First, let’s make something clear about the previous analysis. I was mistaken over the identity of the group that met with Rick and co, which has yet to be given an official name at all, calling them Oceanside. I was wrong about that one. In any case, onward to our newest episode, of The Walking Dead, “New Best Friends.”
1. The Individual or the Group?
One of the key fights of this episode is between Daryl Dixon and Richard. While Richard is definitely an extremist and a war hawk, his methods are not without reason. Ezekiel seems extremely hesitant to do anything at all about the Saviors, and somebody needs to start their fight. However, I can just as easily see the reasons behind Daryl’s refusal to start a war that could cause the death of his friend. An especially interesting element of this confrontation was Richard’s reluctance to give Carol’s name. The fact that Daryl might know who she is seems to have given Richard reason for hesitation, and in doing so, revealed him to be not just ignorant, but also willing to be dishonest to others. As such, it’s far easier to sympathize with Daryl, which was likely the point.
2. Trash of the Titans
The key component of this episode, at least from one perspective, is the more complete look at a new, as-of-yet unnamed faction. This faction seems to be very close to a cult mentality, with people rarely speaking, walking in unison to the point that their movements are intensely disturbing, and their seeming lack of most emotion is even more so. Their testing method, sending Rick in to fight the armored Walker formerly known as Winslow, was nothing if not unique, given he needed to use his environment to first disable the Walker, then use some of the trash to decapitate him, given the armored helm.
It’s hard to imagine people wouldn’t find them sooner, as somewhere like a landfill would be prime real estate in a post-apocalyptic world like this one, filled with so much junk. It’s highly unlikely that the veritable mazes of trash could be just from their group, even if it has been a few years’ time. As for how they could hide in general, I do somewhat understand. Their policy of “we take, we don’t bother” could mean that they are exceptionally good at stealth, and their seeming emotionlessness could contribute to that ability.
Jadis, their leader, is at once cruelly pragmatic and at times even humorous, such as when she decides to not touch Rick’s bloodied hand, instead using her gloved one with his healthier left hand. I look forward to seeing her again. If my assumptions are correct, we may indeed see them in a later arc, provided that they are an early incarnation of a group that showed later in the comics, much like the Oceanside community.
3. Down and Dirty
The fight with Winslow was brutal, gritty, and disturbing in another way altogether. Rick sustained a serious injury when he had his right palm impaled, likely causing some nerve damage (if the show decides to go that route, rather than further injury), and he didn’t even have the barest of weaponry with which he could cut through a helmet like that.
The sheer number of spikes, as well as the armor on Winslow made him into a very interesting foe. He looks like what a zombie might look like in the Mad Max franchise, which definitely fits the aforementioned post-apocalyptic timeline. Ammunition is scarce, but fit a Walker with spikes all over, especially on the head, and they will be nearly unstoppable.
Speaking of stopping, the method of defeat shows the resourcefulness of Rick’s group. Rick was able to use the trash around him to pin Winslow down in order to decapitate him, but it was Michonne’s advice that led him to that strategy.
4. Rise of Gabriel Stokes
The standout character in this episode is rather unexpectedly Father Gabriel Stokes, the man who was considered a coward (or in the very least a pacifist) for so very long. From holding up Tamiel at knifepoint to talking with Rick in private, he seems to have finally come into his own.Continued below
Whereas Jesus is the de facto leader of Hilltop alongside Sasha and Maggie, and Daryl is still returning to the Hilltop after his asylum in the Kingdom, Rick Grimes needed a new right-hand man (no pun intended on what happened to his literal right hand). As such, Gabriel’s ascension to a status of negotiator as well as moral support makes him into an interesting foil for Rick, one that hopefully leads to solidifying this role. While he provides a moral compass on which Rick can rely (as opposed to the overall pacifism proposed by Morgan, which has clearly not worked), Grimes himself provides his own martial and moral support for Gabriel, giving him confidence that he can survive and help others as a good shepherd.
While Rick’s direct revelation to Gabriel of why he smiled in the face of such danger was very heavy-handed and seemed to violate the rule of storytelling to “show, don’t tell,” I suppose it was necessary to get people who were debating the issue to stop doing so.
5. Daryl’s Return to Form
Daryl’s involvement, included in his fight with Richard, is definitely bringing him back to the high profile fighter he once was before his capture by the Saviors. From the moment he picked up a crossbow once more, he has shown his tough nature is heavily ingrained. Ranging from his threat to kill Richard if anything happens to Carol, even anything that could have been avoided, to his call to leave the Kingdom for the Hilltop to prepare to fight on his own terms, he seems very familiar to the viewers, but also a refreshingly generous version of himself who is willing to put himself on the line even more than he once did.
On the other hand, we have his talk with Carol, the emotional heart of this episode. His decision to lie to her, to make sure that she does not know of the deaths so that she does not feel the need to fight once more, shows his soft center is still in there.
Oh, and he’s also able to interact rather peacefully with Shiva. Who knew he’d be good with tigers?