Review: ‘Walking Dead’ Makes ‘New Best Friends’ That Aren’t Your Usual Trash People
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “New Best Friends”:
At least one thing The Walking Dead consistently struggles with is the distinguishing of new groups as anything beyond redshirts. I doubt if anyone could name more than two or three of the major Woodbury and Terminus characters; exactly the kind of pitfall Seasons 6 and 7 threaten to fall into with such rapid additions like the Saviors, Hilltop, The Kingdom, Oceanside, orwhatever we’re calling the junkyard gang. In a way, the latter introductions are almost immediately earmarked as redshirts, the way Rick smiled at his new potentially disposable army, but “New Best Friends” at least does well to make the recruits seem unique, to say nothing of lighter moments with Kingdom characters helping cement these oddball groups’ place among the series.
As we learned last week, a good chunk of Season 7’s back half is naturally going to be spent uniting these groups against Negan, and as such, “New Best Friends” definitely kept things a bit smaller than last week; absent any check-ins with Alexandria, Hilltop, or even recognizable of Saviors. It’s a pretty familiar pattern for the series, to open half-seasons with a wider episode and subsequently narrow focus to only a few perspectives, though this case obviously had a more urgent cliffhanger to address, atop some needed emphasis on Daryl’s adjustment from the Sanctuary to the Kingdom.
Daryl largely serves as the emotional compass of “New Best Friends,” that he’d push Morgan convince Ezekiel toward fighting the Saviors, but resist someone like Richard attempting to start that fight prematurely (even before learning Carol represents the “sacrifice”). And while last week I questioned why Morgan would keep Daryl in the dark* on Carol’s whereabouts, I’m glad that “New Best Friends” didn’t waste time denying us their reunion, even if Daryl wound up agreeing with Morgan that word of Abraham and Glenn’s deaths would send her down a path she doesn’t necessarily want at the moment.
*I do at least hope that Daryl told Carol to keep a lookout for Richard setting her up against the Saviors, especially as Daryl’s leaving the Kingdom leaves only Morgan to police whatever attempts Richard makes to get Ezekiel in fighting mode. And so much for Daryl keeping everyone safe (or following Rick’s orders) by remaining in hiding, I guess?
Still, where Daryl and Carol’s reunion felt a bit more like the quiet Walking Dead we’re used to, I did appreciate the overall oddity of our mysterious junkyard gang, whose stilted speech, spiked walkers and hand gestures lent just enough color to the ongoing post-apocalypse to feel like the Walking Dead we’ve wanted the series to pivot toward. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Rick proves humorously incredulous about their behavior and customs as well, even the end result is a deal that seems contingent on Tara finally dropping her knowledge of the guns at Oceanside. Nonetheless, “New Best Friends” felt like an enjoyable tangent as one-offs go, and I look forward to seeing Jadis (sp?) interacting with the other groups, with the junkyard folk hopefully having more purpose overall than cannon fodder in the war against Negan.
I’m trying not to read into the fact that we’re two strong episodes now with a minimal Savior presence, even if these last two weeks offer decent case for the betterment of Season 7’s back half. Nothing is necessarily going to undo the dreariness of those first eight episodes, “New Best Friends” still feels like the first in a long while that The Walking Dead episodes inspires more curiosity than dread.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- The Walking Dead isn’t generally one for nuance, but I suppose I appreciated the Western mural on the truck behind Richard, depicting a masked bandit robbing a convoy. The Kingdom itself is all about appropriating a certain fairy-tale sense of knighthood and royalty, so it makes sense that Richard would imagine his place as a heroic masked avenger.
- Spoilers be warned, but I imagine we’ll have several theories that Jadis is actually Alpha, and her junkyard crew the comic Whisperers. Frankly, they could do worse, casting-wise.
- Incidentally, I take it Jadis was the one wearing those mysterious boots, but why not show them at any point during the hour to confirm?
- Weekly reminder that Benjamin is so, so, so dead, especially after Richard reiterated that Ezekiel would need a personal loss in order to join the fight.
- I do appreciate The Walking Dead not attempting any dramatic irony with Daryl collaborating in Richard’s plot against the Saviors, completely unaware of its effect on Carol. Better to figure that out right away.
- I have to imagine there’s an easy way to keep a spiked walker at arm’s length, especially when there’s only one of them, a dozen potential handles to steer it, and plenty of ample objects to bat it away.
- Man, remember when we insisted Daryl and Carol get together?
- Let’s hope there’s payoff to Shiva taking a shine to Daryl.
The Walking Dead Season 7 will return February 26 with “Hostiles and Calamities,” airing at 9:00 P.M. on AMC.
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