walking-dead

Human survival is pretty basic. You find shelter, food and water, then keep working to get more of the same. This week’s episode of The Walking Dead underlined that point once again, as we took a side excursion with Tara and Heath and discover yet another new community fighting to survive the apocalypse.

Tara and Heath are out on a scavenger run, hoping to bring back supplies to Alexandria and keep the village thriving. The catch is that, having departed shortly after the Saviors massacre at the satellite station, they are unaware of ensuing events and Negan’s revenge on their comrades.

What’s worse, Tara and Heath are separated because of a miscalculation on how many walkers were hiding on a strategic bridge that’s been booby-trapped to keep away outsiders. The rest of the episode explores what happened to Tara in the aftermath of that disaster.

Although this week’s story sidetracked the main focus, it does expand a larger theme of this seventh season of The Walking Dead: civilization goes on in small enclaves, as hunting and gathering becomes a way of life. We’ve now seen four new camps of humans and a New World Order dominated by Negan. How that will ultimately play out is the entire point of this season.

This week’s recap:

*** Tara and Heath are having a less-than-fruitful scavenger hunt, having come up with only a few rusty cans of okra and some aspirin in two weeks of hunting. They decide to give their area one last search before heading home, and come to a bridge with a lot of parked cars, some tarps, and very little activity. But as they explore, they inadvertently awaken a horde of walkers buried in some limestone. In the ensuing scramble, Tara topples into the water and is carried off by the current, awakening miles away on a beach.

*** Two children discover her body, and as one is about to plunge a sharp stick into Tara’s skull, the other stops her. Cindy is the merciful one, and even though the local credo is to kill outsiders, Tara is spared. When she revives, she sees Cindy walking away and follows her to a nearby village, the Oceanside Motor Club Camp, a series of shacks that are beach adjacent.

*** At the village, Tara arouses the locals into a frenzy of gunshots by her mere presence. She does one smart thing, though – she spares the life of a riflewoman who got the drop on her, opting to knock her out rather than shoot her. But Tara is eventually captured by a swarm of gun-toting women, and she’s chained to a radiator and questioned. Although Tara tries to clumsily cover her back story, she’s not adept at lying (she says she was on a “larder” fishing boat in one less than brilliant lie). The suspicious villagers mull whether she needs to be killed to preserve their secret location.

*** Later that night, though, there’s been a change of heart. Tara is taken to dinner, and offered a place in the village. Her act of mercy in sparing a life shows she has a good heart, so she can stop running and become a part of the Oceanside community. That’s where the honesty begins, and Tara reveals that she’s already part of the Alexandria community. She does notice one thing – what happened to all the men at this location?  As it turns out, they were massacred in a prior confrontation. Thus, the paranoia and secrecy about the new location.

*** After a bowl of stew, Tara is told that she will be led back to the bridge where she lost Heath, and then accompanied to Alexandria. If all goes well, perhaps diplomatic relations can be established. But something’s not right. Tara is led into the woods by two gun-toting women, and quickly figures out that this isn’t an escort, but an execution squad.

*** A nearby walker trapped in some bushes gives Tara the excuse to make a run for it. She’s well ahead of the field when she inexplicably stops and tries to hide. She’s discovered by Beth, one of the riflewomen, and is quickly disarmed. Tara’s now staring at eternity as her counterpart decides whether to kill her. The truth comes out – the men from the village were lost in a prior confrontation with the Saviors. If Tara reveals the Oceanside location, paradise might be lost.

*** Just in time, Cindy swoops in and knocks down the riflewoman. She gives Tara a chance to run away, and later catches up with her. Cindy will lead Tara back to the bridge, and help her cross through the wave of walkers still wandering there. She first makes her promise that she won’t reveal the location of the Oceanside camp, and Tara reluctantly swears that she will not talk about it.

*** Tara makes it back across the bridge despite some harrowing moments, but doesn’t see any sign of Heath (there is a MacGuffin moment when we think Heath has been turned, but it’s only a woman who looks like him). Tara begins to walk back to Alexandria. When she arrives, there’s bad news, as a glum Eugene lets her know about Negan and the news she’s missed over the last few weeks. That includes the loss of her girlfriend, Denise, whose dispatch at the hands of the Saviors started the whole Saviors mess.

*** Now Tara is faced with a dilemma. Negan and his troops will be arriving soon and expecting tribute. There’s plenty of food and weapons to be found back at the Oceanside camp, but Tara promised not to reveal its location. Yet there’s hardly anything to be found in the local area, and time grows short. What will she do?

Next week: We return to the festivities at Alexandria and the ongoing Negan confrontation. The mid-season finale is only two episodes away, so things are coming to a boil.

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