One of the things that has kept me loyal to The Walking Dead over the years is its matter-of-fact feminism. Some of the best fighters and most strategic thinkers in Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) gender-neutral meritocracy have always been women, and they were usually toughened up by the kinds of trials that all too often turn women into skilled survivors, like the spousal abuse Carol endured or the loss of an adored child that galvanized Michonne (Danai Gurira), a somewhat passive and subordinate housewife, into becoming a latter-day ninja. Even Paula, the Savior who captured and nearly killed Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Carol in season six, gained our respect—and a soul-sister acknowledgement from Carol—for her focused ferocity after we learned that she had been a mousy, abused secretary in the pre-walker world who seized on the apocalypse as her chance to stop eating so much as one more morsel of paternalistic shit, even from her own men.
It’s probably no coincidence that Alexandria, the latest and best appointed of the havens that Rick’s group has encountered, was established by Deanna, a woman who turned out to be a much fairer and wiser leader than any of the male leaders that the group has run into, with the possible exception of Ezekiel. And while there’s no talk of female empowerment per se in the series, the misogyny that often permeates the communities that Rick’s people come across is never taken for granted. It’s treated as a sign of corruption and moral weakness when Negan leers at yet another cowed woman he’s about to add to his reluctant harem, or when Gregory (Xander Berkeley) tries, in this episode, to coerce Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) into “earning” permission to stay on the Hilltop until Maggie’s baby is born by having sex with him. As Thomas Paine might put it, if he were alive and woke today, these are the times that try men’s and women’s souls, and The Walking Dead knows that a society that marginalizes half its members in times of crisis is crippling itself.
“Go Getters” opens, like “Service,” on a member of Rick’s group waking up. This time it’s Maggie, which feels apt since one of this season’s themes has been her emergence as a fiercely committed leader of the growing resistance to the Saviors. She awakens to learn that the emergency that brought her to the Hilltop has passed and that her baby is safe for now, but Dr. Carson (R. Keith Harris) wants her to stay at the community until she delivers, in case she needs his help again. Sasha insists on staying with her, so Rick’s group now has members embedded within every one of the other survivor groups in the area: Daryl at the Sanctuary, Carol and Morgan at the Kingdom, and Sasha and Maggie—and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) too, unless they decide to go back to Alexandria—at the Hilltop.
Maggie and Sasha, though, have to fight for the right to remain there. First they lead the charge to clear out the walkers that were lured in at night by the Saviors (who may yet take their revenge for the car they left there, which Maggie intentionally crushes in the process, with that monster truck she uses to mow down walkers). Then they face down a much more malevolent foe. If the Saviors are Nazi Germany, Gregory is Vichy France. Not only is he trying to appease his oppressors by going along with everything they ask, even giving them things they didn’t know to demand, but he’s set on expelling his new guests rather than risk angering the Saviors by helping their enemies.
So there’s a truly satisfying resonance to Maggie’s actions when she stands up to Gregory, punching him in the face for calling the Saviors “reasonable” and then reclaiming her father’s watch, which he had looted from Glenn’s grave. He folds surprisingly easily, as bullies often do when they run into someone they can’t intimidate. When Jesus (Tom Payne) tells Sasha and Maggie that he hadn’t done anything earlier to replace Gregory as head of the Hilltop because he couldn’t imagine anyone else being in charge. Now he can, though, and it’s obvious who he has in mind. But the thought doesn’t seem to have occurred to Maggie herself, preoccupied as she is with getting through the worst of her grief over Glenn and protecting her pregnancy.
There are a lot of close-ups in this episode, which fits with its focus on how various members of Rick’s group are adjusting to their new reality. Back home in Alexandria, it looks as if Michonne and Rick are back on solid ground. Not only does she redirect him into a heartfelt kiss when he leans in to kiss her on the cheek, but she tells Carl she can’t go along with his rebellion against Rick’s cautious reaction to the Saviors’ dictatorship. “Even if I think he [Rick] is [wrong], I don’t know,” she says. It’s unusual to hear Michonne so uncertain, though it’s unclear whether that’s because it’s not typical of her or it’s just that we rarely get a chance to hear what she’s thinking. Either way, her willingness to question her own assumptions and to think through the best way to handle a dire situation rather than just lashing out on impulse feels hopeful, a sign that she’s not just a fighter, but another potential leader.
Enid and Carl get a sweet little moment of respite as they rollerblade toward the Hilltop together, hand in hand. But they’re mostly focused on the fight for survival, promising each other that they will resist the Saviors even if Rick continues to preach acquiescence to them. It looks like a new generation of leaders is about to emerge, and some of them are going to be women.
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