We’re onto the sixth episode and so far The Walking Dead’s seventh season has been terribly uneven. Thankfully “Swear” is one of the better episodes so far, but even then it is an oddly placed, oddly paced bottle episode that serves as the obligatory catch-up with Tara and Heath but little more.
The Walking Dead‘s best episodes always have a shimmer of substance to them, and “Swear” most certainly had some deeper issues to work through as we followed Tara into yet another new community, the all-female Oceanside, and watch her navigate a hostile environment with humour, and compassion reflected in an outlier named Cindie (Sydney Park). There’s warmth among the cynicism here, and the episode thankfully does wonders in contrasting, placing Tara’s inclusive, optimistic and trusting nature against the paranoia that has befallen this Amazonian community due to The Saviours killing all of their men (aged 10 and up).
“Why aren’t you like the rest of them, after everything that’s happened”, Tara asks Cindie towards the end of the episode, a continuation of their earlier conversation on how some people are just evil and the context of a zombie apocalypse only amplifies their nature (eg, Negan) – on the flip side, some people are just good, and are determined to remain that way. We’ve seen this before with Dale, with T-Dog, with Tyreese, and with Glenn, this good nature shining through the darkness. All those characters were killed off in terrible ways. Dale had his chest ripped open in the series’ first excessively gory character death; T-Dog had his throat chewed out; Tyreese had his arm sliced open, and then cut off; and Glenn…*cries*. Does this mean a grisly end is coming for Tara? Who knows, but at least the show still has a likable character that can fill that void the aforementioned have left, and that’s essentially what makes the episode work: Tara has become a very agreeable, light character that’s a soft texture for this rough landscape, so it’s nice to watch her carry an episode on her own. Tara persisting that she return to her people, and quickly realising that they have resolved to kill her was a nice way to reiterate that through that behind that goofy fist-bumping optimism is a survivor.
Cindie and a child named Rachael find Tara on the beach in the beginning of the episode. Rachael wants to kill Tara even though she isn’t a walker, and Cindie wants to save her, and keep it secret from “the others”. Slowly we start to explore this tension Cindie has with the philosophy of her community, a group that was forced to run (but not very far) from The Saviours and now seek to keep their whereabouts a secret by employing a “shoot on sight” approach to strangers. Their methods make little sense when looking at the bigger picture – you need allies to survive – but are understandable when the episode riffs on the ways in which Negan and his men terrorise everyone around them.
After a little jump start, the episode proves non-linear by revisiting Tara’s time spent with Heath. First the unlikely team are discussing the utility of selfishness and murder in the safety of their campervan, next minute they are overwhelmed by awesome retro-fitted sand walkers on a bridge, a situation which has Heath disappear and Tara flung over a bridge; hence washing up near Oceanside.
The time spent at Oceanside and Tara’s cool-but-smart way of approaching the situation is the episode’s stronger side, with the mystery of what happened to Heath dangled as some sort of carrot for the episode to resolve. Unfortunately The Walking Dead bounces back to cheap trickery in order to keep some tension going, the end having a walker who looks like Heath from behind turn out to be some undead woman with braids, ruining the mystery by not only resorting to this non-shock, but having the inexplicable gall to put one single, “normal” walker in with a bridge full of moisture-less sand walkers with very little to explain how that walker actually got there in the first place – the bridge was pretty much blocked off. These kind of contrivances seek to spoil the overall atmosphere of The Walking Dead.
It was a nice touch in the end to have Tara lie to Rosita about finding Oceanside, keeping her promise to Cindie and giving the show an open-end to both the community and to the characters that could potentially come into the fold later this season. It was however kind of strange to gloss over Tara finding out about THREE people who were close to her (Denise, Glenn, Abraham) meeting horrific ends, especially when the episode threw in that cheeky “I have to get back to my girlfriend” moment earlier in the episode, building up to heartbreak only to cheapen it with muted grief.
Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
- Tara’s humour contrasted with Oceanside
- Introducing a hidden community of women that is NOT in the comics
- Great dynamic between Tara and Cindie
- Tara making a run for it
- SAND WALKERS (this also might be a callback to how Tara’s neice was bitten)
- Heath used a cheap mystery
- Time jumping wasn’t necessary
- Glossing over Tara’s grief
- I like how each character is having a separate reaction to Rick in the face of what The Saviours have done. Rosita being all gun-hungry and Sasha sharpening her knife will hopefully be two interesting plays when this series finally decides that maybe table-setting for 6 episodes isn’t a great way to spend an 8-episode run.
- Who else almost forgot about The Kingdom? The Walking Dead is putting too much space in between their self-contained episodes where they could easily jump back and forth between storylines; it’s worked in the past so I’m not sure why they are being so stubborn with their bottle episodes.
Episode MVP: Tara