The Walking Dead “Knots Untie” Review (Season 6 Episode 11)

Previously on The Walking Dead . . .

– Spencer sought closure after losing his mother.
– The law of averages did not favor Rick and Daryl, as the two came across a very large haul of goods that ended up at the bottom of the lake.
– Daryl and Rick also ran into a bearded stranger named Jesus who created several complications in their run, including the truck at the bottom of the lake.
– The bonds between Carl and Michonne deepened.
– Maggie tried to get Enid to open up.
– Rick and Michonne had sex and apparently it was so good they saw Jesus after the deed was done.

On to this week’s episode, “Knots Untie.”

Hi, I’m Jesus. Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Bigger!

This week’s episode of The Walking Dead continued to explore what life will be like now that group has peace and a safe place to live. Much of that centered on the group accepting the invitation to become “Friends of Jesus.”

Revelations

As previously alluded to, the group is living much more comfortably now that they have rebuilt the walls around the Alexandria Safe Zone (“ASZ”). Although the group has secure walls surrounding them and very nice homes in which to live, food and other rations are in short supply. Jesus took note of this as well while he took his impromptu tour of the ASZ en route to speak with Rick.

Jesus’s absence soon became aware to Denise, as she alerted Abraham who went in pursuit of the bearded stranger with Daryl, Maggie and Glenn in tow. Carl took notice of the stranger in their home, as he greeted Jesus with pointed questions and a gun pointed at his head. I love the way that Tom Payne plays Jesus. Payne plays him with just enough mystery to make you question whether the character is trustworthy. However, his calm, collected demeanor when confronted makes you want to give him a chance.

Thank to Jesus’s unexpected trip to Rick’s house, everyone soon learned that Rick and Michonne were an item. I got a good laugh at the expressions on Glenn and Abraham’s faces, with Glenn’s definitely being my favorite reaction. I also loved the looks that Carl gave Michonne when everyone was gathered at the table, which very obviously made Michonne feel awkward and slightly uncomfortable. Before leaving for the Hilltop, Rick tells Carl about Michonne, who found the news “cool.” Did anyone notice Judith waving at Carl as they approached him? This child actresses portraying Judith (assuming they still use twins) are so adorable and I love how they interact with the adult actors.

Jesus told the group about the Hilltop community where he lived. We learned that the Hilltop community is lead by a man named Gregory and that the community barters for supplies with other communities in the area. Our group of survivors is low on food, but well-stocked with ammunition. The Hilltop community has lots of food, but has not had ammunition in quite some time. When we finally see the Hilltop community, it was cool to see how the residents adjusted because of the ammunition issue. They had spears and a very busy blacksmith.

A New Leader Emerges

Prior to arriving at the Hilltop, the group discovers several members of the community in an abandoned building after being in a car accident. After saving the residents who survived the car accident, the group finally arrives at the Hilltop. I love the setup of the Hilltop area, as it is such a different setup from the ASZ. The Hilltop is a plantation house surrounded by muddy land and FEMA trailers brought over by residents as they joined the community.

We meet Gregory, who is certainly no Jesus in terms of his demeanor and disposition. Gregory is a smug jerk, who insisted that the group “clean themselves up” before speaking to him. It was interesting to see someone in the ZA who would make such a request. It’s the ZA, you’re going to be a little grimy – even if you have a secure, clean place to stay. We continue to see Deanna’s influence on the group, as Rick tells Maggie to take the lead on discussions with Gregory. I was really excited to see this development, as I too think Maggie has what it takes to be a great leader. It will also give both her and Glenn new ways to be involved in the story on a larger scale. I like the dynamics of their relationship, but sometimes the writing makes them feel a bit separated from the larger group dynamic. It was fun seeing them get in on the action last night and I look forward to seeing more of that.

Maggie does a good job holding her own with Gregory, who rudely called her Natalie several times. I was uncomfortable with his whole “common tongue” bit and found his proposal to Maggie to be a bit unsettling, particularly the whole part where he says she can use her looks. Ugh.

With the Hilltop community restocked on meds and secure behind its walls, Gregory initially appeared to have the advantage in his negotiations with Maggie. The tide turned after a Hilltop group returned from dropping off supplies at the Saviors. We soon learned that the Saviors are the group led by the mysterious Negan. Displeased with the supplies sent by the Hilltop, Negan kept one of their members as a hostage and sent another back with a message for Gregory – a knife to the stomach. Rick and the group intervene and it’s a small thing, but I liked seeing them put up a fight together, as they worked to keep Ethan from killing Gregory. In last week’s review, I questioned whether Glenn and Maggie still had the fight in them. They both made it very clear this week that they still understand that killing may be necessary when faced with a dangerous foe.

I give credit to The Walking Dead writers, who are doing a really good job at establishing just how dangerous Negan is before we ever set eyes on him. Along with the “message” from Ethan, which was pretty harrowing, we learned that Negan beat a 16-year-old Hilltop member to death right in front of the entire group to be sure that the group understood who he was “right off the bat.” The brutal murder was enough to force Gregory to make a deal with the Saviors in which the Hilltop agrees to give half of their food and supplies over to Negan’s crew. What does the Hilltop get in return? The promise to not be attacked. I hate Negan already and I haven’t even met the guy yet.

Maggie leverages the attack on Gregory to enter a deal in which the ASZ gets food and supplies from the Hilltop in exchange for the ASZ group taking out Negan. It was interesting to see how dismissive Abraham and Daryl were of the Saviors they encountered in the mid-season premiere. Either Daryl, Sasha or Abraham would very likely be dead now if it weren’t for a grenade launcher. That is not exactly a big confidence booster and I’m not sure if the group has any more grenades left. Having more ammo than the Hilltop alone may not prove to be enough to take down a man like Negan. As Rick observed, our group has never had a problem with conflict, but the conflict has not exactly gone well. The conflict with the Governor cost them the prison, Hershel and countless (unnamed) members of the group. The conflict with the Termites cost Bob a leg. Sure, Bob had already been bitten, but the memory of a crazy one-eyed bastard with a tank and a group of hipster cannibals willing to eat someone’s leg right in front of them would certainly be on my mind as I contemplated the prospect of battling Negan.

As Maggie aptly observed, it will cost them something. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the ASZ thinks about this deal and whether they are willing to pay the cost.

The Wee Baby Rhee

Half of the Hilltop’s food and supplies was not the only thing Maggie brokered for with Gregory. She got him to throw in an ultrasound, which resulted in a really sweet scene at the close of the episode with everyone looking at the ultrasound image of the wee baby Rhee. I loved that moment, but it did feel like one of the last bits of calm we will experience before the stormy battle with the Saviors. I liked the ultrasound image as a closing note, as it reminded us of why our group fights.

Stuff, Thangs and Other Observations . . .
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

– I continue to love the bonding between Denise and Daryl. Although the two are platonic friends, I worry what her closeness to Daryl may mean for her in the future. I love the way Norman Reedus and Merritt Weaver play their scenes together. We can see Daryl warming up to Denise, but he plays it with hesitation, which I think makes sense considering what happened with Beth.

– The formation of team bad ass is not complete if you do not have Carol in the mix. It would have been interesting to see her reception to Jesus, particularly after the whole kerfuffle with Morgan and his stow away wolf. It looks like Carol will be in next week’s episode, so I hope the writers will allow us to get into her head space as she considers the Hilltop deal.

– Were those Carol’s cookies that Jesus ate? If so, I guess she was there in spirit. LOL.

– Speaking of head space, I’d like to get more of Carl’s perspective these days. I’m glad that we had the time jump and that the writers immediately let us know that he is cool with the idea of his dad being in a relationship with Michonne. Having Carl choose not to go to the Hilltop so that he could stay behind and watch over Alexandria was a nice reflection of the character’s growth as well. However, I was struck by his comment to Rick that I think “a kid with a messed up face probably wouldn’t be the best first impression anyway.” It broke my heart to hear him say that. Carl continues to be one of my favorite characters and I look forward to seeing how all of his experiences, both good and bad, continue to inform who he is.

– Like Carl, I am also curious about Daryl’s head space. With so many characters dreaming of and trying to create a new world, it makes me wonder what Daryl wants for himself and how he sees himself. I thought his comment to Abraham, “you think shit’s settled,” was very telling. We know that, at least for now, the secure walls of the ASZ are not enough for Daryl to relax and contemplate his future. I love Daryl as a character and I would like to get a sense of the life he wants for himself. I suspect that this coming conflict with Negan will do nothing to make Daryl any more inclined to “settle down,” as Abraham put it.

– Loved Rick’s “what” after killing Ethan. That was a classic comic book moment handled perfectly by the show.

– Although Gregory was a total a-hole, it was nice to see the characters encounter someone who may be an a-hole, but is not an evil a-hole. However, assuming that Jesus told Gregory that Daryl and Abraham took out some Saviors, do we think that Gregory can be trusted with that information?

Survivor Of The Week
Abraham Ford is my survivor of the week. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Michael Cudlitz in this role, which is truly a testament to the actor and to the casting director. After making a move on Sasha in the first half of the season, we finally saw the two interacting with each other – outside of the confrontation with the Sons of Anarchy and the duo saving Glenn being eaten by zombies. Abe is still very much with Rosita, yet spending a lot of his time with her thinking about Sasha.

Typically, I am not a fan of love triangles, but Abraham’s feelings are playing out as something much more complicated than him being attracted to two women at the same time. Rosita appears to represent a life in which Abraham lives with the reality that, as he put it, a lot of things can go wrong “on any given Sunday.” Sasha appears to represent the life Abraham might like to have in the “brave new world” in which things are settled and couples are having babies and trying to build something bigger. I think Abraham came to a decision by the episode’s end, but I cannot honestly say I know where I think he may have landed. Hearing Sasha’s voice as he was nearly chocked to death was quite telling. I’m still not sure if Abraham thinks that a warm, comfy future is in the cards for him.

Cudlitz also continues to do a great job at portraying Abraham’s ongoing struggle with PTSD. He strikes the perfect balance of strength and vulnerability in the moments in which he struggles with the effects of his PTSD.

And then there are the Abe-isms, which Cudlitz delivers perfectly. I will never think about Bisquick or pancakes the same again, thanks to last night’s episode. Steven Yeun’s reaction to the question was perfect. I’d love to know if the script said “uggin bumplies” or if that was a Cudlitz trip up that they decided to keep in the episode. Typically, the phrase is “bumping uglies,” but I thought “uggin bumplies” was just as funny and felt very Abraham-like.

Until Next Week!
What did you think of this week’s episode of The Walking Dead? This episode was another strong showing in the mid-season, whch has been on a pretty good roll. What I find really striking is how much dread I feel for the characters’ futures after two episodes that did a really good job at showing how happy and optimistic they are. Sound off below!

*Gif from giphy