TWD returns to Hilltop for an episode mostly devoted to setting up future conflicts (Gregory vs. Maggie, Rosita and Sasha vs. Negan, everyone vs. the Saviors) that will pay off later. It’s well-made and has a few tense moments and good character-based scenes, but on the whole its pacing is so deliberate that even hardcore fans like myself will find it trying to our patience. It does end on a high note, though, so hopefully the last two episodes of the season will find a way to wrap the story up in a relatively fast-paced way.
“The Other Side” opens with Maggie and other members of Team Rick training the residents of Hilltop to fight, turning them into the army they will need to fight the Saviors, while Gregory quietly seethes under the (correct) impression that he is slowly but surely being replaced by her. The Saviors show up suddenly, looking to take the Hilltop’s doctor as their own, to replace the one that Negan murdered a few episodes ago. Gregory reluctantly lets them, well aware that this will only weaken his position in the eyes of his people. It’s tough being a leader and a toady at the same time, you know.
Daryl and Maggie go into hiding to avoid being seen, and when one Savior nearly finds them, Maggie has to stop Daryl from killing him, even though it would surely have gotten them caught if he had. He is clearly still damaged by his time as the Saviors’ prisoner, and guilt-ridden by the part he played in Glenn’s death. Later, in a touching scene, he breaks down and apologizes to Maggie for getting her husband killed by Negan, but she tells him that the blame is all Negan’s.
Rosita and Sasha escape Hilltop to avoid being found by the Saviors, and decide now is the time to make their (probably suicidal) assassination attempt on Negan. This is where the episode drags the most, showing a lot of unnecessary events as they make their way to the compound. However, once they arrive there and wait in a sniper’s perch for Negan to show himself, there is some good dialogue between the two women that helps solidify who they are and why they are risking their lives to avenge Abraham. It’s not really about him, so much as how both of them are defined as warriors. The peace they found at Alexandria never really sat well with either of them (especially after Negan took it away), so they’d rather die fighting for something that matters than live for nothing.
Naturally, their plan to snipe Negan fails, so they decide to storm the compound together. However, at the last minute Sasha locks Rosita out, saving her life, and decides to go after Negan herself, a decision that will undoubtedly end badly for her. As the episode ends, a frustrated Rosita looks around, not sure what to do, until she sees a shadowy figure behind her, with a bow and arrows. It appears to be Daryl, having just arrived to help her.
Rosita and Sasha’s ill-planned attack on the Saviors, like Richard’s attempt to manipulate Ezekiel in the last episode, will probably accomplish nothing but get people killed unnecessarily. Which illustrates a recurring theme this season: the folly of jumping feet-first into revenge without planning things out. These characters are technically on the same side as Rick, but driven by grief and rage, they blindly lash out or try to spark a war without being strategic. It’s why Rick, Michonne and the others have been swallowing their hate, saving it up for the right time. They are being pragmatic, focusing on what it takes to build their forces and make a battle plan. That’s how wars are won, and it’s what makes them unique in a world of monsters like Negan, schemers like Gregory and hotheads like Rosita. It’s what makes them leaders.
Random thoughts on this episode:
*Man, that one Savior was a real douche, wasn’t he? Even giving Enid a hard time for saying “veggies” instead of vegetables. Being a murderous thug is one thing, but a PRETENTIOUS murderous thug just needs to die.
*The Saviors take Hilltop’s only doctor away, and leave them with a big box of Aspirin to give to anyone who gets sick. If that isn’t the perfect metaphor for socialist healthcare, I don’t know what is.
*And speaking of Hilltop’s doctor, what are the odds that he and the Saviors’ doctor were brothers? Also, would you want a man operating you after you had just thrown his brother into an oven to be burned alive? Seems like a good excuse for some malpractice to me.
*By having Rosita talk about her ex-boyfriends and how much she learned from them, it seemed like the show was trying a little too hard to make her seem more tough and independent, as opposed to a woman defined by her love for a now-dead man. But it did give her character some much-needed fleshing out, and it was a clever bit of misdirection on the show’s part. It appeared to be setting her up to be the one that gets killed, and then Sasha ends up being the one to take the risk at the end.
*So it turns out that bearded pretty boy Jesus is gay. Whoop-de-doo. Tara, Denise, Aaron, Aaron’s boyfriend, and now Jesus. It appears the entire homosexual population of rural Georgia has survived the Zombie Apocalypse, which may make repopulating the state difficult. Although maybe this means Aaron will lose his boyfriend in the upcoming war, and he and Jesus will hook up next season. Whatever. (For the record, he is also gay in the comics, so I don’t blame AMC for trying to force an agenda here; they’re just following the source material.)
*Rosita expresses concern about what will happen if Sasha misses her shot at Negan, and Sasha says, “I won’t miss.” God I hate that dialogue cliché. Anyone who has ever actually shot a rifle in their lives would never say “I won’t miss.” That would be like a basketball player saying they never miss at free-throws, or a teacher saying their students never get bad grades. That’s just not how it works.