'Walking Dead': How Tara's Journey Helps Set the Stage for the Battle Against Negan

The Walking Dead - Season 7 Episode 6 -Alanna Masterson - Still 1-H 2016
Gene Page/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers through season seven, episode six of AMC's The Walking Dead.]

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest of his people don't know it yet, but they owe Tara (Alanna Masterson) a pretty serious fist bump.

The latest episode of the AMC zombie drama, "Swear," may not have seemed like much of a game-changer on the surface. After all, it featured fewer series regulars than virtually any other Walking Dead episode — perhaps second only to Tara's introduction in "Live Bait," season four's first Governor (David Morrissey) flashback episode. But what it lacked in Grimes Gang firepower, it came equipped with a different kind of heat … and no, not Heath (Corey Hawkins), though he was there for a minute, too.

"Swear," the sixth episode of the show's seventh season, focuses on Tara and Heath as they scavenge for supplies far away from Alexandria. The two are separated during a zombie attack, with Tara falling over a bridge and Heath disappearing into parts unknown (aka the starring role in Fox's 24: Legacy). From there, viewers watch Tara encounter a new community populated by heavily armed women, not a man in sight. The group makes an exception to their shoot-first-ask-questions-never policy thanks to one youth making the case for Tara. Over a meal of hot stew, Tara and the women exchange their stories about survival, with Tara disclosing the season six assault on the Saviors' satellite compound.

As it turns out, this group knows Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his cronies all too well. They eventually turn on Tara again, thinking it better to kill off anyone connected to the Saviors. It's understandable why they would have such a violent reaction at the prospect of bringing Negan back into their lives: Once upon a time, all of this community's men (including small boys) were lined up and killed by Negan's forces, a swift way of ending any possible rebellion. Some time later, the surviving women rounded up the community's incredibly impressive gun supply and set up shop elsewhere, far away from Negan's reach. Now, they kill anyone and everyone who comes into their orbit, strictly to insulate themselves from a Saviors comeback.

Tara eventually escapes and returns to Alexandria, where she learns the awful news about her girlfriend Denise (Merritt Wever), and gets the latest on their new life under Negan's thumb. She doesn't say a word about the community she discovered during her supply run, fulfilling her promise to the women to keep her lips sealed. But anyone expecting that secret to stay buried for long hasn't been paying attention to current events.

While Rick remains subservient to Negan at the moment, the seeds of rebellion have been planted in a few different places. Some Alexandrians are already contemplating making moves against Negan, like Rosita (Christian Serratos) with the bullet, and an even more aggressive Carl (Chandler Riggs), last seen hitching a ride to the Sanctuary (along with Jesus). Outside of Alexandria, at least two other communities exist under Negan's rule: the Hilltop and the Kingdom, current homes of characters like Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride). 

That's three full communities filled with able-bodied fighters, but one big problem: no guns. Negan and his goons took them all after Carl's display of force back in episode four. Even with strength in numbers, an alliance between the Hilltop, Kingdom and a gun-free Alexandria wouldn't stand a change against the Saviors.

Enter: Tara's new friends. Call it Chekov's armory, but you don't introduce a small village of Negan-haters with enough automatic weapons to start a war unless those Negan-haters and their automatic weapons are going to start a war. Even if Tara is tight-lipped on the community's whereabouts for now, there's little doubt that the secret will come out whenever official alliances between the communities begin to form … and those guns could make all the difference.

In other words, the show's decision to spend an entire extended episode on Tara and her new "friends" might seem a bit odd at the moment, but it did lay track for future explosions. 

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