Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 3: Monsters

This week's episode of The Walking Dead was a little better than the previous one, but it was still riddled with some massive and frankly puzzling problems.

SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE FROM THIS POINT ON! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!

The biggest issue in Monsters was undoubtedly the fate of Morales, a character who unexpectedly popped up at the end of last week's episode after a seven year absence from the show.

The internet made a huge deal over the return of actor Juan Gabriel Pareja as Morales, a character forgotten by all but the most rabid fans. Based on all the hoopla, most viewers (myself included) naturally assumed Pareja had signed up for the entire season, and Morales would become a brand new thorn in the side Rick and his crew. Or perhaps the fact that good ol' boy Morales had hooked up with the Saviors might cause Rick to question whether Negan and his people were as bad as he thought.

Unfortunately we got none even close to either of those subplots. So what did the producers give us instead? Nothing. They gave us absolutely nothing. Morales shows up, screams at Rick for no reason for ten minutes, and is causally and unexpectedly shot dead by Daryl.

What the hell was the point of that? Why would the writers dredge up an ancient character from the first season and then immediately kill him? For all its intense buildup, the return of Morales was utterly and completely pointless. Or as Daryl says in the episode, "It doesn't matter. Not one bit."

Almost as bad was the dull and dreary moral debate between Morgan, who thinks they ought to execute the Savior prisoners, and Jesus, who ridiculously and inexplicably argues to save them. Yes, everyone, the writers want you to know that "Jesus saves." Subtlety , they name is The Walking Dead.

The thing is, in another situation this ethical dilemma might actually be compelling. But the world of The Walking Dead is a harsh and brutal one. We've seen over and over that sparing one's enemies always comes back to bite one in the ass. Jesus has the right idea, but it's the wrong place and definitely the wrong time. Everyone in the audience knows this, yet the writers are determined to hit us over the head with the idea week after week after week, which leads to dull viewing.

It also doesn't help that Jesus' sudden beneficent attitude seems to have come out of nowhere between episodes. He's certainly never had a problem with killing in the past. So why's he suddenly reluctant to do so now? I've said it before, but I've never been more convinced of it— the writers on this show have a big "Motivation Wheel," and they spin it to see what disposition each character will have this week.

Lastly, the episode placed way too much importance on the death of Eric, a character who most viewers probably forgot about a couple seasons ago. Oh no! Not Eric! Not the guy who's appeared in exactly sixteen episodes— usually in the far, far background! How's the show going to survive without such a vital and integral character?

Based on the amount of time devoted to it, it's obvious the writers wanted us to think the loss of Eric was an iconic moment in the series, second only to Glenn's death. Instead I imagine most members of the audience were scratching their heads, trying to remember who the hell he was and why Aaron kept kissing him. In three seasons we learned absolutely nothing about Eric, making the attempts at giving him a big emotional sendoff maudlin and unearned.

The one bright spot in the episode was Daryl's treatment of the Saviors. He dispatched both Morales and lower-level Savior Todd with a complete and total lack of sympathy or concern. This actually makes perfect sense, given Daryl's treatment at the hands of the Saviors last year after Negan captured him.


Rick in particular seemed taken aback by Daryl's brutality, which I could very well see becoming a source of friction between them later in the season.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Once again, there are four— strike that, five— interconnected storylines going on, so to avoid confusion I'm gonna go through them one at a time instead of cross cutting.

Group 1:
We pick up right where we left off last week, as Morales holds Rick at gunpoint in the Savior outpost. He seems amazed that the "Rick From Alexandria" that Negan's always going on about is the same Rick he knew from Season 1. Morales tells Rick he has orders not to kill him, and to bring him back to Negan.

When Rick asks Morales where his family is, he says they never made it to Alabama. Rick says he lost people too, listing Lori, Shane, Andrea and Glenn (screw T-Dog and Jacqui, I guess). For some reason he points out that Negan killed Glenn in front of his pregnant wife. Morales seems momentarily taken aback that Glenn was "married."

Rick asks Morales why he hooked up with the Saviors. He says after his family was killed he almost died of despair. The Saviors found him, thought he was worth saving and gave him a new purpose. They argue back and forth some more, and then suddenly Daryl bursts in and shoots an arrow into Morales' neck, killing him. Rick's horrified and shouts "That was Morales!" Daryl calmly and coldly says, "I know who it was. It don't matter. Not one little bit." Harsh!


Just then the two hear a group of Saviors entering the outpost and take off running. They enter a narrow corridor, which unfortunately is blocked by Saviors at both ends. D'oh! Rick & Daryl fire off several hundred rounds at them, and amazingly Daryl actually runs out of ammo, which is something I don't think we've seen happen in... well, ever. 


Rick's almost out of ammo too, so he shoots a standard fire extinguisher that's hanging on the wall, which somehow fills the entire corridor with a thick white smokescreen (which isn't how a fire extinguisher works, but whatever). They manage to kill the Saviors in the confusion and escape.

When Rick & Daryl exit the building we see that all this time they've been inside the compound Aaron and the Alexandrians have been attacking. That would have been helpful info to have had last week! Rick takes Poloroids of the dead Saviors, apparently planning to make a scrapbook to send to Negan. The Alexandrians climb in their Mad Max cars and head out, while Rick and Daryl stay behind for some reason.

Suddenly someone shoots at them. It's Todd, a non-essential Savior we saw last week. Rick tells him to come out, lay down his gun and he won't hurt him. Todd reluctantly does so. Rick asks why there were no guns in this particular outpost, when they had intel that there was.Todd says they were ordered to move the weapons the day before the attack. This implies someone knew Rick was planning to raid the post. Todd asks if he can go, and Daryl callously shoots him in the head, much to Rick's exasperation.

Group 2:
The Alexandrians continue firing thousands and thousands of rounds at the Saviors outside their outpost, pinning them down. Suddenly the Saviors make a run for it and run inside the building. This means they'll run into Rick and Daryl, who are searching the post for weapons.

Meanwhile, Aaron helps his wounded husband Eric away from the battle. He looks at Eric's wound and sees it went clean through, which he says is "good." Aaron sits Eric down against a tree and says he'll get him to the Kingdom's doctor. Eric realizes he's a goner and tells Aaron he loves him. For some reason he then tells Aaron to go back and help the others. They kiss goodbye, and amazingly, Aaron actually gets up and goes back to the battle, leaving his loved one to die alone (!).

After the battle's over, Aaron returns to the tree and sees Eric's gone. He looks around wildly and sees his reanimated body shambling away in the distance. Aaron starts to run toward him, but Scott stops him, saying the walker isn't Eric anymore. Scott tells him they've got to go now, before Savior reinforcements show up.

Rick exits the outpost with Baby Gracie, who he found inside last week. Aaron sees her and says he'll take her to the Hilltop. Rick reluctantly hands over the baby to the wild-eyed crazy man.

Group 3:

Tara sits in the back of a slow moving truck, as her group escorts two or three dozen Savior prisoners (who are tied to one another) to the Hilltop. Why they're taking them to that tiny colony is anyone's guess. Eduardo says Maggie will know what to do with them, and Tara says she'll kill them as revenge for Glenn's death. Morgan tells Jesus this forced march is a bad idea. Jesus reminds him that it's necessary, as they don't execute prisoners. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Yawn.

Morgan marches near Jared, the Savior who killed young Ben last season. Jared continually taunts Morgan, who finally has enough and points his rifle at him. Just then a herd of walkers begins hilariously tumbling down a steep bank. They then get to their feet and start attacking both the Hilltopians and Saviors. Jesus, Morgan and the others kill as many walkers as they can, but several Saviors are bitten.

In the confusion, a group of tied-together Saviors
 including Jared make a break for it and run into the woods. Morgan chases after them and shoots one of the Savior, causing them all to fall down. He aims at Jared next, but suddenly Jesus appears and kicks the gun out of his hand. They argue again, as Morgan says the Saviors will never change. Jesus says they have to find a way to make peace, since they'll all have to live with one another once the war's over. 


Morgan decides he's had enough and attacks Jesus with his bo staff. Their battle goes on way too long in an attempt to eat up screen time. Morgan seriously tries to kill Jesus, who eventually disarms him. Jesus asks if he's done, and Morgan says he knows there's something wrong with his head, but he's not wrong about killing the Saviors. He says he can't be part of this anymore and walks out of the woods. Tara says Morgan's right.

Group 4:
At the Hilltop, slimy former leader Gregory drives up and demands that Maggie let him in. She asks what he's doing with Gabriel's car, and of course he lies and says he found it. He says Negan forced him to say all the horrible things he said, and he was only trying to save lives. He claims Negan already knew their plans.

After a few more minutes of embarrassing begging, Maggie foolishly lets Gregory in. Enid asks why, and Maggie says because he's not worth killing. Yet.

Just then Jesus and his group arrive with the surviving Savior prisoners. Gregory tells Maggie not to let them in, and for once she agrees with him. Jesus says they can put them in some empty trailers in the back of the Hilltop, where I'm sure they'll never, ever, ever cause anyone any trouble.

Group 5:
King Ezekiel gives his soldiers yet another flowery and rousing speech, telling them he's smiling even though a squad of Saviors are coming for them. He leads the Kingdomites through a field, where they're suddenly surrounded by an army of Negan's people. Just then Carol and a smaller group of Kingdom soldiers pop up and mow down the Saviors in a massive hail of bullets. Ezekiel foolishly tempts the gods by happily proclaiming they didn't lose a single soldier in the attack.

They ambush a second group of Saviors and wipe them out as well. Once again, Ezekiel cockily announces the Kingdom didn't lose a single person.

The Kingdomites wipe out a third squad of Saviors (Jesus Christ, how many thousand people does Negan have?) and capture their outpost. Ezekiel asks for it one last time as he looks at Carol, smiles and shouts, "Not one!"


Right on cue, Ezekiel suddenly sees a Savior sniper hiding in the window of the outpost. He yells for everyone to take cover, just as several of his soldiers dive on top of him. They're shot in the back by the sniper, as we smash cut to black.

Thoughts:

• When we last saw Morales in Season 1, he and his family (wife Miranda and kids Louis and Eliza) decided to leave Rick's group and head for Alabama. When he reappeared last week, I wondered if his family survived and was living in the Sanctuary.


According to Morales they did not. I'm assuming they were killed by walkers sometime between Season 1 and 8, but we'll never find out for sure now.

• Morales spends a good deal of time monologuing and threatening Rick. At one point he tells Rick, "And we'll get you to Negan. Or we won't. Either way, we're gonna settle your shit, Peaches."


I think Morales is making a joke about the fact that Rick's from Georgia? You know, Georgia peaches and all that? Which makes no sense, as Morales was living in Georgia as well when he met Rick.


This brings up a good question why the hell is Morales so angry at Rick? They left each other on good terms in Season 1, and Rick had no part whatsoever in the death of Morales' family. Is it because he's on Negan's side now, and Rick's been killing Saviors by the boatload?

• By the way, is it any wonder Morales was didn't make it to the end of the episode? He stands with his back completely against an open doorway, screaming at the top of his lungs at Rick for a good ten minutes. He was practically begging Daryl to sneak up and kill him.

• Last week I pointed out that The Damned episode featured some truly terrible geography, as it was impossible to tell just where each of Rick's four invasion forces were in relation to one another. This week we FINALLY find out that Rick & Daryl are sneaking around inside the same building that Aaron and the Alexandria team are attacking. Finally! Was that really so hard to tell us?

• This is how Scott of Team Alexandria uses a car as cover in a gunfight. That's right, he's standing directly in front of an open car window, as if it's an impenetrable barrier. There's no way a Savior bullet could possibly sail through that and strike him!

How the hell did this nimrod survive but Eric was somehow shot in the gut?


• This is some extreme nitpicking, especially for a show about walking corpses, but whatever. 

During the battle at the outpost, Rick and Daryl are trapped in a corridor by Saviors. Desperate, Rick shoots a fire extinguisher on the wall, which blasts out a thick cloud of white smoke that somehow fills up the entire hundred foot long corridor.


Is there really that much chemical powder inside a fire extinguisher? I'm guessing not.


• After the Alexandria attack, there's exactly one Savior left alive. Well, until Daryl unceremoniously shoots him in the head, that is. You probably don't recognize him, but the lone Savior is Todd.

We saw him briefly at the beginning of last week's episode, getting yelled at by Maury (that's Todd at right in the yellow coveralls). 

There's no reason you should have picked up on this, and I have to admit I didn't even realize the two characters were the same person until I researched the episode for my review. Do the producers of the show think the audience can really recognize all these people, after just a few seconds of screen time?

• Why the hell did Aaron leave Eric to die alone? Who does that? Who props a seriously wounded loved one against a tree and says, "See ya later?" There were plenty of other Alexandrians left to carry on the attack— they wouldn't have missed Aaron one bit. 

Even worse, Aaron makes no attempt to treat Eric's gunshot wound or get him medical help. Well, strike that— he does take off Eric's jacket and tie it around his waist in a laughable attempt to stop the bleeding. That'll help!

I was shocked that Eric broke the rule this week. So far it's been an unwritten rule on the show that important deaths MUST be witnessed by another character. Doomed characters will also usually start spouting detailed backstories right before they're killed as well. 

Neither of these rules applied to Eric's death. He had a few brief words of farewell with Aaron, then expired offscreen. 

Was this some lame attempt by the writers to shock us by unexpectedly breaking the rules? If so, it didn't work.

• There were lots of gory zombie attacks this week, which is something we haven't see in a long time.

There were also a lot of wonderfully disgusting walkers as well, including this one, whose skin looks like it's about ready to slide off its body. 

Last week the Kingdom soldiers encountered another odd-looking walker that looked like its skin had been partially dissolved. Did the same thing happen to this walker as well? Is there some disease causing zombies to fall apart, or maybe someone out there spraying them with acid? Or are these two saggy zombies just a coincidence?


I'm kind of wondering if these two odd-looking walkers are members of the Whisperers, the next threat that's scheduled to arrive after the Negan storyline wraps up. The Whisperers are a group of weirdos who wear suits made out of zombie skins, so they can move undetected among walker herds.

Check out the walker in the photo above. It actually looks like its wearing a mask, so who knows? Maybe this is some subtle Whisperer foreshadowing. On the other hand, in the comics the Whisperers tended to keep a low profile, so it's unlikely they'd actually attack a person. so... I dunno what to think right now.

• During the march to the Hilltop, Morgan's taunted by a greasy, long-haired Savior named Jared. You may remember him from last season, as the man who killed Benjamin, Morgan's young protege. That explains why Morgan seethes with rage every time he looks at him.

• Despite the fact that Morgan really needs to be on some serious meds right now, he's totally right about the Savior prisoners. None of the three colonies is set up to house dozens of dangerous prisoners. Especially the Hilltop. It's the tiniest of the settlements, as it's about the size of the average parking lot. Where the hell does Jesus think they're gonna stash twenty or thirty extra people?

• Speaking of Morgan, last week I noted that he seemingly abandoned his trademark bo staff before entering the enemy compound and going ballistic on the Saviors (like he was in a video game). I wondered if the scene of his setting down his staff was supposed to be symbolic, as if he was literally casting off his peaceful ways.


Looks like I was reading too much into it. This week he's still crazy, but he's got his staff back. So never mind.

• Gregory slithers his way back to the Hilltop this week, begging for Maggie to let him in. I actually groaned out loud when she finally did so! What the hell? There was no reason to let him in, other than because the script said so. And because he'll be a cheap and hackneyed source of conflict, which is the source of all drama.

• Man, King Ezekiel was really asking for it in this episode. Every time the action cut back to him, he was smiling away and bragging about how they hadn't lost a single Kingdom soldier in their attacks. 


Did anyone NOT see the unfortunate ending coming from a mile away, like a Thanksgiving Day parade float?

• There was no sign of Negan or Father Gabriel again this week. I assume these first three episodes of the season are all happening simultaneously, and that Negan and Gabriel haven't been trapped inside that trailer outside the Sanctuary for nearly a month!

• Speaking of Gabriel, there's a fan theory floating around out there that he's actually a mole who's working for Negan. That actually makes a lot of sense, since he's always been kind of twitchy and suspicious. Plus there was all the nonsense last season when Jadis and the Scavengers somehow "forced" him to clean out Alexandria's pantry.


I could easily see him betraying Rick to Negan, plus it would give the character something to actually do besides sit around and whine.

• There's another theory that Baby Judith is going to be killed soon, only to be replaced by the recently introduced Baby Gracie.


There's actually some pretty strong evidence to support this theory. In last week's episode, Rick discovered Baby Gracie snoring away in a crib inside the Savior compound. Note the flop-eared stuffed rabbit standing watch above her head.

Now think back to Rick's flash-forward in the season premiere. We see what we assume is an older Baby Judith, who's holding what appears to be the exact same flop-eared, stuffed rabbit in her hand! Is the girl in the flash forward actually Gracie, and not Judith?

The only problem with this theory is we don't see the bunny when Rick hands Gracie over to Aaron, so he can take her to the Hilltop.

I suppose it's possible Judith might be doomed, since she was killed off in the comic years and years ago (at the same time as Lori). But why off and then turn right around and bring in a backup baby? Other than to artificially generate some drama for Rick, of course?

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