Warning: Spoiler Alert!
Turn back now if you haven’t seen this week’s episode, if you have, break on through…
A Suicide Mission for One
Sasha and Rosita finally went off on their kamikaze mission to kill Negan this week. They infiltrated Sanctuary’s surrounding buildings, swapped knowledge on knots/bombs/love, and went in for the kill. Except Negan kept just out of sight, foiling Sasha’s opportunity to snipe him.
How unexpected… Sasha couldn’t snipe Negan.
Of course Sasha wouldn’t be able to kill Negan. From a dramatic perspective, it wouldn’t make sense to have this season’s expansive coalition-building and war-preparation plot wrap up with a lone gun-woman.
Instead, the Hit-Girl Squad ran into Stockholm Syndrome Eugene, who was completely uninterested in their offer of a rescue. Is he worried for his safety if they flee? Is he enjoying the power-trip of his new persona? He had the best lines of the night with his ridiculous walkie-talkie orders to other saviors. He practically pulled a Danerys Targaryen with his many titles: “Dr. Eugene Porter, Chief Engineer, also known as Negan, who I also am.” Good stuff.
Anyway, Sasha decided it wasn’t Rosita’s time to die or something (hey, her body her choice!), so she locked her out and stormed into the Savior complex alone. There was lots of gunfire, but it ended on a cliffhanger, so, uh, maybe instead of being immediately gunned-down Sasha will get a turn in the Savior’s naughty closet. First Daryl, then Dwight, and now Sasha? Either that or she’s dead. But, with The Walking Dead, it’s pretty safe to assume no character dies unless you see them go down in great gory detail.
Well That Was Short
Usually there is more to talk about, but not much else happened this week. Gregory continued to be awful, and Simon changed his favorite booze to tequila during a surprise visit to Hilltop. Daryl hid successfully with Maggie. Enid lost a knife. They are practicing throwing those now, by the way.
The most interesting part of the Hilltop sojourn this week was the show’s opening. A good soundtrack and silent montage showing how our favorite Hilltop characters are doing. Maggie was so happy in the beginning that my TWD sense started tingling. Remember, happiness is usually fatal in TWD. Thankfully, only the good Dr. Carson had to suffer for Maggie’s smiley sonogram moment. But, hey, they have all the aspirin they could ever want now! That’s almost as good as a doctor. Actually, I was impressed they cared even enough to gift so much medicine to Hilltop. Not too shabby, considering how much other Savior interactions tend to suck for those on the receiving end.
A Note on TV Cinematography
Alright, everyone, since we were a bit (read, a lot) light on plot advancement this week, get on your black beret and tiny moustache: it’s cinema nerd time. I thought we could take a moment and appreciate some of the brilliant cinematography of TWD. Take a look at the shots below from the introductory montage, because we’re going to take a second and discuss mise-en-scène: the arrangement of the visual elements in film, television, or theater.
Note how the elements are arranged in this single shot and the story it tells, without a single word. You have a well-defined foreground, mid-ground, and background. In the foreground is Daryl, covered in shadow with head turned and long hair covering his face. His hands fidget. He is lost in the darkness, still consumed by guilt, seeking redemption, and wanting action but not knowing what action to take. He is looking for direction, but needs compassion and above all, forgiveness, from the only one who can spare him… Maggie. A friend and leader in waiting.
Maggie stands in the mid-ground. She pauses as she walks from the foreground to the background, taking a moment to compose herself, having provided some assurance to Daryl, reconnecting… forgiving… quietly. It is a personal moment. Daryl sees Maggie’s strength, focus, and resolve on full display in this scene. She is the decider, the one Hilltop will turn to, as Gregory the “other leader” warns the saviors. She is still a little uncomfortable putting on the mantle of authority and needs some time to put on the mask.
In the background is Enid, sitting in the light of the single open trailer with the brightly-shining lamp. She is the future: the child and the hope that our heroes can persevere and even carve out a happy life in the TWD universe. Their way is the single bright hope amidst the darkness of the rest of the trailers: the doom of Negan and the status quo for Hilltop.
One shot, so much story. Redlettermedia once (very rightly) criticized the Star Wars prequel movies for lazy film making, i.e. most of the shots followed a simple pattern of shot/reverse shot showing over-the-shoulder dialogue with only one face on-camera at a time. This is lazy verbal exposition. Television, film, and theater are visual mediums. That’s why there is a term like mise-en-scène to describe the use of that space to tell a story. Watch their reviews of the prequels for a great in-depth analysis.
TWD may be slow on the buildup and too often retread familiar story elements (oh no, Simon is back to threaten Gregory again this week), but its creative use of space, framing, and blocking to visually tell a story is still practically unmatched in network television. And for that, at least, we can thank them.
Photos by Gene Page/AMC