Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ heads to the Hilltop in ‘Knots Untie’

A review of tonight's The Walking Dead coming up just as soon as I pour the Bisquick…

Extended peacetime has generally not served The Walking Dead well creatively, as we saw in the group's stint on Hershel's farm, in the early Alexandria episodes, or parts of the prison era. Though I mostly enjoyed last week's road trip episode, the early parts of “Knots Untie” tonight already had the series trying out material it's not particularly adept at, like Abraham realizing that even though Rosita is perfect, he can't stop thinking about Sasha. The question of how you break up with someone in the post-apocalypse seems more suited to a comedy – Last Man on Earth has dealt with it quite a bit, in fact – than a show like this that's always been iffy at the character work(*).

(*) Personally, it doesn't help that I literally forget that Rosita exists – either as a character in her own right or as Abraham's lover – whenever she's not on screen. I don't mind her when she's around, but she's emblematic of the show having far too many regulars than it knows what to do with. 

But at the advanced age of six seasons and 75+ episodes, constant war isn't particularly healthy for TWD, either. Been there, done that, have a Governor commemorative eyepatch in one of my desk drawers to prove it. Maybe by the time we finally meet Negan, he'll be worth all the build up, but our brief glimpses of the Saviors so far have made them seem two-dimensionally eeeeevil and evocative of the kinds of sociopaths Rick has been running into for a long time now. I'm not particularly looking forward to what's coming next.

But somewhere in the narrow gap between peace and war lies some interesting territory for the show to still explore, and that “Knots Untie” covers effectively. It's been a long time since civilization fell, and after a while, places like Woodbury or Alexandria or the Hilltop would almost become the norm rather than the exception, because the only way for the majority of people to survive would be by living and working together in secure communities. This is still incredibly far from where humanity was in the days gone bye, but it's livable and recognizable in a way that even life in the prison wasn't entirely. The idea of seeing these communities interact and take advantage of each other's strengths – the Alexandrians offering up their muscle in exchange for some of the Hilltop's ample food supply – has promise. 24 alum Xander Berkeley had a nice introduction as smug Hilltop leader Gregory, who's not evil but is also not a particularly nice guy, and his negotiations with Maggie gave Lauren Cohan her best and most complicated material to play in a very long time. Jesus, meanwhile, is turning out to be an interesting character, and less self-consciously cool than he appeared last week, though the hair and beard still look incredibly fake. (This may be a situation where absolute fidelity to the comic book visual is more trouble than it's worth.)

Obviously, more war is coming, but we'll see if Rick, and the show, can avoid getting too mired in it.

Before we go to the comments, it's time once again to explain how this blog's No Spoiler rule applies to this show:

1. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources – and, yes, that includes anything Gimple and Kirkman have said in interviews.

2. No talking about anything that's happened in the comic that hasn't happened in the TV show yet. (Or anything that's been revealed, like character backstory and motivation.) As with Game of Thrones, the goal is to treat The Walking Dead TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at