It made Rosita a compelling character.
All images: AMC.
I'm not actually trying to be mean here, at least not to the character herself. It was The Walking Dead's responsibility to make us care about Rosita, something it's resolutely failed to do since introducing her back in season four. Her compatriots Abraham and Eugene got ample screen time so we could get to know them, but Rosita had about as many lines as the late, lamented T-Dogg, and less of a personality. In four seasons, her only defining characteristic was her relationship with Abraham, both before and after he dumped her. I guess Rosita also had a death wish, but since 50 per cent minimum of the cast have a death wish at any given time, that hardly made her stand out.
Her second dumb, doomed attempt to kill Negan looked poised to finally put the character out of her misery, but I was pleasantly surprised to see her open up and talk about herself to Sasha. The idea of her realising she was helpless once the zombie apocalypse hit, and then methodically hooking up with guys and learning their skills like some sort of relationship Mega Man in order to learn how to take care of herself is pretty compelling, and I also liked that she realised she wasn't jealous of Abraham dumping her to be with Sasha as much as she was jealous that Abraham found some sort of happiness and peace in Alexandria, while she felt just as lost and unsettled as before. Their conversation doesn't exactly pass the Bechdel test, but at least Rosita has reframed things so we see how her character was informed by Abraham, as opposed to existing solely as his supporting player.
There was another excellent moment in this episode, a face-off that had been a long time coming. For the first time since the season premiere, Maggie and Daryl shared the same scene — which means it was the first time since Daryl's foolish act of defiance got Glenn killed. Daryl is so wracked with guilt he can't even look at Maggie, even when the two of them are forced to hide from the Saviors in the Hilltop mansion's basement. I always get annoyed when a TV character who's lost a spouse has to comfort someone else just because that someone else is a more prominent character, but underneath his leather jacket we know Daryl is a big softie, and watching him cry always tugs at the heartstrings. And it doesn't seem too out of the question that Maggie would have already found at least a measure of peace over Glenn's death, while the emotionally stunted Daryl has been wallowing in guilt all this time.
The rest of the episode? …enh. There were two storylines, and we basically knew how both of them would end: 1) The first is Sasha and Rosita's suicide mission to kill Negan, which we know ends in failure because that's not how the series' new main antagonist is going to meet his end, and 2) The Saviors arrive at Hilltop and Maggie and Daryl have to hide again. Will the Saviors discover them? No, because narratively speaking Maggie has lots to do in Hilltop, that is, getting the colony's people ready to fight, and because it would be lame for Daryl to have escaped the Saviors only to get caught by them again a few episodes later.
There were a few twists and turns along the way, but Maggie and Daryl were obviously not in any danger, nor was Negan. Weaselly Hilltop mayor Gregory is still being weaselly, laying yet more groundwork for when he inevitably betrays Maggie to the Saviors in the future. About the only thing I didn't expect was that the Saviors (led by Simon), take Hilltop's doctor Harlan to replace the one Negan threw in the furnace a few weeks ago. (Also? Apparently Sanctuary's doctor was Hilltop doctor's brother.) That should complicate Maggie's pregnancy a bit.
Meanwhile, Rosita and Sasha's journey starts out just as slow and obnoxious as you could have expected; they leave when the Saviors arrive, Rosita is as unpleasant as ever, and they spend really long time trying to find a car, which made me worry that the show was going to drag this dead-end storyline out. It's when Sasha says there are some four-story buildings outside the Saviors' compound where they can get a good shot that I saw a glimmer of hope — because then they wouldn't have to enter the compound, and thus they'd maybe actually live after they took the shot. Rosita is, of course, angry that Sasha would suggest something that won't get her killed as soon as possible, but eventually comes around, leading to the scene I described above.
Obviously, this plan has to be abandoned when Negan's new chief engineer Eugene orders a random search of the nearby buildings, but the fact that at least Sasha momentarily had the sense and desire to at least try a way to kill Negan that didn't involve total self-sacrifice made me less annoyed with the storyline. I also liked that the two of them attempt to rescue Eugene, who basically freaks out and runs back in the compound, presumably back to his Atari. Rosita is so pissed she doesn't notice Sasha sneak through the fence and then close it up, then tells Rosita to go live while she tries (and inevitably fails) to kill Negan. And there the episode ends.
So we don't know what's happened or going to happen to Sasha — she could be dead already, but I doubt The Walking Dead would have the restraint to have a main character die off-screen — but Sasha's sacrificing herself and locking Rosita out makes no sense at all. Sasha didn't seem to want to die, certainly not a quarter as much as Rosita; the reason the two partnered up in the first place is because it was at least a two-person job, meaning Sasha now nullified her already slight chances of succeeding; and all of Sasha's speech about Rosita living and how people "need" her is nonsense, because no one has ever needed Rosita, because Rosita has never done anything for anybody, because the show has never bothered to give her a relationship with anybody beyond Abraham.
It's a dumb scene, and knowing that Sasha is absolutely going to die just makes it more annoying. Honestly, Sonequa Martin-Green should have said, "Look, it's time for me to go. Seriously, I've got to be on-set for Star Trek: Discovery in a few weeks." (This would also explain her huge smile as she ran off to die.)
The good news is that at least this dumb plot is (mostly) out of the way, and more importantly, that Rosita finally has gotten a lot more interesting and sympathetic. I'm not going to pretend a three-minute scene has made up for four seasons of nothingness, but it's a start, and absolutely the most interested I've ever been in the character. Assuming Rosita uses this experience to grow as a character — by no means a given, unfortunately — it would be great to see her continue to open up, to try and join the fight against the Saviors and work with people for the greater good, and finally, all these years later, truly become part of the team.
Assuming, of course, Dwight doesn't put an arrow through her head in the first 30 seconds of next week's episode.
- Glad we got more of Simon. He's obviously another terrible person, but he's so much more charming and interesting than the other Saviors. For instance, I feel pretty confident he's the only one who recognises how delightful and/or crazy it is that someone makes is making cardamom gelato in the zombie apocalypse.
- I may start referring to Gregory exclusively as Mayor McWeaselface. Still pondering.
- Man, that scene with Eugene's walkie-talkie message — where Sasha and Rosita turn it on just before Eugene gives out a huge infodump, including the fact that the nearby buildings are randomly being searched, was awful. It was so contrived I was actually confused and wondered if Eugene has somehow spotted them and was trying to send them a message. It was very bad, and I'm getting worried TWD's moments of bad storytelling are starting to get a little more frequent.