The Walking Dead is quickly coming up on all-out war, and while all of Season 7B has been setting up the chessboard to make that happen, "Something They Need" made some of the final moves necessary before the fight starts in earnest.
Over at the Sanctuary, things are not looking good for Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), who somehow survived charging in there solo dolo only to end up in one of those prison cells we've come to know so well. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) stopped one of his goons from raping her and pitched her on the idea of joining the Saviors. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) thinks she should, since it's working out so well for him, but she can't betray herself. She asked him for a weapon, telling him it's to off herself. In reality, she had a plan to fight, but then he gave her the suicide pills he made, leaving her as trapped as she was when she got there.
This was also the long-in-the-works (if not exactly long-awaited) return to Oceanside, the all-female colony that Tara (Alanna Masterson) discovered way back in Episode 6. It went down pretty simply, and pretty much exactly how we thought it was going to go down — the Alexandrians wanted the guns, Oceanside didn't want to give them up, there was a skirmish that helped Oceanside realize they can trust Alexandria and so they let them borrow the guns for the war. Nobody had to die (except for a herd of cool/gross-looking barnacled walkers). Oceanside is mostly supportive, but they aren't joining the fight — yet. I imagine Cyndie (Sydney Park) and some of her friends will join in eventually while Natania (Deborah May) causes some more trouble somehow. There are unresolved issues between the young soldier and her grandmother that will have to be dealt with at some point that I suppose we may as well see.
At Hilltop, an embarrassed Gregory (Xander Berkeley) made a decision to do something about his Maggie (Lauren Cohan) problem. And back at Alexandria, Dwight (Austin Amelio) revealed his intention to help Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the gang take down Negan. Let's go into detail.
The most life-and-death developments were at the Sanctuary. A Savior attempted to rape Sasha in her prison cell, only to be interrupted by Negan, who stabbed him through the neck with a comically large knife, because rape is against Negan's all-important rules.
This was the first scene that made a compelling case to me for why anyone would follow Negan as a charismatic leader. It successfully portrayed him as more than just a maniac, but as someone who has a sense of right and wrong. It's a brutal and opaque moral code, but moral nonetheless, and it's in service of keeping his people safe. He finally flashed the charm with a barely-contained streak of menace that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was cast for. He was a little bit likable, demonstrating an uncouth sense of humor ("beach ball-sized lady-nuts" is an Abrahamian turn of phrase) and an apparent intent to treat Sasha fairly. Although I can't help but suspect he sent Ol' Rapey Davey in there himself since he knew what was going to happen and could make himself look better to Sasha, which would make him just as monstrous as he ever was.
He made her an offer to join the Saviors, since he can use someone as tough as her. He left her with Dave's soon-to-turn body, the knife that she could use to finish him off or take herself out, and a request to think about it.
Moments later, Eugene showed up, bearing creature comforts including a non-hypoallergenic pillow, which honestly is so disrespectful. You expect Sasha to sleep on a pillow that might make her sneeze? You may as well be giving her a doo-doo-covered suicide pill! Anyway, he tells her she should accept Negan's offer, since it means she'll never have to be as scared as they were that night in the woods.
"He would want you to," Eugene said, as in Abraham, and Sasha, who had previously been sad and scared, looked at him with murder in her eyes. "He wouldn't," Eugene admitted. "I do. We're still here. Things have changed. We can change with them. We have to." Eugene's behavior in this episode makes it look like he drank Negan's Kool-Aid. If he has a plan against Negan, this would have been the time to recruit a friend to help him.
Eventually, Sasha decided to put down Dave, who seemed to take an abnormally long time to turn, which meant she accepted Negan's offer. But Negan still doesn't trust her — for good reason! — and so she has to stay in the cell for the time being until she can prove her loyalty.
"A little birdy told me that Rick and the rest of your people are up to no good. Well, that needs to change, and you're gonna help me change it," he told her. I wonder who this "little birdy" is? I don't think it's Eugene, since Eugene has been at the Sanctuary since Rick decided it was time to fight. Maybe Dr. Carson (R. Keith Harris), who knew Sasha and Maggie were at Hilltop and is now at the Sanctuary?
Eugene came back, and Sasha pleaded with him to get her a gun or a knife or something to kill herself with, since she can't actually go through with joining the Saviors, since she's not a coward like he is and she can't bear the idea of being used to hurt their friends. In reality, she wanted something to fight back with, but instead he gave her the suicide pills he made for Negan's wives.
I don't see any way out of this for Sasha at this point. And Chekov's gun requires those pills be used.
That shipwrecked naval vessel makes me think Oceanside is supposed to be somewhere near Annapolis, which is not near the ocean. It's on the Chesapeake Bay, which is very large and brackish, but is a couple hours' drive from the ocean. Does this matter? It does not.
Tara, if you'll recall, first visited Oceanside about a million years ago. The leader, Natania, told her the colony's sad history (the Saviors killed all their men) and then tried to have Tara killed to protect the secret location. But Natania's granddaughter Cyndie helped her get away as long as Tara swore not to tell anyone.
Tara told, but Cyndie got over it pretty quick. She got over Tara holding her and her grandmother at gunpoint pretty quick, too. Tara broke into their apartment and tried to get them to give up the guns peacefully before Rick took them by force. They didn't agree, so Rick and the gang stormed the arsenal. There was a standoff between the Alexandrians and Natania, who was holding Tara hostage after getting the upper hand, until a swarm of barnacle-covered walkers drawn by the sound of the dynamite the Alexandrians set off showed up. So the Alexandrians and the Oceansiders teamed up to neutralize the threat and then everything was hunky-dory. Natania was pissed, but no one's listening to her anymore. Not enough Oceansiders are onboard to join the fight, but enough are onboard to let the Alexandrians borrow their guns and fight for them. Cyndie even said "thank you for what you're doing." Piece of cake! Although I think they should have saved that dynamite for when they attack the Sanctuary. But so far everything with the dynamite has been ridiculous (shout out to self-taught explosives expert Rosita [Christian Serratos]), so why stop now?
The third story, at Hilltop, is that Gregory is the biggest worm on the show. He doesn't want Maggie at Hilltop anymore, but she's planning to be there for as long as that blueberry bush is producing, which could be at least 40 years. He went to her outside the walls and told her he'd like to get on the same page with her, but then he also considered stabbing her to death when her back was turned. Then she embarrassed him in front of some other Hilltopians when she killed one walker for him — he was too scared to do it — and then saved him from another. He's ascended to a leadership role despite never handling a dead one himself. Seriously, such a worm.
After that, while imbibing some tequila, Simon's (Steven Ogg) drink of choice, Gregory decided it was time to take the #2 Savior up on his offer to come see him at the Sanctuary if Gregory needs help with a problem.
Xander Berkeley told me he wants to do a Gregory/Simon bottle episode next season, and their meeting would be the time to do that. I could see fans hating it, but it could also be a lot of fun.
The last scene resolved the semi-mystery of who Rosita saw outside of the Sanctuary last week — it was Dwight! She brought him back to Alexandria with her because he says he wants to help them fight Negan, a turn long in development. It's going to take Dwight some time to earn Rick and the gang's trust, but he's willing to bend the knee, so that's a start.
Next week is the finale. We're probably going to see a prisoner exchange of Dwight for an already-zombified Sasha, as well as some other fun stuff.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.