Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for the The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 6, “Swear.”
In the new world, children no longer spend the day at the beach running through the sand with the wind in their hair. They spend it killing off the dead (“bobbers”) that end up stuck along the shore. It is where we find Tara, barely alive, and barely saved from being killed by a child (Rachel, who appears to be approximately 11 years-old). Rachel is angry when her chaperone, Cyndie, won’t let her kill Tara – even though, it seems, that they are required to kill all walkers and strangers, alike. Rachel swears not to tell that Cyndie saves unconscious Tara, but she is not happy about it and refuses to help her in the mission of mercy. We are reminded that Tara and Heath have been out scavenging and are unaware of the reversal of fortune in the two weeks (two weeks????) since the satellite station massacre. They departed from the station to find more supplies for the group. They are bickering about the group’s willingness to kill so many people. He feels as though they sold out for milk and corn. She is convinced that they did it for so much more, but does hope that Hilltop is keeping its end of the bargain. While he understands the reality of the new world, and the violence it takes to survive, Heath feels that no one is in it “together” any more. It is every person for himself, take or be taken. He scoffs at how naive they were at Alexandria, before Rick’s group arrived and the world changed. He is willing to continue to the shore, but not beyond that. They will have to take the eight rusty cans of okra they have and head home after that – there is nothing else left to take.
In the present, Cyndie looks at a map, as if she is somehow tracing Tara’s route. She has hidden Tara on the beach, behind driftwood piles, and goes back to check on her, placing bottles of water, food, and a spear at her side. No sign of Heath. Tara gets up, when Cyndie leaves and watches as she walks back. She follows. This new community is a series of cabins in the woods, with children who run freely and laugh loudly. The residents appear to be all women. Their lives seem free, as if the apocalypse has happened, but not to the same degree here. Slipping past a highly placed sentry, Tara watches as the community suddenly, without signal – save a faint clicking, mobilizes into action. The children disperse and the adults pull weapons from the heavily-stocked armory. .She’s been spotted and is nearly shot. She is almost free after disarming one of the residents, taking her gun and knocking her out instead of killing her, but she is stopped by Rachel, who plans to kill her until Cyndie stops her – again. Let’s hope there is a surviving psychiatrist, somewhere. Little Rachel seems to relish the thought of taking lives. It doesn’t matter, it’s what they are supposed to do, she says. She has all the earmarks of potentially becoming the show’s first female villain, in a few years.
In the time before, we see Heath and Tara’s RV being blocked by shipping containers in front of a bridge that was the start of a mini-community. It is a clever set up, but there are no survivors (or walkers). There is a mountain of sand, or dry cement, on the other side, which gives way when Tara grabs a heavy bag stuck in the mound. The released bag causes a slide, which in turn frees emaciated walkers. Heath and Tara battle to free themselves from the sand. She fires, killing several walkers, to clear the path for him, telling him to go. She later calls to him, as he turns to see what appears to be Tara’s end. Rather than battle the herd beginning to surround him, he seems to take his own advice. He remembers that it is every man for himself, and leaves her behind. In the present, she is questioned by three leaders in the community (Natania, Kathy, and Beatrice – the latter being the woman Tara disarmed). We hear them in the hall before they approach her, discussing the decision they made a long time ago, should anyone find them. While the sentence is not completed, it’s not necessary. We’ve met trigger-happy Rachel, twice. They explain the clever system they have to keep the dead away from their camp, a series of bells and a foghorn that sends them in another direction. Tara tells an obvious lie about working on a fishing boat, with the friend from whom she was separated, but does tell the truth about the bridge, with which the group is familiar. She tells how she was knocked off the bridge, was carried by the currents to where Cyndie found her, and ended up following Cyndie back to the camp. Tara only wants to go back to the bridge to find her friend. They don’t know if it is safe to let her go – they usually kill strangers on sight. What if she brings others back? By not killing Beatrice and with Cyndie, Natanaia’s granddaughter, nearly giving her life to save Tara’s, they are now thinking about what to do with her.
Tara has dinner with her interrogators and Cyndie. The table is formally set and the food is served in a stew pan and on platters. The place feels like Alexandria in some ways (minus the power). Cyndie explains that she has tried to show Rachel a different way because Rachel hasn’t had to take a life, yet. She looks mournful when Tara asks if she has. She only replies that she is a good shot, which earns her grandmothers’ approval. Cyndie doesn’t seem proud. Tara eats as if it is her last meal Natania offers Tara and Heath a home with them, if he is found. She can tell that Tara is a good fighter and a good person. Shocked by the offer for Heath, Tara asks about the lack of men in the camp. Natania explains that the men of their group were all killed in a skirmish with another group – as well as Cyndie’s mother and 11 year-old brother (hence her closeness with Rachel). After the deaths, they left and wandered until founding the oceanside community. More with the theme of the living loving to kill other living as much as the dead. Tara comes clean about her past, about the satellite station massacre, and hopes to strike a bargain to form a network. Natania agrees to send a guide, Beatrice, to check out Alexandria. Sadly, Tara is excited, thinking she has a girlfriend to go home to and about seeing peaceful Alexandria, again. Rule-breaking Cyndie wants to go and see the place, but is, of course, denied.
TREACHERY! The offer to scout out the Alexandrian community was a lie. Kathy and Beatrice are sent to kill Tara in the woods, not help her get home. She picks that up pretty quickly and outruns the pair, falling and hiding in a ditch She hears someone approaching and springs into action. She nearly gets the jump on Beatrice, but cannot stop her from getting to her gun. Begging to have her life spared and reminding Beatrice that she once spared her life, Tara is told that it is too late for her and her friends. She is told that they have only taken out an outpost, one of many, and that her friends are as good as dead by now if The Saviors have found them. It turns out that The Saviors killed every man, and boy over age 10, in their group after they, too, tried to stand up to The Saviors. They were supposed to work for them, but ran off one night, with only the clothes on their backs. They found the Oceanside community and started a new life. They don’t want Tara and her group leading The Saviors back to them. Before she can fire, Cyndie jumps Beatrice, saving Tara, for the third time. Tara runs for her life. Cyndie soon catches up to make Tara swear she won’t tell anyone about them, including her own people and that she will never come back. When asked why she would ever do it, Cyndie reminds her of what her group did at the satellite station. She tells her that they didn’t have to kill everyone, they did. She tells Tara that no one is evil, they just decide to forget who they are. Tara tells her that some people are evil, she’s seen it, and swears not to tell anyone. She gives Tara food, water, and a spear and takes her back to the bridge, telling her to avoid falling off this time.
Cyndie refuses to let Tara cross alone. She didn’t bring her this far to watch her die (love the small moments that remind us that not all humanity is lost). Our faith in Heath is restored, as well. It turns out that he didn’t leave Tara. In what could have been their last moments, they pledged that they were in it, together. He fought to distract the walkers to help Tara just before she fell off the side of the bridge. As she is leaving the bridge, she sees a walker in braids and can’t go without knowing for sure. It turns out that it was a woman, not Heath. Cyndie is safe with Beatrice and Kathy, Heath appears to be safe – with tire tracks leading away from the bridge. She is relieved on both counts. Tara’s walk home is long, lonely, and dangerous, so thankfully, it’s Eugene who greets her when she finally makes it home. Unfortunately, he greets her with a face filled with pain. After, she sits silently in the nearly empty clinic, holding the physician bobble-head that she picked up at a curio shop on her way back. Rosita begs her to tell her about any place she might have found where there might be guns and ammunition. True to her word, Tara keeps quiet. She saw nothing like that out there, she claims. She finally understands the weight of the fear the Oceanside community faced.
So far? There are no signs that Heath has made it back. Let’s hope he returns, next week. Two episodes left in 2016. So far, this is the second episode to give us hope that the tide, so to speak, is turning. The world of survivors is bigger than we thought. Negan’s days are numbered!
I’m an exasperated soap fan who keeps hanging on – waiting for the daytime I once loved to return to its former glory! Hey, it doesn’t hurt to have a dream. I learned to love soaps thanks to my wonderful mother and grandmother. I’ll always have fond memories of daytime, most especially of ‘Another World’, my first stoap love. The ever great, but sadly defunct, daytime shows like Ryan’s Hope, Search for Tomorrow, The Doctors, Loving, and many others keep a special place in my heart, as well.