Wrath: Review for The Walking Dead 816

Wrath:
Review for The Walking Dead 816
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out! This review contains episode spoilers.

Try as they might, all the flashbacks and slo-mo close-ups in the world can’t bring my heart in line with how it should feel after watching this long-anticipated finale. The outcome, while favorable for the survivors we’ve traveled alongside for eight seasons, is dust on one’s palate; it just doesn’t satisfy. In an episode where they end a several-year story line, one would expect a little more substance. Even the flashy parts are lackluster recreations of past season’s greatest hits. How many shoot-outs have we seen with these groups? How many bullhorn monologues? How many times has an underdog person or group come out of the woodwork to save Rick at the last minute? We’ve seen so many variations of someone else saving Rick that when he’s supposed to protect everyone from his war, it’s still everyone else who does the hard work to neutralize the bulk of the threat, but he still claims the victory and dictates the terms.

Rick makes one cut, then calls himself sheriff in a land freed from its tyrant.

It takes a slap-dash army to topple the biggest threat in town, that’s for sure. Hilltop’s remaining fighters follow the trail Negan left for them, even while believing they’d outsmarted the ol’ fox. The usual suspects are in the militia, save the recovering ex-Saviors who are told to stay behind with the kind of empathy extended to dog poo on one’s flip-flop. Why the cold shoulder? Well, it starts with Morgan flipping out while they’re doing walker-centric chores outside the fence, and ends with Maggie still seeing Alden and his compatriots as fingers on Negan’s tyrannical fist. Is it a great idea to leave so many able-bodied and motivated men out of the fight? Nope. It doesn’t matter, though, because someone else arrives to lend helping hands. Though why anyone thought traveling so far from home to pick a fight with two pistols, Molotov cocktails, and hand-to-hand weapons is a good idea is beyond me. Oceanside has nothing to prove or sacrifice for anyone. They’re not even the saviors Aaron claimed they could be here because someone else swoops that spotlight right off of them, if we’re judging on the level of actual help rendered.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but . . . Eugene comes out looking like a diamond by the end of a season in which he actively helps Negan slaughter the people who kept him alive despite every selfish thing he did before defecting. Just when we thought Eugene and Gabriel were throw-away characters after they finished the bullets, the writers rouse them from mid-story mire to inspire yet another of their Oh So Smart Plot Twists. I mean, as far as twists go, it surprises the heck out of me to even consider Eugene lashing out against his new meal ticket, let alone to go back to a community in which there’s not one person who can look him in the eye without remembering a loved one they lost due in part to his actions. And let’s get this out now, I in no way trust Eugene. He succumbs to pressure too easily. It’s a liability. Sabotaging one fight in the name of the perceived good isn’t rehab enough for the broken relationships left in Eugene’s wake. What future does he have in a community where no one trusts him beyond the raw knowledge he has in his head? When he’s not given a hero’s welcome, will Eugene still offer his help to rebuild the communities ravaged by the war?

So what happens to the Saviors with a wounded Negan in custody care of sheriff Grimes for the indefinite future? Nothing. Nothing! Tra, la, la. Rick, finally listening to his son’s final wishes now that even Morgan says he’s lost too much to continue on, makes this speech about how they’re all free now, but those who cling to the war-mongering way of life are warned to kiss the idea goodbye. Which is, ya know, hilarious considering every time Rick encounters a new community, he meets them with barely concealed hostility. True to his word though, Rick sends helpers to Sanctuary to repair damages, and in return they send food for everyone else. Even the remaining Scavenger gets an invitation to join resources with this new collation, though Jadis is scrapping her artistic moniker for her given name, Anne.

All’s well in the neighborho . . . or not. There’s a group within Rick’s party who harbor deep resentment over Negan’s survival. They even tie Michonne to this mess as a conspirator since she obviously is okay with this lifetime imprisonment plan. Maggie is a reasonable person, except when it comes to this one thing. Negan’s demise, to her, is worth upending the fragile peace forged on the final battlefield. The upcoming mutiny isn’t their largest concern, though. Walker numbers are on the rise. A massive herd lurks too close for comfort. Can they use their combined resources and the building plans gifted to Maggie to fortify all the communities against the threat that never really dies?

The episode wraps by leading into Morgan’s transition to Fear the Walking Dead, which I tried to watch. Only, the video feed to constantly died and I took it as a sign to move on, just like Morgan is moving on after giving us so many wonderfully weird and powerful moments in TWD season eight.


Worth: Review for The Walking Dead episode 815

Worth:
Review for The Walking Dead episode 815
by R.C. Murphy

Danger zone! I mean, uh . . . spoiler zone, beware!

The Saviors take a break from war to scrub the refuse from their ranks. The level of manipulation in this episode reaffirms how damn good Negan is as a character. But why did we have to wait this long to get into the intriguing bits of his personality? This entire season takes place in such a truncated timeframe, what feels like years to us is nothing for them and it’s just not working anymore when it comes to character development. The production cannot save the pacing with one solid episode here and there, but I’ll take what they’re offering simply because these actors are giving their all every day on set. It’s just a shame the writing isn’t reflective of what we know the actors can do. We should’ve already seen this side of Negan. JDM keeps alluding to it, doing his best to BE Negan around all this macho, chest-pounding, ridiculous fallout from the Sanctuary attack. It’s not until he confronts Simon that I feel we’ve met the real Negan. He plays his opponent like a fiddle, getting whatever information he wants from the wannabe leader in order to flush out every single backstabber lurking in the shadows. When Rick tries to get rid of his detractors, it creates hell for everyone around him. Negan does the same with cold efficiency and only the people he feels need killing wind up dead. Weird how that happens. It’s like he knows how to lead a group. Not that I condone murder, but this is the fictional apocalypse and Negan’s got the loyalist, healthiest crew in the region shown on-screen now that Rick ruined The Kingdom and Alexandria, on top of Gregory abandoning Hilltop to chase promises for his own safety over his peoples’ future.

Tension is a whole distinct character in the Savior scenes. Negan’s carefully considered course of action to reaffirm his place at the top seems so clear-cut. Seems being the key word. Dwight thinks he’s mostly in the clear, as long as he’s careful not to get wound up in Simon’s scheme. Which is, quite frankly, impossible because Simon needs his fellow leaders to back his play before someone else steps up to challenge him. At no point does Simon consider Negan’s actual fate. The look on his face when Negan pops up is worth every second watching Simon slime his way to the top. He wants to be the boss? First he’s gotta beat the boss. These post-surprise scenes are some of few in eight seasons to make me lean forward, eager for the outcome. Then comes the actual twist, putting Dwight right where he doesn’t want to be—exposed as a traitor and spoon-fed information to harm his new pals at Hilltop. Negan’s mysterious hitchhiker is Laura, the sole survivor from Dwight’s betrayal outside Alexandria. Let me tell you, her joy in exposing Dwight should be bottled and sold. Whatever comes from Dwight handing over the intentionally false map, Laura will be first in line to celebrate. Conversely, Gregory’s regret over helping Dwight may be the only mood bigger than Laura’s rabid revenge, seeing as he’s back in the prison cell at Hilltop after delivering the map.

At the end of a long day the last thing Negan wants is anyone from the opposition contacting him out of the blue. Driven by Carl’s memory, Michonne does just that and risks reading his letter to Negan over the radio. Boy is it the wrong day to approach the man. Dude snaps. He lays the end out for her nice and clear; the only way out of this is through mass casualties on Hilltop’s behalf. The Saviors didn’t pick this costly fight, but they’ll end it. Negan’s done throwing away resources butting heads with Rick.

In order to fight, the Saviors will need way more ammunition. The folks at Eugene’s outpost can only move so fast, but it’s not good enough for their boss. Let me just pause right her to say, we need to petition the showrunners so they’ll never, ever, ever show Eugene eating on-screen again. Back to matters at hand. Eugene’s workers trudge along despite the nasty food and shoddy pep talk. Even Gabriel is roped back into the production line. Things look bright for Hilltop for a while when Rosita and Daryl manage to kidnap Eugene with little incident. That is until Eugene straight up pukes on Rosita and runs. If I didn’t dislike this character before, I certainly do now. Disgusting little snake hides and just returns to his outpost like he isn’t covered in ash and God knows what.

Aaron’s self destructive streak reaches new lows as he slowly starves to death outside Oceanside. No one extends a helping hand to the outsider. When walkers find him, he’s too weak to fight them all off. But the gall of this guy comes when he passes out, wakes to his rescuers’ faces, then lays into them about avoiding the war. To cap it off, he blames them for Natania’s death. They should’ve smacked him good. I’ve heard some bull on this show, but lecturing a bunch of traumatized women for avoiding a war none of them should be involved in really takes the cake. Why must these women in particular come in to mop up Rick and Negan’s mess? Leave them alone. They’ve lost too much already.

It’s finale time. Wonder how much of this wreckage they can fix in order to transition smoothly into season nine. Probably not enough.


Still Gotta Mean Something: Review for The Walking Dead 814

Still Gotta Mean Something:
Review for The Walking Dead 814
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out! This review has episode spoilers.

Something weird is going on back at the Scavengers’ scrap heap. I’m not talking about Jadis’ adorable pod home, which is so at odds with the persona she presents the world, the change is mindboggling. No, what has me scratching my head is A) the Tetris piece walker on a cart, and B) why hasn’t anyone addressed this friggen helicopter thing yet? Negan’s in the same confused boots, but far worse circumstances seeing as he’s lashed to a cart of his own. These scenes are great pace changers, with a few awkward timing bits like when Jadis shuts Negan up with Lucille, only to draw short and stand there for a few beats. It didn’t feel threatening, but that’s an example of how editing can change a scene. A tighter cut would’ve made her threat jarring. In typical style, Negan talks his way free without unnecessary bloodshed. We get a glimpse of a gentler side to the man behind the bat, and insight into how well Jadis adapts to life without her chosen family. It’s no big surprise to see that she’s barely holding in there after her plan to flag down the helicopter fails.

The theme for this episode is the survivors doing whatever it takes to save each other from their traumas. Michonne lives her life in memory of the kindness Andrea payed her by saving her from isolation in the wild while literally dragging her emotional baggage around. Carl’s letters are all about using his end-of-life insights to inspire the people he loves and respects to save each other. Carol goes the extra mile to save the last people she’s allowed into her heart, reflective of how hard Morgan and Ezekiel worked to bring her back from the brink a few times. Even Jared fights to save his guys by being brutally honest about the best method to get in good with the Saviors again. On the flipside, Rick uses the promise of salvation to sway the Saviors hiding with Jared into trusting them after the roadhouse is surrounded by walkers. Morgan’s only promise is death. Dude drops a great speech about the incoming herd—it’s no wonder the others turn on Jared later. Because they have no guilt when it comes to killing perceived threats, it takes one second for Rick and Morgan to turn on the men who cut them free. They mow through the Saviors while taking out the undead. Jared’s death gag is slow, full of shrieking. The production sets a higher and higher bar for Morgan’s kills. Utilizing the dead to his advantage leads to an agonizing demise for his enemy, different from the quick deaths from a gun or staff.

Joshua Mikel as Jared, Lennie James as Morgan Jones – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Morgan’s trip into the woods began far differently. After passing up Ezekiel’s offer to join him on a search for Henry, Carol instead pairs up with Morgan for the rescue mission. Her motivation is purely in the interest of keeping her friend alive given his alarming outbursts of late and propensity to devolve into rambling. Also, the whole he sees dead people thing is concerning. Morgan isn’t a medium, folks. These are hallucinations, as proven by Henry’s fate at the episode’s end. Even if he understands that truth, Morgan doesn’t see a different path ahead. There’s nothing but death to his left and right, yet it doesn’t touch him so he just keeps going, listening to the visions which nag him to Do The Right Thing. This may be the last time Carol tries to reach out to her friend. They part ways on the road between Hilltop and Sanctuary. Morgan’s need to put down the dangerous men he didn’t kill way back when he first had the chance overrides his desire to save Henry. Once Carol has any sign to track the kid, her priority flips. The mission is a success all around, with Henry safe and the escapee Saviors taken out of the war, but we’re seeing the end of an era with the probable dissolution of the Carol/Morgan friendship.

Side note, did anyone feel a little déjà vu? When Carol finally hears Henry and tracks him to a cave in a creek bed, it felt eerily similar to a scene from when the gang were looking for Sophia. Can’t remember exactly which, though. It’s just a weird sense that they’re been there before.

Looks like Tara’s finally ready to forgive and move on with her life. Daryl, not so much. He’s not buying the idea that Dwight’s shot was intentional to keep her from being infected by someone else. But seeing as he can’t get to the guy he wants to take out, Daryl finds another way to keep himself occupied. Rosita has an epiphany which may be the turning point in the war and takes the idea to Daryl. If they can cut off the Savior’s ammunition supply, they can cut the legs from under the giant with minimal work. All they gotta do is capture the man with the plan, Eugene. Rosita and Daryl find Eugene’s outpost and make a quick plan. She’s itching to get back at the guy for jumping sides. Eugene’s in so much trouble.

There’s many, many questions in the air as the season wraps up. Who does Negan pick up on his ride back home? How can Hilltop sustain a war with their meager supplies and three combined communities? Which problem will implode first, Rick’s constant warmongering or Simon’s bid to dethrone Negan? What will be the straw to break the camel’s back when it comes to Morgan’s mental state? We have much to learn, but we have no time. Expect some cliffhangers, that’s for sure.


Do Not Send Us Astray: Review for The Walking Dead 813

Do Not Send Us Astray:
Review for The Walking Dead 813
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out for those episode spoilers waiting to ambush you.

Well, this episode certainly has a different tone than anything we’ve seen this season. It’s almost like they remembered that the genre is more than a bunch of angry men hitting each other. Sure, there’s a long firefight in the middle, but bookending it are a good ol ghost story and a little love note to low budget zombie flicks.

Hilltop is more than prepared for the Saviors when they finally roll in after dark. Maggie’s focus isn’t on the gift Georgie gave them. She admits after that her plan is to lure the Saviors into Hilltop so Negan dies where Glenn rests eternally. Which, you know, I get to a point. What puts her on a different level is Maggie, unlike Rick, looks at that same graveyard after the fight and knows she caused those losses. Dianne positions herself at Maggie’s side quite often, first providing encouragement, then as a source for us to check into Maggie’s emotions at the episode’s end. “What is it,” Dianne asks at the graveyard. “The cost,” Maggie replies. The price for this war is getting too high for her conscious. This last move, pushed by desperate fear on her and Rick’s behalf, has taken everything from their people. Alexandria and the Kingdom are lost. Hilltop’s remaining gardens can’t produce enough food and their stores went to the Saviors as payment. The populations of the communities combined have been wiped out, with countless more passing in this episode alone. Will this be the straw to break the alliance’s back? She may be new to the job, but Maggie doesn’t seem like the type to put her people through that kind of horror again.

The fight itself perfectly illustrates why Simon is a crap leader who’ll send his people straight to their deaths. Not only has he failed to send a scout ahead to check for traps on the road, which they then drive over, but Simon follows right along with the plan set to trap them by chasing Daryl through the gate into the first ambush. He does it again when Maggie signals for the lights to be doused and smoke bombs set off. Sure, he divides up his forces, but the bulk of the Saviors are front and center for the second surprise attack from the main house’s windows. If they followed Negan’s plan, attacking with bows from outside to wound as many as possible and picking off what they could with other gore-coated weapons, the Saviors would’ve lost half a dozen men maximum. Simon can’t even claim a win here at all. It’s not his part of the Savior’s fight which yields a higher body count. Negan’s bio warfare tactic claims far more Hilltop citizens while everyone’s sleeping. He may be the bad guy, but you gotta admire his problem-solving abilities, which are so great, he doesn’t have to be within ten miles for a plan to go right.

There’s a whole lotta weird going on in Morgan’s head. I . . . I kind of like it. The flashbacks and such were getting tired, but this new approach to Morgan’s mental illness is top notch horror fuel. Ghost Gavin won’t stop badgering the guy. He’s always there, beside Morgan, ragging on him about something which is never given a name, really. I assume this is Morgan’s mind telling him he should’ve been the one to kill Gavin in the most spectacularly screwed up way imaginable. How long until others notice Morgan’s talking to the air? How can he convince his subconscious that there’s no way to re-kill a guy? This is a great twist to this character. And of course it’s coming about the time he’s jumping shows so I’ll either be forced to watch FtWD or wave goodbye to all this character development. Not today, Satan. I’ll just enjoy the time I’ve got left with Morgan and his bloody Jiminy Cricket.

The other side of Morgan’s story is where his influence has led Henry after his brother’s death. This kid’s determined to bloody his hands via vengeance. First he goes after Ezekiel and Carol for refusing to arm him to fight in the main battle. Later, the kid steals the prison cell key, takes a military grade rifle, and casually threatens a group of men like a good little terrorist in the making. This is why we must teach men that “eye for an eye” thinking will only lead to bloodshed. Justice is not a mirror to reflect the offender’s pain back onto them. That’s not how humanity as a whole decided to handle the people who are too dangerous to remain amongst us. Not only will Henry grow into the very type of man he’s trying to kill, but he’s unleashed those men back into the world when Maggie had them safely sequestered where they couldn’t cause harm. Someone get this kid in-hand, already. He’s not Carl. This isn’t even a good attempt to set up a child character with the same mentality. It’s just tossing angry male patterns into the wind, hoping it works because otherwise they’ve lost their young white man representation on a show dominated by the dumb decisions made by middle-aged white men. How will the white guys find themselves in this show without someone young and angry at everything? Yes, that’s sarcasm. It’s also to illustrate that we don’t need every stereotype on-screen in every show. The writers are blatantly writing Henry to be the new Carl in ways which will never work. All these years listening to how fans treated that character, yet none of it reflects in Henry’s story line.

Jason Douglas as Tobin, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

That final action sequence with Tobin and the others injured in the fight turning walker is aces. Some of the tensest zombie action we’ve had on the show in a while. Honestly, I’m shocked Tobin is the one to go in this episode. He’s been that one person I look for in the crowd to see whether or not Alexandria is present in certain scenes. For as little as they used him, Tobin being a constant for the Alexandrian people was reassuring. As long as he makes it, this won’t be another prison or Woodbury situation. And then he doesn’t make it. Worse yet, he turns on the people he protected. I didn’t think losing this one guy would hit so hard, but the more I think about how much I assumed he’d survive, the more my brain wants to reject reality. Carol’s reaction to Tobin’s demise is probably what pushes it over the edge. She’s genuinely gutted to see him turn. Melissa McBride yet again acts her backside off to really drag those emotions from the fans.

Will Maggie allow her people to continue this fight after she’s seen the cost? Rick will not give up until Negan’s dead, and Maggie wants that as well, but this isn’t justice anymore. Hilltop realizes that now. Can they back out of the war when they’ve become home base for an army?


The Key: Review for The Walking Dead 812

The Key:
Review for The Walking Dead 812
By R.C. Murphy

Warning, this review contains episode spoilers.

If I knew anyone as destructively stubborn as Rick during the apocalypse, I would’ve chained him to a house long ago for everyone’s good. It’s utterly ridiculous for this unhinged character to claim to lead anyone, let alone for his people to still treat him as the person who has their future in mind. Of all the community leaders, Rick’s focus is the narrowest, not moving beyond neutralizing a threat he provoked. Instead of moving on when the threat presented itself, he fought. Instead of treating Negan as an equal and negotiating, he took it as a personal affront that anyone would step in to interfere with how his people live. And now, with his son’s dying wish for peace ringing in his ears, Rick’s only focus is killing Negan. Like that’ll solve every problem he brought with him to Alexandria. Negan isn’t the most destructive force in this universe, Rick’s fear has a far higher body count. He took a community on the cutting edge, months from reclaiming modern technology on a mass scale, and turned it into smoldering ruins.

That’s the purpose of “The Key” as an episode, to fully illustrate how far this slice of humanity has fallen under Rick’s umbrella. While the men butt heads to see who’ll come out as the Supreme Leader, a group of women participate in a negotiation which will be the sole reason any of these people live to see another generation through adolescence. Not only are the women leaps and bounds ahead of the men as far as future preparations go, but they master the art of compromise with minimal shouting and only one daft, fear-driven, outburst. The initial meeting with Georgie, plus her associates Hilda and Midge, isn’t the best first impression because Maggie reacts to the offer to barter like Rick reacts to anyone presenting themselves as possessing a better plan for the future—everyone’s armed, on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop without actually hearing the words coming from the other party. When Michonne puts the brakes on back at Hilltop, remembering what Carl asked of them, that’s when reason wins the day. The future must have a position at the council table, otherwise what are they fighting to protect? Are the people they’ve lost along the way not worth building something more than a temporary encampment from which one fights day in and day out? If they continue down this path, the future leads toward Mad Max territory, and that’s just not what some of these people want. So they’ll fight their own way. It’s about time. Maggie ends the episode radiating hope. That’s what Rick dropped down the road, along with a heap of the integrity which made him a compelling leader at the beginning. Without any hope, his people trudge to the next catastrophe, mentally saying their goodbyes because Rick’s plan has claimed too many lives to count at this point—starting at the quarry and up to now where we’ve got just three characters left from season one. With Georgie’s help, Maggie may just be able to salvage the three communities this mad warmongering tore apart. It’s nice to see hope return to this show. Refreshing, even.

Hilltop better use their time wisely; a hearty dose of hope won’t stop the incoming Saviors. Negan’s forces do, however, have to deal with a slight delay, first.

Wound like a top shot off a drill, Rick can’t stay at Hilltop after he arrives and inserts himself into the perimeter patrol in a nearby town. He’s the first to spot the Saviors on the move, yet holds off alerting the others to chase Negan. Of course he does! I’ve got to give it to them, though, it’s a fun sequence altogether. And a bit ridiculous. Rick’s just gonna Rick no matter what at this point and all that’s left is enjoying the weird trouble he gets himself into every episode. The car chase sets up the unhinged action once the guys get to the basement scene rather nicely. I’m not sure I’d believe Rick would fight a guy in the middle of a flaming walker horde without him first chasing the guy down like he’s back in his sheriff’s uniform. His mindset is right there in his eyes in the close-ups during the chase. If Negan saw Rick’s face then, he wouldn’t have goaded him once they got inside the building. Dude’s dropped all his marbles and everyone else trips over them, yet again.

Despite the sheer amount of WTF on Rick’s part, the flaming zombie gag is solid. Negan’s reactions say everything. He knew the guy wasn’t all there, now he sees firsthand how dangerous Rick is when he feels he has nothing to lose. Oh, he has things to lose. As I said before though, he’s so narrowminded, he’s not really thinking about Michonne, Judith, or the civilians caught in future crossfire. How does this show decide to illustrate such character depth? By lighting Lucille and some walkers on fire, then having Rick and Negan fight around them. Only this show could make its fan base believe the main character would be so willfully self-destructive yet somehow both men survive.

Negan’s survival spells trouble for a certain lieutenant with the gift of gab. Simon wastes no time campaigning for himself once the Saviors roll out of Sanctuary toward Hilltop. When Rick takes Negan out of the caravan, Simon is slow to respond, hides several smirks. The entire time, Simon jaws at Dwight, working him toward his side, a side where the Saviors just move on. Move on is slang for kill them all and find new people to harass, by the way. Dwight’s slow to the new lingo, having been with the Alexandrians for a little while. It’s not until they meet with the Saviors post helping Simon cover Negan’s tracks after he disappears from the car wreck that he realizes, this guy does not have the same agenda as I. Well, you think? Simon’s days are numbered, but that number is indefinite since Negan’s sitting in the front seat of Jadis’ car with a gun to his head.


Dead or Alive or: Review for The Walking Dead 811

Dead or Alive or:
Review for The Walking Dead 811
By R.C. Murphy

Don’t just rush ahead! Watch out for episode spoilers.

In the wake of Negan’s fiery revenge in Alexandria, the village’s people are on the run. Saviors hold blockades on all the roads. The only reason Daryl gets the Alexandria survivors to the halfway point is because none of these oh-so intelligent souls think to look under the freeway they’re guarding. In order to ensure his people make it to Hilltop unscathed, Daryl’s willing to listen to Dwight when the reformed bad guy suggests they pass through the swamp, declared too dangerous to pass by Negan and therefore unguarded during the lockdown. So long as everyone keeps up and cooperates, they’ll get there in one piece. Oh and if we ignore Tara’s existence since she’s still on this whole “Kill Dwight even though he’s useful” kick. She’s so focused on him, Tara is willing to turn away from a walker-filled swamp where her friends are clearing a path in order to yet again threaten Dwight, and yet again fail to follow through. The posturing is boring and isn’t helping with Dwight’s story at all. If anything, it’s making him repeat the same tired redemption story, which isn’t nearly as interesting as his actions. These writers will always talk a plot to death long before they let the characters do what they need to do. Show, don’t tell. I’m not sure how such a basic thing escapes this writing team, but here we are.

Despite Tara, Dwight’s story and his tentative friendship with Daryl steals these scenes. We see Daryl fight the urge to rely on anyone, but Dwight’s resolve to help is a balm for the renegade’s soul. This is probably the most useful version of Daryl to date. Why, though? Why now? Is it because he’s able to act on his own plans with Rick in mourning? We don’t see a lot of initiative from Daryl on large scope problems, he’s the type to sit back and wait for someone to point him at something he can kill. When they reach the swamp, he’s already shedding his reliance on Rick’s leadership. His call to cut through the swamp on Dwight’s suggestion, the willingness to put his body on the line to secure a path through the walkers, and his refusal to flip his lid when told how close the Saviors are is a surefire sign that this character is finally maturing past the plateau he reached after Merle’s brutal demise. This Daryl may even surprise us and attempt to recover Dwight, since the guy proves himself big time by leading the Saviors away at the swamp, losing his hard-won freedom from the organization.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan; group – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The rescue will get interesting, if it happens. Negan’s strategies adapt to whatever pressure comes from outside forces. If the Saviors were a single creature, I’d say octopus. They’re wily beasts and there’s numerous studies devoted to their cognitive ability to take advantage of any situation. Step one in the wargame adaptations puts Eugene at the middle of a new outpost, charged with supplying the Saviors with bullets at inhuman speeds. There’s also a degree of comfort to bribe Eugene, keep him productive. In true fashion, this character uses his miniscule power to lord over a woman in such a manner I fully believe his mother’s ghost smacked him upside the head. The second step introduces bio warfare to this universe on a large scale. Negan encourages his people to use walker blood/innards to contaminate their weapons. Why waste so much effort killing when a single infected scratch will sign everyone’s death certificate—unless it’s a case like Hershel where amputation stopped the disease from passing into his blood system, but how many will get that lucky in the midst of war? They barely have medical care as it is, there’s no way Siddiq and the others with minimal training will keep up with the incoming infection rate thanks to this new fighting strategy. Hilltop will go from a safe haven to a walker corral.

Speaking of, the upcoming siege isn’t the most pressing threat to the remaining community. Hilltop’s food supply never recovered from paying off the Saviors. Feeding the citizens alone will deplete their pantry in less than a fortnight, and they’ve promised humane imprisonment to the Saviors, so they’ve got maybe a week of food max. Scouts are out searching, but they’ve picked the county clean. Jesus won’t walk in with half a grocery store this time. The stress from trying to figure out how to balance being a prison and a home leaves Maggie at her wit’s end. But not so much that she doesn’t see the odd behavior from Morgan and Henry, who’ve appointed themselves as the guards outside the Saviors’ cell. After speaking to Gabriel and some others, Maggie does some deep thinking about how to groups treat each other. In the end, Maggie plans to allow the Saviors a little more freedom in the form of armed escorts to take them from the cell to work details. They get to move around more and she gets the gardens ready for the next planting season. You know someone, likely Jared, is going to screw up this system by next week.

We’ve finally caught up with Dr. Carson and Gabriel after they slipped free from Sanctuary with a little inside help. The infection burning through Gabriel’s veins is attacking his vision. Worse yet, the stolen car is dead and they’ve got no clue where they are in relation to Hilltop because the navigator can’t even read a map an inch from his nose. Following God’s plan, as detailed by a man whose brain bakes itself with each step they take, leads the duo to an abandoned home. Somehow while looking suicide in the face—the homeowner failed to make contact with other survivors and ended it long before the men arrive—Gabriel still thinks his God wants all of this to happen. It’s hard to deny that when so many things go right for them thanks to Gabriel’s vague feelings about their destiny. The much-needed antibiotics, an impossible shot to save Dr. Carson from a walker, the hidden treasure of car keys and a map are all lovely red herrings leading us to think maybe, just maybe Gabriel is blessed by an otherworldly power. He’s not. He’s just lucky and manages to use it all up before they drive away from the house. That fortunate gunshot drew the Saviors. Gabriel’s brash belief leads Dr. Carson to fall into the same fallacy, only what he assumes is a sign from above is just another way to get dead faster by assuming everything will go right. No matter how many times he’s fallen from his faith, Gabriel always bounces back. I’m not so sure that’ll happen this time. He’s well and truly broken, covered in blood from a man who he thought would be the savior everyone needs during this trying time.

But do they need a savior? Or does this group simply need to cut their losses and move on before this war takes everyone’s life? If I were in Hilltop when the Alexandrian refugees arrived, that would be the only sign necessary to kick my butt in gear to leave by morning. This war is no longer who’ll win or who’ll lose, but who will see reason and leave the others to kill themselves while they find a new safe haven to call home.


The Lost and the Plunderers: Review for The Walking Dead 810

The Lost and the Plunderers:
Review for The Walking Dead 810
by R.C. Murphy

Before you mosey down this road, just know there’s episode spoilers ahead.

Is now the appropriate time to say that Rick Grimes is literally the worst character to ever be propped up as the hero of a show? His actions alone make Rick a villain, not even a decent one at that because he wastes so many opportunities to better his people and delves into the tiresome lone-wolf terrorist mentality. Dude has a family relying on him, but they’re some of the last he considers. For Pete’s sake, he just buried his kid, then turns around to do some astounding gymnastics. The mental kind, that is. How else could he listen to Carl’s final plea, then have the gall to ask a likewise grieving Michonne what the dying boy meant by begging for peace between the communities? Carl had this entire dream for their people, for all people, which he confessed during a painful, slow death. That still isn’t enough to convince Rick to move on. No, no. He wastes precious time finding guns, which don’t exist anymore, and then boasts about his plans to Negan in the same breath as he uses to absolve the Saviors of Carl’s death.

Negan’s right, folks. Rick Grimes is the sole reason his son perished. But not simply because Rick wasn’t there that one day, but because Rick hasn’t been there for his son since the prison. Not since Carl killed Lori after Judith’s difficult birth. One could make an argument for Rick never really being there for Carl at all—since the day he arrived at the quarry, Rick’s schemed and fought for power within their group, and any other community they come across. Sure, there’s bursts of paternal activity, but Rick has the focus of a child. Without someone or something to force him to focus within his family, he’ll seek other forms of excitement. Rick’s loyalty is to Rick, yet he demands everyone around him be willing to die for his personal morals without question. Carl dies chasing someone else’s moral code, Siddiq’s, and it’s a rock in Rick’s throat that he can’t use this as an excuse to nuke the Saviors and piss on their graves.

Sounds like a real hero, huh?

The Saviors are in a slightly better position now that they’ve reclaimed Sanctuary from the dead. Time has come to get their house back in order, and Negan wastes no time dispersing his lieutenants to the communities—except Hilltop, which will require a significant show of force to bring to heel. With so much in the air, one man feels it’s his time to shine. Simon demands they make examples of everyone who went against them, starting with the Scavengers. For a hot second, I thought Negan would pop a new hole in Simon’s head and go on with his afternoon. No such luck. Simon doesn’t get his massacre order, just a command to stick to their typical M.O. to reaffirm relations between the communities. Since all the men on this show are so predictable, it’s no surprise when Simon takes offense to Jadis’ stoicism, ordering his men to wipe out the Scavengers. The best part? Simon thinks he can hide it. Boy, that’s not going to be a pretty scene when Negan hears the truth.

Alone for the first time in a long time, Jadis finally lets the gag slip. She’s not some enigmatic, alien-like leader. Art is in her blood, and that love for art made her look at the apocalypse as the best way to art harder, turning the entire landfill into a museum populated by the kind of people she thought should populate her new world. Sure it meant completely changing her dialect pattern, but artists are weird, y’all. I fully believe someone out there might go, “Zombies, huh? Time to become a weird, monosyllabic cult leader who fancies cats.” Whatever works to keep oneself one step ahead of the undead, right?

We can’t talk about the Scavenger’s demise without addressing the meat grinder scene. Okay, I know it’s an industrial grinder, but a whole load of ground people comes out at the end, so my statement stands. Not that I want it to, because I’m fully, totally off ground meat for at least a year. Not only is the gore too much to handle with a snack in-hand, but the acting from Pollyanna McIntosh during Jadis’ final goodbyes is astounding, heartbreaking. And frustrating. If she can put out that kind of performance, why aren’t they using this character better?

On the week of International Women’s Day, we have yet another example of Rick’s machinations leading to undue turmoil within the women-led Oceanside community. Last episode, Enid shot Natania. This episode, they deal with the fallout from that murder. A murder Enid insists she was forced to commit. But, uh, no one told her to go harass these women again. For what? They don’t have the weaponry needed to fight Negan’s army. Enid and Aaron barge into this community with nothing to bargain with, blood on their hands, and the bold demand that these women become cannon fodder in an ego war between Rick and whoever’s in his way this week. To add insult to injury, after Cyndie spares their lives, Aaron plans to subvert Oceanside’s commanders by manipulating fringe members, convincing them to join the fight. Leave these women alone, already. They’ve done nothing to anyone, but over and over again they are forced to sacrifice their well-being to meet men’s demands. This isn’t entertainment anymore. It’s watching some dude’s ego waft around on screen with a soundtrack and occasional explosion.

The war continues despite Carl’s plea. I fully believe Negan would’ve at least signed a temporary cease-fire in the kid’s honor. JDM twisted that knife all over again with Negan’s sincere condolences to Rick. Then Rick blew it off and I found a whole new flavor of hate for the character. So cool that I’m learning new things about myself when it comes to this show eight years down the road, huh? Too bad it’s only confirming that if the main character died, it’d improve my opinion of the show a thousand-fold.


Honor: Review for The Walking Dead 809

Honor:
Review for The Walking Dead 809
by R.C. Murphy

Whoa! Slow down, there. Before you read on, be aware there’s copious episode spoilers in this review.

This is the first time a main character’s death hasn’t affected me in any way, shape or form. Which is strange considering I cry at the mere possibility of certain characters biting the big one. For instance, when Carl was threatened by Negan before the Glenn/Abraham murders, I came unhinged, yelling at the TV. How is it possible for the show to suck all the emotion out of losing yet another original cast member?

Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Rumors flying around TWD’s decision to preemptively end Carl’s story don’t make anyone out to be the good guy, here. That being said, the production team seems to be going out of their way to ruin what should be a heartbreaking goodbye. The outpouring of love from cast members for Riggs is more touching than the character’s final scene. It takes two full episodes for Carl to pass. The story is told in that tiresome disjoined timeline style they lean on in order to create false tension. Which means we spend every second of the extra time in the extended episode watching scenes which provide no new information because it’s all stuff astute fans figured out during the hiatus. Carl’s time with Judith is sweet. I thought that’d be the tear-trigger for sure. However when we jump back to the present, Carl’s goodbye to his sister is loaded with weird propaganda. The guy who opted to spend his afternoon finger-painting with his sister then goes on to have an adult conversation with her? If the conversation ended when he gave Judith the hat, that would have been the emotional cue the production wanted. Instead we’re forced to watch this loaded speech which only traumatizes the youngest cast member. It’s not touching. It’s uncomfortable and as a parent, I wanted to get Judith out of there way, way before Daryl finally speaks up to offer his protective services.

We can’t talk about Carl’s demise without pointing out one thing which makes me think the production has it out for this character in particular: Red Machete. AMC picks a sub-plot every year and produces a web series which usually leads into one of the two Walking Dead shows. This year’s production brings back The Claimers. Quick refresher: The Claimers came around in season 4, giving us a small taste of how Rick’s crew would react to a Negan-esque character who swept through the apocalypse taking what they wanted no matter who stood in their way. These are also the men who died in probably the most violent hand-to-hand combat scene featuring Rick. Why so violent? They threatened to rape Carl and Michonne. The timing of The Claimers’ return feels wrong. Either someone in the production forgot that these men threatened the outgoing character with sexual assault, or this is an intentional poke at Carl’s character as he’s shuffled out the door in the newest TWD controversy. Honestly? I’m not sure how anyone forgets what trash The Claimers are, let alone forget it long enough to resurrect these men for two webisodes. And all of this to, what, glorify a weapon Rick wields? Don’t we have enough problems with weapon-lust in this nation without using rapists as props to show what an awesome thing it is to be able to maim a living creature?

Red Machete exists solely to build Rick’s mythos as a savior of the apocalypse. It’s this weird piece of character PR, but nowhere near as weird as Carl treating Rick like Jesus during their final scene—a scene which lasts far too long because they splice it with Morgan’s meltdown instead of just letting Riggs and Lincoln take us away with their amazing performances. Yet again we have a moment where the actors are doing remarkable things, but editing and the script fail them utterly. Watching Carl confess his sins to Jesu—I mean Rick, is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. For a long moment, I thought I was imagining things, putting in subtext because I’ve got a hyperactive imagination. But, no. Rick goes on to absolve Carl of his sin. Then Carl tries to rewrite Rick’s past by thanking him for his sacrifices and saying his only job as a father is to love. Gee, who else goes around pardoning others of their misdeeds and spreads love as he does so, no matter the cost to him personally? Not only are Carl’s constant speeches at the end tiresome, but they’re loaded with weird junk dialog and take too long to get to the point. Carl’s plan is suicide so he won’t turn on his friends and family. The longer he delays, the more likely it is he will falter or become too weak to ensure his shot will prevent resurrection. Mindful to the last, it makes no sense for Carl to wait so long, to suffer needlessly, and completely traumatize his loved ones by making them listen as he dies.

As Carl drags out his death, Alexandria’s remaining citizens forget how to survive an attack. Pretty much everyone stuck in the tunnels freaks out at one point or another. Who do they turn to while Rick mourns his son in his newest father fail? Not Michonne. Or Rosita. Not even Daryl is a viable option for these poor panicked people. They look to Dwight to be the new white savior, going so far as to have Michonne lead the charge; she nearly attacks him, desperate to make the Saviors leave. We’ve seen her crumble before, but this wasn’t even a good variation, just an excuse to put another man in charge of the group so the lead character can fall into destructive grief head first.

Khary Payton as Ezekiel – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Over at the Kingdom, Ezekiel waits for the inevitable end. Gavin’s endless lectures about how good they had it as a team underscores his deepest fear: Negan’s punishment for lieutenants in charge of misbehaving communities beholden to the Saviors. Gavin’s leadership skills kept him one step ahead of his boss’ wrath, but the second Ezekiel steps out of line to join Rick, it’s a domino train leading to the worst outcome possible for a man who just wants to maintain the status quo. Negan doesn’t get a chance to teach his Kingdom-minders a lesson, though. Morgan and Carol, each on a separate mission originally, team up to save Ezekiel. Here’s where we see how they plan to move Morgan off TWD. The plan is apparently just to make him so crazypants, the others insist he leaves. Even Carol, the most pragmatic character on television, is done with Morgan’s uncontrollable need to kill those who’ve harmed his people. On the other hand, this ham-handed method of shifting Morgan from TWD to FtWD gives us an insane death gag on par with the scene I mentioned above with The Claimers and Rick. As always, when the writing fails, I sit back and enjoy the fights. One has to find the silver lining somehow and TWD’s stunt team rarely disappoints.

The episode focuses on Carl’s demise and his quest to wring a promise from his father before the end. What promise? To save their people, give up on the war, and find peace in a stable community. There’s even little fantasies sprinkled throughout to reinforce his desire for the future. All of which is disregarded by Rick in the preview for next week’s episode. So, yeah. I’m really looking forward to watching Rick ignore his dead son’s wishes, just like he ignored him while he was alive. We’ve seen so much character growth over the last eight seasons, I can’t believe it. (Yes, that is sarcasm, readers.)


How It’s Gotta Be: Review for The Walking Dead 808

How It’s Gotta Be:
Review for The Walking Dead 808
By R.C. Murphy

Slow your roll, pal. Just need to let you know there’s episode spoilers in this review. Now you may proceed.

They went through all of that killing just to get to this? We saw this coming. Everything which happens on screen, save one or two surprises, is exactly what Negan told us would happen back when all this grandstanding and one-upmanship began. Who didn’t see two of the three safe havens falling to the Saviors? Hilltop was never, ever under threat. Maggie could’ve locked the gates and shrugged with the same result and more of her people left above ground to tend crops. Yet now we’re going to believe she’s grabbing this metaphorical warhammer Rick dropped and wants to ram it down Negan’s throat? Why? She’s lost enough and despite her part gets a pass. There’s Saviors galore in her prison cell to use as leverage. Hell, give Negan Gregory to use as a pet in exchange for prenatal care or something. Why should the woman with everything to lose be the one to save Rick and his people from his ego?

Who else will pay the price for Rick’s actions? Enid sure isn’t going to be the same after her own ill-considered attempt to recover resources squandered in the secondary attacks—namely fighters. She and Aaron take off for Oceanside with no real plan, just a sense of urgency gripping their throats. Which explains why they think stopping at a distillery to grab a hostess gift is the thing to do instead of, oh, giving them their gun back or, gasp leaving them alone so they don’t cost the women any more lives. They park the truck near the community and wait. Aaron is caught when the women do come for them. Enid shoots first, thinks later, and Natania goes down for the count. This. This is why I think Rick’s influence is the real evil in that world. There’s no way Enid or Aaron on their own would have thought to further harass the women they robbed at gunpoint on their own had they never met Rick. Now one’s a murdered and the other lost his husband in a pointless war.

There’s so much wasted time in the episode. First, flashbacks to Rick’s argument with Carl after saving Siddiq and the revelation that Carl doesn’t even consider the war necessary. Then those over-dramatic slow-mo reaction montages just keep popping up whenever they pleased, dragging the action to a standstill, and all to deliver one gotcha moment. Yeah, Jerry’s car accident works as a surprise. But it would’ve been better had I not been rolling my eyes through the umpteenth such montage this season.

And yes, I yelled at the TV when they dared threaten Jerry’s well-being. I’ve lost one favorite character already, if Jerry goes, I’ll riot.

Everyone’s trapped in their corner of the world by the newly liberated Saviors. Hilltop is stopped on the road by Simon’s team. They hold Jerry’s life over Maggie, giving her an ultimatum. She and the jolly guy bite the big one and then the walker horde clears Hilltop, or Hilltop pays the price of one soul for the honor of returning home unharmed in order to continue farming. One minor character’s death later, they’re home sweet home. Maggie vents her frustration while venting a Savior’s chest. The guy’s packed up with a message for the Saviors and dumped for them to find, triggering Maggie’s dumbest decision to date, which is perpetuating Rick’s war when they’re clearly going to get dead sooner rather than later if they continue down this path.

Gavin’s rounding up The Kingdom’s people to flush out their batter and bruised leader. Ezekiel takes the time to spring a plan. An explosion draws the Saviors away while he drives a bus between them and his people. Everyone flees past Carol, who’s only just arrived from magically saving Rick from himself. Let’s take a break here for a second. I want a legitimate answer as to how Carol and Jerry just so happen to drive by as Rick arrives with Jadis. It makes no sense for them to be driving that close to Sanctuary when they didn’t even have confirmation Rick made it out of the dump because the snipers were gone after the truck did its job. Even if they did hear him on the radio, they still made it to the Sanctuary in record time. Nothing about this makes sense. They waste Rick for two episodes dealing with the Scavengers just for Jadis to order a retreat the instant the Saviors open fire. Then he’s snatched up by Carol like a stray kitten in a storm like it’s the most normal thing for her and Jerry to have their Sunday drive right then and there. By the way, if Jerry and Carol were patrolling, why didn’t they report the Savior’s escape when they heard the firing squad doing its job? This is a frustrating example of the ways the show screws itself up to save a main character so flawed by male ego, he should’ve rightly died five seasons ago.

But back to The Kingdom. Everyone runs for it, leaving Ezekiel behind. Carol assumes he’ll lock the Saviors in. Nope. Ezekiel sacrifices himself to keep the Saviors occupied. After all, he’s the target, not the innocents living in the community. There’s always hope in the wings, however. Morgan lurks outside the gates. Will he save Ezekiel or let the Saviors use him to send a message to everyone involved in Rick’s war? Looks like the former, but it’s hard to tell with Morgan. He’s not alright anymore.

Bombs away! Alexandria’s undergoing some drastic structural changes. Negan’s cool ran out about the time he hid in that trailer with Gabriel. It’s time to send a clear message to these communities and how can anyone ignore the sound of their house blowing up? Trying to get ahead of the damage, Carl orders everyone to evacuate. It’s not a popular call. Michonne is aghast at the idea of giving Negan their community so easily, but Carl is in charge and he says run. While they make his plan work, Carl buys time chatting up Negan. It’s a great scene for the guys. Shows promise for those moments they talked about wanting back at SDCC. But all we’re going to get is this one moment.

For the most part, Carl’s plan is a success. Everyone makes it to cover ahead of the Saviors invading the residential section. Daryl, Michonne, Tara, and Rosita thin out the enemy by drawing a guard post away from the rear gate. Dwight helps them lay the trap and is outed by Laura as a traitor. They take his wounded self to the spot where everyone’s laying low and wait.

Rick makes it back to Alexandria just in time to see it lit beautifully by massive flames. Negan greets him at his house for a chat. By chat I mean fight. Rick takes the chance to run for his life after Negan forces him out a window. Down the street, Michonne turns a Savior into ground beef. Rick hauls her off the bloody mess and she leads him to the sewers where everyone’s hiding. Even Judith is down there, safe with Uncle Daryl.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Know who’s not safe? Carl. For some random reason, he shows up at the end with a walker bite to his stomach. We’re lead to believe Carl was bitten while saving Saddiq. So this whole time he’s been dying and hiding it? Sure. Okay. Way to write off one of the major characters in the most anticlimactic way possible. He doesn’t even get to go out in a blaze of glory. We get no real closure with Carl here. He’s going to die in a friggen sewer, probably. The guy who maintained more heart than the rest, even after murdering his mother out of mercy, is written off with a whimper after all that build-up for something with Negan? This smells fishy. How insulting for Carl to die this way, too. And how weird for this death to be so public despite Carl not actually passing in this episode. I found out in a spoiler the next morning because there’s approximately five thousand rumors as to why Carl, a character who is still alive and kicking in the comics, dies now on the show in a lackluster way, tagged onto the very end of the mid-season finale like an afterthought.

So we’ve got that to look forward to when the show return from hiatus. Plus, figuring out how everyone else will move on after this setback in the war against the Saviors. Will anyone be left on Rick’s side to fight this fight?


Time for After: Review for The Walking Dead 807

Time for After:
Review for The Walking Dead 807
By R.C. Murphy

From the looks of it, sense and reason has abandoned everyone during this mad rush to rid the world of Negan. Rick allocated most of his town’s resources for the fighters, sparing precious few capable people to guard their children and pacifists while he fails to negotiate with the Scavengers. The Kingdom will need generations to recover from their massive losses on the battlefield. Hilltop is a powder keg with a couple dozen torches crammed in a cage just inside their fence. Daryl’s leading an off-mission strike force straight into the heart of Savior territory. So far the only one to speak a word of sense is Rosita. It took watching Sasha lurch out of a coffin and her own near-fatal injury for Alexandria’s wild woman to learn a little caution. For Rick, there will never be enough cautionary moments like that. He’s wired to take control no matter what life throws his way. At some point, dumb luck will run out. With the Saviors one step closer to freedom, that point could be now.

But first he’s gotta get out of that shipping container.

Jadis has a simple plan to rid herself of this roach who insists her people must join the fight: kill him with a walker and celebrate the death with a sculpture. I guess it makes sense in her head. As per usual, when Rick’s pitted against the undead, he comes out on top. The armored walker becomes his primary weapon against Jadis and her guards. They fight over Jadis’ gun, but Rick gets the upper hand, pinning the leader’s face in the dirt perilously close to the snapping walker head. Truce time. The pair talk terms, with Rick coming out on top because of course he is, he’s the white savior who just takes what he wants at every single turn. Honestly, Rick’s story lost its appeal because he never grows beyond this desire to be at the top. What we’re seeing now? It’s the same behavior which cost them the prison and three-quarters of Alexandria’s population since his arrival. But good ol Officer Friendly has his new fighters. They head to an outpost, ready to trigger the end to his plan . . . only to discover Daryl’s beat him back to Sanctuary.

We all knew this was a stupid idea when Daryl said it the first time. Now it’s just ridiculous that despite the two ballsiest fighters in their ranks pulling out for moral reasons, he still feels compelled to go off-book to subvert the mission everyone worked and bled for to make a success. Oh, Tara’s still right there, ready to kill ’em all with a grin on her face. What’s pushing her other than the dead girlfriend thing? Regret that she didn’t get the women in Oceanside killed sooner so Alexandria could have the guns. For character motivation, it sucks. Everything about Tara’s behavior screams she’s going to get herself killed soon. Rosita got a second chance, not sure that’ll be the case here. The writers are making sure we’re not going to mourn too hard when Tara’s bloodlust goes awry. Pushed by her eagerness, Daryl rams a truck into Sanctuary, letting the undead inside. They don’t realize the quickest mind in the east is already at work scheming his way out of this mess in the name of his master.

Eugene is a worm. But a worm with convictions which put his safety as important as, oh, a Christian’s belief that Jesus died for their sins. He’s serious when he says numero uno is his sole concern. The only reason Negan is even considered in Eugene’s plan is because the guy’s got means, motive, and a mean streak a mile wide which will come in handy. Everything Eugene needs to do puts him head to head against Dwight and Gabriel. The latter man finds himself in the infirmary in Dr. Carson’s care, a condition Eugene says he brought upon himself. For Dwight’s part, he’s doing his damndest to keep the bloodshed to a minimum. His goal is to save everyone. Only Negan dies in the original plan. That will not happen should the bat-wielding guy get an earful about his good pal helping the enemy. They call a timid truce. Inspired by a request to fix a boom box, Eugene builds a speaker drone to draw the undead away. Dwight halts the maiden flight moments before the truck sends everyone into emergency mode. This is where Eugene’s bluster slips. He freezes once, flies into a rage, and winds up making a deal with the devil before drinking himself stupid. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to an immediate threat. The walkers have to go. The only way is if they unload the armory into the growling mass trapped on the first floor. He’s got what he needs to make more bullets, all he needs is the time. Time he gets. Negan okays the action and they unleash lead hell in the warehouse. Eugene is so focused on the undead, he doesn’t bother trying to find another time to tell Negan about Dwight after they’re interrupted. And as far as getting the doctor out? No way! The doctor stays put should Eugene need his services. At least the guy knows what he needs. Doesn’t mean I gotta like him.

We’re at the mid-season already, yet it feels like we haven’t gotten very far. A lot of people died, but the odds are more or less still the same, given the Scavengers flipping sides. Everyone is down on ammunition, the Saviors more so after clearing house. Negan is still alive. Rick’s free to cause more chaos. Culling the supporting cast doesn’t exactly mean they’ve progressed the plot a lot in seven episodes. Siege warfare told long-form isn’t always compelling for network television and we’ve seen this kind of thing before on the show so the reactions and deaths are predictable. Even this reformed Rosita’s desire to let fate roll without her interference was foreshadowed. We wanted something new, but this war they promised is more of the same Rick-driven drama they’ve given us for eight season—which has never, ever made sense from a survival-focused standpoint. Pretty much everything this guy does is on our Don’t Even Consider It list. Where can they go from here? We’re right back where we started, only now the bad guy’s really pissed off.