Great, a flashback of Gabriel praying to a God that clearly despises humanity. And a flashback of Gregory? Why not just have these scenes in fucking order?
"Put my love inside of you, Gregory."
Gregory sits down and talks to Negan and his lieutenants. We get somewhat of the root of the Saviors namesake; Negan believes killing the right people can save 100's more from the same fate, with a swift swing of his bat. He isn't necessarily wrong, in fact it's hard to argue Rick doesn't believe the same thing, but Negan is too smart to not see that his methods can't be boiled down to that.
Now, this sit down is pretty compelling (all thanks to Negan's presence, which has been sorely missing), but knowing what happens after completely derails any tension. Instead of making this a flashback, put this right before the attack on the compound. Sure, you lose the "reveal" that Gregory was there to give up the Hilltop, but it wasn't that big of a surprise in the first place. Instead of banking on all these "twists," just show what the fuck is happening and how it affects the characters of the story.
BTW "the big scary U" is the Unknown. Got it.
Negan gets super mad about the prospect of killing too many people. "People are a resource." This is what makes Negan a compelling character, his actions are evil and brutal but we clearly see they are a means to an end for him; it doesn't matter what he was before the fall, it's the zombie apocalypse and things have changed, so he strives to forge a civilization with the remaining survivors the only way he thinks he can - violence and fear. It's a tactic that has been successfully used throughout human history, although not quite with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. But to each their own.
"Lay it on the table, so everyone knows yours is bigger."
And then we get to the beginning events of this "war," which we saw from the other group's perspective, but not after Negan lays out what "plan A" really is -- take Rick, Maggie, and Ezekial and kill them publically. If I was an evil shithead, that would be my plan too. Hasn't Negan ever heard you catch more flies with honey than vinegar? Although I guess you can catch plenty of flies with the rotting flesh of the undead, so whatever.
Fast forward to Gabriel in the trailer, who KNEW Negan was in there and yet still let him get the jump on him, taking Gabriel's weapons. Negan asks a VERY important question: why risk your life for that Gregory piece of shit? Gabriel doesn't know, but he imagines it was all so he could be in that trailer to "take his confession." Hope you got your shitting pants on, Negan.
"This is detrimental to the reputation of the Church."
Rick and Daryl learn that pretty much the whole Kingdom has been killed. Gabriel learns that Negan is wearing his splooging pants. Eugene learns that Regina does not respect the hair game. And someone at the Sanctuary is going to learn who the rat is. Probably. I don't know.
Back in the Trailer For Troubled Students, Gabe really wants a confession from Negan but he's all "the needs of the many" and shit, until Gabbey gets to the wives that Negan... well, let's just say it is less than consensual. Gabe wants to know if Negan had a real wife before all the Stockholm Sisters, and Negan's mask of cool detachment starts to falter. Gabriel seizes the moment and grabs Negan's gun (I think? It is very dark), but it unsuccessful in shooting the person right in front of him only armed with a melee weapon. GG.
Rick and Daryl finally get their guns (SUCK IT, LIBERALS). A pretty legit moral qunadry continues - do you kill everyone in the Sanctuary, even the workers and families? Rick says no, Daryl says lol stop me. They wrassle but the dang car explodes, oops. Rick lets Daryl know that they need to stick to the plan God has for them btw Rick is God lmao.
"I'm telling mom!"
Back to the trailer, Gabriel apparently ran into a separate room. Why....why didn't they both move to that room when the zombies started breaking through the windows?? Whatever, drama. Gabriel starts talking some shit about how he'll go with Negan and "show him the light" if Negan confesses. Turns out Negan was an asshole even before the fall - he ran around behind his wife's back.
Ok stop. Gabriel opens the door, says Negan is forgiven, and offers his gun back. Negan puches Gabe in the face (understandable) and tells him he can keep the gun. Negan turns his back and .... Gabriel doesn't empty the clip into his asshole? I don't understand. Don't tell me you were starting to believe his bullshit about how if Negan dies a whole lot more people at the Sanctuary will die too. HE IS THE HEAD OF THE HYDRA, CUTTING OFF ONE HYDRA HEAD HAS ALWAYS GONE PERFECTLY WELL! In all seriousness, there is no reason to not cap Negan here. Sure, this isn't a hivemind and all his subordinates won't just stop being your enemy once Negan is gone, but he is clearly the glue holding it together. They all call themselves "Negan" for a reason, once he's dead you have a chance of turning his unwilling captives to your side.
Luckily, they do one thing that DOES make sense - the ol' Zombie Guts trick. Negan and Gabriel cover themselves in putrid organs like they've done before, to slip by the horde. No idea why this is the first time in several seasons we are seeing this. It works as Negan and Gabe lurch through the undead crowd outside the trailer, until it doesn't work and their cover is blown. They both take turns saving each other which blows my mind -- what is happening?! Negan says life is a resource and making Gabreil "strong" is his next mission, and Gabriel gave Negan some absolution through confession theater so I guess they are buds now? Fuck outta here.
"Just got deja vu from my time in the seminary."
Back in the compound, the workers finally march up to the Knights Of The Round Table to ask wtf is going on. One dude speaks with a little too much sass and Steven Ogg thinks it's a great idea to throw some hands, but Sandor Mcconaughey stops him. Negan returns just as things are about to pop off and remidns people his nuts are bigger than anyone elses. A woman cries out from the crowd, "Thank you, Negan! Thank God for you!" Why? They were about to rip the lieutenants apart limb from limb since there was no water or electricty, and Negan rocks up to say he is going to get a sandwich and a massage and you trust he is going to make everything better? It's one thing if everyone is too afraid of him to stand up, but outright love for him? That's a bridge too far.
The episode ends and we are more or less where we were last week. Like last week, this episode thrived under its more focused story, and didn't fuck around with the timeline TOO much. However, this whole conflict feels stretched way too thin; not every character exploration is needed, and not every action scene is justified, so what we end up with is a 60 minute story spread out into an entire season (or, the first 5 episodes at least). Don't show me glimpses of the future to keep me invested in what is going on, just write a compelling story.
I don't know. I feel like I have complaints when they do too much mindless action, as well as a whole episode of character interactions. The problem is that they have let this show go on for too long and we are running out of characters to care about. If it wasn't for Jeffrey Dean Morgan's brilliant portrayal of Negan I'm not sure I would have any reason to keep watching, and that is a sad thought.