Rick and Daryl Brawl In a Boy Battle Royale

Walking Dead Season 9, episode 4 ‘The Obliged’

Rick tells Daryl: ‘Brother, take my hand.’

The episode has a great cold open with the return of Michonne the warrior, who still has a residual rage that needs to be satisfied. Night after night, she leaves a warm bed to grab her sword and kill the undead. One night, she sees the hideous sight of a black man who has been clearly been lynched, and she’s so distraught that she’s almost walker prey. Michonne casts about for a weapon, and finds a baseball bat waiting for her. The echoes of Negan make her sick and she tosses aside the bloody bat.

Maggie arrives back in Hilltop to see her baby boy. She hugs Hershel but it’s clear she has her mind on larger things. Jesus hands her a new letter from Georgie, the mysterious record collector and planner, but Maggie won’t even read it. She’s packed her bag with a crowbar and she’s headed to Alexandria.

Back at the bridge, it falls to Eugene to explain in about 2000 extra words that the bridge is going to break. We haven’t talked about this enough, but the mullet is gone. Eugene’s new look is a ponytail, a cowboy hat, and cargo shorts. I still like him.

Rick and Daryl head to Alexandria to stop Maggie, but Daryl takes Rick to the woods instead. And it’s a boy battle! Daryl and Rick fight, but roll into a huge sinkhole where they’re trapped together. They have a real conversation for the first time in weeks, and it’s probably their last one. Soon enough, walkers have followed them into the pit, which is actually horrifying. They eventually escape the pit – Rick pulls Daryl out and says, “Brother, take my hand.” But in the distance, they hear gunshots.

The shots come from the camp by the bridge. Jed comes back to camp, and he’s armed. There’s going to be a war.

Back at the trash heaps, Anne has tied Gabriel up and left him to be attacked by a walker, which is exactly what she’d done with Negan last season. Both times, she stopped. Anne half-suffocates Gabriel by hand and puts him in the same box where she held Rick. Is Gabriel some sort of sacrifice? Why is he A team? Anne leaves Gabriel alive but with zero clue where she’s going.

The killer scene in the episode is the showdown between Michonne and Negan, who’s staging a hunger strike. Michonne decides to end it before resistance spreads to the Sanctuary. In a perfectly poisonous exchange, Negan tries to get Michonne to admit that her son’s death was a relief, since it allowed her to be strong. His wife’s death did the same for him, according to Negan. Michonne is disgusted by the comparison. But they do both feed their anger the same way, and Negan is right when he tells Michonne that she fears becoming like him if she loses her family. The scene ends with a rare moment of weakness for Negan, who pounds the wall with his head and cries, “I am going to see my Lucille.” It’s possible that the bat will make one last appearance.

The episode ends with a resonant echo of the first episode: Rick riding his horse into a herd of walkers. Exactly like when we meet him but now there’s no Glenn to save him. His horse throws him, and Rick is kind of crucified on a block of concrete. Two herds approach a mortally wounded Rick. There’s no more salvation for the sheriff’s deputy.

Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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