Thoughtful & Abstract: The Walking Dead: “The Key”

In which Kim and Shawn regain their interest in the show.

Kim: It finally happened! No, Negan’s not dead. No, Rick didn’t shoot himself. So what could prompt my response? I spent 75% of the episode actually interested in what was going to happen next. Furthermore, when it was over, I actually said, “Wow! I can’t wait to see how this turns out!”

First of all, we got to see Jerry. Deuces! I’ve missed seeing him on the screen, even if this was a more subdued version of him, he was there. Daryl got in a nod and a few words with Rick. These two things alone made me happy. Oddly, missing from this back half so far is Jesus. I know they said he’s out scavenging. I’m learning quickly that when someone goes out scavenging, it just means that they aren’t part of the show for four to five episodes. I suppose it’s a way to give the actors some time off for other things, but I still wonder who they are with, how they are, and what they’re really up to.

I’m trying to decide which of the three storylines that I should mention first. I really like fried chicken, so let’s start with the Colonel Sanders Lady, Georgie. This seems like a weird, out-of-place story line. I have so many questions, like where has she been this whole time? Why does she need a ton of food for her and her two flying monkeys? How has she been able to drive around and avoid the Saviors? Where did she get those 1980s-style glasses? How can a pant suit be comfortable in the apocalypse? I am curious to see where this goes. You know she’s not just going to disappear, never to return. Or will she?

Speaking of the ’80s, remember that game where you had the four colored panels and you had to push them in the order that they flashed? Yeah, that was Simon and we need to talk about him for a minute. He’s in a whole world of shit, isn’t he? I mean we already knew he’d be in trouble for his all-out assault on Mt. Trashmore. It was just a matter of time until Negan found out – and we’ll get to that in a second. I’m 95% sure the next big thing I need to see is Negan killing that little bastard. So now, he’s convinced all of the Saviors who are with him to go wipe out Hilltop. Is that right? Let’s place bets now on how that plays out. I say as they’re getting ready to open fire, Negan shows up and bashes Simon’s head in. This will usher in a new type of peace with Rick and the gang. But before that can happen, we have to deal with the hostage situation.

So Rick, as usual, totally messed up the grandest opportunity to kill Negan. This is nothing new. Rick is a terrible shot and has no business being out there on his own. Sure, he can shoot walkers from pretty far away with stunning accuracy, but give him an assault rifle, and he can’t hit shit. We’ve seen this over and over to the point that when Rick is alone and shooting at someone who is alive, I never once expect him to hit anything. Perhaps the day will come when he doesn’t miss, but I’m pretty sure that’ll be the end of the show.

I loved the moment when Rick picked up Lucille and let Negan know he was in possession of his little friend. Negan’s heartfelt, “don’t you touch her!” reiterated that in his mind, that silly bat wrapped in barbed wire is his only true friend. So, Rick lights it on fire, and a huge clusterfuck ensues where they are not only battling each other, but also the dead. I do believe I actually felt some tension about how things were going to turn out. I knew neither one of them would croak in this scenario, but it was more of a “well, how the hell are you getting out of this one” kind of tension.

Basically, Negan walks away and we think he’ll live to see another day. Did he walk away with Lucille? I don’t really recall, and I don’t care. You know why? Because my favorite part of the whole episode was at the very end. There is Negan, waking up in a car. You think one of his people saw him wandering and picked him up and we have the slow pan and…holy crap, it’s Jadis! Now, if Rick hadn’t informed Negan about the massacre at Refuse Ridge, Negan would probably think it was his lucky day. But remember, he had sincere remorse when Rick told him what happened, and so he knows that Jadis isn’t taking him to ride ponies. In one of the best scenes of this season, Negan tries to speak to her, she tells him to shut up, and bashes his face into the dashboard. Fade to black.

Let me go on record to say at this point, my favorite character in this show, oddly enough, is Jadis. It happened in that 30 seconds. Why? Because in that moment, she’s the only person in this show who appears to be getting shit done.

As for Aaron, Jesus, Ezekiel, Gabriel, Eugene, and all of the other people we didn’t see, who knows. However, I think I spied Morgan. On a teaser for Fear the Walking Dead‘s season premiere. And now, I may have to watch some of that again.

Shawn: CAR CHASE STORY. The story of this episode should really be that they figured out how to have a car chase during the zombie apocalypse. It takes a few things to come together. They had to find the only clear of debris, zombies, and abandoned cars streets. They had to both have cars that could run on spoiled gas. (I can’t run my lawnmower on gas I bought in November) And Negan is required to make some stupid driving decisions to get away from his crew and let Rick chase him. When all of those miracles come together though, it turns into a pretty damn entertaining chase that feels like a nice change of pace from the last eight years of stories.

THE GEORGIE STORY. The show does a good job at one particular thing consistently – they introduce major new characters in such a way as to really intrigue me. I already love Georgie and not just because of her love of records. I would either be Georgie in the apocalypse collecting records or Burgess Meredith collecting all the books to read and breaking my glasses. Presenting us with someone who isn’t eating people, having UFC-style zombie fights or beating people with a barbed-wire bat is a nice change of pace. It makes me even more curious what she has going on back at her “community”. This was another great move by the writers over the past few episodes.

THE MAGGIE STORY. I was a little upset with wishy-washy Maggie at first blush last episode. Upon further reflection, I’ve become more enamored with her growth. It would have been easy to let her chill and wait to have her baby. She could go out and scavenge for a few episodes. I think Maggie is the “key” to the episode title. Her development as a leader has made her more valuable to the future of our group than Rick. You have to give her credit for dealing with whiny-butt Enid and not just slapping the girl. The look on Maggie’s face with Georgie hands her the “Key” booklet is priceless and gave me the first warm feelings I’ve felt since Carol and Daryl met for cookies.

THE NEGAN STORY. Seeing the depth of his relationship with Lucille (“don’t hurt her”) added some much-needed interest to the Negan character. We know bits and pieces of what brought him here. We’ve seen a little behind the facade with his reactions to Carl’s death, learning of the Jadis massacre, and his panic at losing sight of his Lucille. I dread the flashbacks, side flashes, and flash forwards. But I’m making a clear exception here to see his backstory. If you know me – you know that’s a big ask.

THE RICK STORY. Short-term memory-loss Rick crashes into Negan’s car (we’re assuming because we don’t actually see it happen) and starts firing his gun at Negan, forgetting the opening episode of the season when hundreds of bullets missed Negan from point blank range. I mean, if Rick had only had some profession earlier in life where he received some consistent weapon training and time at the gun range he might have been able to kill Negan this week. Then we get super-long-talking Rick, who needs to talk as much as a Batman villain before killing Negan, who is literally hanging on by his fingernails. Over the course of the past couple episodes, Rick has moved from who I thought was the most “untouchable” character to die – he’s now behind Maggie, Michonne, and Daryl in the order of importance to not be killed off.

THE SIMON STORY. This dude finally got a chance to step out from Negan’s shadow this week. Given the most lines he’s had in the whole time of the season, he shows that he can even out Negan, Negan. He has moved to the right of Negan on the peace-to-violence scale. Now we have Jesus on one end and Simon on the other. We aren’t just setting up Simon to be the one to out Dwight to Negan. We are setting him up to be an extra thorn in Negan’s side. His own brand of humor/violence on full display was another brilliant move that happened this week.

The real story is that a mid-season episode made me say “I can’t wait until next week.” for the first time in years.

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Shawn Bourdo

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