The synopses for The Walking Dead are becoming increasingly vague, which allows every episode to play up the possibility that it will be the last appearance of one character in particular. It's a common occurrence on the series, so leaning into a tease or a fake that someone might die isn't much of a surprise. The problem is that, as the series moves into the final run of its season 7 episodes, there are not many characters left who can be offered up to ratings gods in exchange for a greater slice of the weekly pop-cultural pie, while still leaving the show with a roster of familiar characters who are compelling enough to ensure viewers return in season 8 and (likely) beyond.
This time around The Walking Dead has been playing up the idea that Carol will finally be getting back into the game after having a sudden, inconvenient, and unconvincing change of heart late last season. 'Bury Me Here' is the return of the series' most unlikely MVP after she sat the majority of season 7 out, trying to find some peace and quiet on the outskirts of Ezekiel's kingdom, occasionally rebuffing as best she can, the group's offerings of community and fruit-based desserts. But no matter how far Carol remains from the ongoing conflict, sooner or later it will come knocking at her door.
That moment nearly came during her reunion with Daryl. But the encounter was undercut by a refusal to tell her the truth, which was, in Daryl's own way, an attempt to see his friend stay in as safe a place as possible for just a little while longer. Daryl's lie will be found out one way or another, and Carol, like everyone else in the Kingdom will have to make a choice whether or not to fight the new world's schoolyard bully or if they'll continue delivering supplies that are increasingly in short supply. In order to convince a group of reluctant fighters that now is the time to take up arms against their enemy, there will have to be a major turning point.
'Bury Me Here', then, is a series of turning points, most of which are brought about by Richard's ill-advised scheme to incite a violent reaction from the Saviors by shortchanging them a single melon in their weekly delivery. The plan was to show Ezekiel just how irrationally violent the Saviors are by sacrificing himself to prove a point and inspire the king to take action. Naturally, this being The Walking Dead, such a foolhardy plan goes awry, leaving young warrior-monk-in-training Benjamin to die from a bullet wound instead. The kid's death is enough to send Morgan into a blind rage, one that that is underlined by a series of flashes recapping his journey from the series premiere to 'Clear' to his current predicament.
Morgan's unraveling as the episode unfolds marks the biggest turning point for the hour, given how long the character has abstained from killing and has attempted to influence others to do as he does. The move stands as one of the biggest choices the series has made since coming back from hiatus, as it not only marks the path moving forward for Morgan, but also for Carol, Ezekiel, and the entirety of the Kingdom. And with Ezekiel prepared to go to war against Negan and the Saviors, Richard's attempt to spur his comrades to action worked – just not the way he planned.
Ezekiel choosing to fight needed to be a high point in the season; it needed to feel like a major win for Rick and the other survivors, even if they weren't present for the shift. That wasn't entirely the case here, as there's only so much tension to be derived from a series of standoffs between two groups of men pointing guns at one another. Carol's casual strolling from her house to the Kingdom, killing walkers with street signs and eventually ending up at Ezekiel's doorstep, helped assuage the feeling that a character being billed as a major player didn't really come to the conclusion to help Rick on his own, he had to be pushed along violently, through the death of his associate and the loss of Morgan.
It's hard to say whether or not these turning points needed an entire episode to occur, or if Scott M. Gimple might have been able to squeeze another plotline in just for the sake of the hour not feeling so isolated from everything else that happened. With just three episodes left this season, it seems as though the all-out war against the Saviors and the other communities is going to be reserved for the last two hours (if that), which makes the slow buildup to conflict even more languorous when it takes detours like this, no matter how necessary they may seem.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with 'The Other Side' @9pm on AMC.
Photos: Gene Page/AMC