Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 10: The Lost And The Plunderers

This week on The Walking Dead we got one of the weirder episodes of an already odd season.

As usual, the storyline isn't a plain, linear narrative, laws no. That would be stupid! Instead it's divided into various chapters, which lurch backward and forward in time. All that said, I actually didn't mind the story structure this week, as the character divisions worked out pretty well.

This episode does a lot of heavy lifting to paint Negan in a positive light, and convince us he's actually a reasonable character. It does this by ramping up the crazy around him, as Simon begins a possible coup, and Rick morphs into a full-on villain. Interesting!

Speaking of Simon, he's pretty much signed his own death warrant this week, by disobeying Negan in the worst way possible. I'm looking forward to seeing how this storyline plays out, as I've always thought Simon was a far more interesting character than Negan.

I don't know what the writers have in mind for Rick, but he definitely crosses the line in this episode. Carl's death seemingly means nothing to him, as he ignores his son's pleas for peace and actually becomes worse than Negan. I honestly can't tell if this character assassination of Rick is deliberate or a result of the writers not knowing what they're doing. Either way, it seems like a bad idea to turn the ostensible hero of a series into a villain that viewers actively hate. 

If nothing else, this episode, this episode should be lauded for FINALLY eliminating the dreaded Garbage Pail Kids from the show. I've hated this puzzling and confounding group ever since they were introduced last season, and I'm glad to see them go.

On the other hand, this episode actually made me care a little about Jadis for the first time since... well, ever. Now that she's been freed from her flock of weirdos, she might finally become a somewhat interesting character.

Lastly, this episode was co-written by Angela Kang, along with Channing Powell and Corey Reed (Really? It took THREE people to write this thing?). This is significant, because as of next season Scott Gimple's finally being ousted as showrunner, and Angela Kang is taking over for him.

I thought this might be a faint glimmer of hope for the show, as it's way past time that Gimple was run out of town on a rail. But if this episode is any indication of what we're in store for when Kang takes over the reins... then the future looks pretty bleak.


The Plot:
Because this is The Walking Dead, it's impossible to have a simple linear narrative. The episode jumps back and forth in time, and is divided into several sections that concentrate on a specific character. Surprisingly, for once this works out better than you'd think.

Inside the ruins of Alexandria, Rick and Michonne stare silently over Carl's grave. They hear walkers approaching (since the Saviors opened the gates a few episodes back) and are forced to move away. They return to their house, which was miraculously unharmed by the Savior's recent blitzkrieg.

Michonne sees the blue handprints Carl and Judith made on the porch and begins sobbing. Rick goes inside and begins packing. Michonne tells him to hurry, as a walker herd's approaching. As they load up their van, Michonne looks over and sees the gazebo in the middle of Alexandria is on fire. She comments on how Carl used to always sit on its roof (???), and says she has to save it.

She grabs a fire extinguisher and stupidly runs through a group of walkers to try and save the gazebo. Like an idiot, Rick follows suit. The two try to douse the flame, practically begging the walkers to bite them. Eventually they're surrounded and are forced to stop. They fight their way back to the van and peel out, as Michonne bitterly watches Carl's beloved gazebo burn.

As they drive along, Rick asks Michonne what she thinks Carl meant when he said he wanted the fighting to stop. Welp, just offhand I'd say he meant he wanted the fighting to stop! Michonne picks up the handful of letters that Carl wrote to everyone, and gasps when she sees one addressed to Negan himself.

Rick says he can't look at the letters just yet. Then for no good reason, he announces he needs to warn Jadis and the Garbage Pail Kids that the Saviors will be coming for them (which they should already know, right?). Michonne doesn't understand Rick's concern for them (join the club!), so Rick explains that they'll need them on their side in the coming war.

They drive out to the Garbage Pail Kids' dump. As soon as they enter, they set off a trap that blocks the entrance behind them. They're then surrounded by dozens of walkers that look suspiciously like Jadis' people.

Simon enters the conference room (Oh boy! More Savior meetings!), where Negan's waiting for him. Negan chides him for allowing the late Carl to bamboozle him and let the Alexandrians get away. Simon says (heh) he'll happily finish the job, but Negan says it's being handled. Simon is restless and antsy, and Negan tells him to calm down.

Negan says the Garbage Pail Kids need to be taught a lesson for double crossing him. To that end, he wants Simon to kill one of 'em to send a message. Negan says they're still a valuable resource though, and warns him not to wipe out the entire group. Simon disagrees with this, but obeys his orders.

Simon then summons up his courage and says maybe they cut their losses and let Rick and his crew be, and go find other communities to "save." Negan shoots down this idea, saying once they take out Rick, everything will be fine.

For some reason, several men then bring a coffin into the conference room, instead of simply calling Negan outside. It's the same coffin Maggie placed one of her Savior prisoners in a couple episodes back. She wrote "We have 38 more. Stand down" on the lid, as a message to Negan. He opens the coffin and uses a nail gun to kill the reanimated Savior inside.

This is the stupidest part of the episode (which is saying something) and makes absolutely no sense, so I'm not gonna spend a lot of time on it.

Enid and Aaron are captured by the Oceansiders after accidentally killing their leader Natania a few weeks ago. They're chained up inside a building, and Natalia's granddaughter Cyndie enters. She's ready to execute them, until Enid tells her killing them won't make her feel better or some crap. Apparently this tired, old homily works, as Cyndie orders them released. They're escorted out of Oceanside and told never to return. For no good reason, Aaron says he's sneaking back in to convince them to join the fight against Negan, and tells Enid to return to the Hilltop. Sigh...

Simon and a group of Saviors roll into the Dump and confront Jadis and the Garbage Pail Kids. He tells Jadis she owes him an apology for making her little deal with Rick. She claims there was no deal, as she was double crossing Rick and delivering him to the Saviors. 

Simon doesn't buy this, and orders his men to take all the Garbage Pail Kids' weapons. He makes a big point to ask Jadis about the solar panels and helipad in back of the Dump, but she says they're none of his business. She says the Dump is "Ours," not the Saviors.'

Simon then shoots two of her people to make his point, and Jadis punches him. Simon smiles and orders his men to cut down all her people. Welp, so much for the Garbage Pail Kids, I guess!

Simon returns to the Sanctuary, and Negan asks him how it went. He says he delivered the message and everything's fine, a lie which I'm sure will never come back to bite him in the ass.

We then flash back to Rick and Michonne in the Dump, surrounded by the reanimated Garbage Pail Kids. They climb to the top of the trash heap, where Jadis is sitting there in a slip or nightgown (?). She's obviously defeated, and for once speaks like a normal human instead of a brain damaged Mad Max reject.

When Rick asks what happened, she says the Saviors killed her people (this seems pretty self evident, but whatever). She tells Rick that she used to come to the Dump to find things on which to paint. When the apocalypse happened, she and her people tried to make it something new, apart from the rest of the world.

Rick tells Jadis she brought this all on herself. He says he's done with her, and leaves her on top of the heap. She tries to come with, but he shoots at her to scare her away. He uses a discarded car door as a shield, as he and Michonne fight their way out of the Dump and back to their van.

Sometime later, Jadis lures her dead companions up the heap and into a massive car shredder. She turns it on (solar panels, remember?) and they lurch toward her, falling into the shredder. The entire herd is ground into a disgusting red paste. She then climbs down off the heap and inexplicably enjoys a can of applesauce (???).

Rick and Michonne drive along again. Michonne scolds Rick for shooting at Jadis, saying that's sort of the thing Carl was arguing against. Rick pulls over to the side of the road and grabs the letters. He violates federal law by opening and reading Negan's letter. In it, Carl begs him to stop the hate and violence. Rather than being touched by his son's heartfelt plea, Rick's shocked by what he reads.

Rick calls Negan on his stolen Savior radio  and tells him Carl's dead. Negan reacts with genuine shock and sadness, as he'd formed an unlikely relationship with the lad. He asks how it happened, and Rick says he was bitten trying to help someone. Negan says he's truly sorry, as "that kid was the future."

Rick tells Negan that Carl wrote him a letter, asking him to stop. To his credit, Negan seems like he's actually considering it. Then because Rick is a colossal asshole, he says it's too late to stop and vows to kill Negan. Brilliant.

This pisses off Negan, and rightfully so. He hisses that Rick caused Carl's death, because he set the course they're on by not rolling over and surrendering. He tells Rick he failed as a father, and he's going to fail as a leader as well, because he's coming for him.


Sigh... once again we get another goddamned episode with a twisted timeline. This one's not as bad as most, but it still does its share of jumping backward and forward through time. 

I don't get it. As the showrunner, I realize that Gimple doesn't write every episode. But he definitely OKs them, and often rewrites the scripts to match the tone of the show. So one way or another, he's solely responsible for the content. So why is he seemingly incapable of writing a coherent, linear narrative?

I'm assuming he bends the timeline to make the story seem more complex than it really is (much like they did with the plot of the Deadpool movie). I can assure him that it's not working. His plots are definitely more complicated, but that's not the same thing as complex.

• At the beginning of the episode, Rick & Michonne mourn Carl for a bit, then pack up to abandon the now overrun Alexandria. As they're leaving, Michonne glances over at the gazebo and sees it's on fire.

She shrieks that Carl always used to sit on the roof of the gazebo. She then grabs a fire extinguisher (that was in the back of the van for some reason) and stupidly risks her life by springing through a herd of walkers— all to preserve this precious landmark.

What. The. Hell. Michonne acts like this gazebo was Carl's favorite thing in the world, and they couldn't keep him off it. Thing is, I don't remember seeing him sit on it even once in the past three seasons. In fact I don't recall there being a gazebo in Alexandria at all until this episode.

The only incident I can think of that's even remotely related to this was the (in)famous "Carl Sits On A Roof And Eats A Giant Can Of Pudding" scene, which happened way back in Season 4— long before they ever made it to Alexandria.

Obviously the writers wanted a scene in which Michonne risked her life to save some object tied to Carl, in an effort to preserve his legacy. Unfortunately they couldn't think of anything he had a connection with, so they retconned this stupid gazebo into the script.

• This week's opening credits made me sad. For several seasons now, Chandler Riggs' (aka Carl) name has appeared over the shot of a brick wall with "Away With You" graffiti scrawled on it.

This week we see that same shot of the wall, but... there's no "Chandler Riggs" superimposed over it. Screw you, Scott Gimple.

• Have you ever noticed just how many female walkers stagger around in long dresses on this show? I'm assuming this is so the makeup department doesn't have to spend a lot of time zombie-ing up the various actresses' bare legs.

• Simon shows up at the Dump, confronts Jadis and demands all the Garbage Pail Kids' guns. She agrees, and the Saviors collect all their guns. Oddly enough that's ALL they take. No mention is ever made of ammo!

• So what's up with the helicopter, and who's flying it?

A few months back in The Big Scary U, Rick was making his way to the Dump when he saw a chopper fly overhead. This sent viewers into a tizzy, as they began speculating on where it came from.

I said since Rick was heading for the Dump, and we saw a shot of one of the Garbage Pail Kids right after the chopper flew overhead, that it seemed logical that it belonged to Jadis and her clan.

Then in this episode, Simon asks Jadis what's going on with the solar panels and helipad behind the Dump. That pretty much confirms that the copter belongs to the GPKs, right?

Or does it? Note that Simon says "helipad," not helicopter. That implies that the chopper's currently not parked in back. That means one of two things. Either it belongs to the GPKs and one of them's out joyriding in it. Or it belongs to yet another new group, one we've not yet seen, who occasionally does business with Jadis.

Ever since the Garbage Pail Kids were introduced last season, fans have wondered about their bizarre speech pattern. They all speak in a stilted, minimalist patois, sounding like rejects from a Road Warrior knockoff.

Even though the show's currently in Season 8, less than three years have gone by for the characters. That's nowhere near enough time for the GPK's language to mutate into its current state. Such evolution would take decades or even centuries. Definitely not three stinkin' years. 

So what the heck's going on? How did the GPK's language evolve so radically?

Welp, the answer is it didn'tWhen Rick and Michonne find the despondent Jadis sitting on top of a trash heap, she begins monologuing to them in perfect colloquial English! 

She explains that she back in the day she used to come to the landfill to look for art materials. After the world fell, she and a group of like-minded associates decided to make the Dump their own little oasis, completely cut off from what was going on in the rest of the world. They adopted their own customs, clothing and most importantly, speech patterns

That's right, this entire community is actually one big performance art piece! Their language didn't evolve, they all just thought it would be cool to start speaking like brain damaged weirdos. 

Oy vey iz mir!

See, guys? THIS is why you shouldn't want the show to stray too awfully far from the source material! When it does we get crap like this.

It just occurred to me that Jadis' theatrical shtick makes her and her people pretty much identical to King Ezekiel and the Kingdom. Both colonies feature a group of acolytes who follow a charismatic leader with a highly stylized manner of speech.

The difference of course is that King Ezekiel is likable and, well, cool. He had a pet tiger, for poop's sake! I could see myself actually following him if I lived in this world. Meanwhile, I'd give Jadis and her band of misfits as wide a berth as possible!

• By the way, when we see Jadis sitting on top of the trash heap, she's dressed in naught but her slip. Where'd she get that? It's unlikely she had time to change clothes while she was being chased by her own zombified people. I guess maybe she might have found it on top of the trash heap. Or has she been wearing that under her regular clothes all this time? In the brutal Virginia heat?

• As silly as the Garbage Pail Kids and their little conclave is, it was interesting to see someone in this world still creating art. That's something we've not seen on the show so far, as most of the characters are too busy running from walkers to sit down and paint.

• After Jadis' people are massacred, the ones who weren't shot in the head reanimate into walkers.

These zombies are definitely fresher than most of the ones we see on the show, but they still look curiously and inexplicably gaunt. They've all got sunken eyes and cheeks, as if they've been dead for months. How could that be? They're brand new! This entire episode takes place in the space of less than a day! They've only been dead for a couple hours at the most!

• At the risk of channeling Jerry Seinfeld, what's the deal with all the "Shoes Covered In Blue Paint" scenes in this episode? When Rick & Michonne first enter the Dump, there's a scene in which he trips over a paint can and steps in a puddle of blue pigment.

We then flash back (of course) to earlier in the episode, when Simon and his thugs arrive at the Dump. He shoots a couple of the Garbage Pail Kids, and Jadis punches him in the jaw. He falls backward on his ass, accidentally knocking over a can of blue paint, which splashes on his boot.

A few seconds later we get another shot of his paint-covered boot, as he leaves blue footprints wherever he steps.

Later, back at the Sanctuary, Simon lies to Negan and says everything went well at the Dump. We then get a shot from Simon's POV, as he stares down and sees his blue boot.

TV cameras don't swing around wildly and film things at random. They're deliberately pointed at actors and objects. And every second of a TV show costs tens of thousands of dollars to produce, which means nothing appears onscreen unless it's important. So if we see four different scenes of paint-splattered boots, they're there for a reason. 

Obviously the director wants to make very sure we notice Simon's blue boot, which means it's gonna become important later on. Just how it'll come into play, I can't say yet. Maybe Negan will notice that Simon AND Rick both have blue paint on their boots, and suspect they're working together. Or maybe Negan will notice it and realize things at the Dump didn't go as well as Simon said they did. Or maybe other Saviors will see Simon's one blue boot, decide it's cool and start painting their own to match.

• In addition to the many, many shots of blue-stained boots, we're also treated to an extreme closeup of Jadis' crusty, disgusting feet.

A few scenes later we get yet another shot of her bare feet as she carefully picks her way through the Dump.

Seriously, what is going on with all the feet shots this week? Did Doris Wishman direct this episode?

• After Rick abandons Jadis, she's trapped on top of her trash heap, surrounded by her now-zombified people. She then comes up with a legitimately brilliant idea— she bangs on a pipe to lure the heard up the trash pile. Then she stands on the other side of what I assume is a car shredder. She turns it on, and as the walkers lunge for her, they fall into the shredder.

We then see her former comrades have been ground into a disgusting pink paste.

If I'm being honest, this is one of the most clever zombie elimination plans I've ever seen on the show. Unfortunately I'm not sure if I was supposed to be horrified or burst out laughing. I was a little bit of both.

• After Jadis purees her people, she opens a box, pulls out a can of applesauce and begins chowing down. As one does after they've just liquefied their friends. Yum!

Of course the applesauce bears a strong resemblance to the river of pureed walkers that just flowed by. Was that supposed to be a joke, or some kind of weird commentary? 

Lastly, when she pulls out the box of cans, it says, "Applesauce (Shelf Stable) x20" on the side. Yeah, we know that canned goods last for years. Why the hell did they feel the need to explain that particular detail to the audience?

• Late in the episode, Rick opens Carl's letter to Negan and reads it. Unfortunately we only get the briefest of glimpses of it, and can't really read what it says. Eh, no big deal. It's only one of the last things Carl ever wrote before he died. I guess the camera was too busy focusing on feet in this episode to give us a proper look at it. 

It's hard to see, but as near as I can tell it says:

"Negan, this is... (presumably the name "Carl" under Rick's thumb)
...someone. I got bit... (unclear) I was just helping someone.
You might be (gone?). Maybe my dad...
he (unclear) you but I don't think so. I think...
looking on a way out. Maybe you got out. Maybe...
lost cause and you just want to kill all of us. 
...think you have to be what you are. I...
...what you wanted. I wanted to ask you...
Maybe you'll (unclear) us. If you do, there'll just be,,,
The way out is working together. It's forgiveness.
,,,to be a (fight?) anymore. Because..."

As you can see, Carl used what little time he had left to plead with Negan to stop the killing and try and work out a peace with the other communities. A noble sentiment indeed.

While I understand why Carl wrote this letter, I wonder how he thought it would ever end up in Negan's hands? It's not like Rick could hand deliver it to him! I guess if Rick wasn't such an idiot, he could have called a temporary truce and handed it over in a neutral spot. Or he could have left it in an abandoned mailbox and then radioed Negan and told him where he could find it.

Instead, Rick just calls up Negan, blurts out that Carl's dead and left him a letter asking him to stop killing. That's it! He doesn't even read the whole letter to him over the radio! Way to honor your son's final request, Rick!

You might be wondering why Carl would bother writing a letter to Negan in the first place. Especially after Carl watched him brutally murderize two of his friends right before his eyes. Why try and reason with such a monster?

Because despite his tough guy exterior, Negan doesn't see himself as a villain, and genuinely believes he's helping save his people. Carl realizes this, which is why he reached out to him. 

The two formed an unlikely relationship back in Sing Me A Song, when Carl infiltrated the Sanctuary and killed several of Negan's Saviors. Amazingly, Negan didn't retaliate at all. Instead he showed Carl around the Sanctuary and actually bonded with him before returning him unharmed to Rick.

For whatever reason, Negan was legitimately fond of Carl. Maybe he saw something of himself in Carl? Or maybe he saw him as the son he never had. Or maybe he reminded him of a son he lost? Who knows? Whatever the reason, Carl picked up on it, and hoped he could appeal to whatever remnant of humanity was still ratting around inside Negan's head.

In the comic, the Carl/Negan relationship deepened and grew as time went on. We'd have been able to see that happen on the show too, if only Scott Gimple wasn't such a moron.

• To his credit, when Negan finds out that Carl's dead, he takes it really hard. He even lets down his menacing facade momentarily, as he asks Rick how it happened. In particular he seems worried as to whether he inadvertently caused Carl's death when he firebombed Alexandria.

Then when Rick tells him about Carl's letter, and how he hoped there could be a peace, Negan seems like he's legitimately considering Carl's words! This whole scene was an amazing piece of acting by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as it finally gave Negan some much needed depth and emotion.

For a few seconds, I honestly thought they might veer from the comic and have Negan actually call off the war. In fact I was seriously straining as I was trying to will this to happen. 

Annnnnnd then Rick ruins the whole thing by hissing that it's too late and he's gonna kill Negan if it's the last thing he does. Jesus Jetskiing Christ! What the hell is wrong with Rick? He's ostensibly the hero of the series, right? Then why do I hate his motherfraking guts right now?

Rick had a chance to broker a peace with Negan and end all the killing and bloodshed. And incredibly, in that moment Negan seemed like he'd have gone along with it. And then Rick had to sh*t the bed and threaten an unstable psychopath and rile him up all over again.

It's obvious that Rick learned absolutely NOTHING from the death of his son. A death which, in the world of the show, happened about five or six hours ago. Heck, Carl's body probably isn't even cold yet. And Rick's already whacking the Sanctuary hornet nest again! At this point Rick is actually WORSE than Negan and the Governor combined. 

Heck, I'm actually on Negan's side now. He doesn't even talk of retaliation until Rick provokes him. He's the rational one in this episode, compared to the ranting, wild-eyed Rick. I don't know if this was a deliberate reversal on the part of the writing staff, but it's an interesting situation.

Congratulations, Gimple! You've made me like the villain of your show more than the hero.

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