortioner to keep himself and his people safe. So what if Gregory’s a worm who can’t remember people’s names — what does that matter, in the scope of things? Xander Berkeley infuses him with raw nervousness which makes him still come across as sympathetic. When a character has, well, character, that makes them more compelling, even if the show deems him as lesser than Rick — whom The Walking Dead always goes out of its way to prop up, no matter how bad of a leader he is.
“Go Getters” is the kind of Walking Dead episode which feels like the creative team used as a breather so as not to stretch the budget too much. Consider the cold open, which resolves the matter of Maggie’s sickness in an utterly perfunctory manner. Remember, this was the entire basis of the suspense in last season’s finale. The show reveals Glenn and Abraham’s graves with just as much of a shrug. Maggie and Sasha get scenes here, though the developments don’t so much study their mourning as they do gesture toward the motion of mourning. Maggie looking at the pocket watch her father gave Glenn should be devastating, but all it does is remind me that Glenn died five weeks ago and that this show’s pacing is terrible.
This is an episode primarily about picking up the pieces and moving on. It has muted emotional impact, given that the characters of The Walking Dead are constantly picking up the pieces of some new tragedy or another. But the implicit promise here is an impending big-ass confrontation with the Saviors. One thing we haven’t seen yet from this series is an all out war (remember, “All Out War” is the title of the original comic book arc in which the protagonists fight the Saviors), and there’s certainly potential there. Still, I’m betting that we won’t be seeing that this year, and that the mid-season finale will end with someone vowing to fight the Saviors instead of the fight truly beginning. This series never met a storyline it couldn’t painfully protract.