After torturing Daryl and continuing to see Rick suffer, “Go Getters” is a Walking Dead episode that felt a little bit lighter on its feet. It has an issue concerning its pacing and how much emotional resonance I should have for a few characters involved, but the episode works for other reasons. Part of it is being away from Negan, yet still seeing his menace in the form of someone who is actually scary to watch. The other thing is getting to understand the Hilltop a bit better. More specifically, getting a better understanding of who controls the Hilltop. All of that and we even got to see Coral Carl go roller skating with his girlfriend.
Let’s get that Carl stuff out of the way. There is only one scene involving Alexandria this week and it features Rick and Aaron not convincing Michonne to come along with them for a scavenger hunt. Meanwhile, Carl catches Enid leaving and eventually goes after her. It’s the B-plot of the episode, but you get a few good character beats between the two. It is enough to know where these two are coming from and why they go the routes they do by the episode’s end.
Seemingly more important is the story between Maggie and Sasha, but here’s the thing, I wasn’t really buying their drama. It once again stems back to the season premiere and how this show mishandles the use of major character deaths. Because The Walking Dead is a show that now seems happier to shock us in the moment with these kinds of events, the lasting impact has been minimized. In a better show, I’d care more about the looks Maggie gives when focusing on the watch given to Glenn by her father. I could have more to say about how Sasha reacts every time Abraham gets a shout out. As it stands, much of this episode felt like filler every time the focus was squarely on these two.
Not helping was the clunky pacing of the episode. “Go Getters” got better as it went along, but it really started off slow with a fairly straightforward information dump involving Maggie’s pregnancy, the grave sites and other details. For a show that is generally fun in its opening minutes before the title sequence, it felt like a lot of dead air. The same can be said for a lot of the scenes where Jesus is supposed to comfort Maggie and Sasha. I’m not sure if it’s an acting thing or the writing is at fault, but it felt like a mixed bag.
Thankfully this episode had two great things going for it. One was Xander Berkeley’s return as Gregory, the cowardly leader of the Hilltop. We are supposed to despise this guy for his actions and how he bows to every Savior command, but Berkeley is completely nailing the persona required here. It has to be tough to play a role that you know will have others hating you, but Gregory is just so easy to watch. The man is self-centered, but strangely sympathetic in how he is making moves that are not technically bad, if it means he keeps himself and his community safe. And just watch how flustered he gets when dealing with people he doesn’t know or debating what immediate action to take when pressed.
Further helping out is Steven Ogg’s Simon, the Negan surrogate who is taking over control of the Hilltop deal with the Saviors. We’ve seen Simon a few times, but we now have a better sense of how he is on his own and it’s the right kind of threatening. It’s not that Simon is a whole new kind of menace; but in how effective he is. We get that Negan and his Saviors are horrible (especially since Rick and the gang now apparently got rid of all the dumb Saviors), but my issues with Jeffrey Dean Morgan are not reflected here. Ogg is not a big star and Simon is not some heavily anticipated character. Those aspects help, but there is also the way he and Berkeley play off each other and a grin that I find far more sinister than Negan’s silly smirk.
The scenes involving Gregory and Simon work well here and make the episode effective in its overall goal. We establish more about how the Saviors function, in addition to setting up some stories involving Maggie, Sasha and Enid living at the Hilltop and whatever is going to happen with Jesus and Carl making their way to Negan. Sure, there was also the action sequence that was silly in its setup (Saviors just opened the gates and lit fires without anyone noticing?), but fun in the moment (Jesus did a flying kick move), but seeing character actors dig into the material was far more worthwhile.
“Go Getters” is no classic episode for the series, but it manages to scale back the level of dourness, while still allowing for flawed and intimidating characters to leave their mark. Hopefully doses of Negan will be more limited or refined in the coming weeks, but if he has to do something horrible again, I can only hope those interactions go as well as they did here. Gregory may be a weasel, but he provided some entertaining beats in the midst of a show caught up nihilistic dread. Too bad he lost all his scotch.