Recap | The Walking Dead S8E2

October 30, 2017
Jonathon Wilson 1
TV, TV Recaps
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The Damned

Show: The Walking Dead

Network: AMC

Air Date: October 29, 2017


What happened?

Like last week, lots happened. And like last week, none of it was coherent, dramatic, meaningful or interesting. None of it made sense. The Walking Dead is fast becoming one of the worst shows on television (certainly the worst with such a huge, ardent fanbase). These recaps are quickly becoming the most embarrassing, painful hour of my week. The whole thing is stupid and dramatically fraudulent. All the characters who were once interesting have become blank, mindless ciphers; door-kicking, gun-toting, lecture-giving mannequins. All the characters who aren’t like that are simply too outlandish to be believed. There was a time when Ezekiel was compelling because he was a shrewd, fair leader who had created a functional apocalyptic society. Now his only attributes are that he has a pet tiger and talks as though he’s smuggling fortune cookie papers inside his filthy dreadlocks.

Okay, but what actually happened in The Damned?

“The Damned” was divided into four subplots of variable quality. One saw Morgan (Lennie James), Tara (Alanna Masterson), and the twinkly-eyed Jesus (Tom Payne) retaking a compound that I’m pretty sure Rick’s group had already taken back in a previous season. The second saw Carol (Melissa McBride) and King Ezekiel’s (Khary Payton) group tracking the guy who lobbed a grenade at them last week. This one is especially idiotic, not least because they all have to start by picking themselves up off the ground, all disoriented, even though the grenade exploded nowhere near them and produced mostly smoke. Why are they even tracking this guy so intently? So he doesn’t warn the rest of the Saviours? Aren’t Rick’s people in the middle of all-out war with the Saviours? I’m pretty sure they are.

The show doesn’t do itself any favours. This picks up right where last week’s episode ended, but the third sub-plot, which sees Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) looking for guns in a Saviour base, clearly takes place after what’s going on with Carol and Ezekiel. The timeline is never properly established or explained. This isn’t to serve any narrative purpose that I can see. It’s contorted and obtuse for no good reason. Another fancy-pants “artsy” flourish, like each episode opening and closing on slow close-ups of various characters’ faces, that just comes across as laughable.

And the fourth sub-plot?

Aaron (Ross Marquand) is leading an assault on another Saviour outpost. One which apparently had no back door or alternate exit of any kind. His “plan”, if you want to be generous, is to keep everyone hemmed into the courtyard by relentlessly shooting scenery, in the hopes that any Saviours who caught an odd stray bullet would wake up as zombies and do his job for him. And this kind of works. There’s a bossy Saviour lady who gets chomped, which is a success. But then the show starts to inexplicably frame this whole extended gunfight as Aaron’s people suddenly losing. Like, literally, the whole tone and direction of the scene changes for no reason. There’s no inciting incident.

I don’t know whether this is a consequence of sloppy editing or simply that the show has no interest in writing sensible action sequences anymore, but either way, it results in Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson), Aaron’s husband, getting shot. And he gets shot because he makes a dumb decision that he had absolutely no reason to make.

Anyone else make dumb decisions this episode?

Almost everyone. There’s an incredibly forced sequence in which Jesus, during a gunfight, tries to convince Tara not to shoot a guy who claims to be “just a worker” and ends up nearly getting both of them killed. But later when the rest of the group has surrendered, Morgan (remember when he was non-violent? That was interesting) turns into a lunatic and tries to execute everyone. These characters can’t be moral without seeming stupid and naïve. They can’t be immoral without seeming crazy and unreasonable. It’s impressively bad.

I’ve heard an old character returns…

Yes! A character we haven’t seen for years, Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja), waylays Rick during his search for firearms. Apparently he’s a Saviour now. The episode ends with him holding Rick at gunpoint after informing him that he had “called the Saviours” and that they were “coming back.”

Sorry, what? Coming back from where, exactly? This scene already takes place in a Saviour base! Who did he call? Negan’s in a trailer surrounded by zombies. Everyone else is being shot at by Aaron’s Stormtroopers or having their faces eaten by Ezekiel’s tiger. Morgan turned into a unstoppable murder man earlier in the episode and wiped out most of a base on his own. The rest surrendered. What is going on here?

I’m sure it makes some kind of sense.

It might, but then the question should be this. Why doesn’t The Walking Dead care about helping the audience understand things anymore? This isn’t how you build suspense. The show isn’t withholding minor details that might set up a later swerve or reversal. It’s refusing to share incredibly important plot information that is necessary to understand the stakes. Are you worried about Rick? I certainly aren’t. Daryl is in the same building. There aren’t any Saviours to come to Morales’ aid. He’ll be fine. And I’m sure that I’m not supposed to feel like that about our imperilled hero. The fact that I do is a gross failure of storytelling.

Was there anything you did like?

One thing. Right before Rick encounters Morales, he finds a baby in its crib which triggers one of those classic Andrew Lincoln “Oh, for f**k’s sake” reactions. In that brief moment you remember a few things. That Lincoln can act, sure, but also that all these indistinguishable Mooks are supposed to be wives and husbands and mothers and fathers, not just scruffy fairground targets for the heroes to mow down. The episode is too muddled and foolish to do anything with this, but it was there, however briefly, and I appreciated that.

Should we keep watching?

No. This is nonsense, and if I hadn’t been assigned these recaps I’d be doing absolutely anything else with my Sunday nights. The show’s a disaster. With any luck someone will come along soon and plant a bullet in its brain to end its suffering – and mine, too.

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