Three weeks into the eighth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead finds our players fighting the same fight. No, not the war versus the Saviors, but the battle, the same battle, that kicked off the season premiere. In fact, arguably only hours have passed thus far, and the events of all three episodes transpire in one day.
Progression is happening, but ever so slowly.[Editor’s Note: This recap will obviously go into detail about last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, so there are going to be a ton of spoilers. Final warning!]
Last week’s episode ended with a (for the lack of a better word) cliffhanger revelation with ‘Morales’ making a surprise return! Morales! Hell yes. Wait, who’s Morales? Turns out, Morales was a member of the first iteration of ‘the group’ long before they became Alexandrians, way back in season one. If you had no idea who he was, you’re definitely not alone. It turns out they probably should have let Morales stay forgotten, as he’s killed after a few minutes by Daryl, who gives zero fucks that Morales shows up (even though he knows who he is).
Zero fucks might be a common sentiment because it’s how I felt as a viewer: why should I care? In fact, Morales only true purpose seems to be as a convenient plot twist, there to act as a mirror to Rick, to raise moral questions to Rick who has clearly not been raising them himself (despite Carl’s insistence he should). When Morales calls Rick and his group monsters, it beats on the old theme of what makes someone good in this world. We’ve seen certain characters struggle with morality and how to react to extreme violence time and again (do you rise to the occasion, or do you stick to the path of what should be right?), and apparently we’re not going to come to grips with decisions any time soon as tent pole characters like Rick and Morgan continue to waiver back and forth between mercy and no mercy, between Neegan-ness and needless timidness.
There was also some cheap baiting as the previews for the episode appeared to show Ezekiel and his group getting outmaneuvered by Saviors, but, wait, they outmaneuvered the maneuverers thanks to Carol! Yet, I can’t help feeling this scene does a horrible job of explaining away what happens when two groups of people both shoot at a third group of people directly between them (i.e. WHAT IS CROSSFIRE, ALEX). And, somehow, I don’t think dozens of people can hide in knee deep grass without being discovered by another group of people with equal numbers who are also surreptitiously stalking through the same grass. What exactly was Carol’s ingenious plan, pray they don’t step on us? There were more issues with this throwaway scene than in the entire season thus far, as they all have to do with logic and reality.
Do you recall the last time the Alexandrians dealt with whistling Saviors in the woods, back at the conclusion of season 6? They were absolutely schooled every step of the way. What changed? How does half of Ezekiel’s group lure in the Saviors to a spot concealing the other half of Ezekiel’s group without the Savior’s noticing? It’s beyond me, or good writing, to understand how we’re supposed to believe this.
Elsewhere, Eric still has a GSW to the gut, and Aaron is still trying to get him to safety. This too is short-lived, and also anticlimactic. One feels producers are grasping at straws, trying to ramp up emotional drama and tension with these deaths as we’re now killing off tertiary characters lacking the emotional investment of a Glenn or even an Abraham. I know I’m supposed to care that Eric is clearly going to die, in this moment, but I didn’t. Mostly, I yearned for what would go wrong next, because clearly something would—things never progress as you expect them to in this world.
But it turns out what would go wrong was just more bad writing, as Morgan, sensing Rick’s angst through their telepathic bond, decides to pick a fight with Jesus. I will say if The Walking Dead wants to play MTV’s Celebrity Death Match I’m not totally opposed to it, but they should fully embrace the concept. Who would win in a fight between Daryl and Carl? Judith and a squirrel? In this case, watching Jesus live up to his namesake, despite his ninja skills, was mildly amusing, as Morgan, who became a ninja in just weeks, suddenly finds that his bo skills are not on the level of Donatello after all.
If you’re keeping track, this was gimmick number two. The plot points playing out here were already covered in the last episode, but to give them more screen time, cheap gimmicks are employed to trump up and disguise this fact. And sadly, the less than stellar writing continued, as characters make improbable, if not completely irrational decisions: why would Maggie ever allow Gregory back into Hilltop? It makes as little sense as Gabriel’s rash decision to save Gregory last week. I thought the Alexandrians were immune to Gregory’s ‘charisma.’ I guess not.
And speaking of Gabriel, we’ve yet to learn what happened to him, as this plotline remained untouched. Where the fuck is Michonne by the way? That’s three episodes with her completely relegated to the sideline. One of our true badasses being totally neglected is nearly unacceptable. She’d better kill someone with her samurai sword soon, or I may stop watching the show.