By: Ben Smith
Welp, The Survivors are mere hours into taking on The Saviors and Rick’s group has just lost two of their baddest lasses. The Walking Dead episode “The Same Boat” opens with Carol and Maggie being taken hostage by several Saviors led by the equally-it-would-seem badass Paula, played by Alicia Witt, whom TV fans might recognize as Wendy Crowe from her turn on Justified, who likewise was pretty badass. Also total sci-fi / fantasy / cult nerd brain bomb; an 8 year old Alicia played Alia Atreides in David Lynch’s 1984 film Dune and later appeared in his TV show Twin Peaks.
Before going any further let’s press pause and review The Walking Dead Season 6 story arc so far. Rick and the other Survivors have recovered from the great Walkers At The Quarry Flood and attack of the Wolves, but Alexandria is low on food. They hook up with Jesus and the Hilltop Colony and make a deal with the Devil, or rather Gregory. By the way, Gregory? Total douche. The deal is simple: Hilltop supplies the food and in exchange The Survivors open up a can of whoop ass on The Saviors, led by the enigmatic and as yet unseen Negan. TWD fans that have actually read the comics know that Negan is as bad a bad guy as you could possibly face in a world overrun with zombies and PTSD-ed out survivors willing to do whatever it takes to stay alive.
In some not so subtle foreshadowing, Paula’s crew of Saviors bring Carol and Maggie to an abandoned slaughterhouse to regroup. Carol once again uses the old “Babe in the woods” routine, appearing meek and mild while figuring out how to get out of this jam. The Saviors; Paula, Donnie, Molly and Michelle, appear to be every bit the equals of anyone in Rick’s group. Smart, tough, and willing to do whatever it takes to protect their people.
The good news? They’re total softies for a pregnant woman. Or at least everyone except Paula, who utters the line above. Once Carol lets it slip that Maggie preggars the Saviors are all “Aww shucks,” even telling Molly not to smoke in front of a pregnant women, leading to another of the episode’s best one-liners: “You got bigger problems than second hand smoke.”
What follows is some of the show’s best ensemble acting as the room full of women, Donnie the lone man is out of commission fairly early, explores what it means to be a survivor and a woman in the Zombie Apocalypse. Melissa McBride’s Carol and Paula are in many ways mirror images of each other. Paula reveals herself to be a disgruntled ex-secretary with a penchant for self-help emails before killing the boss that made her desert her family (in other words, worst secretary ever). McBride expertly portrays Carol’s conflicting emotions as she plays the role of the weakling while at the same time empathizing with Paula.
Likewise, Maggie and Michelle face off and we learn that Michelle lost a finger for stealing fuel to save her boyfriend and harbored dreams of naming her child after her father. Though I find it hard to believe the two would really have a heart to heart while in the middle of a hostage situation, it illustrates moral superiority has become a matter of perspective in the New Zombie World Order. As Michelle says to Maggie, “You’re not the good guys. You should know that.”
Of course it doesn’t matter. We all know no matter how tough they are; in the end they are no match for Carol and Maggie. Especially Carol, whose transformation from abused housewife into Machiavellian schemer and expert killer is one of the show’s coolest plot points. As she says to Paula, briefly breaking out of her lost lamb ruse, “You will die. That’s what’s going to happen if you don’t work this out.”
Paula and the remaining Saviors work out a sneak attack on Rick’s group and leave the girls unattended which gives Carol a chance to break out of her duct tape restraints, save Maggie and set up the old zombie trap for Molly. Michelle is the next one dispatched but the most gruesome end comes for Paula. She’s goes one on one with Carol before getting impaled on a pipe and catching a walker face-bite. From there Carol and Maggie wait for another batch of Saviors to show up, locking them on the killing floor where Carol sets a pool of gasoline afire with a cigarette proving that smoking really will kill you.
Rick and the gang eventually find the girls but huge questions remain. When Carol asks who is Negan, Molly replies “We are all Negan.” When Rick asks his own Savior hostage Primo about Negan he replies “I’m Negan sh-thead. Now there’s a whole world of fun that we can talk about so let’s have a chat.” Before Rick unceremoniously blows his head off. Leaving us all to wonder until next time….