Most of the main characters on “The Walking Dead” have been killers for quite some time now, but it’s still understandable why infiltrating The Saviors’ base would give them pause. Besides involving murder on a mass scale, it also deals with killing people in their sleep — people that Rick, Daryl, Carol and everyone else have never even met, no less.
Glenn and Heath struggled with this dilemma last week, and in “The Same Boat,” it’s Carol and Maggie’s turn. Unfortunately, their scenario is a bit more problematic from the get-go. For one, they’ve both killed several times before, as opposed to Glenn and Heath, who were brand-new to the act. That means writer Angela Kang has to work overtime to ensure that they’ll be conflicted about slaughtering their enemies by the episode’s end.
Unfortunately, she turns to a trick the show has used too many times before: having the opponent in question explain their past so another character feels bad when they eventually off them. On one hand, it makes perfect sense that, the more you get to know someone, the harder it is to harm them. But on “The Walking Dead,” the tactic often deals with backstory rather than a more active narrative.
After Carol and Maggie get caught by a band of female Saviors led by Paula (Alicia Witt), they’re brought to another shelter where they wait for Rick and the gang to show up with their own hostage from the opposite camp. Most of the episode is spent with the two women holed up in a dank room, squabbling and eventually finding similarities between themselves and their captors. While Witt does a decent job with the clunky material and one of her partners has some distinct traits — most notably an interesting take on religion and a fatal, blood-spewing cough — we’ve simply seen this too many times on “The Walking Dead” in the past.
Once again, this all comes from a logical place. When Paula describes being shat on in the work environment of her former life, Carol — who dealt with her own form of male abuse early on in the series — can more than relate. It would just be interesting if their solidarity sprung from somewhere other than oppression. At this point in the show, everyone’s dealt with trauma in both their past lives and their present ones. Why can’t Carol and Maggie bond with Paula and the others over jokes? Or forced cooperation? Or fighting skills? Or anything that doesn’t involve the same old-life-versus-new-life monologue we’ve seen time and time again?
As is so often the case with “The Walking Dead,” the violence that follows is appropriately gruesome, so much that we somewhat understand Carol and Maggie’s regret once they get the upper hand and make short work of the group of Saviors (and not just the women either). And to be fair, the prospect of an entire episode spent with strong female characters is an alluring one. But with the same old story beats in place, the Saviors we meet (and quickly say goodbye to) don’t exactly feel strong — more of a pit stop than fully developed people. Even worse, it’s a pit stop we already made with Glenn and Heath just seven days ago.