Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers.
The episode might be called East, but an awful lot of things go south this week, especially for the likes of Carol, Rick and Daryl. One of the major moments is teased from the off before the credits even rol1, with ominous shots of a car's windscreen with a bullet hole, a bloody spike emerging from one side and a pool of human claret forming beneath the vehicle. Oh, and Carol's rosary beads sitting next to it on the ground...
But then we flash back to a few hours earlier, and find Carol packing to leave Alexandria. The note you hear her read at the end of the previous episode is on her bed. But she squirrels it all away when Tobin comes to visit. He's hurt himself helping to build a new guard tower, but he more wants to talk about emotional damage to the community in the fallout from Denise's death. Still, Carol's not really listening and Tobin's voice fades out. We suppose they couldn't really go all the way and replace him with the teacher's voice from the Charlie Brown cartoons. Still, it all ends with the pair kissing.
The next morning, Carol carefully leaves a sleeping Tobin and, serenaded by Johnny Cash's It's All Over (a little on the nose, music supervising team) we also get an overview of others in Alexandria going about their daily routine as the guard changes. Glenn and Maggie are enjoying – at least we think they are, it all seems so solemn – the least sexy couples' shower in ages.
Daryl is also spending time with someone he loves (his bike), while Abe and Sasha spend a little quality time on duty. Elsewhere, Rick and Michonne are enjoying each other's company too, snuggling in bed and snacking on an apple. An apple a day keeps the zombie away? Rick's trying to persuade Michonne to stay, but she has defence duty and doesn't want to annoy Maggie by being late. Rick is in a weirdly confident mood, insisting they can defend themselves and the community. It's one of those preachy, pride-goeth-before-a-fall speeches that always seems to prefigure disaster on the show, so everyone blame Rick when the poop hits the fan, okay?
Maggie is checking with the guard teams when Daryl peels out on his bike. Glenn and Michonne get in a car to see where he's off to, but Rosita stops them and demands to come along: she knows where he's going.
Tobin brings Carol's letter to Rick, and soon they're striding through the streets towards the gate. Before too long, Rick is slightly uncomfortably teamed with Morgan to go and look for the wayward Peletier. Because having several of your best warriors leave the compound really feels like a sensible plan when they know the Saviours will be coming for vengeance. Seriously, the decision-making process on this series at times...
Carol, driving one of the community cars with zombie-stalling spikes protruding from it (which makes it look for all the world like she's taking part in a community theater production of Mad Max: Fury Road), is suddenly brought to a halt by a pickup truck whose occupants shoot at her. Trembling, she steps from the car and approaches them with her hands up. But suspiciously, with her coat covering her hands. Does she have something up her sleeves in the metaphorical and very literal sense? Yup, after a couple of minutes of unpleasant pleasantries with one of the guys, she tries to warn them what might happen, and pleads with them not to force her hand. Which, as it turns out is hiding a gun! Soon several of the guys are lying dead or injured. The driver of the truck returns fire with a handgun, forcing Carol to take cover, but when he comes to find her, he mostly just gets a spike from the car through his shoulder for his trouble.
After a brief moment back at Alexandria with Enid offering to help Maggie out with guard duty, we're in the car with Rick and Morgan. After figuring out she's probably headed east since the Saviours' main compound is west (what, she's not headed north? Or even south?), talk turns to how Morgan got to know Carol a little recently and yet another homily from him about there's no right, just a wrong that doesn't pull people down. Ugh, can it Morgan. You might be correct, but no one needs to hear it right now, least of all Rick.
The driver from the encounter with Carol has somehow not died from his injuries and, despite being impaled, has dislodged himself and slinks away to hide. Shortly afterwards Morgan and Rick come upon the truck and Carol's car with its evidence of a struggle. Rick coldly goes about finishing off the surviving Saviours (for that's what they are) and remarks on how Carol is a force of nature for taking the attackers down. Morgan finds a trail – of blood – and they continue their search for Carol, worried that she might be injured.
Rosita and Glenn have gone to where Denise died at the hands (well, crossbow bolt) of Dwight last episode. They find Daryl's bike stashed and it's clear he's going after Dwight to exact a little revenge. We then see Daryl in full-on tracker mode, until he's surprised and shoots a bolt towards... Rosita! Fortunately, he misses but is angry with her for surprising him. She can't understand why he's so driven, but he lists Dwight's various crimes, including holding a gun to Daryl's head and stealing his bike. Michonne offers to go and find Dwight, asking Daryl to head back to protect Alexandria, but he's committed to his apparent suicide mission.
And things don't go well for Michonne and Glenn either as they keep up the hunt for Dwight after leaving Daryl. They do find the man who likes to known as "D", but it's because he and his men capture them!
Rick and Morgan are still tracing Carol and Morgan becomes Captain Recap, explaining that he's learned all about Carol's activities back at the prison and the reason Rick exiled her. But, as he points out, she came back and strings together several events in a slightly unconvincing theory to explain how Rick not killing Carol ended up making it possible for Denise to save Carl in the mid-season premiere. People come back, says Morgan, unaware of how ironic that sounds in a world where zombies are everywhere.
The pair arrives at a farmhouse after mistaking a zombie from a distance for Carol, and are soon accosted by several other zombies. There's also a guy in the distance who remains mysterious, but claims to be trying to find his horse. But he hightails it once Rick and Morgan finish off the undead around them. Morgan insists that Rick go back to Alexandria to protect everyone there and that he'll find Carol. Surprise, surprise, Rick actually agrees.
Abe greets Rick as he returns and they briefly exchange words about their respective love lives. Oh, and Abe is "ready to rip the world a new asshole", which counts as Weird Abe Metaphor Of The Week.
Maggie asks Enid to her her cut her hair, and she ends up with a bob style that is quickly forgotten as she grimaces in pain and starts to scream. Something appears to be very wrong with the baby.
Glenn and Michonne have their own issues, tied up and gagged in the camp of the small group of Saviours. But then they see Daryl sneaking towards them from the surrounding woods. They desperately try to signal him to stay away but it's too late... Daryl and Rosita are held at gun point by Dwight and one of his thugs. Dwight then appears to shoot Daryl. WHAT? Blood splatters the camera lens and we hear Dwight say, "He'll be all right." Fade to black!
Let's start with that fan-baiting final moment, shall we? It's long been assumed that Daryl was among the safest characters on the show, a guy with a devoted follower count: "If Daryl dies, we riot" is one of the cheery slogans, so we very much doubt this will be the end for Mr. Dixon. But it's definitely not a good time for him.
Otherwise, like its characters, this episode splinters off in different directions and not all of them are satisfying. The whole is more than the sum of its mixed parts, at least, and for every cringe-worthy heart-to-heart between Rick and Morgan, you get Carol being a tough nut as always, despite her weeping insistence that she doesn't want to kill anyone. It's like if Batman had to go to therapy every time he took out a criminal. And though her moment of victory against the Saviour thugs seems a little unlikely at times (wouldn't the driver have had a better shot at her after she shoots his companions?), it's yet another wonderful moment for Melissa McBride to excel in.
And while there is the usual bunch of sloppy decisions by our heroes (and they wonder why they get into trouble all the time?), this is still an effective build-up to what promises to be an eventful (and probably bloody) finale next week.
In the UK, The Walking Dead airs Mondays at 9pm on Fox.
Who the hell is Negan, anyway? Read our definitive guide to the character in the comics.