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Well, that's one more issue down and who knows how many more before shit hits the fan. So let's get started with the highlights.
Michonne: Although her role was brief in this issue, I was particularly fascinated by the scene where she chastises herself for not keeping her katana on hand even when sleeping, going so far as to call herself stupid. Now this may just be me reading too much into it, but to me that moment wasn't just an issue of safety or even paranoia. Michonne is a character who has always been dependant on having some method of stress relief on hand, usually sex. Yet at the start of the outbreak she'd lost her family, and went on to outlive all of her lovers (Mike, Tyreese, Morgan). Now that she has found Ezekiel and is obviously enjoying his company, she fears that she's merely setting herself up for more pain as the battle of the communities draws near. Yet she can't seem to cope without someone to fill Ezekiel's current role in her life, so knowing she can't control what will happen to herself, or anyone else, all she can do is cling to the one thing that has always kept her safe, her katana.
Jesus: One of my biggest problems with Jesus thus far has been the fact that nothing ever seemed to upset him too much. He almost instantaneously forgave Rick and the others for keeping him hostage, and didn't even stand up for himself when Rick accosted him while they were in his house. Although he was concerned over the issue of Negan and the Saviors, he seemed very matter of fact about it as he didn't really have a personal stake in the matter until Kal's attempted betrayal. Though I would've wanted to have seen more of that relationship to get the full impact of the betrayal, seeing Jesus react to it so personally is the kind of development I've been waiting to see in his character.
On a more critical/ speculative note, I do wonder why he still kept Kal as part of the strike force, but it sort of makes sense in a "friends close enemies closer" sort of way. I also have to wonder why Jesus didn't ask Kal if he had ever passed information to The Saviors before. This could mean that he had something to do with either Glenn or Abraham's deaths, maybe even both. He guards the gate, so he knows who comes in and who leaves. He could easily have given the Saviors an idea of where to find Rick's group after they left the first time. This is all just speculation, but it could definitely increase dramatic tension, similar to Ben's storyline in the game. I also find it interesting that Jesus is witholding info about Kal the same way Rick has been witholding information about the plan from the rest of the Safe Zone. A general but not universal rule in fiction of any kind is that secrets eventually do get out and people will probably suffer for it.
Gregory: When a guy named Jesus no longer feels obligated to put up with you, you're most likely doing something wrong. I've been waiting to see something that even remotely resembles a redeeming quality in Gregory, but WD is no place for optimism. It seems we get less and less of an idea of how he got to be leader the more we see of him. So far it seems that the success of The Hilltop has less to do with his own accomplishments, and more to do with the people he's brought together, either way he still takes credit for it. I'd like to think that there was some truth to what he told Jesus, that dealing with Negan was the only way to keep The Hilltop safe. The problem with that is that unlike Rick, he didn't make any plans towards a permanant solution, despite having had Jesus and The Kingdom as potential allys.
The Safe Kingdom on the Hilltop: My nickname for the Safe Zone-Hilltop-Kingdom alliance (they really need a cool acronym!). Anyway, my only issue with this plot point, and this is a bit of a nitpick, is that this isn't the most they have to offer in terms of numbers. Why hasn't Jesus sought out help from any of the other communities he mentioned? Why only The Kingdom? I get that the story could potentially suffer from a substantial influx of new characters, but only one new character and a few background characters are necessary to represent a community. Then there's the issue of keeping the alliance and The Saviors evenly matched to make the conflict interesting. And who knows? Some communities, like Gregory, might just be unwilling to help, but this whole issue could stand to be addressed by someone.
Spencer: The Walking Dead is a unique series in the sense that when it is dissapointing, it is often dissapointing for the right reasons. This usually stems from the death of a character, the circumstances leading up their deaths, and the impact of their passing. There is no greater indication of a likable and well-written character than the emotional response triggered by their death, and how their absence affects the story. Spencer's death however, was disspointing for all of the wrong reasons. His attempted betrayal of Rick had been forshadowed for some time, and approaching Negan was probably his best chance at what he saw as "revenge". But my problem is that he wasn't at all smart about setting his plan, for lack of a better word, in motion. He had more than enough information to paint Rick as an unstable vigilante whose arrival at the Safe Zone almost immediately (but mostly coincidentally), marked the beginning of every problem currently facing The Safe Zone. Once more, he wasn't even smart enough to attempt to garner sympathy from Negan by telling him that Rick's actions led to the deaths of both his parents (indirectly, but it would be up to him to share that). Plus, if there's one thing Negan might understand, it's wanting to get back at the guy sleeping with your ex. Just sayin.
Now I might be able to forgive all of that, except for the fact that essentially, he did exactly what he openly accused Rick of doing, and had he suceeded, nothing would have changed. The only difference would be that Spencer would've been Negan's whipping boy rather than Rick. Not to mention the fact that he approached Negan in public, so if Rick ended up dead, several people would've known who they could take revenge against at the first possible opportunity. He also made no attempt to lighten the burden placed on The Safe Zone by claiming that their shortage of supplies was due to Rick's incomptence as a leader, so clearly the safety of everyone in The Safe Zone took a backseet to his own need to satisfy his ego. And lastly, the one thing that would've made his betrayal of Rick substantial at the very least would be if he had overheard about Rick's plan to eventually rebel against Negan. If he really wanted control of The Safe Zone, he could've planned to get Negan alone while Rick was gone to reveal Rick's treachery to him, and in doing so probably saving his life. That way even if Spencer still died, his death would've impacted the story in a really significant way. There's no telling what Negan would've done with that intel. But in the end Spencer died the way he lived, as a wasteful joke of a character.
The following is what I deem to be a fitting tribute in recognition of Spencer's passing-
Bum bum bum, budum bum bum budump, bum bum bum, Another one bites the dust.
I was stuck between that and- adeeba-deeba-deeba dats all folks!
Negan: Once again proving himself unpredictable, Negan has established himself as having a very, let's call it interesting, sense of honor. Even when coming anywhere close to realizing that he's made a mistake with Olivia, his idea of an apology is offering to "fuck her brains in" and assuming that her consent was the only issue. On the subject of Spender, I'm not sure, but it seems to me that he has more respect for people who he knows hate his guts rather than those he knows to be dishonest about being dishonest, if that makes sense. He knows Rick or Carl would kill him given the chance, so he wouldn't be surprised when and if they tried. Rick may have gotten the jump on him once before, but having been well-guarded probably knew he wasn't in real danger. Now in Spencer's case, his willingness to betray someone supposedly on his own side makes him just as likely to betray Negan when he wouldn't expect it. I've also heard it speculated that Negan is bipolar, and there is certainly enough evidence to back this up. Without even going into his interactions with Carl, he has gone on about how what he does is a necessity rather than something he enjoys, yet we've seen him commit and laugh off two graphic murders. In Glenn's case, it made sense for his character to want to even the odds for the men he'd lost, but there as no immediate need to kill Spencer. In fact, it would've been in his best interest to keep him alive, at least in the short term.
All in all, a flawed but mobile issue in the sense that we're one less issue away from things coming to a head. I find that every issue has at least one or two elements worth looking into, and this was no exception, though I'm afraid the cons just slightly outway the pros this time. No big deal, not every issue hits every target. And I'm sure the fact that the 10th anniversary is coming up is in no way an indicator of the intensity of things to come.