The quick, one-sentence recap of this week’s episode of ‘The Walking Dead’: Shootin’, shootin’, shootin’, shootin’, shootin’, more shootin’, everybody’s sad.
The longer version: The show’s producers clearly intend to push this season’s theme of “All Out War” as far as they can for as long as they can. You want to know what happens next in last week’s cliffhanger with Gabriel trapped in a trailer with Negan? Too bad. Neither character is mentioned at all. We’re doing that thing again where the episodes jump around in time to skip over things you might want to watch, in order to drag out the payoff to several episodes or even half a season down the line.
The timeline in episode ‘The Damned’ is particularly confusing. Honestly, I have no idea exactly when many the events of this episode take place, either in relation to last week’s premiere or even one storyline to another.
Savior Outpost #1
In one plot thread, we watch Aaron lead a group of Alexandrians in a full-on assault on a Savior compound that I thought was the Sanctuary while watching the episode, which left me questioning why they’re fighting this battle again after they just left the Sanctuary to be overrun by Walkers. But I guess I was wrong and it’s not the Sanctuary, just some other Savior output that looks exactly like it.
Whatever the case, they trap a group of Saviors (being led by a woman named Mara) in the courtyard. As each side picks off members of the other little-by-little, Mara assumes that the Alexandrians are too cowardly to rush all the way in. Eventually, however, she realizes the truth of their strategy, which is to lock the Saviors in until their own dead rise up and kill them. She learns this by way of one of her own people tearing out her throat.
Both sides take casualties in the battle, including a few “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that person in the background of scenes” familiar faces, but no characters of too much consequence, except that Aaron’s boyfriend Eric gets shot in the gut. Whether he can survive this is left to be resolved later, probably six or seven episodes from now.
Savior Outpost #2
Morgan, Jesus and Tara lead a team to raid the satellite dish outpost – yes, the same satellite dish outpost where Rick and crew slaughtered a bunch of Saviors in Season 6. The plan this time: Do basically the same thing again. It mostly works, too. They slip in through the defenses and kill a bunch of people. However, when they come across a man hiding a closet who has pissed his pants and claims to be just a worker, Jesus and Tara squabble about whether to kill him. Tara is eager to put the guy down, but Jesus has apparently decided to take over the position of Moral Compass for our heroes, and argues that killing a man who has surrendered is wrong. Of course, the guy turns out to be a total lying scumbag and gets the drop on Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus slips out of his grasp and overcomes him. He knocks out the man and ties him up, but won’t let Tara finish him off.
Tara and Jesus continue this debate later when a larger group of Saviors surrenders.
Meanwhile, while clearing another part of the building, Morgan and two others get gunned down by some Saviors. The other two die, but Morgan somehow isn’t badly hurt. Once Alexandria’s former Moral Compass, Morgan then turns into a full-blown unstoppable Terminator, charging through the hallways killing people left and right. By the time he rejoins with Tara and Jesus, the battle is over but he still has a crazed look in his eyes. Jesus has to stop him from murdering one of the Savior captives who looks at him funny.
I assume that all of this takes place concurrently with the Aaron storyline.
In what is, for me, the most confusing storyline, Ezekiel, Carol and a team from the Kingdom hunt for a lone Savior to prevent him from notifying the other Saviors of their presence. Does this take place before the attack on the Sanctuary? Because if not, why do they care? If this was explained, it totally went over my head.
Along the way, Ezekiel gives lots of grandiose ‘Henry IV’-style speeches about their destiny and certitude of victory. “There will be no fantasies of failure this day!” he proclaims. When Carol pulls him aside, Ezekiel admits that this is all part of his “Fake it ’til you make it” philosophy of leadership.
They track the guy through the woods, following a trail of blood, until they meet up with another contingent from the Kingdom and Shiva the tiger eats the Savior. This seems like a mission accomplished to me, but Carol expresses concern that the Saviors now know about them. How?
Ezekiel cheerfully declares that they will press on anyway. To what? I don’t know. I’m lost. Someone will have to explain this to me.
Savior Outpost #3
Rick and Daryl invade a Savior-controlled building to look for an armory of weapons that Dwight gave them a map to. I guess this is supposed to be after they left the battle at the Sanctuary. Or maybe before it started? Again, the timing is unclear to me.
Daryl still doesn’t trust Dwight and is skeptical of his information. The building appears to be empty, and they split up, which does not at all seem like a smart idea. Working their way upwards, they search floor by floor until getting to the top.
Rick is jumped by a Savior and they have a brutal fight. While struggling, Rick asks where the guns are and the man says there aren’t any. Of course, Rick doesn’t believe him. They continue to brawl until Rick finally impales and kills the guy. He then opens a closed door expecting to find all the guns, but instead of an armory, the room is a nursery with a little baby sleeping in a crib. The man was just trying to protect the child. Rick sees himself in a mirror and is sickened.
As Rick walks away (leaving the baby there alone??), another guy comes up on him with a gun. He knows Rick personally, and Rick recognizes him as Morales, someone he knew in Atlanta back in Season 1.
Cue thousands of internet searches as viewers try to remember who the hell this random dude is. Even after reading this wiki on the character, I still have zero memory of him.
Rick does, however. Morales is apparently with the Saviors now. The episode ends with him stating that he’s already called the other Saviors and told them Rick is here. To which I ask: So? As far as I know, Negan has his hands full at the moment.
Bluntly, this episode is a confusing mess. I don’t understand the point of any of it. If Rick has already declared war and launched his first attack on Negan, why is everyone so concerned about the Saviors knowing about them? If all these events are supposed to take place before the battle at the Sanctuary, that’s not made clear at all.
The episode has some decently tense and suspenseful moments, but the emphasis on gun battles, gun battles, and more gun battles grows tiring after a while. They all blur into one another, and most of the characters doing the shooting or getting shot aren’t people we care about. It’s also patently ridiculous how the combatants on both sides have an unlimited supply of bullets – especially given that talk of a bullet shortage was a major plot point last year.
Jesus and Tara’s debate about the morality of killing hostages is extremely clunky and heavy-handed, and some attempts to get arty with slo-mo montages of people’s faces are just silly. The big revelation of the return of a character that nobody remembers is downright lame. Frankly, I think it would be better (and kind of amusing) if even Rick didn’t remember him and told him as much. At least that would be realistic. He’s been through a lot since Season 1.
With a second episode this bad, Season 8 is not off to a very good start, unfortunately. The Savior who tricked Jesus asked, “Do you know how hard it is to piss yourself on purpose?” In a sense, the series is doing just that.