After weeks of waiting, "The Walking Dead" finally gave us a Daryl (Norman Reedus) focused episode -- well, at least fifty percent Daryl focused -- and not only did we get he get lost in the woods, again, but we got some huge, huge teases for the future.
Let's talk about everything big that happened on "Always Accountable."
Abraham & Sasha
Actually, let's not just talk down the individual moments, since this episode is very much more than the sum of its parts. We kick off with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) finally splitting off from the front half of the zombie herd they've been leading away from Alexandria with Daryl... Only to be immediately attacked by a clearly well organized force with multiple vehicles and guns.
After a fair amount of ducking and swerving, as well as making their way right into a zombie minefield, Abraham and Sasha get free, while Daryl finds himself in "Chupacabra 2: Lost In New York." We'll get to that semi-sequel in a moment, but first let's discuss what happens with A&S.
Their storyline (and Daryl's for that matter) is pretty simple. Sasha is still reeling from the deaths of her boyfriend and brother; Abraham is feeling the weight of the loss of his mission -- when it turned out Eugene (Josh McDermitt) wasn't a scientist about to cure the zombie plague after all, and Abraham had been protecting him for no reason; and they both seemed pretty suicidal when they volunteered to hop in a car and lead thousands of zombies mere feet behind them.
Turns out, it's way more complicated than what we thought was going on. We find out just what's up when the duo hole up for the night with a deceased army dude, and their true feelings come out.
For Sasha, it basically boils down to: she's just tired. That's pretty much it. She hasn't given up hope, she's just f--king exhausted, but still can't fall asleep. All she knows is constantly moving forward at this point, and without making a human connection she's nothing but impulses.
In case that point wasn't totally driven home, the army dude -- who keeps flailing at them through seemingly impregnable glass -- wrote on a white board, before he went: "Proud to have provided value. I pray for the world. Keep going. Stay cheerful."
That's pretty much all Sasha has now, in case you couldn't read the subtext of her calmly staring the walker down through the glass most of the episode. She's not daring him to kill her, because she doesn't want to die. Instead, she's looking at a reflection of herself.
Abraham also doesn't want to die, he's just scared to live. We find this out pretty clearly when he encounters a walker hanging off a bridge, with a rocket launcher attached to it. Naturally, Abraham crawls out onto the fence to get the launcher, and then grapples with the walker, screaming into its face. Like Sasha, he's faced down death; and in his case, he backs off the rickety fence and embraces life.
Oh, and then the walker falls off the fence, leaving the rocket launcher hanging... In a surprisingly hilarious moment.
He returns to Sasha, and after explaining he found the launcher due to some "off the charts stupidity," he gives a little speech to drive everything home.
"You see I know this group, and I know Rick," Abraham tells her. "And whatever happened back there is being managed, and being kicked back up into it’s own ass, I know that. We’ve got beer. And air conditioning, and walls."
Oh, and one more thing? They've got Sasha. "I like the way you call bulls--t, Sasha," Abraham continues. "I believe I’d like to get to know you a whole lot better."
"That one of your plays?" Sasha says, surprisingly intrigued. "What makes you think I want that?"
"A man can tell," Abraham replies confidently, and it turns out, one can.
Which honestly, is a romantic twist I didn't see coming. But hey, let's make Sashbraham happen, right up until one or both of them dies by the end of the season, right?
Daryl Alone (Again)Gene Page/AMC
But let's get to the main event, which is a spiritual sequel to season two's "Chupacabra," one of the high water marks of the series that found Daryl alone in the woods, nearly broken and hallucinating his brother's presence.
Things aren't as dire for Daryl here, but after the attack at the episode's open, he's hurt and lying nearly dead in the charred remains of a forest. He's not alone, though: there's also a mysterious young trio played by Austin Amelio, Christine Evangelista and Liz E. Morgan who seems to think Daryl is someone he's not.
Who do they think he is? Well, though it's not 100% confirmed, it's pretty clear that they think he's part of a group that, in the comics, is called The Saviors. And the Saviors are led by none other than the man who makes The Governor (David Morrissey) look like Barney the Dinosaur, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). We don't meet Negan this week, but we do find out a little bit about his group: they guarantee safety in exchange for kneeling before him; they demand certain things in return; it's strongly intimated that Negan takes the women as "wives," but only if they're willing; and the trio Daryl meets are terrified.
In fact, we only get to see one of the Saviors clearly as he gets bitten by a walker, and a never-completely-seen man named Wade (Darin Cooper) chops off his arm. Which tells us another piece of info: they're as organized, well off and knowledgeable as Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) group. Good news if they were good guys; real bad news if they're bad guys... Which they are.
Case in point: after they refuse to return insulin they stole from the Saviors, the trio return to their camp to find two of their number were covered in plastic and burned alive as retribution
Granted, Daryl doesn't know much of the above info yet, but for the audience this is our first inkling of just how bad the show's next big threat will get.
Anyway, over time Daryl realizes that the trio (on the other hand) aren't really a threat to him and offers up Rick's three questions. It's the most fascinating moment of the episode, frankly, as Daryl -- who has been struggling all season long with whether he's Rick's man, or his own -- essentially forces himself to become Rick for a brief moment.
And the man Daryl asks offers the right answers, telling him, "Why did I not kill anybody? Because there’d be no going back. Back to the way things were."
...Then moments later, they pull a gun on Daryl, steal his bike and crossbow and drive away. What's curious about this is that Daryl knows they never killed anyone, and wouldn't; but doesn't try to talk them down. Is he essentially giving them his gear, since he can survive without it, but they can't? His response right after, telling them they're going to be sorry seems to contradict that idea; but it's still a potential way of looking at his actions.
Regardless, Daryl finds a hidden fuel truck, hops in and goes to pick up Abraham and Sasha, which is pretty nice.
I Need Somebody, Not Just AnybodyGene Page/AMC
Showrunner Scott Gimple has said that the theme of this half season is transformation, and its particularly apt this episode. Abraham has ditched his dirty digs for an army uniform, returning at least partially to the man he was pre-apocalypse. Sasha smiles, just a little, which is a pretty big deal for someone who has lost everyone in her life. And Daryl has lost his signature weapon and ride. He hasn't transformed into a fuel truck operator or anything, but whatever he's going to become, it's got to be something else -- and soon, because danger is coming.
But now let's talk about the very last word of the episode. Nearly every hour this season has ended with something happening off-screen that's not immediately clear until you see the next episode. The first episode had a truck horn blaring. Two weeks ago, we heard Rick shout, "Open the gates!" And this week? Well...
Daryl has been trying since the opening of the episode to call Rick on his walkie-talkie, but getting nothing but static. As he drives off into the sunset with Abraham and Sasha, he tries calling again.
"Rick, copy?" Daryl says. "Anybody?"
After a moment, something staticy happens, and you can't hear quite who or what it is.
"Say it again?" Daryl says.
There's a pause, and then as we cut to black we hear one word: "Help."
Look, it's hard to tell a person's voice from one word, and it could be anybody... But it isn't, right? To my ears at least, it sounded like the man we thought was dead, the only other man besides Rick who had a working walkie talkie.
To me? It sounded like Glenn (Steven Yeun).
...And now, help is on the way.