TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.3 “Monsters” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


Before watching tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, I was starting to worry that I might be impossible to please.

I spent all last season complaining that The Walking Dead was too talky and slow-paced.  Then last week’s episode was pretty much nonstop action and I ended up getting bored out of my mind, largely because I didn’t feel like I had any sort of emotional stake in any of the characters.  When tonight’s episode started, I was literally wondering if perhaps I’m destined to never be truly satisfied with anything that happens on The Walking Dead.

When the episode started with the attack still going on and Morales and Rick still talking, I was a little bit concerned.  I was really worried that the entire episode was just going to be the two of them discussing what constitutes morality during the zombie apocalypse.  I honestly didn’t remember much about who Morales was so I have to admit that I wasn’t terribly affected by his tales of woe and death.  Morales explained that he lost everyone.  Rick mentioned that he had lost a lot of people that he cared about.  (Rick didn’t mention that most of them died as the result of Rick being a terrible strategist but no mater.)  I was really starting to get concerned that the conversation was never going to end but then Daryl showed up and killed Morales.  Thank you, Daryl.  From now on, whenever a minor character threatens to hijack an episode, Daryl kills them.  That’s the new rule.

The episode definitely picked up after the death of Morales.  In fact, thing got so much better after Morales died that I almost felt as if, by killing Morales, the show’s producers, writers, and directors were specifically telling us, “Don’t worry.  We learned our lesson last season.  We’re not going to let random characters wander in and take over the show this season.”

As for the rest of the episode, I know that many would probably say that the fight between Morgan and Jesus was a highlight and I’ll agree that it was a very well-done sequence.  (It helped that it was combined with scenes of Rick and Daryl fighting their own battle, for once giving us a chance to understand where all of these characters are in relation to each other.)  The scenes with Aaron and Eric were definitely the episode’s emotional high point and the sight of Eric wandering around as a walker served as nice reminder that, before it all became about Negan and Alexandria, The Walking Dead a show about … well, the walking dead.

For me, though, the best part of tonight’s episode was Gregory showing up at Alexandria and begging to be allowed to come back in.  Maggie, of course, immediately noticed that Gregory was driving Father Gabriel’s car.  Gregory lied and said that he had just found the car.  (Of course, we all know that he deserted Gabriel, leaving him with Negan.)  When Maggie said that Kal had told them that Gregory went to see Negan, Gregory announced that Kal couldn’t be trusted.

Suddenly, Kal leaned over the side of the wall.

Gregory looked up at him.  “Kal,” he sad.

Kal gave Gregory the finger.

Now, it may be a case of me being easily amused but that one hand gesture made the entire night for me.  It was so simple and yet so appropriate that it was pure genius.  If Gregory had been caught telling lies about Rick, Rick would have launched into a speech about why no one is allowed to lie in this new world.  If Gregory had been caught telling lies about Negan, we would have had to spend three episodes listening to Negan’s lecture.  Gregory got caught telling lies about Kal and Kal responded quickly, silently, and efficiently.  Everyone on The Walking Dead should try to be more like Kal.

Anyway, Maggie did let Gregory back into the compound.  Rick probably would have shot Gregory in the head.  Maggie does things differently.

Speaking of which, at the end of the show, Rick promised a savior that he would be allowed to escape if he would just tell Rick and Daryl where they could find a case of guns.  The savior told them and Daryl promptly shot him in the head.  I can’t say that I blame Daryl.  That’s just the way things work in the heartless world of The Walking Dead.

Anyway, despite a shaky start, this episode turned out pretty well.  It was certainly a huge improvement on the previous two episodes of this season.

Allow me to end this review with a question and prediction.

First, the question: “Where’s Carl?”

A prediction: The first half of season 8 will end with a zombiefied Carl walking towards Rick.  I know that would be a major departure from the comic book but, honestly, it makes sense.  On the show, only two or three years have passed since Rick woke up from that coma.  In the real world, it’s been nearly 8 years and Chandler Riggs isn’t getting any younger.

We’ll see what happens!

TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.13 “Bury Me Here” (dir by Alrick Riley)


“We have to get ready.  We have to fight.”

“We do … BUT NOT TODAY.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake!  Will somebody please fight the goddamn saviors so that the damn show can move on to something other than tense stand-offs and rambling monologues from Negan’s goons!?

*sigh*

Okay, that’s out of my system.  Let’s talk about the latest episode of The Walking Dead.

Judging from some of the response that I’m seeing online, a lot of people are proclaiming Bury Me Here to be one of the best episodes of season 7.  I really can’t agree, though I will say that those who are saying that Lennie James was “Emmy-worthy” tonight are not incorrect.  James had some great moments and it was nice to be reminded that Morgan is actually one of the more interesting characters on The Walking Dead.

For that matter, there was a lot of good acting on display tonight.  Not just Lennie James but also Karl Makinen, who made you sympathize with Richard even if you couldn’t exactly blame Morgan for beating him to death at the end of the episode.  The title’s episode came from Richard’s request and, by the end of the show, you did feel that Richard had earned the right to pick his own burial site.

(A lot of fans turned on Richard when, a few episodes ago, he suggested sacrificing Carol in order to bring Ezekiel in Rick’s war with the Saviors.  Well, Richard shouldn’t have suggested that and yes, he did make some mistakes tonight.  But goddammit, at least Richard was doing something other than growing melons.)

You know who else did a good job tonight?  Logan Miller.  He did a good job, even when the show’s script when out of its way to sabotage him.  Has anyone ever been as obviously doomed as Miller’s Benjamin?  From the minute Benjamin showed up tonight, we know he was dead.  He offered to help out Carol.  He looked up to Morgan.  He had naive hope for the future.  He had a girlfriend.  He gave Morgan an uglyass painting for his uglyass room.  Benjamin was so doomed and yet, Logan Miller brought at least a little bit of poignancy to his character’s obvious fate.

But, with all that in mind, tonight’s episode still moved way too slowly for me.  It felt like a throwback to the first half of the season, before the show’s writers apparently realized how boring it was to have to sit through a new Savior monologue every week.  There were hints of the show that we all want The Walking Dead to be.  Even Morgan’s murder of Richard was a return to the unflinching yet plot-appropriate brutality that brought The Walking Dead its initial success.  There were good moments but there were plenty of slow moments too.

Of course, that’s the way it’s almost always been with The Walking Dead.  At the show’s best, the good moments are so good that they cause you to forget about the slow moments.  At its worse, the slow moments are so slow that you give up on watching before the episode reaches the good moments.  And then you have episodes like the one that aired tonight, where the good moments are good on their own and the slow moments are slow on their own and the whole thing never quite comes together.  Tonight’s episode was a good thirty minutes stretched out to an average hour.

One final note — and I realize that I’ve said this a million times in the past and I’m probably say it a million times in the future — the Saviors are so fucking boring!  Yes, I know that they’re bullies and they are properly hissable villains.  You never feel anything but good when you see a savior die.  But the show continues to act as if the Saviors are the most compelling bad guys since Milton inadvertently made Satan the most interesting character in Paradise Lost.  Quite some time ago, I grew bored with various Negan lieutenants popping up, rambling on and on about tributes, and then demanding that everyone hand over their guns.

(That said, I am going to give some special credit to Josh Mikel, who, tonight, made Jared into the most loathsome savior of all.)

So, that’s why I say this: HURRY UP AND GET TO THE WAR!  If Rick and Negan are not in the middle of an official war by the end of the season, I worry about the future of The Walking Dead….