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.


The King, the Widow, and Rick: Review for The Walking Dead 806

The King, the Widow, and Rick:
Review for The Walking Dead 806
By R.C. Murphy

Warning! There’s spoilers below.

Now’s the time to regroup. The fighting for this stage of the war is wrapped. Everyone who walked away is back home nursing their wounds, mourning their dead, and preparing for the next battle. The captains get in touch via letters, delivered by what must be the fastest messengers in the apocalypse. I mean, like The Flash fast because there’s no way the coordinated a mail drop like this in time to magically get Rick his missives before he walks into his stupidest idea yet.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that Jadis and her Scavengers will never by on Rick’s side. Yet every time they up the ante against the Saviors, he crawls back to Her Weirdness, seeking an audience and help. Help she’ll never provide. She only lets him in to talk because it seems to amuse her to watch this man all but beg for more bodies to fight a war he could not win with his own resources. This time she makes Rick pay for bothering her nude art time by caging him in a sweltering cargo container, naked.

While Rick marinates in his regrets, the others get antsy. Particularly those who weren’t on the frontlines. Michonne isn’t satisfied by reading Rick’s debriefing letter. Only her own eyes can tell her the truth, so off she goes to take a joy ride to Sanctuary. Rosita hops in to join her, her mood as pale as her complexion so soon after the near-fatal shooting. The women don’t make it to their destination. Opera music, of all things, lures them to a building in the woods. Inside are two Saviors who escaped the attack. They’ve got the Fat Lady, a truck loaded with speakers designed to lure walkers, and need to make sure she’s in shape to save Sanctuary. Despite both being unfit for fighting, Michonne and Rosita take on the Saviors. The latter goes for complete overkill, using a rocket launcher inside to take out the male Savior. They’re not so lucky catching the second one. But someone’s watching out for them and the Fat Lady’s driver is stopped dead in her tracks.

Lest Michonne appear as the only unhinged warrior who freaking knows better than to just walk away from a war plan, Daryl and Tara join the wandering ladies on their trip to Sanctuary. While Michonne just needs visual confirmation of their win, Daryl wants to jump the gun on Rick’s big plan. He thinks the four of them can end the war then and there. How? No clue. He’s still not thinking clearly after learning they lost a third of their fighting force in one go. Desperation has always been Daryl’s downfall. When he’s cornered, he forgets that many hands make light work, that reaching out isn’t a sin, and taking a moment to think about the repercussions of your actions won’t take anything away from the win, should it happen.

In a moment which reminds one of the good ol days when Carl never stayed in the dang house, we catch him aimlessly wandering the woods to find the guy Rick chased off during episode one. He brought along a few snacks and water to help, sensing they were desperately needed. He’s right. While Siddiq is an impressive walker hunter, he’s lousy at securing supplies. The starving man attacks the water like he hasn’t drank in days. Then they get to chatting, which leads to Carl nearly dying in order to honor Siddiq’s mother’s memory. How’re they doing that? Killing the undead to release their souls. Yeah, it escalates quickly. Glad to see Carl hasn’t changed much over the years.

Over at Hilltop, things aren’t going smoothly. Maggie is incensed, unable to believe Jesus would burden them with captives and then feed them from their precious emergency storage. Gregory’s constant cries for death don’t help matters, either, but Maggie can’t leave the former leader alone because last time she did, he sold them out to the Saviors. There’s a solution for all her problems, one she has her people build overnight. The new prison cell will house the captive Saviors until Maggie finds a use for them. Gregory gets the same treatment because he’s scum. No one argues with her decision to lock him up. I’m sure if this were a lighthearted show, there’d be a scene where they all toasted Maggie for putting him in the cell.

The war plan is dissolving quicker than cheap bread in a pond. All that careful planning is going to go sky high once Daryl’s team breaks ranks and attacks again. Where’s Rick to stop them? Oh, right. He lost his freedom because he can’t take no for an answer.


The Big Scary U: Review for The Walking Dead 805

The Big Scary U:
Review for The Walking Dead 805
By R.C. Murphy

Warning! This review contains episode spoilers. Proceed with caution. They bite.

What’s this? Another flashback opening sequence with scenes bearing no weight whatsoever on the actual plot, containing information which could have easily gone somewhere else? Gabriel prays, it’s his thing. It didn’t have to happen in a flashback. As for Gregory, his love pancakes, and the super-secret meeting with the Saviors? Uh, duh? When they came out to chat with Rick, he wasn’t under duress. The play all this time has been to kindly, but firmly lead the little weasel by his nose so his people continue to provide produce for them. The meeting itself more or less took place during the same conversation with Rick, sans a few tidbits and the power squabble. I would’ve been more impressed with the show opening on Negan lunging for Gabriel.

The pair are still trapped in the flimsy trailer surrounded by walkers. Negan relieves his tension by picking on Gabriel, looking for his weak spots since he’s got all the time in the world with the guy. Not really, though. The trailer’s wall are already failing. There’s another problem, too. Instead of mounting a rescue, Negan has a feeling his guys will implode on the leadership front without him there to steer the ship. Which is pretty much what happens. In order to save what he’s built, Negan needs Gabriel to help him fight through the horde. There’s a tussle. And a bargain. In the end, they each confess a sin before slathering themselves with zombie guts. The ruse doesn’t work as well as they hoped.

Power dynamics are often lost on the soldiers. In this case, Negan’s captains understand some of what it takes to run the organization, but not a one of ’em has the wherewithal to see that every last person under them stays in line. They assume he leads by pure fear. Yeah, no. Negan leads by hope. That hope may be the grimiest thing to be dragged out of an apocalyptic landfill, but it still puts a roof over their head, water and food in their bellies, and surrounds their home with an army to keep the dead at bay. The workers are promised isolation from the ongoing war. In return they take what they’re given without complaint and do the work required of them. When the few comforts Negan provided dry up after his assumed demise, the workers’ hope vanish into the dark. Confronted with the chance to actually be Negan, every last one of the captains fails. It takes Negan all of thirty seconds to fix it after he and Gabriel finally make it inside.

It’s going to be a lot harder to fix the mess left amongst his captains. Not only does Simon think he’s in charge, but Gavin also points out that the only way the surprise attack works is because insider information has been leaked to Rick. One smidge of evidence may give the game away. Eugene notices red paint on a gun bag given to the workers which helped in their near-triumphant coup. Dwight has a new chess set, which he painted himself that very day. Odd hobby, but I’ll but it. Not sure Eugene’s going to have a chance to use his knowledge just yet. He’s more preoccupied with Sanctuary’s new guest . . . who’s suddenly got a fever and an overwhelming desire to break the doctor out of there.

Meanwhile back on the highway, Daryl and Rick have a nice chat with Yago, the Savior who almost delivered the guns to the Sanctuary. They get all the details from the guy, down to the identities of the meager few who walked away from the fight. Pretty much the second the guy bites the dust, Daryl is ready to ditch the master plan and improvise. There’s TNT in the wrecked truck. With just a little, they can blow Sanctuary’s gates, let the dead in, and problem’s solved. They can move on already; help the Kingdom regroup. Rick is the rational one for once, bringing up the blameless workers living in the same compound. The guys fight, the choreography echoing the first fight these two had at the rock quarry. Except that time there wasn’t an exploding truck. So much for the guns and dynamite. The guys split, Rick heading somewhere and Daryl’s off to Alexandria.

The somewhere is the giant trash heap of Please Stop Going There Already, according to the previews. Like they didn’t have enough problems with these people already. Sure, let’s try one more time when you’re desperate and the only bargaining tools you had blew sky high because your bestie can’t control his temper long enough to get them clear of a wrecked truck. This isn’t going to end well.


Some Guy: Review for The Walking Dead 804

Some Guy:
Review for The Walking Dead 804
By R.C. Murphy

Head’s up, there’s spoilers in this review

Just when it felt like the writers were about to decimate the Alexandria cast to make way for the newer communities, the action flips into high gear for the Kingdom at last, and WHAM, they take their most brutal hit since aligning themselves with Rick in this war. Does anyone make it off the gore-slick field? The dead are rising faster and faster. It takes mere moments for the Kingdom’s army to turn on the scant few survivors. Three, then only two men shuffle off the field with heartbeats. What good did Ezekiel’s grandstanding do if he has no one to bring home in the end?

The problem with possibly half the season playing out over the same day is the unrelenting desire to shake it up somehow in order to make it feel like time is actually passing. Four episodes in and maybe an hour or two has passed on the screen. That drags everything down, despite breaking for intense fight scenes or emotional goodbyes. How does one combat this problem without confusing the plot or halting the forward progress altogether? There’s no one answer, but I’m pretty sure bringing in conversations from before the fighting began which are echoes of things already said isn’t the best method to help time appear to move faster. Repetition doesn’t always sell a point the way a writer intends once it comes out of an actor’s mouth. Ezekiel’s speeches, for example, quickly went from charming, uplifting oases in the turmoil to tiresome, eye-rolling moments where they really just should move on to the next problem instead of verbally beating a dead horse.

That being said, Ezekiel’s arc in this episode alone is some of the best character development the show has seen in, oh, probably three seasons or so. I was there with him emotionally, hobbled by a wound and trapped on the field of his dead. His dead. He brought every single soul onto that silver platter for the Saviors. That knowledge breaks him. We watch this guy’s façade shatter like a mirrored mask, chip by chip sliding away until that moment in the polluted stream when Ezekiel exposes his true self to Jerry. My only complaint is that the jumps back to other conversations broke the emotional momentum for Ezekiel too much. Even then, by the end the emotions dragged me in again for that last bit of heartache.

Is there a petition anywhere to get these people to stop killing animals? At this point, given that both Walking Dead properties are likely to linger on an animal’s death more than any humans—look at Eric, he died off screen and didn’t get a proper goodbye—it’s safe to say they enjoy writing these particular death gags. Which is not something I say lightly. Look at the track record, though. Then look at the scene they gave Shiva. It’s great that they wanted to get as much emotion out of the cast as possible, but the scene itself becomes really uncomfortable to watch. Like we’re hostages forced to endure a pet’s death in order to ensure the safety of the others. We only sit through the drawn out tiger death to make sure Jerry and Carol get Ezekiel to safety. The entire time my gut screamed to turn it off. Walk away. Why put someone through that and call it entertainment? I just don’t get it. And yes, I know they’re sticking to the comics. That doesn’t mean the scene should have lasted so long. Would they devote the same detail to a human’s death? Not usually. Not anymore. There’s so many bodies on-screen at any given time, no one notices if twenty or so never show up again.

Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Cooper Andrews as Jerry – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The gun plan looks doomed, considering those very guns just took out everyone. Carol ends up being the sole person capable of slowing down the Saviors tasked with taking the weaponry to Sanctuary in order to clear the dead and liberate those trapped inside. It doesn’t take much to get the drop on some of them, but there’s more than she thought inside. Waiting outside seemed more prudent, except there’s still too many to take out solo. Carol is classic, manipulative, cunning Carol this episode. She plays the Saviors for fools, dang near getting the prize by herself. Until she hears Jerry and Ezekiel, who are pinned against a locked gate by an oncoming horde. It’s a good thing she came out of retirement to save these guys from themselves, right?

All’s not lost on the gun front. Carol worries about the future for about five seconds before Daryl’s motorcycle roars in the distance. The cavalry arrives to finish the job and the others stumble back to the Kingdom as a trio, sans a ferocious, loyal protector. How long has it been since they’ve treated us to a chase scene? I can’t remember. It’s a tad ridiculous, believing the Savior couldn’t hit Rick’s Jeep with their huge gun. Barring that, it’s a little bit of action movie fun, down to the crash at the end and the buddy-cop vibes from Daryl and Rick.

Well, one large part of the plan is finally in place. Is the cost worth it? Is any of this worth what’s to come in the near future? Rick thinks so, but I have a feeling he won’t have as much moral support from here on out.


Monsters: Review for The Walking Dead 803

Monsters:
Review for The Walking Dead 803
By R.C. Murphy

Whoop!Whoop! Spoilers below!

One thing’s for certain in the apocalypse, there’s sure a lot of walking. Why the show’s producers thought we needed an episode relying heavily on scenes of troops moving from one fight to another, I’ll never understand. This is supposed to be war, so how about they save the parades for later? Between the constant time jumping and the moments wasted during long walking scenes with dialog rehashing problems addressed during numerous occasions this season, this episode is the most filler-feeling episode ever. There’s a few golden nuggets of action, everything else is either forgettable, unimportant in the long run, or worse, a heartfelt moment which should be expanded, but passes with little to-do. That’s two episodes in a row which don’t feel right timing wise. Episode 802 because the slow-motion bookends brought the pace to a sharp stop and this one, where apparently the Kingdom possess a time-turner and Hilltop marches down the street, making it home around the same time as Gregory—who drove home from Sanctuary before the secondary attacks even began. What did they get right this week? The feels, as usual.

Joshua Mikel as Jared- The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

If you were hoping we’d get to keep Morales, I’ve got bad news. Actually I’ve got horrific news. Not only do they get our hopes up for a decent reunion by bringing Morales in at the end of the last episode, then proceed to yank our emotions around for a little bit. All it takes is a little backstory to kill Miranda and the kids. Given the writers’ love for flashbacks, they couldn’t even give us one of those PTSD-colored hallucinations like Morgan has just to get one more peek at Morales’ family? Here is this perfect mirror for Rick to stare into—a man so broken by the loss of his family that it took a bunch of savages to get him to come back to reality—and the show kills him off with no remorse from Daryl. None. He might as well have shot a squirrel. That’s, quite frankly, a waste of time and effort. The whole little side trip to visit with an old pal may as well not happened, save to finally give closure to that last lingering thread from season one. Rick isn’t going to learn from yet another glimpse into the abyss. Negan threatened to maim his son, killed one of his best friends in front of him, yet Rick continues to go after the Saviors; as far as I’m concerned that’s all the proof one needs to understand Rick will never, ever be written to react as an actual human being would. Once upon a time, yes, but now he’s a mess we’re forced to endure until the writers come up with some spectacular way to kill him off. Maybe he’ll go like Morales; a man who defends his family, fights harder after they die in order to survive, and is taken out by an emotionless hunter in the line of duty.

The Kingdom, bolstered by Ezekiel’s endless victory speeches, mow their way through several Savior battalions. Sounds exciting, right? Not really. These attacks are covered somewhat like montages. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds. When they aren’t bouncing from speeches to quick shoot-outs, they’re walking. Ezekiel promises his people they won’t die. In that they’re successful. Almost. During the last stop on their conquest tour, Ezekiel and his guards fail to properly secure the building after taking out the Saviors on the front lawn, opting to celebrate a little instead, then kill the newly risen undead. The guns Rick and Daryl are searching for were moved without warning, and now they’re cutting down the Kingdom forces. Jerry better make it out, man.

One group does actually spend the episode walking. Hilltop’s brigade march their Savior prisoners down the freeway. The Saviors are bound into chain gangs, following a lead truck carrying the dead. Large groups of people who’re talking attract walkers, of course. The group is attacked by zombies who, weee!, roll down a hill to get to them. Several Saviors are attacked. Even more try to escape. Not on Morgan’s watch. He chases them with every intent of killing Jared and the men he’s leashed to. Jesus intercedes on the Savior’s behalf, attempting to talk reason to Morgan. Yeah, uh, dude’s not home. At all. Morgan’s still actually in the trauma-haze which started when he woke after the near-miss in the satellite station. The fight between Jesus and Morgan is astounding. A ballet, really. It’s always a treat to sit back and watch Morgan’s fights, let’s be honest. They picked a great fighting style for him. Once Morgan snaps back to reality, he bolts. Just leaves everyone behind. Jesus and Tara rejoin the Hilltop group to push onward to home. Gregory has something to say about the new arrivals. No one wants his input and Maggie uses her burgeoning Mom Voice to send the former leader off so they can debate what to do with the new burden Jesus has dropped at Hilltop’s gate. Weird how none of them push Gregory to tell the truth about the car and Gabriel before sending him away to deal with the next emergency.

It’s not clear what the total body count is for Rick’s army so far. Sadly, we do have to say goodbye to Eric this week. Unfortunately Aaron doesn’t get a chance to be there for his husband at the end. Knowing full well death is coming for him, Eric sends Aaron to help hold the Savior’s attention while Rick and Daryl finish searching for the guns. When the chaos clears and the Saviors are dead, Aaron finds Eric’s reanimated body shuffling toward a herd near the road. There’s not even a chance to put him to rest. But I guarantee you if it’d been a lead character, the other characters would’ve gone to great lengths to make sure they didn’t just wander off as a zombie. It’s a little unfortunate that this is how Eric’s time on the show ends, drifting off like a cloud of smoke after years hovering in the background of every group shot as the token LGBTQ+ representative.

Next week we’re . . . still in the same day. Also, we’ll figure out which Kingdom fighters survive the ambush. Judging from the preview, the body count is going to get much, much higher.


The Damned: Review for The Walking Dead 802

The Damned:
Review for The Walking Dead 802
By R.C. Murphy

Timing issues continue to plague The Walking Dead in season eight. In this case, it’s pretty apparent that episode one and two were shot with every intention of tying them into one giant episode, and then the network to waved off the idea. That’s the only reason it makes sense for this episode, comprised of mostly fight scenes and awkward talking head bits, to be bookended by slow-motion reaction shots from the main cast. This is almost as bad as season one of Fear the Walking Dead where every scene was cut together with a slow pan of downtown Los Angeles. Did they run out of witty ways to engage the audience right off the bat? If this is war, as they’ve touted since the season eight media push began, why does this initial strike feel like it’s taking days, not hours?The groups split after the attack on the Sanctuary to carry out the rest of the eradication plan. Carol and Ezekiel lead Kingdom fighters to a Savior scout position where they lose the guy after a surprise grenade and walker ambush. They spend the entire episode walking and talking in the woods. Jerry gets a good whack in on a stray walker in their path. Ezekiel and Carol take the travel time to debate the merits of remaining hopelessly optimistic when in fact the odds of winning are heavily stacked against them. Well, that and a little flirting—subtly done, but still there. These actors have an entirely different conversation with their expressions and it’s testament to their skills that they progressed this unsaid thing between the characters while Carol’s basically saying she thinks they’re all going to die.

Group two, comprised of Alexandria people and lead by Aaron and Eric, hit a Savior stronghold safeguarded by Mara and her team. The plan is simple: Kill as many Saviors as possible and let the undead grab whoever survives the firefight. The fight itself is just like the shootout at the Sanctuary. Good guys hide behind armored cars, pop out their heads like perfect little targets, and shoot erratically at the bad guys, missing about 80% of the time. Yet again, the Alexandria cast takes the brunt of the losses, leaving a few named characters mortally wounded at the episode’s conclusion.

That’s not to say there weren’t any friendly losses within the satellite compound. Much like the last time they hit the location, the gang swept in—through the newly made zombie mote without much problem—and hit everyone in every room along every hallway. Somewhat. The slaughter stopped when Jesus’ conscious spoke up. His hesitation lead to an argument with Tara . . . in front of a Savior posing as a victimized worker. They nearly got killed in the name of a forced moral moment from the writing team. Tara’s mood swings likewise draws one from the action. She has every right to hate these people and want them dead, but the language she uses doesn’t always feel like something Tara would say as opposed to a character who’s always been abrasive and on the social outskirts. As much as she argues, Jesus’ stance on the conflict doesn’t change. Now they’ve got a gang of Saviors at gunpoint and a plan to finish which didn’t account for restraining and monitoring those who gave up without a fight.

Morgan may take umbrage to the very notion of Saviors surviving the onslaught. His cool took a hike quite some time ago. We’re dealing with a man similar to the broken soul they encountered hunkered down in a fortified city, speaking to himself and drawing on the walls. He walks into the fight without a worry, assured he’d survive because, “I don’t die.” Of course, dude, but maybe at least try not to offer yourself up as a nice, large target? In the process of Morgan totally losing his marbles, we’re treated to a rather nice fight sequence through the compound’s hallways. A new layer to Morgan’s story also came to light in this episode, with Jared recognizing Morgan and talking as though they’d worked together before under Negan. Which, honestly, makes sense. Morgan is a man everyone wants on their team if they need to keep the body count—alive or undead—high. Especially when he’s back on his Angel of Death gig. For as slow as the episode felt, once we dropped into Morgan’s head, time zipped right on by.

While everyone kept the Saviors busy, Daryl and Rick searched Mara’s compound to find a gun cache someone told them about before the ambush. Stage two of the plan is all about getting these guns in order to hold the line against incoming retaliation. So of course neither man finds the loot. Rick goes a step further, possibly orphaning an infant in the course of fighting toward what he thought was the gun room, not a nursery. Guilt-ridden and distracted, it gives someone the chance to get the drop on Officer Friendly. Morales is probably one of the most asked about characters whose survival was up in the air after they left the group. It’s great to see the writers dipping back into season one—with Morales’ return and the Little Girl Zombie tribute in the season eight opener—and make the show a little fun again. That’s certainly something we haven’t seen in a while, those little nudges from the past where things were simpler, before one man’s anger and ambition cost his friends and family their safety.

Ambition is contagious. Many of the other leaders show signs that they may stretch their people and resources to the limit in order to subdue the Savior threat. Is there a sane voice to pull everyone back before disaster strikes and they lose forward momentum in the war?