Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers..
How much you enjoy this week's episode hinges on whether you A) like Tara Chambler B) can't stand her or C) have entirely forgotten her existence. Swear catches up with Alanna Masterton’s Tara and Corey Hawkins' Heath as they continue their scavenging mission begun at the end of Season 6. It means that there's an undercurrent of heartbreak lurking at its heart, because Tara - who eventually makes it back to Alexandria to learn what has happened in the interim – has a whole lot of sadness in her future. This week's slightly lengthened episode (again, not for particularly necessary reasons, but better than the all-Negan horror show of a couple of weeks ago) takes us on a visit to another new community in the apocalypse: Oceanside. The former motorhome by the beach (nice locale! Well, if you like fish) is the location for a group that initially appears to have overtones of Y: The Last Man's Amazons, but as it turns out, Negan's mob killed all their males above the age of 10 and prompted the women to flee. Quite how they were able to escape the Saviours, and why they haven't been hunted down once they fought back, remains to be seen.
In a previous season, it might have had more impact to see another different society, but between learning more about the Saviours' Sanctuary and stopping by Ezekiel's Kingdom, it doesn't elicit quite the same reaction. At least it's a break away from direct contact with the Saviours, even if they do factor into Oceanside's tragic past. Instead of a smug dictator with a bat, we have Natania (Deborah May), who leads her surviving women and children with a tough but not unsympathetic power. They see right through Tara's rubbish attempt to lie about where she's from (a larder as a type of boat? What sort of nonsense is that? Why not just say a fishing boat?) We spend almost the entire episode with the new faces – though there are brief jumps back to Tara and Heath ruminating on the nature of people in this post-apocalyptic world and them disturbing the buried "sand walkers" – and the new cast keep things from feeling too much like filler. And both set pieces with the sand walkers are effectively disturbing, even if the walkers don't exactly try very hard and the little mistaken identity moment near the end with the female walker that Tara momentarily thinks could be the missing Heath is almost as ridiculous as her fishing boat lie. In fact, Masterson is saddled with quite a lot of unconvincing dialogue and several moments of attempted levity that fell as quickly as Tara from the bridge. You've got to enjoy Tara flipping the bird to annoying child warrior Rachel (Mimi Kirkland), though.
In summary, Swear probably won;t end up becoming a favourite episode for many, as it really takes the pedal off the accelerator after the excitement at Hilltop and with Jesus and Carl sneaking into the Saviours' truck at the end of last week's episode. But we did get to see another corner of this damaged world and learn more about how the Saviours are affecting everyone nearby. Did we specifically need to spend an entire episode to do that? Perhaps not, but the dynamic between Tara and the Oceanside dwellers, particularly, Sydney Park's Cyndie, who spares Tara's life when she washes up on their beach and helps her escape when the others have decided to walk her out to the forest and give her the full Sopranos treatment (it's not the same area, but we would've given the show extra marks for a Walker that looked like the guy from the Pine Barrens episode who escaped the mob duo). Oceanside's dynamic is interesting enough, though it does feel like a setup for later down the line and a distraction from other, more pressing plots. Perhaps, given the show's penchant for longer episodes, it could have been sprinkled between other stories? But full marks for pulling off Tara's triumph-turns-to-tragedy return to Alexandria using no dialogue, just the look on her face as she learns what's been going on while she's been away.
How does Oceanside compare to its comic book counterpoint?
Its beachside location is similar, though it hasn't suffered quite as much tragedy as in the TV backstory. It's situated near enough to Alexandria and the other places we've visited so far that Tara can walk back home without apparently needing a vehicle, but it's tough to tell exactly where it's located.
What does the PPP on the card Tara finds mean?
No idea yet, but if Heath did leave it, it's probably some way of communication. Maybe it stands for Party Pooper Patrol, and he was nabbed by Negan's gang? Or perhaps it's just his keycard to CTU now that he's the new Jack Bauer. (In-joke alert! Corey Hawkins is starring in 24: Legacy, which means he may be gone from The Walking Dead for a while)
Will Oceanside end up factoring into any battle against Negan's mob?
Probably? It'll depend on how long Tara keeps their existence a secret. But you have to figure that both Ezekiel and Natania's people have been introduced for more than just a quick visit.
Read this season's previous reviews below...
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC in the States and Mondays at 9pm on Fox.