Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead had the unfortunate issue of extending its episode to an almost hilarious degree in the name of celebrating the life and times of Carl Grimes. I didn’t think it went very well, so it’s fortunate “The Lost and the Plunderers” doesn’t spend too much time specifically focused on grieving. Instead, it’s an episode about the aftermath of the latest battle in this all-out war, with the novelty of dividing each section into character-specific vignettes. It mostly works, though I can’t help but think this show could have handled this concept better.
The problem comes down to how The Walking Dead has served its characters and what it means to see great actors put into certain positions. Take Danai Gurira for example. She can indeed be great as Michonne, but The Walking Dead has been underutilizing her for over a season at this point. Gurira may have had a chance to shine at the movies in Black Panther, but even in a segment of this week’s episode titled, “Michonne,” there’s little for her to do. It amounts to Michonne being sad that Carl died and focusing that aggression on Walker slicing, but with little else to go on, her vignette feels like it has just as much focus on Rick, who would go on to get his section at the end of the episode.
Meanwhile, Simon and Jadis both have their vignettes and they easily standout as the best stuff this week has to offer. Now isn’t that interesting? Steven Ogg and Pollyanna McIntosh are clear favorites for the writers, and you can see why. They are unique, wildcard characters that are exciting to create material for. Neither of these two is specific to the comics so that the story can take them anywhere. Not hurting is how much the two seem to relish playing up the absurdities and quirks of their characters. So yes, while we get some standard stuff from the rest of the featured players, Simon and Jadis get to be as entertaining as they ever were because their parts of the episode feel fresh.
Simon is a bit of a mystery, as he seems devoted to Negan, but is also something of a sociopath on an ego trip. All the power he has is suddenly given a limit by Negan, and he ends up lashing out by slaughtering all the Scavengers. That gets points for taking a turn I didn’t expect as well as creating a new dynamic between Simon and Negan that will surely be explored in episodes to come. Not hurting is how much fun, in the midst of tense scenes, it is to have with a guy like Simon, who Ogg excels at making charismatic, despite how much we should all hate him.
Much of the same can be said for Jadis. I haven’t been shy about my appreciation for a group like the Scavengers, which shows just how much better The Walking Dead can be when leaning into the weird. Now the show has gone and given Jadis a new layer of dimension by breaking her spirit. While I’ll miss the strange ways of the garbage people, I do look forward to seeing what comes of a character stuck in the middle of a war.
If one wants to talk about unnecessary, this episode paved the way for that by means of a check in with Enid and Aaron. With Aaron ending up making a big speech about staying behind at the end of this section, it once again makes me concerned for the purpose of naming each vignette, if some characters don’t feel like they are getting the most focused. Still, this whole section just felt like there was no way around the need for this setup, so it had to be thrown in. We don’t really care about the plight of Enid and Aaron and their mission to recruit the Oceansiders, but I’m sure their participation will matter down the road, so it has to be explained somewhere. Just a shame none of these people are all that interesting.
Negan, on the other hand, gets a chance to grow a bit. I’m all for scenes allowing Jeffrey Dean Morgan to act like a real person, instead of having to put on the big act. It may be a little inconsistent, but his use in this episode is still far more favorable. We get to hear more of what makes the Saviors supposedly work. I always welcome an opportunity to see a scene where someone has a real conversation with him about his methods that will go on longer than it would take Negan to kill the one challenging him. However, at least a smart viewer can see both sides of what Negan is doing and correctly look at why it’s wrong.
Keeping Negan in mind, we finally have Rick. He’s, you guessed it, angry and wanting to take his vengeance. Of course, this is another failed Rick plan that resulted in the death of someone he cares about (the most important person to him in this instance), but that doesn’t stop the old ways from cropping up. He gets to holler at Negan over a walkie-talkie about the sweet death he plans to give, while Negan keeps his focus on the fact that Carl died. In a better show, this would be a fascinating dynamic to play. As it stands, it just feels goofy that Carl is the first person that makes Negan look back and feel bad (and let’s not forget he was going to kill the kid himself at the end of last season, before a tiger interrupted). Honestly, it’s a weird final scene as a whole, as Rick is merely saying he needs revenge, despite the Saviors not being at fault here.
“The Lost and the Plunderers” gets points for making good use of some of the best supporting characters on this show, but still doesn’t rise above being a decent episode. As this series continues and changes are made, I want to make it clear that great episodes are still possible. Even if the series is rehashing some of the same ideas, it is finding neat ways to move around the characters that can lead to some great episodes. Fancy editing tactics and choosing certain storylines to focus on can only go so far. The Walking Dead is in an interesting position right now if it plays its card right. So I’ll just hope the loose threads such as a Negan betrayal and a Jadis on the loose can work for the better.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Jadis rounded up her people like they were cattle and sent them to the slaughter in the grinder. Yeah, that’s an easy winner.
- Once again, Carl suddenly having all the wisdom in the world to write impassioned notes just seems beyond silly to me.
- Deliver the “Standard Message” – a phrase I don’t want to have to keep hearing.
- “No matter what happens, I’ll be okay” – Aaron. Literally, the worst thing you could say on this show if you expect to live.
- Just to be clear, Simon has great chemistry with everyone on this show.
- “This whole place was a canvas, and we were the paint.” Amazing that Jadis’ cat painting happened to be right by the grinder.
- Nice stabby shield made from a car door by Rick.
- “Give up, because you already lost.” – Negan gets to the point
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.