The show has long since earned a reputation for being reticent to kill its major players (minus Glenn … sorry Glenn, though one could definitely argue that you’re better off), and “If Daryl Dies We Riot” t-shirts have been a staple in the TWD fandom since season 2. But given the series of remarkably poor decisions he’s made since the beginning of season 7 — remember when Daryl spent a whole year cursing himself for doing something reckless and impulsive with the Saviors that got Glenn killed, only to then do another reckless and impulsive thing with the Saviors while his crew had them surrounded? — it’s getting harder and harder to justify Rick keeping him around.
Sunday night’s episode, “Time for After,” ended with Daryl (plus Tara and Morgan, but Tara and Morgan aren’t Rick’s best friends) driving a truck through the Sanctuary to flood the place with walkers. It’s not the worst move if your plan is to brutally take out all of the remaining Saviors, innocent worker bees included, but it’s definitely going to sow the seeds of discord in their previously peaceful community. As much as some characters’ (Jesus) reticence to kill Savors has been a drag to watch, I get why Rick himself is more inclined to keep the decent ones alive — as Negan himself said, people are a resource.
(I hate that Negan has become the voice of reason on this show, but here we are.)
Otherwise, “Time for After” dealt with Eugene’s presumably final moments in Negan’s inner circle, and Rick’s last-ditch effort to bring the Scavengers to his side. Daryl’s treachery, and Rick’s stunned reaction to said treachery, set up a potentially promising, chaotic midseason finale next week, but it’s a shame that we had to spend the bulk of the episode with Eugene and Jadis to get there. One of many major issues with the “All-Out War” arc has been the extended time it’s spent on thankless storylines with B-characters like Eugene, Jesus, Gregory, and Aaron, who have done nothing to merit the screen time they’ve been given.
Eugene, for example, is clearly past any point of redemption, but he’s not nearly interesting or charismatic enough to entertain as a villain, so why spend half the penultimate episode’s runtime showing him panic and suck up to Negan? Eugene told Dwight he knew of his betrayal (but promised not to snitch if Dwight would cut it out), he refused to help Gabriel (who is dying horribly of multiple infections) smuggle Dr. Carson 2.0 out of the Sanctuary in a display of loyalty to Negan, he tried to kiss Negan’s hand literally (while kissing his ass metaphorically), he built a flying DJ Roomba to lure walkers away and save his people (but was thwarted by Dwight, who did not cut it out), and he puked up a bottle of contraband wine. That’s about it.
This was all meant to show us that Eugene is 100% a Savior now — and if he’s capable of making a crap-ton of bullets under the influence, he could be their savior in the literal sense, too — and that he’s past the point of redemption, but we’ve known this about Eugene for a hot minute, and we were never given very much reason to like him in the first place. The best part of his portion of the episode was when Negan’s wife, Tanya, dragged Eugene for being an absolute turd, though that just made me feel bad that that Tanya is probably going to die horribly next week thanks to Daryl’s attack. Eugene did decide not to snitch on Dwight, again, after Dwight told him he was in cahoots with the Grimes Gang, but that one kindness does not cancel out the rest of the heinous things he did to his friends in this episode.
As for Daryl, we did get to spend a few minutes with him as he and Tara linked up with Morgan to launch their final attack on the Sanctuary, but we still haven’t been given a convincing reason why Rick’s brother in arms would be willing to challenge his leadership so spectacularly; which is frustrating. Instead, the episode focused on Rosita and Michonne’s reactions to The Great Rick Grimes Betrayal of 2k17 — Rosita rejected Daryl’s plans because rushing into the Sanctuary didn’t work out so great for her the first time around, and Michonne rejected them too, because she’s Rick Grimes’ girlfriend.
As for Rick himself, he managed to earn Jadis and her people's’ respect by decapitating yet another Winslow, and reminding her he planned to kill her once his people defeated the Saviors if she didn’t lend a hand. Before this happened Jadis took multiple photos of Rick in his underwear, and had her long-haired friend sketch him so that they could make a sculpture of him “after” — after death by New Winslow; hence the title of the episode. Because lord knows you can’t have a check-in with the Scavengers without them doing something batshit crazy.
So Jadis and her men accompanied Rick to the rendezvous point for the final showdown, only to find out that Daryl had already done the damn thing and ruined all chance of a peaceful surrender. And the last time Rick involved Jadis in a showdown with the Saviors his son almost died, so why he thinks it’s such a great idea to include her – instead of, say, just killing the Scavengers and taking their guns — is beyond me.
But characters doing things that make no logical sense has been the name of the game on Walking Dead for at least two seasons now. Hopefully, the midseason finale will make up for what earlier episodes this season have lacked; and focus more on the men who have become this war’s three major players (Rick, Negan, and Daryl) than the characters who spend their screen time talking about whether or not it’s cool to kill people who are trying to kill them.
I highly suspect that both Negan and Daryl will live to see season 8B, and if things work out for Negan the way they did in the comics, his role in what will hopefully become a battle between TWD’s two powerhouses could get interesting. Until then, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll get to see Carol do something badass in the midseason finale. At least we’ll always have that.
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