Spoilers ahead. “The Same Boat” was a strong follow up to last week’s “No Tomorrow Yet”, and answers the question of “Can this show get any darker?” with an resounding “Yes it can!” Immediately, the show takes us to the other side of the mysterious voice on the radio at the end, and humanizes that group. Honestly, I thought Rick and the old gang were surrounded and that Carol had escaped (I think the voice on the radio said she had Carol but it just didn’t register), but as it turns out it’s just half a dozen people and they have captured Carol. With her recent lack on conscience and ruthless effectiveness, I bet Rick was tempted to respond, “Oh you have Carol? Cool, good luck, enjoy your remaining hours, tell Carol we’ll have dinner ready.”
Maggie and Carol get captured
The capture scenes in “The Same Boat” were great – it was engaging to immediately see the other side of the interrogation, from the perspective of the capturers. This, along with the line “You realize you aren’t the good guys right?”, solidified the anti-hero status and moral grayness of Rick and the group’s actions.
We also see the capturers call for reinforcements via radio, foreboding a borderline militaristic adversary that Alexandria will have to face. If the Alexandrian assault was on a mere satellite and it killed dozens of people, I have to imagine that Negan’s base proper contains hundreds of people. The capture scenes and the infrastructure set up by the Saviors forebodes to me that Rick may be in for more than he bargained for with Hilltop, and that all the facts about the Saviors are yet to come to light. Here’s Zack Handlen of A.V. Club on this point:
… “The Same Boat” doubles down on the idea that our heroes are, in their way, just as fucked up and villainous as the people they’re fighting against. Rick and the others did murder a bunch of strangers in their beds without warning, and by the end of the hour, Carol and Maggie have shown themselves of being capable of acts nearly as vicious. Admittedly they’re fighting in self-defense, but there’s still a fundamental brutality to their choices, and the assumption that this brutality is ultimately the only appropriate response, that robs them of the right to see themselves as heroes.
I predict that the way this is going to get resolved is by Negan being so Dickensianly evil and unrelentingly cruel that it exonerates Rick and co. for their possibly unjustified actions. This was foreshadowed by Negan’s men keeping polaroids of smashed-in heads: that’s not necessary evil, that’s sadistic evil.
Getting to know the Saviors
It was a very nice touch in the capture scenes when Paula said, “They think we’re weak. That’s good.”, in reference to Rick’s underestimating them. Later on, when she’s “interrogating” Carol, she asks how Carol got this far being so weak, when she should have assumed that her getting this far means she isn’t weak. I could not believe that any of them sympathized with Carol’s schtick, despite the fact that as a viewer I couldn’t tell if it was real or not, because she shot one of their own.
It seems that every lie Carol has told has contained a little of the truth: she reverts back to her days of being an abused wife, instead of the abuser being her husband it’s now Carol herself and what she does to survive. The lying by telling some truth goes deeper, as Matt Fowler of IGN describes:
Of course, Carol, in her half truth/half lie mode, didn’t give Paula the full story. The stuff about Daryl being attacked on the road was the truth, but she wasn’t giving up Hilltop or the deal they’d all made to assassinate Negan and his people. So while Negan did make the first move, Carol’s crew is not as innocent and scared as she made them out to be. And Paula saw right through that. Which was cool. Though Paula didn’t see far enough to know how serious a threat Carol truly was. Which was cooler.
Relatedly, I was shocked at how bad the interrogators were in “The Same Boat”. They display military efficiency in protocol and backup and supplies, but when it comes to getting information out of Carol and Maggie, they instead let it be known that: one of them is dying from smoking, one of them used to be pregnant but something happened, and one of them killed their boss to make it in the new world. I hope their ineffectiveness is explained in later episodes, but it was striking how bad they were despite how cruel they seemed.
Escaping, but at what cost?
It took everything that Maggie and Carol could muster to escape. Perhaps the reason that Alexandria are still the good guys is that the evil they do takes a toll on them. I was shocked at how quickly Maggie went from swapping tales of motherhood to ruthlessly beating people’s heads in, and I think the juxtaposition was intentional. Here’s Bryan Bishop of The Verge on this point:
It was animalistic, sure, but that’s the point we’re getting to now in the show: as much as these characters are trying to hold on to their humanity, they’re being stripped of it moment by moment, until only their most basic survival instincts are left.
For Carol, I think this is a great place for her character to go. She used to be almost cartoonishly effective, destroying an entire base with a mere arrow. Now, she can still do all of those things, but it comes at a cost that’s relatable. I look forward to finding out how this relates to Carol’s debate with Morgan, and whether this vindicates Morgan’s pacifist arguments.
This was a great episode, and the rising action makes me fear the inevitable introduction of Negan.