Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye and written by Vivian Tse, this week's episode of AMC's The Walking Dead picked up exactly where the last episode left off, which is not a good thing for Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Daryl (Norman Reedus) & the rest of our survivors. That's because they ran head-first into the sociopathic buzzsaw that is the Reapers, and it's gone from bad to really, really, really bad in a hot second. Meanwhile, Carol (Melissa McBride), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Magna (Nadia Hilker), and Kelly (Angel Theory) attempt to corral some horses for Alexandria to help transport food. And we see how Judith (Cailey Fleming), RJ (Antony Azor), Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller), and Gracie (Anabelle Holloway) cope with growing up in a world of the undead. Was "Hunted" able to keep the momentum rolling from the two-part premiere as the series inches closer towards its finale? We're throwing on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign and posting an image spoiler buffer before we get to that, and we'll meet you on the other side to share our thoughts.
Probably the best compliment I can give Toye and Vivian Tse is that "Hunted" felt like it should've been the "Part III" of the season-opener, and yet found a way to distinguish itself by widening the spotlight to bring a number of storylines & characters into focus. Overall, "Hunted" continued dialing up the tension while continuing to show how impressively the series is embracing its horror roots again. If we had to single out performances, then crowns would be handed out to Cohan, McBride, and Callan McAuliffe (Alden)- no small feat to achieve when you have a series that's right up there with American Horror Story in terms of quality performances top-to-bottom of the cast roster. Thanks to our teaser thoughts piece, we'll be able to fill in the blanks and flesh out some of our veiled observations from yesterday.
With a vibe that reminded me of The Blair Witch Project, the opening minutes were brutal. I can't remember the last time we saw our heroes being taken down so easily and in those numbers. This episode definitely required some serious adjustments to our casting scorecards.
Focusing on Judith & the kids to get a perspective on how the young deal with the walker apocalypse was a particularly impressive decision and one that's been a long time coming. And even in the midst of their bonding, the reality that their respective family situations aren't the same becomes all too clear. And keep an eye on Spiller, who delivers this episode with lines like, "It's not that bad. Not like the spiders."
Seth Gilliam's (de)evolution of Gabriel is also deserving of some love and appreciation. If there was any doubt where Gabriel's mindset is now, that was cleared up with a knife to a Reaper's head. Gabriel is still a man of faith, but what do you do when the god he worships is himself? I would be interested to see if he could con his way through the Commonwealth assessment to get an influential position.
I'm hoping that Rosita's visions of Abraham trying to reach out to her and give her a message translates into a meaningful storyline for Rosita because if anyone deserves it, it's Serratos' on-screen alter-ego. My only concern? That Abraham's message is for Rosita to kill Negan (and yes, we hope we're wrong, too).
As for the horse storyline, we have another example of how the series can jerk around your emotions. We went from depressed & concerned to feeling hopeful about Alexandria's chances after those horses were found and corralled. We even felt a heartbeat when Carol's horse laid its head on her lap in the barn. And then Carol pulling that pan over. Uh-oh. And once again, McBride is able to convey the layers of heartbreak that Carol wears from the sacrifices she's had to make. And for Alexandria to survive, she had to make one more.
I would love to say that Alden's going to live to see the finish line, but I'm not feeling it. Will he be there when Maggie and Negan get back? I think so, which will make his death just that much more ironic. And as for the Maggie and Negan being the final two we see, it feels only fitting. To save Alexandria and defeat the Reapers, our survivors will have to do what needs to be done. And while there may not be too many happy vibes flowing between them, the two know each other well enough by now to know that they're the two people who can do just that. So as Maggie and Negan head off into a psychological and all-too-real "heart of darkness," we wrap up another fine turn by the AMC series.