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‘The Walking Dead’ reminds us to count our blessings

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‘The Walking Dead’ reminds us that children are our future.
Image: AMC

This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 7, episode 5, titled “Go Getters.” To refresh your memory of where we left off, check out our recap of episode 4.

The Walking Dead has been a relentless misery parade for a while now with the exception of episode 702 and its surreal jaunt into Ezekiel’s Kingdom but this week’s installment actually felt more like a version of the show that wasn’t torturous to watch.

Yes, the Saviors made an appearance, and yes, they were still awful but no blood was shed, no heavy-handed metaphors for rape were tossed around, and at the end of the hour, there was finally a small glimmer of hope amid the wreckage.

That was thanks in large part to Maggie and Sasha, who despite having lost more than anyone else, and thus having more justification to grieve than anyone else weren’t interested in wallowing in self-pity. They clearly recognized that no one else is going to clean up this Negan mess least of all Hilltop’s de facto leader, the sexist and bureaucratic Gregory. Sisters are doin’ it for themselves, with far more grit and common sense than any of the men around them.

Despite being a mysterious warrior ass-kicker, even Jesus wasn’t much use until he was given a purpose by Maggie and Sasha, since he was basically letting evil flourish right under his nose because it was easier than rocking the boat with Gregory and piling more responsibility onto his own plate.

Tom Payne as Jesus

Image: AMC

Unlike the democratic Kingdom and its monarch, Gregory would probably sell his own mother to save his skin, and he had no desire to shelter an injured, pregnant woman from the Saviors’ wrath, because who needs a conscience in the zombie apocalypse?

Gregory clearly sees the people of Hilltop as valuable only insofar as they can be of use to him and his own comfort. He doesn’t bother to remember anyone’s name he even mistook Sasha for one of Hilltop’s residents, which shows how little concern he has for his populace and his preferred method of currency (at least when he’s dealing with women) appears to be trading sexual favors in exchange for his attention.

Unlike Ezekiel, he seems to have no interest in actually being a leader, only enjoying the status that comes with it which is why, when Sasha dismissed him as an idiot, Maggie shrewdly corrected her: “he’s a coward; they’re more dangerous.” When the Saviors opened Hilltop’s gates in the middle of the night and let in a flood of walkers, it wasn’t Gregory who was outside defending the compound or calling the plays it was the two outsiders, who dispatched the zombies with little help from Hilltop’s sheltered residents.

A true leader knows that the only thing of real value to them is the trust of their people that’s why Rick’s group would follow him into any battle, even with the odds stacked against them. Gregory will never inspire that kind of loyalty when he can’t even remember the name of the woman who supplies the town’s famous rhubarb preserve, let alone deign to get his hands dirty.

Maggie, on the other hand, is an ideal leader, and one of the episode’s best moments came from her decision to finally stop playing nice and start standing up to Gregory’s chauvinism. After enduring several encounters where he condescendingly dismissed her with names ranging from “honey” and “dear” to “Marsha,” she finally put him in his place with a much-needed punch to the jaw and a reminder that her name is Maggie Rhee because the best way to beat a bully is to fight back.

Maggie and Sasha weren’t the only ones being practical this week; Carl and Enid were also prepared to take matters into their own hands, with Carl itching to take on Negan himself (it’s a suicidal impulse, but admirable nonetheless), and Enid determined to go to Hilltop and check on Maggie without waiting around for anyone to give her permission or risk themselves by accompanying her.

Its heartbreaking (but invigorating) to see two kids, unfairly trapped by the decisions of their elders, left feeling like it’s on their shoulders to try and make a difference in the world, even when it seems futile. Given the millennial turnout in both the U.S. election and the Brexit vote in the U.K., even in the real world it seems like the younger generation has a better grasp on the state of the world and what’s required for its continued survival than the so-called adults around them, who are too busy keeping score to recognize the mess they’re making.

Gregory is willing to pay lip service to “the benefits of crossing the aisle” when the Saviors come knocking to take away his luxuries, but regardless of your political affiliation, it’s hard to shake the feeling that people on both sides are far more concerned with getting their way than trying to find common ground these days.

Of course, common ground is hard to find when you have a group of despotic, murderous sadists running roughshod over your liberty, but The Walking Dead has never been known for its subtlety. As much as the series has been offering straw man arguments to justify Negan’s behavior since the Saviors came on the scene, no one is trying to hold up a baseball-wielding serial killer as a role model for leadership, no matter how charismatic Jeffrey Dean Morgan is.

The show is clearly signaling that trust and cooperation are the only ways to ensure peace and prosperity for all, and while it’s a worthy message, those platitudes are hard to swallow when the country and the world is so divided.

The thinly-veiled social commentary is all well and good, but I’ve always found the show more compelling when it reminds us that at least some inhabitants of this desolate world still have their humanity.

Nothing can beat the simple joy of Enid and Carl discovering some roller skates and spending a few minutes just being kids again, or Enid putting balloons on what she thinks is Glenn’s grave. There’s joy in the quiet moments when Maggie, Sasha and Enid recognize that they don’t need physical things to remember and honor the people they’ve lost that their actions, and Glenn’s unborn child, are the most fitting tribute.

And while they’ve endured more loss and suffering than anyone should have to bear, they still have enough perspective to recognize the simple blessings in their lives, which Maggie sums up in her prayer: “For this new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health and food, for love and friends, for everything Thy goodness sends.”

All hope is not lost especially with Carl and Jesus stowed away in Negan’s supply truck, ready to raise hell.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

BONUS: How The Walking Dead show left the original comic behind

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/11/20/the-walking-dead-recap-season-7-episode-5-go-getters/

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