"Swear" brought back two Walking Dead characters we haven't seen since three-quarters of the way through Season 6: Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Heath (Corey Hawkins). They were last seen leaving to go on a two-week scavenging trip soon after the Alexandrians killed the Saviors at the satellite dish hideout in "Not Tomorrow Yet."
Since Tara and Heath have been away, there have been a number of developments that they don't know about: 1) the discovery that that was just a Savior outpost, and there are a hell of a lot more of them out there; 2) the Saviors are now a really, really big problem for Alexandria, what with Negan (Jeffrey Dead Morgan) killing Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), psychologically destroying Rick (Andrew Lincoln), and taking half of all their sh-- in perpetuity; and 3) Tara's girlfriend Denise (Merritt Wever) took an arrow to the back of the head.
So, at the beginning of the episode, when they're debating if they should head back to Alexandria with the meager supplies they found (no) and discussing how to justify killing to stay alive (don't ever forget you're watching The Walking Dead), they're operating under the assumption that they'll be going back to the same situation they left.
They come to a bridge and the ruins of an encampment, and Tara accidentally releases a horde of walkers from a dump truck full of sand. During the struggle, Heath and Tara get separated, and Heath disappears while Tara is surrounded and forced over the edge.
She survives, and washes up on the beach, where she's found by a young woman (Sydney Park) and a tween girl (Mimi Kirkland). The girl wants to kill Tara, but the woman won't let her. She pulls Tara into the shade, and later comes back with water and food and a spear. Tara is only pretending to be be asleep when the woman comes back, and follows her back to a camp.
As Tara watches from the woods, she notices something odd: there are only women in this camp. As soon as she processes this, the women start shooting at her with assault rifles. She's cornered by Rachel, the girl from before, but then Cyndie, the woman who showed her kindness, gets between Tara and the gun. Tara is spared -- for now.
She meets with the braintrust of the unnamed camp (it's apparently called Oceanside, but I will call it Summerisle, after the murdery all-female colony in The Wicker Man), who tell her that they used to be in a different location, but they had a skirmish with another group, and this other group killed all their men and boys over 10. So one night they fled and ended up at Summerisle, where they've been living in secrecy and they'd like to keep it that way, thank you very much. Their leader Natania (Deborah May) asks Tara if she would like to stay, since that way Tara would get a nice place to live and Summerisle will remain secret while gaining a useful resident. It would be a win-win.
But Tara declines, and opts to head back to Alexandria. Beatrice (Briana Venskus) and Kathy (Nicole Barre) accompany her, but Tara quickly realizes that they have no intention of letting her get back to Alexandria alive. She fights with Beatrice, who tells her that the satellite dish was just an outpost, and there are a lot more Saviors who are surely bringing the ruckus to Alexandria as they speak. It was the Saviors who killed all their men, and now that they finally got away from the Saviors, they don't want to risk Tara leading them back. Then Cyndie tackles Beatrice and lets Tara get away.
They talk about whether it's necessary to kill (we'll come back to that) as they're trekking back to the bridge. Cyndie makes Tara swear not to tell anyone about Summerisle, and then provides cover fire as she crosses the bridge. On the bridge, Tara has a flashback to the last time she saw Heath -- he didn't run away, he was finding a better position from which to shoot the zombies attacking Tara. As he got swarmed himself, she shouted "We're in this together!"
"I know!" he answered, and then Tara fell off the bridge.
So is Heath dead? We don't know! But probably not yet. The Walking Dead is not going to pass up a chance to kill off a likable character in gruesome fashion. The Walking Dead doesn't do ambiguous endings. Heath is probably going to be written off the show because of Corey Hawkins' commitment to 24: Legacy, but he'll get a proper send-off before that happens.
With plot stuff out of the way, let's talk about my biggest pet peeve about The Walking Dead, which flared up in a huge way this episode, which is how repetitive it is in terms of dialogue and characterization. Seven seasons in, however many years into the apocalypse, after countless conversations, it's settled: Sometimes you have to kill to survive. The Walking Dead can stop hammering this point. It's an empty conversation every time it comes up, because it's no longer open to debate. Tara had two conversations this episode, first with Heath and then with Cyndie, about killing, and neither of them added anything new to the ongoing discussion, which has itself been settled by the CONSTANT KILLING that happens on this show.
Similarly, you would think that an all-female society would have some different qualities than every other place we've been, but nope. It's the same kind of aggressive, violent, suspicious-of-outsiders tribe we've seen over and over again. The Walking Dead is not interested in investigating how different groups rebuild society, just how they survive. So this week, the show introduced an interesting premise -- a colony of women -- and then did nothing with it.
The only location of all the places introduced this season that's different is the Kingdom, which is a peaceful place presided over by a weirdo who acts like he's at a Renaissance faire. We haven't been there since the second episode of the season, though, and it doesn't seem like we're going to be spending much more time there in this half of the season. Which is too bad, because it means we're going to have sit through a lot more "this is the way things are now" conversations before we get to the action scenes.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.