‘The Walking Dead’ Is Stuck In A Major World-Building Rut

Here are our five main takeways from this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Go Getters,” which returns to The Hilltop Colony for the first time in nine episodes.

When Will the Universe Stop Expanding?

During the long break between the sixth and seventh season of The Walking Dead, showrunner Scott Gimple and creator Robert Kirkman spoke at length about the world-building the series would undertake this season. They spoke of how the series would expand into the communities on The Walking Dead beyond Alexandria. Five episodes into the seventh season, and they are still working their way outward, beyond Alexandria. We spent an episode in Alexandria, an episode in The Kingdom, an episode in the Savior’s compound, and this week, we spent an episode back inside The Hilltop Colony. Next week, The Walking Dead is expected to spend another episode introducing yet another new society, which Tara and Heath will stumble upon.

I appreciate that The Walking Dead is expanding its universe. It couldn’t exist inside the prison or Alexandria forever. However, this season’s focus on universe expansion has also stalled the series’ momentum. It’s beginning to feel like several different spinoffs of The Walking Dead, with two or three characters relocating into each settlement as though creating backdoor pilots to The Walking Dead: Hilltop Colony or The Walking Dead: The Kingdom. It’s not that I haven’t appreciated these new settlements, it’s simply that The Walking Dead can’t continue to move forward if it’s mired in a series of settlement-building episodes.

Assuming, as rumored, another new settlement is introduced next week, that will leave The Walking Dead with two episodes remaining before the break to move the story forward in Alexandria, The Hilltop Colony, The Kingdom, The Saviors’ Compound, and Tara’s new settlement. There’s not enough time to advance the plot in any meaningful way by jumping back and forth between the five settlements, but I’d also hate to see The Walking Dead rotate through each one with an episode apiece. We went three episodes between Glenn’s death and seeing Maggie again. We may go three or four episodes before we see Carol and Morgan again. Meanwhile, the rapport between Dwight and Daryl introduced in the third episode has been put on the backburner while the series hops to yet another location.

There’s an endgame here, we all suspect. These settlements will eventually have to come together and go to war with Negan, and the Alexandrians in each of the colonies will form the glue that binds the other settlements together. Unfortunately, I don’t see that glue adhering anytime soon, which may mean that The Walking Dead continues to hop from one colony to the next for the entire seventh season, and that might eventually get frustrating for impatient viewers.

Gregory Is a Spineless Asshole

Xander Berkely was elevated to a series regular in between seasons, and despite his elevated role, this is the first time we’ve seen Gregory since the 11th episode of last season, way back in February. I get the feeling that after only one episode, we’re not likely to see that much more of him in the future, either. He’s the leader of The Hilltop by default, as though his was the only name on the ballot and no one bothered to vote. No one seems to like him. No one seems to respect him. The only quality he brings as leader is the ability to suffer humiliation and still maintain the illusion of power. For that, he apparently earns the right to drink Hilltop’s scotch and harass the colony’s women. Gregory can’t even be bothered to lead when his colony is being invaded by walkers. He simply shuts the curtains, lets others do the dirty work, and hopes for the best.

He’s not long for this world, and after Jesus finally stood up to him, his days as the Hilltop’s de facto leader are definitely numbered. He strikes me, however, as someone like Dar Adal in Homeland, a man with the ability to quickly switch allegiances to suit his own selfish agenda. If Maggie doesn’t kill him, look for Gregory to pull a Spencer and defect to the Saviors to save his own life.

Maggie Is The Walking Dead’s Pregnant Furiosa

Meanwhile, Maggie didn’t let the death of her husband or nearly losing her baby slow her down. Grief is for the weak, she seemed to suggest, as she took charge when The Saviors sent walkers into The Hilltop, ran over a car with a tractor, and later stood up to Gregory with a splendid sucker punch and the best lines of the episode: “This is our home now, so you’ll have to call me by name. Not Marsha. Not dear. Not honey. Maggie. Maggie Rhee.” When Jesus suggested a change in leadership was due, everyone knew exactly who he was talking about. Maggie is clearly not going to spend the next six or seven months taking it easy. I hope it doesn’t cost her lil Glenn (and when Enid dies, I hope Maggie grabs Glenn’s pocket watch as a keepsake for the baby).

Meanwhile, once Maggie takes over as leader of The Hilltop, Sasha is going to be a very capable lieutenant, filling a role her late ex-boyfriend, Abraham, filled in Alexandria. Along with Jesus, they make an excellent leadership team, bonded together as they are by loss. However, it’s one more reason this season has been frustrating. I want to see where the story goes in The Hilltop Colony now, but we’re not likely to see Maggie and Sasha again for another couple of episodes if the pattern holds.

Carl and Enid Make Some Magic

Meanwhile, Enid was quick to forgive Carl for locking her in a closet at the end of last season. All it took from Carl was crashing a car, a pair of roller skates, and a willingness to sacrifice his life in order to take out Negan. Romance! I actually love the roller skating scene between Carl and Enid, in part because it felt like something out of one of Romero’s ’70s zombie flicks, a moment of levity before the apocalypse.

The long and short of it is this: Enid decides to mark Glenn’s grave with a balloon and reunite with her mother-figure, Maggie, and Carl decides to hop into the back of one of the Saviors’ trucks and attempt to sacrifice himself to kill Negan. It’s not going to work, but we appreciate his reckless bravery. Hopefully, he doesn’t get Jesus — who is also in the back of the truck — killed in the process.

Steven Ogg May Be A Better Negan than Negan

All due respect to Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but Steven Ogg’s Simon is doing a bang-up job as one of Negan’s main henchmen, Simon. He has a great voice (which some people will recognize from Grand Theft Auto, where he plays Trevor) and a remarkable presence. He’s also every bit as menacing as Negan. However, he’s more effortlessly amusing and relies less on repetitive affectations. He is threatening in a much more casual, matter-of-fact way as opposed to Negan’s more belabored mannerisms.

Ogg was definitely the MVP of the episode.