This season’s meager storyline is barely advanced by yet another filler episode.
As tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead wrapped up, news of the hit show’s slumping ratings suddenly came into focus. Although Season Seven has offered up perhaps the cruelest villain of the series in Negan, the means to take him down – which requires extensive world building, to loop in the many communities needed to bolster Alexandria’s numbers – have left us with uneven and lackluster episodes with just a few short minutes of plot advancement as a reward for our wasted time. For even the most loyal fans, sticking it out has been tedious at best, following drawn out character trajectories that have begun to feel like intersecting red threads in a conspiratorial web that ultimately lead nowhere.
Perhaps Season Six would have been better spent establishing more of these alliances instead of just the two events that have led to Rick’s current demise. Instead, the bulk of Season Seven thus far has been picking up the leftovers from last season as a means to color in just how extensive and sadistic Negan’s reach has been. But we get it already, The Saviors have decimated a lot of survivor camps. It’s time for a fight already. But there’s still too much of this season left for that.
Somewhere out there, perhaps still rowing away, is our beloved Gendry. Remember him? It’s been so long since we’ve seen Robert Baratheon’s bastard. Surely when he re-emerges, we’ll get an entire episode of Game of Thrones dedicated to his journey and triumphant return, right? No, of course not. But here we have an entire episode of The Walking Dead dedicated to Tara, whose lovely and quirky personality can’t save this albatross of a story.
Look, overall this wasn’t a terrible episode but it certainly wasn’t necessary to dedicate an entire episode to a single story. Checking in on Heath and Tara is something that could have easily been counterbalanced with other storylines that work together to advance the overall plot. On its own, Tara’s story, while interesting, feels like filler because as a standalone it is.
Heath and Tara’s two weeks of scavenging, which they set off on following the attack on The Saviors satellite compound, are up and they’ve got nothing to show. Still determined to uncover something, Tara presses Heath into exploring an abandoned encampment on a bridge but instead of supplies the two uncover a sandpit full of walkers. As we later find out, Tara was knocked off of the bridge and washes up on the shores of a hidden village – one led entirely by women and one where trespassers are shot on sight.
Ultimately, Tara is saved by Cyndie, who does not see Tara as a threat and disagrees with the orders to kill on sight. Natania, the group’s leader, inspired by her granddaughter’s act of mercy, decides to spare Tara and over dinner she explains that the community wishes to remain hidden because all of the group’s men were murdered by an unnamed group that we know can only be The Saviors. Natania offers Tara a chance to stay in the community but Tara is eager to return to Alexandria and to Denise, whom we know is no longer alive. Tara offers the chance for the two communities to work together and build an alliance, an offer which Natania reluctantly accepts. She sends two of her women, Beatrice and Kathy, to accompany Tara back but it turns out to be a set up.
After a struggle, Beatrice point a gun in Tara’s face and explains why she has to be killed. Like us, Beatrice knows The Saviors mean business and the success at the satellite post wasn’t the end, or even a success. The Saviors slaughtered the men in their community and Tara will expose them once again to danger. She is a risk the women cannot take. So much for allies in the fight against Negan.
Cyndie saves the day once again, attacking Beatrice and leading Tara back to the bridge, which is now overrun with sandy walkers and conveniently placed cars that allow the women to work together, like a video game level, to get Tara across the bridge to safety. There’s no clear sign of Heath except for his broken glasses and a set of tire tracks. Perhaps we’ll get an entire episode dedicated to his getaway, although one devoted to badass Cyndie would be even better.
Finally, Tara returns to Alexandria but Eugene’s face says it all. Denise is gone of course, but this incredibly sad moment feels zapped of its full emotion because it’s been so damn long. Rosita is still full of rage over the community handing over their arsenal to The Saviors and she begs Tara for any hint of hope on the outside. Of course we know what lies nearby but Tara, numb with grief but perhaps also remembering Beatrice’s ominous words, does not betray her promise to Cindy. Like Rick, Tara is capitulating to the inexhaustible violence that Negan represents. Even in his absence, he has won once again.
It’s possible that Tara’s feelings will change, perhaps as she truly takes stock of how The Saviors have destroyed her community but for now any hope of a rebellion has been lost to grief and fear and once again, we’re another episode deeper into a season that has given us little fight to look forward to and a whole lot of aggravation.