After the near-complete disaster that was the midseason premiere, “The Lost and the Plunderers” shows how good this show can be when it does things right.
1. Unusual Organization of Scenes
Barring the opening scene before the titles, this episode’s use of scenes stands out from the rest, and actually does a lot to help people keep oriented, in stark contrast to the past few episodes’ chaos.
The decision to add a title card to beginning of each segment after a commercial break, with white, all-caps text against a black background, helps to tell the audience which characters should be followed in any particular scene. Whether these characters are the heroes (Rick and Enid), the villains (Negan and Simon) or relatively neutral in the conflict at hand (Jadis), this organizational method helps to determine that every one of these characters is technically the hero of their own story.
Rick Grimes is obviously the main hero of the show, but Enid’s ultimatum about the possible execution of both herself and Aaron by Oceanside may have been seen in a very negative light if not for the fact that the scene itself draws attention to her own desire for peace and aid. Negan’s scene focuses in on his own leadership problems, how he struggles to keep “saving” people in a conflict with the increasingly bloodthirsty and vengeful Simon. For his part, Simon himself somehow manages to be his own kind of “heroic,” at least up to the point when he decides to execute the entirety of the Scavengers save for Jadis (more on that below), due to his own anger over his inability to really do much to avenge his own outpost after Hilltop promised to execute his people one by one.
2. Once More with Clarity
Adding to the unusual organization is the use of an anachronic order to it all. Due to the way the episode is split up, it is difficult to put together an accurate timeline until it is all said and done, which helps to determine the differing perspectives.
From what Rick and Michonne know, Jadis’ entire group has been killed, and she is having a mental breakdown, but they do not know that they were all summarily executed, and she does not provide that information. After all that she had cost them, all of the wasted time and resources on her “games,” it is actually pretty reasonable that Rick and Michonne leave her behind and see her as useless. The fact that she and her group ran away at the first sign of trouble when approaching Sanctuary last half-season just goes to show that Rick’s own perspective makes sense, from his own particular point of view.
Meanwhile, we have the Saviors’ perspective. They are unaware of the execution of Gavin by Henry, and remain that way for the entirety of the episode, even talking about sending out resources to go find him. Negan spends his time praising Carl’s bravery and how he is “built” for the post-apocalyptic world. Together, this makes his discovery that Carl has died all the more heartwrenching, far more than Carl’s actual death was (as said in last episode’s recap).
3. The Plunderers: Simon Says
Of all of the Saviors to go rogue, Simon wasn’t really all that high on the list. Sherry? Maybe. Dwight? Already done. Gavin? Well, possibly, but that’s a nonissue now.
Simon’s insistence on mass-murder, on basically “cleaning the slate” with the groups they have held up and starting over with another one that is more palatable, is, while technically reasonable from his perspective, not reliable when the Saviors rely on other groups for their own resources. Negan’s shouting match is all the more understandable, his barely-restrained contempt more visible, in light of this change in opinion.
However, it is Simon’s teeth-gritted attempt to appeal to the Scavengers, his forced smiles and over-the-top facial expressions in that meeting, that really showcase how he is barely holding himself together. The entire time he is talking with Jadis, viewers are just waiting for him to snap, for him to murder every single person there. Even when he screams at her for her blatantly obvious lie about having been handing over Rick when the others started shooting two episodes ago (despite the fact that Rick and the Scavengers were both armed), he just barely pulls himself back. Once he started opening fire by killing Brion, it seemed to be over, his agreement with Negan fulfilled (in fact, Negan had explicitly reminded him to only kill one Scavenger as if to remind viewers of this), but by doing the same to Tanya, then following up by ordering his men to massacre everyone but Jadis, he shows that he is not concerned with saving anyone, only vengeance.Continued below
In a sense, Simon is becoming more of an evil than Negan himself.
4. The Lost: Destruction of the Scavengers
Let’s be perfectly honest: losing the Scavengers is not much to complain about in and of itself. They were nothing more than a placeholder for some more scenes at best, and a means to put in some famous comic moments (with different heroes due to certain deaths).
That said, their destruction and the seeming recovery of Jadis from her taciturn manner is somewhat sad. All of her manipulations and dealings have fallen apart at once. By joining with Rick, she lost her place with the Saviors, including her entire “family.” By leaving Rick to fend for himself during the reconnaissance trip to the Sanctuary, she was left with him wanting nothing to do with her and desiring for her to just be gone.
By the time she allowed all of her Scavengers to fall through the trash compactor and become nothing but red mush, she seems to have lost all hope. However, the way she looks at said mush may make readers think of another group, one yet to come in the comics, which her quiet manner would definitely work for.
If that is the case, it is highly likely that we will not see from her until the upcoming time skip, likely not until next season (already greenlit before this second half began).
5. War is Hell
Carl Grimes is a present absence in this episode. Everything Rick does seems to turn back to him, though Michonne even more, acting as his conscience in the absence of another alternative. Rather than the trite overemphasis used before, here his impact is smaller, but more powerful as a result.
This is nowhere more potent than in the closing moments of the episode. When Rick tells Negan about the death, the latter is very honest with him, and legitimately seems to be on the verge of tears. From the looks of things, he saw Carl as a true child of the apocalypse, someone who he could mold to actually help people to forge a better world, from his own particularly warped point of view. In fact, Negan seems to want to know how Carl died not because of any need to gloat, but because he wants to know if it is his own fault that the child he admired so much has perished, if it was the bombing that did him in. After learning about how it was a bite sustained while going out to help someone, he remains sad, not gloating over it due to having no need to take blame, but seeming to still want to mourn and actually admitting that the death would affect him, seemingly in a way unlike any of the other murders he had committed himself.
Most telling are the last few words he tells to Rick: “You failed. You failed as a leader, and most of all, Rick, you failed as a father. Just… give up. Give up, because you have already lost.” Negan doesn’t seem to want to just shift blame, but to honestly blame Rick for everything that happened to Carl, for not being there to tell him not to go out and get himself into a situation where he could die so easily on his own.
More than anything, this aftereffect of Carl’s demise seems to shift the narrative. Negan wants to end it all, while Rick wants to kill him more than ever. Who is the hero? Who is the villain? Does it matter anymore?
We’ll have to find out next week, but this episode is definitely a step in the right direction, in no small part due to the limited plotlines and shorter time of the episode.