**Spoilers ahead: Ye be warned.**
In the eleventh episode of season six of The Walking Dead, the survivors in Alexandria take another collective step closer to Negan, the epic baddie who has, up until recently anyway, resided only within the covers of the comic book. Honestly they’ve been laying the groundwork for Negan’s introduction for quite a while, leaving fans chomping at the bit for the foul-mouthed psycho sure to make the Governor look like a pussy cat.
Negan has been cast, promising we will see Negan debut in the finale in five short episodes. According to The Wrap, Andrew Lincoln has hinted at what a heartbreaking episode it is going to be. Every scene since the midseason premiere has pointed the story in a very scary direction.
Such was the case last night, when the mysterious newcomer “Jesus” takes Rick and Co. to a brand new community called Hilltop, a day’s journey away from Alexandria. This one trip, Jesus promises, is about to open up the world to this plucky group of survivors, people he recognizes (or so he says,) as an asset.
It comes as a critical time for the Alexandrites, who are concerned about their dwindling rations. This is especially concerning to expectant mother Maggie, who worries about the challenges they face growing their own food. She joins Glenn, Daryl, Abraham, and new WD lovebirds, Richonne, as they accompany Jesus back to his home turf.
Kudos to the Powers that Be, who let us all bask in the Richonne glow for a second longer than the unexpected hookup of last week. Many have waited for that payoff since “Clear” in Season 3, when the sparks started to fly between our fearless leader and the stoic Samurai, so it’s almost refreshing to indulge this new coupling, even a little bit. Cut to their epic Walk of Shame last night, when their little dalliance became common knowledge to key members of the group, including Rick’s own son, and its downright lighthearted. Of course Carl didn’t care. Judith didn’t care. Everybody’s on board, which means Richonne can keep getting their swerve on.
This may be a balm for the hurt that is coming.
The stakes get higher by the episode, and our gang has too much on the line to play around. They’re all business when they attempt to save some from Jesus’s crew after a car crash, and with Abraham on board, it could have gone either way. He’s working some stuff out in this episode, namely whether he should dump his steady Rosarita for the exotic and elusive Sasha, who had decided to turn over her tours of guard duty to Eugene. Understandably this left Abraham a little agitated, which he very nearly takes out on one of their rescues. He manages to keep it together, which adds a few new faces to the canvas.
This turns out to be quite fortuitous for Glenn and Maggie, who discover one of the people they rescued is an obstetrician. By the time they get to Hilltop, they’re even more invested to make an alliance with this new community that is teaming with food, but way short on ammo.
Jesus introduces the group to Gregory, who has taken over this old plantation just like Lord of the Manor. He promptly pisses Rick off, who decides instantly that Maggie should negotiate any deals with Mr. Personality. He creepily hits on her, trying to leverage his obvious advantages against her. He’s got a nice and orderly little community, and feels Rick’s rag-tag bunch of scrappers need him more than he needs them.
Maggie promptly calls him on it, but he refuses to negotiate. Until, of course, he ends up shanked by his very own man, Ethan, who arrives back at Hilltop with a message from none other than the mysterious Negan himself: what they’re giving is not enough. Negan wants it all. And he’s willing to kill one Ethan’s brother, who he’s holding hostage until they bring him the head of their leader, Gregory.
Well, of course that ain’t gonna fly with Rick’s Funky Bunch, who jump into battle at the first sign of trouble. Ethan ends up on the losing end of Rick, (with help from his ride-or-die boo Michonne,) saving Gregory and virtually everyone present.
You’d think that would endear our gang to the Hilltop folks, but they’ve got bigger issues. Negan is bad news. Way bad news. And now Rick & Co. know what kind of threat is going to eventually beat a path to their door.
Surprisingly it is Daryl who decides they need to be proactive about this situation. He wants to take care of Negan – permanently. He’s astounded when he realizes that Negan attacked Hilltop, killing a 16-year-old unprovoked just to prove he could, and they decided to give him half of what they have so he’d spare the rest of them. Daryl, who has been there/done that already with the likes of the Governor, knows there is only one way to handle this.
They have to kill Negan.
And just like that, fan favorite Daryl may have sealed his fate. He’s not going to stop until he draws blood, and Negan ain’t exactly showing up for one episode. It would be foolish of Negan to allow this particular pit bull off the chain.
The writing is on the wall. They know they’re going to have to pay a price for confronting Negan and the Saviors. So Maggie makes the deal with Gregory. They want their payment in advance. Half of what Hilltop has, right now. They get the supplies, and they’ll take care of the threat.
This means they have to take one of the Hilltop people back to Alexandria, to use for intel on Negan. Whether he can be trusted remains to be seen. Jesus is still a pretty big question mark. The group is plus-two when they head back home, but they are filled with hope, courtesy of the ultrasound pic of baby Rhee. It melts everyone, including Abraham – who couldn’t understand why Glenn and Maggie would try to have a baby on purpose. They were making pancakes and he wanted to double up on his galoshes. Or something. One can never tell with Abraham, including who will win his affection when he gets back home, Bachelorette #1 (Rosarita) or Bachelorette #2 (Sasha.) It doesn’t look good for his current squeeze, given he left the present she made for him behind without so much as a second thought.
Next week Rick will propose his plan to the rest of the Alexandrites, but it is really rather irrelevant. Negan is coming, and it’s clearly going to be a costly war.
The longer we go without a significant character death waiting for this confrontation only makes an already battle-scared audience more nervous.
With Rick now balanced by a more strategic Michonne, and Glenn and Maggie bringing a new baby into the world, will Daryl be the one to land on the grenade?
Anything is possible. And we still have five episodes to go.