I’ve heard people say they felt like they needed to take a shower after Sid & Nancy or Irreversible, but an episode of a basic cable show with no F’s no butts is a new one. And in the case of ‘Still Gotta Mean Something’, completely justified.
‘Mean Something’ was not flawless, but damned if it wasn’t the most challenging episode of the show in seasons; a wet/dry mix of retribution and cruelty, a madness, a dilemma, and a Rickroaring orgy of blood, battles, action/reward, question/clue and rotary intrigue.
This week gave us Rick Grimes’ first truly evil action, when he and Morgan tricked the escaped Saviors from Hilltop into assisting them, before turning on them and slaughtering them with the latter’s sharpened Akido stick and the former’s trusty hatchet (wielded in this Spring’s essential murder jacket). While Morgan could very well plead insanity, what Rick did was ruthless, remorseless, unhesitating but fully conscious treachery, manipulation, execution and sadism, taunting the final Savior, his neck slashed open, with an ‘I lied’ before blasting a hole in his head with the Colt Python he once hung up to show his late son that violence was not the only path. But now, without his child, without the expectation of moral parity and principle that a son has for his father, just like Morgan, Rick has no reason to be good- there’s no one watching, not even God, who likely abandoned the TWDverse years before the barn in the storm.
What our two (former) heroes did was a step and then another step too far- massacring people who were not only willing to spare them, after the chaos and death they’ve caused, but to protect them, re-arm them, work with them and journey back to their community, the community where they had once held them prisoner, executing one and starving the collective for an untold number of days, to become a part of their faction. Not only did the two men kill them- Rick mortally wounded one and taunted him, while Morgan pulled another, Shaggy (finally but bittersweetly getting table service on that just dessert), into a metal partition, trapping him while he was chewed to pieces by walkers, all the while screaming ‘Let me go’. And how Morgan showed his bloody hands when he did, leaving Shaggy for the zombies. Troubling to say the least.
Catching us on the flip side, this episode also had maybe the best single scene this season: Jadis and Negan’s show me yours show me mine at the Heap interrupted by that same chopper we saw in part A of this season.
Jadis is not insane (pony, plaid, denim and a studio apartment) and the convoluted walker-traps at the heap are just getting more and more needlessly gross and ineffective, so I’m thinking she’s trying to fool someone into thinking that she’s snapped on the ‘outside’ and very much in need of saving.
What is going on I could guess- we’ll all have a hazard- but I for one am just happy that intrigue and mystery has returned to the show. One of my favorite elements in the earlier seasons of the show was trying to figure out what had happened in a particular place, to a particular person or group, cracking the rib cage and delving in deep. That was most of the reason why I enjoyed The Governor so much, and the initial mystery of Woodbury (‘Walk With Me’ was the episode that convinced me to start the show from the top and keep caught up to this day); why I loved the march towards Terminus and the four episodes dedicated to Terminus the place and Terminus the Termites- what happened to them, at the hands of whom and how that drove them to paranoia, trickery and cannibalism; that was why the Wolves fascinated me so much, even though it turned out that they were a fairly shallow plot device to test the group and peddle their moral arcs. Whatever the chopper holds in store, I am still two-foldedly captivated by Jadis’ recent transformation and Negan’s emotional evolution. Both he and the stone-faced Carol exercised their tear ducts this episode, with Negan further explaining what his baseball bat means to him and why, and Carol bearing a child from the womb-like roots of a tree in a Washington Bayou. I guess Henry is Carol’s latest surrogate and yet another reminder for Morgan that his birth-son is dead and gone. Off to the spinoff you go Lennie.
All in all ‘Mean Something’ was another dense and highly watchable entry in a season B that keeps on going up and up. With this trajectory, the show could be back to its old prestige in no time- hopefully before they tie it off indefinitely.