Warning: Spoilers are ahead for the season eight of The Walking Dead. Keep reading at your own risk.
This week’s episode of The Walking Dead brings us back to the Hilltop, where Negan’s original plan--of covering the Savior weapons in walker guts to infect Rick and company--ends up melding with Simon’s belief that the Hilltop just needs to be wiped out entirely. While Maggie largely thwarts Simon’s plan with a clever ambush, the resulting scuffle is still all out carnage. Several Hilltoppers are gunned down in battle, and then, more tragically, several more become midnight snacks when the wounded suddenly die in the night and turn to walkers right beside their sleeping friends. In the end Maggie is forced to dig way more graves than expected, and we see Maggie wracked with guilt. She’s not just “the Widow” but the leader of Hilltop now, and she practically led her people to slaughter.
The episode title, “Do Not Send Us Astray,” comes from a line Siddiq says to Rick early on. It’s a part of an Islamic prayer for the dead, and the full line goes, “O Allah, do not forbid us their reward and do not send us astray after them.” Siddiq seems to be reminding Rick that the dead would not want their loved ones to be consumed by revenge over their deaths, especially if it puts them in danger of dying too.
Though it’s spoken to Rick, it serves as a fitting theme for Maggie this episode. We see Maggie is still very much driven by the need for vengeance for Glenn. It’s why she sends a coffin to Negan in “The Lost and the Plunderers”; she openly admits to wanting to lure Negan to Hilltop so she can make her husband’s grave the last thing he sees. By the end of the episode Maggie realizes the selfishness of this action. “We’re lucky we have you,” one of the wounded Hilltoppers says to Maggie. “If Gregory was in charge, this place wouldn’t be here anymore. He was about himself. What he wanted. That’s not you.”
The truth behind Maggie’s provocations will likely come out by the end of this season. While things will look pretty grim once the Hilltoppers realize Maggie bartered their lives away to avenge her dead husband, the comics tell us that Maggie isn’t unseated from leadership, and she doesn’t die in this arc, either. Maggie continues to lead Hilltop to battle alongside Alexandria, and we see Maggie is still the leader when the comic skips forward two years. It’s a bumpy time, undoubtedly, as Maggie clashes with Rick--sometimes violently--and ends up even executing Gregory after he attempts to poison her. If we're going by the comics, it's a hard road ahead for Maggie, but fans can rest assured that Maggie will continue to learn and grow, and we're likely to see her around for a while.
And what of the Savior prisoners at the Hilltop? Maggie keeps them inside and protected during the initial assault--a notable decision, as we can assume Rick wouldn’t have even bothered at this point. It’s only afterwards that they’re brought back to the cage, and then very unfortunately let out by a gun-toting Henry at night. (Truly, Henry has become the newest iteration of the “Dammit Carl/Get Back in the House Carl” meme). The result is that by the next day Maggie has lost not only her own people in the battle but most of her leverage as well.
Not all the prisoners leave though--a perhaps unsurprising development since Simon tells them they became worthless to Negan once they got themselves captured. The most notable prisoner to remain is Callan McAuliffe’s Alden, the younger, seemingly more gentle prisoner who entreated with Maggie several times on behalf of the men. Is he a nice guy caught up in a bad group, or is he putting on an act out of preservation? It’s been hard to tell this season, but this episode seems to put those questions to rest. He ends up assisting in dispatching the newly-turned walkers and closing the front gates.
It’s difficult to tell where Alden and the other former prisoners will go from here. This is the first time we’ll be seeing actual Saviors living among Rick's people, and it’s undoubtedly going to cause tension. It’s also unclear how much Alden will have a role going forward; prior episodes made a point of making him a central prisoner to focus on besides Gregory and Jared--the ass who killed Henry’s brother, who is also somehow still alive--so one would assume he has a bigger role to play.
It’s possible Alden may even be Dante in the comics; Dante isn’t a former Savior, but the two have the same kind of witty and relaxed nature, and Dante ends up becoming a trusted advisor to Maggie. Dante also has a crush on Maggie from the outset, and the two later begin a relationship. With Alden interacting as much as he has with Maggie, that doesn’t feel like a total impossibility for future seasons.
Suffice to say, it feels like we’re about to see some intriguing storylines unfold at the Hilltop. What are your hopes for Maggie this season? And who is Alden? Will he lead Hilltop alongside Maggie or just become walker bait? Sound off in the comments!
Images: AMC and Image Comics