Well, that didn’t last long. While Hostiles and Calamities was an excellent examination of how ordinary people are compelled to do terrible things, Say Yes was a stupid, indulgent mess that traded genuine emotion for exposition dumps and what in the HELL was up with that deer?
What’s really disappointing is that handled more deftly, Say Yes could’ve been as movingly introspective as Hostiles and Calamities. Rick and Michonne are on a road trip, searching for the guns that will fulfill their half of the bargain with Jadis, and they’re enjoying it. It’s just the two of them, living rather like they used to, with the drama and demands of their roles in Alexandria put to the side for a moment. It’s kind of absurd that a mission to find the ordnance necessary for a war is tantamount to a vacation for these two, but that’s the reality they find themselves in. It’s a moment that really could’ve been special, but instead it was treated with as much finesse as a feminine hygiene commercial.
Rick and Michonne happen upon a carnival grounds crawling with armed - but dead - soldiers. I never really did pick up on how soldiers died with their guns shouldered and holstered, but whatever. Point is, guns! Lots of ‘em! Sweet! Our survivors come up with a good plan for containing them, and even share a cute coupley moment when Michonne realizes she has to kill eight Walkers to Rick’s one. The plan immediately goes to shit because Rick behaves stupidly, and then goes further to shit when he behaves even more stupidly. These are people who’ve survived unimaginable dangers, both human and otherwise, and yet we’re supposed to get on board with Rick just not getting the hell out of the car when he realizes the brakes don’t work. Ok. Sure. Whatever. They escape the car and split the herd into two smaller groups, which allows them to eliminate them more safely, and then Rick spots a deer. Well, what he spots actually appears to be a low-res copy and paste of a deer from an entirely different show. I don’t normally like to call attention to effects that don’t quite work, because hey, budgets are budgets and I get that, but holy WOW, this was just inexcusably bad. I mean, .
Rick moves away from the still very mobile Walkers to try and take out the Photoshop deer as a gift to Michonne, and falls, because he needs to set up a dramatic moment where she thinks he’s being eaten. There is no tension to this scene whatsoever. You’ve just seen the deer, Rick is the goddamn star of the show; there’s no way anyone with sense believes that groups of Walkers noisily chowing down aren’t ripping the deer to bits. But, hey, we need to see that Michonne would be gutted by Rick’s death, so I guess we’ll just have to put up with this for a few more minutes. We have no emotional investment in any of this. The “threat” exists solely to give our two leads a reason to talk about their feelings and the future; it’s juvenile writing that has no resonance with human feelings. But, hey, Rick and Michonne come back with a van full of food, water, and guns, so at least that bit of the plot is moving forward, right? We’ve learned nothing new about these characters, shared nothing, just watched them behave in ways that make no sense so that they could be put in a position to discuss a particular topic. Pro tip: If you can fast forward through an entire show and only watch the final conversation between two characters and not feel as though you’d missed anything important, that’s bad writing.
Meanwhile, Rosita is still doing that sullen bullshit thing where she insists she’s the only one who can actually do anything. She even takes out her own stitches. GET IT? The one bright spot in the entire heavy-handed mess that was Say Yes was when Rosita returns from looking for guns - and failing - and comes to yell at Father Gabriel. She’d had a plan to shoot Negan, and she didn’t because Father Gabriel talked her out of it. But if she’d just done it, then Eugene wouldn’t be gone, and Olivia and Spencer would still be alive, and everything would be just frickin’ awesome. Father Gabriel, in return, gives her the priestly version of “Yeah, but you didn’t, so suck it up, buttercup,” and it is a fantastic smackdown. I’m really growing very fond of Father Gabriel lately; between telling Rosita to shut it and pulling a knife on someone in Jadis’ crew, he’s turning into a heavenly badass, and I dig it.
Rosita shleps over to The Hilltop and enlists Sasha to help her kill Negan, bringing along a nice rifle from the bounty that Rick and Michonne brought back. They both acknowledge that any attempt to assassinate the leader of the Saviors is a suicide mission, but are resolved to do it anyway. I guess we’re supposed to be punching the air and cheering our support, but it’s hard to do more than shrug. Oh, ok, this thing y’all have been talking about since Negan showed up, you’re gonna try it. Ok, sure. Knock yourself out. Once again, there are no emotional stakes. Negan’s been defanged over the course of several episodes, so as an audience, we’re not nearly as pissed at him as we once were, and really, would it be a huge loss if either Sasha or Rosita croaked? I like Sasha just fine, but she hasn’t hand anything significant to contribute since Abraham died, and Rosita’s jerk routine hasn’t been interesting since she bullied Eugene into making her a bullet.
Before you get all shouty about how wrong I am, think back to the episode with Daryl and Beth alone in the cabin. They talk all night before setting the building ablaze in a stunning act of personal growth and liberation - can you see any conversation between Rosita and Sasha being half so interesting as they’re on their way to kill Negan? I sure can’t. The Walking Dead is all surface now; its characters are merely disposable instruments used to make things bleed or go boom as needed.