“Swear” has a lot in common with last week’s episode; it certainly isn’t for everyone.
In the “Previously On” segment, we see footage completely from last season. It feels near insane to be visiting a dangling plot thread from so far back this deep into a season full of newness. Thankfully, the newness continues.
Despite my initial reservations based on early impressions, this episode has a uniquely visceral rhythm to it. This season has somewhat reinvigorated the hardcore fan side in me. The casual fans are noticeably getting bogged down by the copious amount of new communities and branching storylines, but I’m trying to be as open-minded as possible.
I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews that I love seeing new communities, their rules, and their thought processes. This episode is no different. We’re introduced to what I’ll refer to as the Oceanside community: a group of predominantly women who shoot on sight and ask questions later.
The cold open itself feels strangely like Themyscira in an alternate universe — the fictional island where Wonder Woman resides. As we learn more about the community, and see those who inhabit it, the comparison becomes more appropriate.
Like usual (sadly), the weakest aspect of the episode is the editing and pacing. The story is broken up by “thens and nows”, bouncing back and forth while creating parallax distortion. We’re also treated to some more shoddy practical effects during one of the show’s required walker set piece moments (nothing like seeing actors kick obvious rubber faces or watch mechanical heads move unrealistically). That comes down to nitpicking ultimately, but the show suffers when it feels it has to meet its episodic walker quota. I can’t help but notice how cheap the effects look at time. (This is a show that felt it was necessary to have blood running down the screen in its season 6 finale after all.)
The ending comes swiftly, leaving me to believe that the series would be just fine if it had abstained from this deviation. It’s yet to be seen if Oceanside will play a larger role in the All-Out War that will follow, but these new characters are causing our old faithfuls to take a backseat. The characters we love have had no time to grieve their losses and their reactions are so often glossed over that emotion is obviously no longer the desired response from these episodes. All that matters to AMC and company is that I watch, apparently.
That being said, this was not an episode for casual fans — or ones that are expecting a particularly exciting episode in general. But it was an episode that I found irresistibly intriguing due to its storytelling and interesting visuals. We see environments that we’ve never seen before in the show. The Oceanside community is an excellent addition to the ever expanding visual palette. Beneath this veneer, this episode is a clear result of Tara’s real life pregnancy and Heath’s real life career shifting him to Fox’s reboot of 24. Neither of them have been present since season 6 (and Corey Hawkins hasn’t filmed anymore episodes for the season), so it makes it hard to really care or be concerned when they’re in danger. In context of the season, some fans might be crying for a cast member culling to make room for other neglected characters.
Viewing this episode impartially, I found it to be among TWD’s finest. In context of what’s going on now, it fails to entertain — and would easily work as a sleep aid to those who have no connection to the two leads. But for me, it worked.