Originally published on Flickering Myth on 28/11/16.
Just when you thought it was safe to head back into the zombie apocalypse, with some genuinely significant ground covered last week, the showrunners have flopped back into their usual world-building ways. This week’s Walking Dead offering took us into yet another new colony, with yet more new characters and another hefty dose of Negan-centric scary stories. So, another week off for Rick and the gang it is, I guess.
Yep, taking the reigns for episode 6, ’Swear’, was weirdly background hanger-on Tara (y’know, Tara… the err… erm… I think she wore a hat once?) which certainly gave a bit of a shift of perspectives, especially considering that for the large part here, she’s blissfully unaware of Negan and his skull-bashing ways. And despite another week away from the central action, there were plenty of neat moments to keep us all entertained.
1. Welcome to… Oceanside?
In more not-so-subtle prep for the gradually building war with the Saviours, another civilisation joined the likes of Hilltop and Alexandria this week. The name Oceanside isn’t explicitly said out loud, but it’s fairly obvious that this is the new colony Tara stumbles upon, considering it’s, y’know, by the ocean. Again, it’s an interesting shift for the show, considering we’ve been landlocked for quite some time, and the seaside-come-jungle vibe to their camp is a nice twist on the usual (and by now, pretty stale) abandoned-building shit we’re used to.
Not to mention the fact that Tara gets to show off a fair-amount of badassery when she’s set upon by the camp’s residents, a team of (understandably) super-paranoid women with a lot of decent weaponry. In the space of this fairly short sequence we manage to get almost everything we need to know about the Oceanside crew too: if they’re armed to the teeth, it means a certain Mr Negan is yet to come knocking. As far as intros go, it doesn’t get more effective than this.
2. The Sand Pile
Despite the majority of the episode taking place at Oceanside, we do get some gradually-escalating flashbacks over how Tara ended up on the beach to begin with which helps to tighten things up quite a bit. Plus, it means plenty of Heath, for all you Heath fans out there… wherever you are. If you exist at all.
The best of said flashbacks actually comes fairly early on, when Tara and the H-man end up in an evacuated camp on a bridge, and with the pair being the nonchalant idiots they often are, they quickly disturb a fairly creepy-looking nest of walkers, hidden under a huge fuck-off pile of sand. This obviously means a whole bunch of pissed-off, sand-addled zombies to-ing and fro-ing all over the place, like a herd of ultra-starved Egyptian-mummy types, causing all sorts of problems. We don’t get to see the crux of the problem ’til later, but that grisly image of the walkers awakening from the sound is certainly a season highlight so far.
3. “Sooner or later you’re gonna need a friend…”
These, the words that Tara uses to basically stop herself from being mindlessly slaughtered by the murderous people of Oceanside, actually resonate a whole lot more than you’d expect. It later becomes a lot more clear as to why these newbies are so delicate about their space and keeping it hidden, but as Tara sits down with their leaders to discuss her place in their compound, we get another little glimpse at the future too.
For now, Oceanside remains fairly closed off from the outside apocalypse, but as Tara rightfully suggests, the only way forward really is for a lot of these civilisations to join forces. It’s always important to have a friend nearby, and whilst the group don’t seem fully convinced now, it’s pretty certain they’ll change their tune soon enough.
4. Home Sweet Home
By the end of this week’s episode it’s pretty safe to say that Tara had grown on me, at least a little bit. Considering up to know she’s been a glorified extra, with only a very occasional stake in the action, it actually proved kinda neat to get to know her quirkiness and actually have a decent amount of humour thrown in amongst the apocalyptic happenings for a change. That, of course, all changed though, when she finally made it home to Alexandria.
Greeted by an openly weeping Eugene at the gate, she seemed to clock on pretty quickly that her girlfriend Denise had bitten the dust in the mean time (don’t worry, it took me a minute to remember back that far too – Tara’s been gone a while), but the additional deaths and fairly dire political situation no doubt added insult to injury. By the episode’s dying moments, all of the perkiness in her character is pretty much drained; an ample and seriously effective nod to the severity of what’s gone down since the season opened.
5. KILL OF THE WEEK: Sand Walkers on the bridge
Once again, it’s another zombie offering this week with zero human casualties on the roster, despite an ever-so-slightly strange fake-out with a walker that looked kind of like Heath, but later turned out to be a significantly older woman. You got us there… we’d definitely have been sad if Heath died. Definitely. So many strong emotions for that fairly invisible character.
Nope, kill of the week for ‘Swear’ goes to Oceanside’s Cyndie and her totally badass rifle work, covering Tara whilst she made her way back across the bridge, through that dastardly gang of raspy sand-covered walkers from earlier. It’s not overly special as far as kills go (it was a slow week on the whole dying front) but it was a neat little intro to Cyndie’s exceptional shooting skills and definitely helped to bring things full circle.
With now only two episodes left before the long ol’ Christmas break, here’s hoping there’s something a tad more worthwhile coming our way next week. And with Jesus arriving at the Saviour’s compound, on top of Rick and company’s return, the set-ups all there for a more significant penultimate bow.