I’m not sure what Kool-Aid “The Walking Dead” editors have been drinking, but I’m calling for an intervention. Between the disorienting switches in slow-mo flash forwards and the shameless cliffhangers, “TWD” is starting to feel more like a failed film school project than a beloved prime-time basic cable juggernaut. This week, our gang of Survivors continues the balancing act between might and mercy as they continue their war with the Saviors.
The Sheriff, The Widow, and The King
Inside one of the Savior’s hideouts, Morales and Rick are still locked in a one-man Mexican standoff. It turns out that Morales never made it to Birmingham, but instead suffered the loss of his wife and children before the Saviors found him. As he puts it, they’re the only person who saw anything in him. Rick tries to reconnect with his estranged comrade by name-dropping all of their mutual friends from back in the Atlanta days. This plea for compassion might have worked pre-Savior brainwashing, but Morales has full on Negan-ed. He says he knew it was Rick even before Negan mentioned his name. A vengeful man, eager to rush in. Who else could it have been except for their old trigger-happy ruler Rick Grimes?
Daryl is feeling less sentimental though, and promptly launches an arrow into Morales’ skull. As their old friend falls to the floor, Rick cycles through shock, loss, and indifference in the span of five seconds. In war, there is no time for weakness. As Morales demonstrated, there is no reasoning with some of Negan’s men. They’ll always have an “us or them” attitude — whoever walks away will be whoever has the gun.
The Killing Tree
On the front lines, Aaron and the rest of the Alexandrians are falling back as the Savior squad starts fighting off their fellow infantry who have turned into walkers. Their mission is almost a success —
except Eric, Aaron’s husband, has been shot.
When Aaron returns from the fighting to search for Eric, he’s gone, having left only a bloody mark behind. Already shattered by the realization that his lover is dead, the knife is further twisted when he sees undead Eric joining the rest of the Walker herd. Unable to put his lover to rest, Aaron has to deal with the realization that Eric will be doomed to wander the earth until he’s coldly put down by some stranger who never knew how much he meant to someone. Or worse. Eric will end up ending someone else’s life and continuing the deadly cycle.
Daryl’s indifferent shot to Morales’ dome certainly unsettled Rick, but their options in that situation were pretty limited. Holding a gun inches from Rick’s face put Morales in a fairly non-negotiable position, but what about a nonlethal threat? Rick gets this question answered when they’re leaving the safe house. As they are getting into their car, an unknown shooter fires in their direction. Sensing that it must be a panicked lone wolf, Rick offers him a deal, “Tell us where the guns really are and we’ll let you go… I give you my word.” Not eager to play the fool, the guy tells Rick that the guns were moved to the satellite station, where Carol and Ezekiel’s group are now. Deciding to go against Rick’s word, Daryl shoots the Savior even after he has effectively surrendered. This “take no prisoners ” attitude may cause a lot of trouble later, but right now Daryl is proving that he’s too jaded to care.
Jesus Leads His Followers
Recycling the storyline from last week, people are mad at Jesus for wanting to save the Saviors. As they march, the chain gang towards the Hilltop they are ambushed by walkers tumbling down a hill. A surprisingly simple, yet terrifying stunt. This is another reason why we need stunt awards people! The Neganites panic, after all, they are defenselessly all tied to each other and are essentially zombie bait. As the gang tries to fend off the biters, a few of the Saviors manage to escape by running into the woods. Unfortunately, a bloodthirsty Morgan is quick on their trail and shoots one in the head to slow them down. Jesus, just like his namesake, peacefully steps in. He urges Morgan to stand down before Jesus has to force him to do so. Morgan opts for the second option and thus begins our unwanted (but we watched it anyway) Jesus/Morgan fight. No matter who the winner is, it’s not a good idea to show the opposition that you’re divided.
After the scuffle, they manage to get the rest of the Saviors to the Hilltop. Maggie, the HBIC, has just — against all better judgment — let Gregory back into their camp. Now, she’s faced with housing literally dozens of Negan’s men. The same men who stood by and watched Glenn being brutally murdered. On the one hand, “The Walking Dead” often preaches compassion over cruelty. But this level of forgiveness is mind-boggling. Not only have these people proven themselves to be dangerous and untrustworthy, but there are also children at the Hilltop. Agreeing to let them stay is inviting a fox into the hen house. Eventually, Maggie agrees to keep the Savior captives locked in the trailers in the back of the Hilltop. Let’s just hope that this doesn’t come to bite them all later.
Long Live The King
At the satellite station, King Ezekiel has been rejoicing, because they team has managed to take down a lot of Negan’s men without any casualties of their own. Ezekiel is definitely a peacetime King because this naivety is something you’d expect from a Season 3 survivor, not a Season 8 warrior. As soon as he utters those words, the Saviors open fire from the satellite tower, cutting down tens of the Kingdom’s men. As the bullets rain down the rest of his men leap to shield Ezekiel, and thus the hope of their people surviving this war.