Do you ever feel tense when watching The Walking Dead anymore? Does the TV show ever truly surprise you anymore? I’m pretty sure it’s been quite a while since TWD made me feel like a character was in real danger or did anything that made me wonder what was going to happen next. Tonight’s episode, “Faith,” was a pretty egregious example of The Walking Dead’s continuing failure to do either.
You know what? I do confess, I was mildly surprised at tonight’s episode when I realized that the “chain gang” working to clear off railroad tracks was being stationed at night at Alexandria. When the group was separated into two, I thought one went to the chain gang, and the other to Alexandria. However, my big takeaway from it was, “Well, at least they can free everybody sooner so they can move along to fighting the Commonwealth.”
At the chain gang, Ezekiel and Negan and a few others (we get to see Magna, Princess, and Annie are also working there this time) are tracking the movements of the guards on a makeshift map. It’s almost immediately found, and the warden drags in Negan for having a “leader” vibe. Negan finds this laughable, given how many of his supposed people hate him, but he doesn’t find it funny when the warden says to figure out what their plan is or say goodbye to his wife.
We are clearly supposed to believe Negan will betray Ezekiel or somebody for his wife’s sake, and the episode hammers this home by Ezekiel getting another chance to tell Negan how much he hates him. But the show has gone out of its way over and over again to portray Negan as a changed man. It would be ridiculous for the show to suddenly give him a heel turn at this point. (Not that TWD hasn’t made even its “heroic” characters do despicable things with no consequences, so a heel turn wouldn’t be surprising either, just obnoxious.)
Instead, Negan says he’s the ringleader or some such—it’s off-screen—so Commontroopers drag him to Alexandria’s windmill to face a firing squad. Negan looks so fine with the situation the foreman drags Annie to be executed with him. As Negan plays the “we both have families!” card with a trooper the foreman foolishly told wasn’t allowed to see his sick brother, Ezekiel steps in front of the firing squad’s guns, and is followed by most of the other characters with names. Ezekiel gives an inspiring speech about doing the right thing or some shit, and the foreman orders they all be shot.
Here’s what sucks so bad about this: Last episode, Negan promised Ezekiel he would do something to provide a “spark” that Ezekiel could use to lead the other prisoners to overcome their captors. This is exactly what happens, and even (most of) the guards lower their weapons, but nothing about any of this was planned. Almost no component was ever under Negan or Ezekiel’s control. The map was accidentally found. The foreman grabbed Negan because of his leader vibe. They couldn’t have known Annie would have suddenly been added to the execution. Nor did anyone speak to anybody about how to handle the situation. And the thing about the one guard being so susceptible to family talk that he switched sides was pure chance. It’s very lazy writing.
The foreman grabs and holds Kelly hostage, only to be stabbed in the back by Daryl, because he and Connie have snuck into Alexandria through the sewers, while Maggie and Carol have snuck in elsewhere to look for the children who were taken. In a very convenient coincidence, Hershel is found by his lonesome, but all the other kids are missing. A distraught Rosita feeds the dying foreman to a zombie when he refuses to say where they’ve been moved.
Meanwhile, back in the Commonwealth, Eugene has his trial. As you, me, and everyone on the show expected, it’s rigged and Eugene is sentenced to be executed himself. But despite being a forgone conclusion, it eats up a lot of screentime so Pam can fake-cry, Yumiko can ask Mercer to testify against Pam which of course he refuses to do, and Eugene can give a stirring speech about how one person can change the world, a message which has absolutely zero relevance to his trial. On the way to the electric chair (I think it’s a safe bet to say the Commonwealth has an electric chair) he’s intercepted and freed by Mercer, who has decided yes, he would like to help save the man his sister is in love with, free the Commonwealth from Pam’s tyrannical rule, and make it a better place. All those many, many times before he said he didn’t? That’s just more screentime, baby.
At least Mercer’s last line gives me hope something interesting will happen next week: “Let’s fuck some shit up.” Yes, please, Mercer. I would like you to fuck some shit up. Even just a little bit of shit! I’m begging you here. Because shit has remained thoroughly unfucked with for what feels like forever.
Although the episode’s title is “Faith,” surely that should be interpreted as a message from the showmakers to themselves, as in “Let’s have faith we’re telling a good story.” Maybe they have something they’re going to pull out in the final two episodes of the series that’s—not going to make everything that’s happened so far retroactively interesting, but might make what’s coming interesting. But believing that requires faith in The Walking Dead, and that’s something I just no longer have.
- Aaron’s group randomly encounters Luke (Dan Fogler) and Jules (Alex Sgambati) who were last seen in the season 10 finale, which aired back in October 2020. Luckily, they inform the others that Oceanside’s been conquered by the Commonwealth, and Aaron realizes either something changed, or she had no intention of freeing the communities in the first place.
- Yet another Commontrooper patrol stops by and nearly finds the group, so they use the “smear guts on yourself to walk safely among the zombies” shtick to hide. Three things about this: 1) No one put any blood on their faces, which was very dumb since the Troopers were scanning lights into the zombie crowd. 2) Why the hell did the Troopers believe anyone living would be walking around with zombies? We have no indication they know the guts trick or have encountered Whisperers before. 3) This scene went on for so goddamn long I thought I was going to lose my mind.
- What the hell happened that the Commontroopers separated Hershel from the other kids, tied him to a chair, and placed him under armed guard?
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.