In this week’s dopily-titled episode of The Walking Dead, Dead Or Alive Or, the Alexandrians head back to Hilltop as allegiances are tested and a couple of the cast think they’ve found God. It aired on March 11, 2018.
Astute readers among you might have noticed that I missed last week’s episode of The Walking Dead. Then again, if you’re that astute, you also probably noticed that even the heartstring-tugging shenanigans of the midseason premiere wound me up, so it’s hardly a surprise that I temporarily forgot The Walking Dead even existed. I wish I had a better excuse. Luckily I remembered just in time for Dead Or Alive Or, which is a horrible title for a not-so-horrible episode. By the show’s current standards, anyway.
That’s the thing, isn’t it? Even decent episodes of The Walking Dead are bad episodes of television by any traditional metric. The show has been so badly written, directed, acted and produced, and for so long, that the fact it even continues to exist is like a macabre joke. Dead Or Alive Or actually has a better gag, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Now that we’re a few episodes removed from the premiere, I think we can safely say that the back half of season 8 is a lot better than the front was, even if it’s still laughably terrible most of the time. It’s better paced, less vague and ambiguous in its timeline and structure, and it seems to have excised most of the flashbacks, melodrama and arty pretense that were at an all-time premium in the early episodes of the season. Ratings are down to a frankly embarrassing extent, but that’s to be expected after killing off a major fan-favorite character for no real reason.
Don’t worry about that, though – we have Alexandrians to worry about instead. Daryl, Dwight, Rosita, and Tara are schlepping their way through the woodland on their way to Hilltop, accompanied by a bunch of extras who we’ve never seen before. More interesting is the drama between Tara and Dwight; the former’s livid that the latter stuck an arrow through her girlfriend’s eye, and would like to kill the latter, which she declares loudly at every possible opportunity.
I have some concerns about this. One of them is that I’ve had longer bouts of indigestion than Tara’s relationship with Denise. The other is that I’m pretty sure Tara began her tenure on this show as one of the Governor’s lackeys. Shouldn’t she be a bit more tolerant of people switching sides? In Dead Or Alive Or, she leads Dwight into the woods and tries to execute him, which she fails at so spectacularly that he ends up back with a group of Saviours. Nobody seems to care. In fact, when she returns, Daryl is furious that he got away in case he betrays them, even though Tara and Rosita explicitly state that they saw him lead the bad guys away from his new friends despite his new friends chasing him into the woods and trying to kill him like idiots.
Nothing about this show or these characters makes any sense.
If Dead Or Alive Or excelled anywhere, it was in making an episode-long joke largely about the show’s continued refusal to maintain a consistent tone and theme. After escaping from the Saviours, Father Gabriel and Doc Carson find themselves on the run. Gabriel has a severe infection that has almost blinded him, but he insists that God has a plan for them and that he’ll lead the way. I also almost went blind during this portion of the episode, because my eyes rolled so hard that they plopped out onto my lap.
When their car breaks down, they find a house to take shelter in. In the house are antibiotics that can help out with Gabriel’s fever. (He just pops a couple and then he’s fine – I don’t think that’s how antibiotics work, but God’s plan, I guess.) While he’s fumbling around all blind, Gabriel knocks over a piggy bank containing car keys and a map. When the Doc gets caught in a bear trap and attacked by walkers, Gabriel closes his eyes and miraculously hits a life-saving headshot. No matter what crazy and hopeless situation these two find themselves in, they’re bestowed a divine escape route.
Because The Walking Dead hasn’t entirely shied away from openly embracing this kind of nonsense, you can really believe this is the direction the show is heading. I certainly did. And so did the initially-skeptical Doc Carson, who, when he and Gabriel were eventually re-captured by Saviours, said he could see the path God had laid out for them. He merrily snatched one of the Saviours’ guns, and the rest instantly shot him to death.
Seems like The Walking Dead has a sense of humor after all.
Gabriel winds up back at the Sanctuary’s bullet factory, where Eugene is busying himself by being aggressively unpleasant to everyone around him. His newest suggestion is to use zombie guts and body parts as siege weapons, which is ridiculous but gives Negan an idea. What the Saviours have planned next is to coat their weaponry in offal so that Team Rick gets infected. That’s such a good idea it makes me wonder why nobody thought of it sooner.
Towards the end of Dead Or Alive Or, Daryl and the others make it back to Hilltop, where Maggie was planning on starving her prisoners to death. News of Carl’s pointless demise rocks the settlement, and Maggie has a change of heart. She decides to let them have quarter-rations instead, just so long as they work on Hilltop’s infrastructure. What a babe.
Now that I’ve remembered The Walking Dead is a thing that exists and that I’m supposed to cover here, I can say that I’ll be on-hand next week to complain with some timeliness. And I can say that the show is getting ever so slightly better, even if at this point that’s barely a compliment. But I can also say that Dead Or Alive Or only really reinforced the fact that not only do I not care about any of these characters, I’m actively annoyed by several of them, and I wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest if they all died.
That just about says it all, I think.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.