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Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead's latest episode.
The title "Dead or Alive Or" wasn't the most awkward thing about The Walking Dead's current installment, as that distinction went to "Eugene's evolved sense of shared proprietorship" within the Savior ranks. But perhaps the episode's single most important story moment came when Negan announced his big new tactic for handling Rick's non-submissive crew: plastering the Saviors' weapons with infected walker blood and guts. In some ways, that sounds like a pretty smart and damage-heavy strategy, but on the flip side, this maneuver could possibly create problems within the overall narrative. Let's break things down a bit.
Basically, Negan's walker weaponization idea is for the infected viscera to make its way into other survivors' bloodstreams upon contact with a gore-soaked Lucille, a gust-covered machete, or whatever other weapons the various Saviors will be using. After all, the All Out War's big battle scenes were hectic and didn't allow much time for point-blank assassinations, so many Alexandrians came away with gunshot wounds and other non-critical injuries. But if Negan's clan will be using tainted bullets and knives in the next battle, they won't even need to shoot to kill, since they'll be working with the assumption that the infection will spread in the battle's aftermath. For all intents and purposes, it's chemical warfare on a case-by-case scale.
In theory, it's something of a brilliant tactic, and most of the characters should be baffled that no one had ever come up with it before. With Eugene's bullet-making enterprise slowly getting up and running, Negan could soon have a relatively endless supply of tainted ammo at his disposal, and since there are millions of walkers out there, the sky is the limit for useful applications. Hell, dunking a bunch of those bear traps in walker blood would be a great way to set up boundaries, especially if they use that radioactive material that was previously teased.
What's more, Negan's new idea seemingly plays into that last shot from the midseason premiere, in which Rick is pale and bleeding against that tree decorated with stained glass. As fans of the Walking Dead comics are aware, it is very possible that Rick will face a serious injury during this next brawl with the Saviors, and it is very possible that it will look like an injected weapon was used to harm him. We're curious to see if the TV show sticks to the source material on this matter, or if it will completely buck expectations.
Here, I'm less interested in factually disproving Negan's infected blood plan, and more interested in considering how this eureka moment may cheapen not only some big moments that have come in episodes past, but also scenes from this very episode. Because if an otherwise healthy survivor can be marked for impending death simply by having infected tissue coming into contact with open wounds, then why wouldn't a sizable percentage of this show's body count have already been attributed to such indirect and occasionally unexplainable manners of death?
It's no coincidence that this comic-sourced tactic is showing up now, since The Walking Dead has hinted at this inevitability with Father Gabriel's unidentified illness. However, if the show tries to explain that Gabriel's gut-covered Sanctuary escape is the cause of his indisposition -- and not specifically the hazardous waste -- then we're meant to believe that everyone else who ever used the guts trick before did it just right to avoid escaping the same fate. And what about survivors who have had fresh wounds grabbed by walkers' flesh-eschewing hands? What about the injured Alexandrians who walked through that swamp full of infected walker slime? Also, wouldn't Lucille already be an infection-delivering machine after being used to kill so many other walkers, or is the amount of walker gore indicative of the seriousness of the situation?
Unfortunately, The Walking Dead TV show has already shown us several different moments over the years where characters have been injured in ways where walkers' bodily fluids were definitely in the mix. To name a few, we've seen Rick, Shane and Abraham all cut with blades that came in contact with walker viscera, and none of them were seemingly any worse for wear because of it. This revelation felt a lot more ground-breaking and easier to buy into on the page than it will in live-action, thanks to the comics' static form, since speculation-thwarting details are always on display on TV.
If Negan or anyone within his Savior army had any technical knowledge of how the zombie infection specifically affects the human body, I might be more into how this will play out. But in any case, some interesting war game tactics are on the way when The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out why we're still interested in Jadis and her junkyard, and pop over to our midseason premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are on the way.