‘The Walking Dead’ Review: ‘Knots Untie’ Unveils Negan’s Men on The Hilltop
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Knots Untie”:
I’ve been turning over a quote from The Walking Dead’s second Honest Trailer, which posited the show’s typical eight-episode run as “two great ones, two good ones and four hours of filler;” a generalization, but not an inaccurate one. I was in the camp that loved the premiere (read: great), while last week’s understandably slower hour (read: good) introduced a very different energy by the arrival of Jesus, which would naturally place “Knots Untie” into filler. Still, I hesitate to dismiss it so quickly, given all we learn of the Hilltop, Gregory and the Saviors, and the value that has going forward.
So much of The Walking Dead has been spent in the same cycle (another point raised in the trailer) between fighting for survival, securing a safe haven and seeing it destroyed by a human threat, it’s a wonder even the comics themselves took so long to start any actual world-building. Naturally, other groups must exist within this world, with their own seasons’ worth of stories to establish a community like the Hilltop, and “Knots Untie” marks the show’s long-delayed arrival at that question. What if fighting the dead weren’t the most pressing issue, but rather rebuilding the networks between communities, securing infrastructure, and actually crafting some way of life within the new world?
Understandably, that’s not an exciting question to ask on an episodic basis, and playing politics for trade doesn’t exactly capitalize on the potential of premises like the Hilltop or The Saviors, but it’s an important dynamic to establish. It also helps that production took the time to provide Hilltop with a different, more antiquated feel (right down to the folksy twangs following our characters in every shot), or that Xander Berkeley’s Gregory emerges with a skeevy shorthand arrogance to save time peeling back his intent.
Not everyone will agree, and The Walking Dead has a habit of firing nuance with a crossbow in its introduction of comic-friendly characters. Still, a more sinister approach to Gregory does open Maggie up to some of the steely determination absorbed from Deanna, and it presented a strong choice to have her calling out Gregory’s sleaze by name early on. Demanding half the town’s supplies up front certainly raked an entire community over the coals for one man’s ornery demeanor, but it also speaks to Rick’s group embracing the value of what they can provide, having toppled so many violent threats in the prior six years. It also might help explain overloading the expedition with so many* of Alexandria’s best warriors, and certainly the back half of Season 6 intends to overturn the group’s confidence, but the show at least seems to have developed a self-awareness to its heroes.
*Obviously, Rick wanted a cadre of his decision-makers as well as protection from a trap, but who’s left defending the homestead? Carl, Rosita, Sasha, Carol and Morgan? Not that Carol is anyone to be trifled with, of course. Jesus probably even tasted that in the cookie.
The only thing “Knots Untie” never seemed to get a handle on was framing the episode around Abraham, to keep drifting into his perspective. In addition to opening around his and Sasha’s floundering courtship, there were a few interesting choices to interject stray recollections into his time with Rosita, or experience some kind of epiphany in nearly being choked to death. The writing builds Abraham’s introspection as the fear of settling down, or fatherhood, but never stays consistent enough to commit to his particular viewpoint, and ends up feeling like random emphasis in otherwise fraught moments.
Granted, “Knots Untie” seems largely to have engineered itself around the setup for future conflicts, rather than present many compelling moments of its own, and I imagine the introduction of #Richonne could have warranted more significant followup. Still, introducing the Hilltop and expounding on Negan’s men serve purposes in their own right, and “Knots Untie” has some thankless work in that respect.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Considering the food situation, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to try salvaging the truck from last week?
- It’s a card AMC doesn’t want to play just yet, but why would no one press Jesus on the additional communities he alluded to trading with?
- The bond between Daryl and Denise continues to be adorable.
- Welp, I’m never looking at Bisquick the same again.
- How many people were crammed into that overturned car? What was their plan running into the house?
- This is now the second time a character references Negan’s men killing someone “off the bat.”
- Does Daryl actually want one of the Hilltop cows for some purpose, or does he just like taking random things from strangers?
The Walking Dead will return on March 6, airing at 9:00 P.M. on AMC.
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