The penultimate episode of "The Walking Dead" gave us our second correct prediction of this back half of the season. It helps when characters actually die! It almost felt like they were going to hold off on any killing until next week's finale, but they gave us a big one this week, reminding us of the days when this show was truly unpredictable and we feared our favorites could die in any episode -- not just finales and premieres.
Simon (Steven Ogg) was the latest victim of the zombie apocalypse, only it wasn't a walker that got him but rather his own ambition, and willingness to trust the least trustworthy person in the Sanctuary.
Is it just us, or is Dwight (Austin Amelio) so shifty all the time, it's hard to believe that Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) or Simon or anyone would ever trust him. He almost never looks anyone in the eyes and looks like he's about to get caught in literally every scene and every conversation he's a part of.
Speaking of shifty people, for some reason the writers decided this was a good week to give the spotlight to the show's two big cowards, with major moments for both Gregory (Xander Berkeley) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt). While Gregory actually seemed to serve a legitimate function in the story, we're not as sure about Eugene's.
He was kidnapped from his munitions factory by Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Daryl (Norman Reedus). While they had him, Rosita basically told him he would be locked up and forced to work for the Hilltop -- kind of like his situation with Negan. Then, he facilitated his escape via the vomitorium (gross!) and made his way back to the factory, picking up where he left off. This sequence had to serve some purpose, so what was it? If it was to convince Eugene he's better off with the Hilltop, was threatening him with eternal servitude and mistrust the way to do that? It seems to have made him more committed than ever to Negan, but we'll just have to see.
One person we know isn't committed to Negan is Gregory, but that's because he's only committed to whoever is standing in front of him at the moment, and that's why we've just about reached the end of the rope with this character. With "All Out War" coming to an end, there will be no role for someone like Gregory in the world to come. His constant wishy-washiness means that no one respects him anyway (at least Eugene seems to have the respect of Negan), and certainly no one would ever trust him.
This week, he tried to stand up to Simon, only to be knocked aggressively to the floor. He then groveled to him, but as soon as the tide was turning against the former second-in-command of the Saviors, he was all about playing messenger for Dwight back to the Hilltop. As Dwight told him, it was the only play he had, and Dwight knew he could trust him, because Gregory is only ever out for his own survival.
The problem is we have two characters that are essentially the same, as evidenced by their similar cowardice, and just one is often more than enough. Deposed long ago from power at The Hilltop, Gregory has just been a mouse caught in various traps ever since. And while he's weaseled his way out of every jam that's come his way, for the sake of the integrity of the show, it's high time he finally got caught in one of his own verbal traps.
Bear with me here, because odds are you don't know who Rachel (Mimi Kirkland) is. That's okay, she's had very few scenes. But they have been memorable. She is the very young and seemingly very bloodthirsty citizen of Oceanside who has been ready to kill basically every character that has come to this grieving habitat.
We already knew that all of the boys and men in Oceanside had been slaughtered, but this week we learned that it came at Simon's hands, and Negan was fully aware of it and made him his second anyway. So we can only imagine the losses Rachel faced as a young child watching all that slaughter unfold. But as Oceanside is finally looking like they might step into the fight, where will Rachel fit into the aftermath.
Even as Oceanside's leader Cyndie (Sydney Park) has shown glimmers of compassion and hints that she might want to seek a better life for her sisters, Rachel is very much a single-minded character, and her focus is always on killing everyone before they can hurt you. That blindness will probably get her killed in the coming war, as she will want to kill everyone equally.
But that blind rage and hatred for even people who are good could also serve as a catalyst for Cyndie to see that there is a better way to live, and it starts with opening your heart and mind to the idea that there is good in this world. Aaron's (Ross Marquand) persistence in staying nearby to try and recruit them to fight for their own sake, as well as the Hilltop's, only shows this. Seeing what is essentially a child die because of her blind rage and worldview is tragic, and would serve the story purpose of redirecting Oceanside, and perhaps some in The Hilltop to start turning their own views towards lasting peace.
"The Walking Dead" airs its season finale next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET as part of a back-to-back crossover event with the season premiere of "Fear the Walking Dead."