It would have been hard to imagine TWD topping last week's spectacular show of sorrow, but they may have done it with "The Lost and The Plunderers." Even with Carl's death we were given some hope, but this episode is one of despair, of personal loss, and of isolation. Deceit, in its smaller and its more egregious forms, is braided into almost every interaction. An inherent mistrust hangs over everyone, a mistrust aggravated by grief and exhaustion. Even the infamous Negan himself seems weary and oddly humorless. Jadis and her community are destroyed and then abandoned. Rick is still whirling toward his grief, and Simon apparently has gone mental. Things seem chaotic at the moment, but there may be a unifying theme, some sin, so to speak, they are all committing: the sin of isolationism.
Photo by Gene Page/AMC
Some psychotic wire has been tripped within Simon. Negan would be incapable of committing the crime that Simon committed against Jadis and her people. He makes Negan seem reasonable and even merciful in comparison. In fact, Negan may have flashed a slight glance of apprehension at Simon right after he commanded him to follow his orders. We don't often see Negan afraid, so when we do -- its disconcerting. Despite the threat of Negan's infamous wrath, Simon has the most evil of meltdowns when he goes to the scavengers. The joy he finds in terrorizing Jadis is one of the more unexpectedly chilling moments of the show. I personally found this scene to be one of the hardest to watch out of the entire series. So, why the brutality?
Yes, we now know that Simon is a truly malevolent force in this world, but he may have exacted a punishment to Jadis that was deserved. It was a greatly exaggerated and needlessly brutal punishment, but maybe he was onto something that Rick also understands but responded to much more appropriately. Jadis may have had purity of vision in creating her own living world of art, unsoiled (ironically) by the outside world, and more importantly, other people. She refused, though, to acknowledge that part of the role of a leader is to be a diplomat as well as a dreamer, and so her community collapsed (with some heavy handed help). This motif, the warning not to turn others away, is one that is ever present in the series, and it has been realized most viscerally in this scene.
Follow The Leader
Photo by Gene Page/AMC
As it might happen in a prolonged and increasingly complicated conflict, disorientation seems to be setting in among all the communities. Power struggles and the shifting of interpersonal dynamics among leaders can leave voids which opportunists with a bloodlust like Simon will fill. As far as Rick and Negan are concerned, that difficult, cutting radio call between them may prove to be a powerful pivotal moment. For as much time as they spend either fighting or staying away from each other, Rick and Negan's relationship has evolved in its own way, and the most gripping and alarming exchange is between these two characters.
Once, Rick asked Merle a question which has always stuck with me: "Do you even know why you do the things you do?" to which Merle conceded that he didn't. To a man like Rick, this modus operandi is foreign. He is a meticulously thoughtful man, considerate in mind and heart and who has a sturdy moral compass. So, when Rick becomes lost, it is frightening and dangerous for everyone. We know Rick is lost when he radios Negan.
For a rare moment, I don't think Rick knew why he chose to call Negan or what he was going to say. We hear him resort to the same mantra-like threats but with none of the usual conviction and instead with heartbreak in his voice. After all this time, it's as if threats are the only way he knows how to communicate with Negan. Could Rick have actually been looking for comfort from Negan? Perhaps even advice? It kind of sounds like something friends would do. There is definitely one person who has experienced the state of Rick while even imagining losing Carl; that would be Negan, and Rick is aware of this fact. It is a small world, and Rick Grimes has made great friends with enemies before... is this where we are headed?
Photo by Gene Page/AMC
While Carl's wishes would be to see everyone come together in peace, Negan and Rick mangled what could have been some kind of moment between the two (and maybe in some way it actually was) by refusing to back down. They don't seem capable of seeing past their own ideologies, histories, and egos -- yet. They are continuing to isolate themselves from each other, just as Jadis did and just as the Oceanside is doing now. If they all continue the isolationism and brutality that Carl warned them about, there may not be many left standing in a few weeks.
Other Lingering Questions
- Will the mystery behind Rick's disturbing flash forward finally be revealed?
- What could Negan possibly dream up for Simon as a punishment when he finds out about the scavengers?
- Could Rick's knowledge about what happened with Jadis somehow open up communication between Rick and Negan?
Ciara Cerrato was a projectionist and curator at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, and she currently is a poet and freelance writer in New York.