The world of The Walking Dead is full of dangers. There are zombies, of course, who desperately want to eat your flesh. There are bad humans like the Saviors and the Wolves, who kill the living with even more relish than the undead. But there's only one thing that, if you ever chance to see it, you need to start running and never stop: Rockmelons.
All images: AMC.
"Bury Me Here" is mainly about doing the necessary plot work of finally getting Ezekiel and the Kingdom on board with the idea of fighting the Saviors. It certainly achieves this, and it isn't without its powerful moments. But it also has some of the clunkiest, least subtle storytelling I've ever seen The Walking Dead try to pull off, and this isn't exactly a show known for its subtlety.
For a mild example: A DVR snafu made me miss the first 22 minutes of the episode (I watched the rest later, so don't freak out). I picked up right when the Kingdom met the Saviors for their first rockmelon delivery. Suffice it to say, I was able to immediately determine that Richard had secretly removed one of the dozen rockmelons that the Kingdom brought in tribute/payment/whatever from context clues, by which I mainly mean Richard looking shady as hell.
Gavin, the leader of this group of Saviors, tired of the Kingdom's recent passive-aggressive (and aggressive-aggressive) shenanigans, has the long-haired arsehole who stole Morgan's stick a couple of episodes ago — who I shall call Jackass McGee, because I do not want to look up his name — shoot one of the Kingdom's men. It is, of course, young Benjamin who is the victim; Ezekiel, Morgan and the rest rush him to Carol's place in hopes of saving him, but he bleeds out while Richard looks so monumentally guilty he might as well have a sign reading "MY BAD" around his neck. Benjamin's needless but narratively obvious death completely freaks Morgan out, and he has flashbacks to his crazy days of season three in the still legitimately phenomenal episode "Clear" until he kicks a crate that happens to have the rockmelon Richard stole in it.
When Morgan confronts Richard — completely silently, an excellently unnerving choice — the knight confesses it was another attempt to finally provoke the Kingdom into going to war with the Saviors, although he had assumed he'd be the victim killed. Richard then gets a lengthy speech about how he
failed to stop a criminal who later killed his Uncle Ben er, was at a post-apocalyptic camp where he ignored the brewing troubles there, but then those troubles got his wife and daughter killed, which is why he's been so determined to do something now. But then Richard goes into a much less sympathetic rant about how they should use Benjamin's murder, pretend to obey the Saviors again, kill them when they aren't expecting it, and then he's going to lead the glorious armies of the Kingdom to war or something.
Morgan is… not convinced, and I say that with some confidence because when everyone goes to give that Saviors that missing rockmelon the next day, he bashes Richard over the head and strangles him to death in front of Ezekiel, the other knights of he Kingdom, and the Saviors alike. I literally have no idea why none of the Kingdom people didn't feel the need to prevent Morgan from murdering one of their own, because Morgan doesn't explain that everything is Richard's fault until after Richard is dead. And then Morgan tells the Saviors' how they're going to obey them perfectly now, using Richard's words verbatim — clearly indicating he's continuing Richard's plan.
Morgan isn't done. After burying Richard, going on a zombie kill frenzy, and basically continuing to freak out, he heads over to Carol's to tell her the truth about Alexandria and everything the Saviors did and everyone they killed. Just as Morgan and Daryl knew would happen, the information makes Carol abandon her quiet, undisturbed life to go to war with the Kingdom, and — as she said herself — once she starts killing again, she probably won't be able to stop. Clearly, Morgan's life of pacifism is also over, and he looks like he'll be killing Saviors right alongside Carol. The upshot, if the episode can be said to have one, is that at the end Ezekiel does agree its time to go to war.
I'm sorry for the recap dump, but this is all necessary to realise that literally four people's lives have effectively been ruined because of a rockmelon.
Richard steals a single rockmelon. The Saviors murder Benjamin as a direct result. Morgan kills Richard in consequence for his actions. Morgan and Carol are not dead, but their inner peace has been shattered. Even if they survive the coming war — and that's a big if — they have still lost themselves.
And all, essentially, over a rockmelon. As silly as it sounds, the rockmelon as an absurd trigger for all this tragedy is handled pretty deftly, all things considered; the episode's cold open shows the Ezekiel and the others very forlornly loading that single rockmelon in their truck, and the actors' bleak performances keep it from being (too) comedic. Besides, it's clearly supposed to be insane that all of this madness stems from a breakfast fruit — it shines a spotlight on the dubious morality of Richard's plan, a microcosm of the dubious morality of pretty much all of the show's non-villains. Fighting the Saviors is a just cause, and Richard knows that if the Kingdom doesn't join forces with Alexandria and Hilltop now, they may lose their chance to defeat them at all. He has to start the war if the Kingdom is going to be free, if they want to avoid the inevitable, continual deaths kowtowing to the Saviors would bring.
At the same time, Richard's two plans to start this war have involved him 1) trying to get Carol murdered to anger Ezekiel, and 2) getting Benjamin killed. It's the classic "doing the wrong thing for the right reason" that TWD so often trades in, and the rockmelon aspect makes Richard's actions — no matter how noble his goal — even more awful. Meanwhile, killing is arguably necessary in the world of The Walking Dead in general and to fight the Saviors in particular, but hopefully no one can watch a crazed Morgan murder Richard with his bare hands and feel it's a good thing he's doing. Now Morgan and Carol both are ready to fight the Saviors — ostensibly a good thing — but at what cost to them and those around them? As much as a moral quagmire this is, it still feels like a more interesting dilemma than the show usually manages — probably because Rick isn't involved.
All this is pretty good, interesting stuff, which makes the fact that "Bury Me Here" felt the need to bludgeon viewers over the head with its storytelling more of a shame. It began with Benjamin, who not only has several scenes being a paragon of virtue in front of his little brother, who not only talks about a girl he's interested in, but even asks to go hang with Carol for a while, but she says no and to go to the rockmelon drop instead. His death wasn't telegraphed as much as it was screamed through a bullhorn. You could practically see a countdown clock over his head.
When Morgan, Ezekiel and the others bring the dying Benjamin to Carol's house, they literally pull up in front of an oncoming storm that Carol is already staring at. To be fair, that's admittedly less egregious than the news Ezekiel receives at the beginning of the episode, which is that the royal garden is full of weevils so all the plants need to be dug up and burned, and all new crops grown. But even after Ezekiel agrees, the show still feels the need to have Ezekiel's royal gardener(?) Nabila announce, "Here's the beautiful thing, your majesty. You can tear it out and cut it down. You can burn it and throw it all away. But if you want, it can all grow back," as if this was something an adult human being did not understand about gardens.
And at the end, Ezekiel is in that garden, planting the first new seeds… along with Benjamin's little brother. Gee, do you think this is a chance for the Kingdom to begin a new chapter of its existence without the parasites known as the Saviors infecting their lives? Bleh.
Still, something happened in this episode, even if it was something we all knew had to happen and had to happen soon; after two episodes where the plot arguably didn't progress at all, I'll count that as a win. You know who else should count the episode as a win? The Australian Melon Association Inc. Not only was that a ton of free advertising, they have a new, ready-made slogan: "Rockmelons! So good they're not only worth dying over — they're worth killing over, too!"
- So despite my overall approval at the rockmelon storyline, it is really goddamn stupid that the Saviors demanded a specific drop for a dozen goddamn rockmelons. This is the post-apocalypse. Petrol is precious. Why not wait to drive until you need to pick up more than a grocery bag worth of food?
- Also, the fact that they loaded up a truck with a crate containing 12 (well, 11) rockmelons is also ridiculous. Guys, put the crate on your lap.
- These idiots don't even put a lid on the crate, so there's no way the rockmelons didn't go flying out of the box and roll around the bed of the truck while they were driving.
- The fact that they did it again later with a single rockmelon is so dumb it honestly made me lose sleep last night. Guys. Someone hold the cantaloupe in your goddamned hand.
- Gavin, the leader of the Kingdom-interacting branch of the Saviors, is an interesting dude. He really seems to regret having to have someone shot — not morally, but because it's just going to make things even more of a hassle. When Gavin learns Ben died, he seems genuinely angry, presumably that a kid was killed instead of an adult, and forces Jackass McGee to walk home lest he kill Jackass. He isn't a good person, but he doesn't seem sadistic like most of the other Saviors — he's like a middle manager. He'll enforce Negan's rules if he has to, but he'd much prefer to have no trouble at all.
- Credit where credit's due — the episode ended with a nice and reasonably subtle scene with the camera pointed at Morgan's back; you can't see what he's doing, but he's holding his stick and there are sounds of wood being sharpened. Hearing him turn his beloved bo staff into a spear pretty much sums up everything that needs to be said.