TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.5 “The Big Scary U” (dir by Michael Strazemis)


Could it be that I just watched a Negan-centric episode of The Walking Dead that wasn’t terrible?

It’s true!  I’ll admit that I rolled my eyes a bit when I saw that tonight’s episode was going to be about Negan and the Saviors.  Last season, though there were a few exceptions (particularly the episode where Eugene was first taken to the Sanctuary), the Savior episodes were my least favorite.  But tonight’s episode was actually pretty good.

That doesn’t mean that it was great, of course.  To be honest, I’m not totally sure that you could ever have a truly great Savior episode.  Whenever I watch the Saviors, I always find myself thinking about The Others on Lost.  One reason why the Others were such a fascinating group was because they weren’t just one-dimensional villains.  Whenever one of the Others would say something like, “We’re the good guys,” you could actually see their point.  There’s never been that type of ambiguity when it comes to the Saviors.  Negan is an asshole.  He has chosen to surround himself with other assholes.  They were all probably assholes before the zombie apocalypse and they’ll continue to be assholes until Sanctuary is eventually overrun by walkers.

With all that in mind though, this was still a pretty good episode.  If nothing else, this episode made it a little bit clearer why people started following Negan in the first place.  Even when Negan was trapped in the trailer with Father Gabriel, he did not allow himself to show any fear.  Instead, he was actually able to persuade Gabriel to make a run with him for the Sanctuary.  Even his confession to Gabriel about his first wife mostly served to reveal that Negan is a master manipulator.  He shared just enough to keep Gabriel intrigued.  After spending almost all of previous season bellowing, Jeffrey Dean Morgan dialed things back just enough to make Negan interesting again.  For that matter, tonight’s episode finally gave Seth Gilliam to show what he’s capable of when he’s actually given a decent line or two.

In the trailer, Negan told Gabriel that the Saviors would undoubtedly end up killing each other if they thought he was dead.  That may have sounded arrogant at the time but it quickly turned out that Negan was correct.  I think that’s also going to be the Saviors’s downfall.  By literally setting himself up as the strongest man in the Sanctuary, Negan has also ensured that the Saviors are lost without his presence and direction.  While all of his lieutenants may go out of their way to imitate Negan’s style, none of them have his leadership skills.  It doesn’t matter how much Simon and Regina insist otherwise.  They may say “I am Negan,” but everyone know that they’re not.  That said, Negan’s sudden appearance after everyone had assumed he was dead will probably leave him in an even more powerful position.  All messiahs return from the dead and Negan even returned with a man of God!

As for the rest of the episode, I didn’t really get the whole point of Rick/Darryl fight.  (It did, of course, remind us of the difference between Rick and Negan.  Rick forgave Darryl, something Negan would view as being a sign of weakness.)  Josh McDermitt is obviously having a blast as Eugene.  Eugene may be a traitor but McDermitt’s performance still makes me smile every week.  And then there was weaselly Gregory, of course.  I think we’re all ready to see a bunch of walkers pounce on Gregory.

As I watched tonight’s episode, I found myself making a few more predictions about the rest of season 8:

  1. There’s no way that Gabriel is still going to be alive at the end of this season.  He is so being set up for martyrdom.
  2. If they get Dr. Carter back to Hilltop, does that mean that Maggie will finally have her baby?
  3. Judging from the flashback/flashforward structure of this season (and the fact that they’re going to have to explain why Carl no longer looks like he’s 13 years old), I’m going to guess that there will be a considerable time jump between season 8 and season 9.  Either that or Zombie Carl’s going to show at some point soon…

As always, we’ll see what happens!

TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.1 “Mercy” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


Before I say anything about the 100 episode and 8th season premiere of The Walking Dead, I want to say thank you to the show’s producers for including a dedication to George Romero at the end of the episode.

Even in his later years, Romero never quite got his due from either Hollywood or the critical establishment.  He struggled to raise the money to make movies that would stay true to his vision.  The critics who praised him often only did so grudgingly, often acknowledging his influence while still making snide remarks about his films.  Too many critics are still unwilling to give unqualified praise to anything related to the horror genre.  Despite all of that, George Romero is one of the most important and influential filmmakers of all time.  It can be argued that without Romero and his Dead films, modern horror would look very different.  If there’s one thing that we can be sure of, it’s that without Night of the Living Dead, there would be no Walking Dead.

As for tonight’s episode…

Well, it was certainly different from what we had to deal with for the majority of season 7.  I mean, Rick actually did something other than sitting around in a catatonic state.  While Negan was featured in this episode, he was used sparingly.  He didn’t hijack the show, like he did for most of season 7.  We didn’t have to sit through any fifteen minute Negan monologues.  When this episode started with the various groups preparing for war, I figured that — following the usual pace of The Walking Dead — we would have 6 episodes of everyone getting ready, 6 episodes of everyone talking about being ready, and then 1 episode of actual fighting.  Instead, for once, the show got right to it.

Does this mean that the show’s producers actually learned something from the less than positive reaction that some fans and critics had to the sluggish pace of season 7?  We can only hope so.

I was happy to see Rick finally acting like the Rick that we once knew and loved.  Gone was wimpy Rick.  Instead, this Rick went straight to Negan, shouted out some threats, and then launched an attack on the Sanctuary.  All of a sudden, Rick became a badass again and it’s about time!

At the same time, I think it can be argued that the attack was a waste of bullets.  Sure, Rick and his people wanted to make a statement.  They wanted to show the Saviors that they weren’t going to allow themselves to be pushed around anymore.  But, as I watched round after round being fired at the Sanctuary, I remembered all of the times that we were shown Darryl pulling his arrows out of the head of a dead walker.  Why?  Because resources are limited in the world of The Walking Dead and anything wasted — like thousands of bullets — will never be replaced.  Rick and his allies have a lot of guns but what good are they going to be if they run out of bullets?

That said, during the show, I was willing to set aside those concerns.  Negan has been such a hateful and, if we’re going to be honest, annoying character that it was impossible not to feel a visceral thrill at the sight of someone finally fighting back.

As for the rest of tonight’s episode:

  1. Is Carl growing disillusioned with his dad?  To be honest, I’m just surprised that Carl’s still alive.  Someday, Carl is going to have to shoot his father in the head, in order to keep Rick from turning into a walker.  I have a feeling that’ll be the last scene of the last episode of The Walking Dead.
  2. Why is Gregory still alive!?  God, what a dumbfug toadsucker that guy has turned out to be.
  3. So, now, Father Gabriel has been captured by Negan.  I hope this doesn’t mean that we’re going to have to listen to Negan give a lecture on his opinion of organized religion.
  4. Throughout tonight’s episode, we were given scenes of an older and happier Rick.  He was living with Michonne and Judith.  Carl was nowhere to be seen.  There was a lot of talk of an upcoming festival.  Were these legitimate flash forwards or were they just Rick’s fantasy of what life is going to be like if he defeats Negan?  I’m leaning towards thinking they’re Rick’s fantasy.  Rick always thinks that life can somehow get back to being normal and happy.  All he has to do is find Sophia or defeat the Governor or make a new life as a pig farmer or kill Negan. It never works out like Rick thinks that it’s going to.  However, it’s Rick’s refusal to give up his faith that makes him both a compelling and a tragic figure.
  5. Rick was proud of himself after his battle with Negan but, as I watched Rick celebrate, it occurred to me that Rick always ends up thinking that, just because he’s won a battle, he’s won the war.  Again, it just never seems to work out for him.
  6. The Walking Dead is back!  I thought this was a good episode and I’m cautiously optimistic about the rest of the season.

How does everyone else feel?  What do you think?  Is season 8 going to be a return to form for The Walking Dead or are we looking at another season 7?  Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.