Almost every week since The Walking Dead kicked off its seventh season, I’ve been saying the same thing. Since establishing who Negan’s victims were, the show has been all about set-up. Pieces have been moved into place, like The Hilltop, The Kingdom, and The Saviors’ home base. And I’ve bided my time, waiting to see the forces wage war, hoping the set-up will end. But this week, not only does The Walking Dead focus on more side-character adventures, but a whole new colony we’ll have to remember. The episode was enjoyable enough, but served as more time-wasting than anything else, and took away from its high points.
To the episode’s credit, Tara wasn’t the worst possible protagonist. “Swear” catches up with Tara and Heath, who’d gone on a scouting mission after the initial raid on Savior territory. Tara was a boring character all last season, functioning mostly as Denise’s mopey girlfriend. Tara comes back into her own this episode, acting more light-hearted and adorably clueless. Tara’s initial disposition returning is a welcome change of pace. It’s a shame that it only comes about following Denise’s demise, but it’s still a good development.
However, none of this distracts from this episode doing well-worn material. The build-up of this new colony is almost indistinguishable from either The Hilltop or Kingdom.We see the same development we’ve seen before – a colony, scared of Negan, closed off to any stranger who shows up. It makes sense there are more colonies controlled by The Saviors, but we can only care about so many. Aside from the Lady Mormont knockoff, there’s nothing new or enthralling we discover or become invested in from this latest location.
Likewise, it’s hard to be invested in Heath’s disappearance. Heath has only been significant in about three to four episodes, including this one. The character isn’t terrible, but it’s obvious he’s only cannon fodder for the show. Whether Heath survived the dock walkers, he’s going to die sooner or later. There have been arguments made about how The Walking Dead kills many of its black characters, and there’s truth to that. Additionally, however, Heath is not part of the main squad, and doesn’t matter enough to preserve. This tangential character repeating the Merle mystery isn’t relevant enough to waste investment in.
It’s foolish to think we’ll see much more of this colony in the future. Inevitably, Alexandria will try to join forces, in an attempt to drum up reinforcements. This development probably won’t happen, however, until we’ve forgotten every character we’ve met there. The Walking Dead fails to add relevance to this episode, making it a one-off filler episode. Tara may matter again, but only through the beginning and end of this episode. This could’ve been tacked onto “Service” and been equally satisfying. Until the show stops meandering with boring world-building, the show wont’ reach its potential. And maybe next week will be the week that changes – but I’m not on it.