“Fake it til’ you make it baby!”
The Walking Dead continued its eighth season with an improved episode after last week’s fizzle of a season premiere. “The Damned” ditched the shuffling timelines and focused on the ongoing assault on the Saviors. While the episode shuffled through four different perspectives, it mainly focused on action and firefights, instead of progressing the story.
This week’s episode continues where last week left off with our heroes continuing their assault on the Saviors at their various strongholds. The episode is broken into four different arcs, with main characters and side characters inhabiting each group. The first notable group is led by Aaron and his boyfriend Eric. They drive up with their caravan and open fire on a group of Saviors outside their compound loading guns. What ensues is a mostly inept firefight that spans the entire episode. For the first half of the episode, both sides are seen in a firefight, with a lot of missed shots and a lot of wasted bullets. We do see some nice character development from Aaron’s boyfriend Eric throughout the episode, as he leads some red-shirts in the fight and shows unwavering bravery that we have not yet seen from this character. The Walking Dead is notorious for doing this for side characters before giving them the axe, which might be the case for Eric, as he took a bullet to the gut at the end of the episode.
Ezekiel and Carol led another group, who are in hot pursuit of the Savior, who lobbed a grenade at them to end the previous episode. This group knows that they must track down this Savior before he is able to warn their target. Ezekiel continues his ridiculous Shakespearean dialogue to motivate his troops heading into battle. Carol is not buying it, and in a very candid moment, Ezekiel tells Carol that sometimes you have to “Fake it til’ you make it baby!” While this gives some insight into that ridiculous gravitas that Ezekiel never turns off, it is an honest character moment that the leader shares with Carol. As much as Ezekiel is portrayed as an over-the-top cartoon, these moments when the curtain is pulled back are a nice way to show that Ezekiel is frightened as well, but that he knows he has to be the beacon of hope that his people need. This writer also wonder if the “fake it til’ you make it” mantra is an inside joke from the writer’s room.
The third group on attack is comprised of Morgan, Jesus, and Tara. They are storming the satellite compound that the Saviors possess. Their main focus is a stealth approach, as they work through the compound to take their foes by surprise. Morgan splits off with two red-shirts, and all three end up walking into fire from the Saviors. Morgan awakes with a wound and takes the weapons off his fallen comrades and continues to go through the compound, dispatching Saviors with extreme prejudice. Jesus and Tara lead the other group, as they both wrestle with the mission and what is right. Tara is focused on completing the mission and taking out the Saviors, while Jesus takes a wait and see approach. This temporarily backfires after they find a Savior in a closet who has pissed his pants. The Savior says he is just a worker, but takes Jesus hostage when he gets an opening and berates the two for being gullible. While this Savior is discussing how hard it is to piss your pants on command, Jesus is able to overpower him and to get his gun back. Jesus and Tara both wrestle with what to do. Jesus wants to show mercy as the Savior is unarmed, but Tara is irate and wants to execute him. This is effective, as it is showing division in the group between holding onto what’s “right” and doing what needs to be done. The group is able to get the drop on the remaining Saviors, but still argue amongst themselves with what to do with their foes. Soon afterwards, Morgan is seen killing Saviors on his way out of the compound when he stumbles upon the group. Morgan wants to finish the mission and kill them, but Jesus is able to convince the group to show restraint. I was glad to see Morgan want to finish the mission, and not flip-flop again between killing and not killing.
The fourth arc is comprised of Rick and Daryl storming a Savior’s building, trying to track down a cache of weapons that the Saviors could use to thin the herd that has besieged the Sanctuary. While there is not a lot for Daryl to do in this episode, it does advance Rick’s character, as it shows what Rick will do to win this war. Rick is surprised by a Savior, and a scuffle ensues. Rick is able to get the upper hand and impale the Savior. He then gets the key from the dead body and goes to the room in which he presumes the weapons cache is stored. Rick enters the room to find a nursery with a baby sleeping in a crib. Rick, covered in blood and sweat, looks in the mirror and sees his reflection. At this point, Rick connects the dots and realizes the man he just killed wasn’t protecting a weapon stash, but his child. Rick is shaken, but moves on, looking for the weapons cache. Rick is surprised yet again by an unknown man with a gun, and it is revealed that this is Morales, a character who has not been seen since he left Rick and company with his family in Season One. They both recognize each other, but time has changed both of them, as Morales says he has called in reinforcements and keeps his gun trained on Rick. While I do like the return of a character from the past who is sided with the Saviors, this moment did not have the desired impact, as Morales was a peripheral character at best in Season One. This moment would have had a little more punch if Morales had been a more impactful character, and if a seven-year gap between appearances had not been present.
While this episode did little to advance the store, outside of the Morales return, it did continue the action of the All Out War. I expect the fast pace and the action to continue through the first eight episodes, but it may be at the expense of overall storytelling and character development.
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