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‘The Walking Dead’ Review: ‘The Damned’ Is The Second Verse, Same As The First

Hope you like gunfights and questioning morality!

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes  - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Whose Episode Is It?

No one’s the focus this week, as we cut between the multiple offenses Rick’s army takes against the Saviors. The opening salvo against Sanctuary last week was to keep Negan and his lieutenants busy while Rick’s army takes out all the Savior outposts. The episode’s big theme is mercy, and whether Rick’s army should have any of it. Yes, it’s time for one of “Walking Dead’s” semi-regular “But what of Rick’s soul?” discussions. It’s rare for the morality question to be raised so early in a season, so hopefully there’s more to it this time.

How Far Is Too Far?

So our morality play begins with Tara and Jesus, who are assaulting the satellite array with their team. They find a Savior in a closet, hands raised, pants covered in piss, begging for his life and claiming to be a worker. Tara, who used to have reservations about killing, wants to execute him, but Jesus isn’t comfortable murdering guys who surrender. Tara wants revenge for Denise and all the others, and Jesus thinks that’s not her. No points for guessing that the guy is, in fact, totally faking, as he quickly disarms Jesus and holds a gun to his head. Jesus still manages to break free and knock the guy out and tie him up before Tara can kill him. Tara’s pissed, telling Jesus that he isn’t Rick or Maggie, so he can’t make that call. Jesus says that Maggie will listen to him. The issue comes up again when Jesus offers the remaining Saviors the option of surrendering, and they take it. Tara says that Jesus can talk to Maggie all he wants, but Rick will listen to her.

Meanwhile, Morgan loses a couple of the men under his command and goes buck wild, walking through the compound alone and murdering everyone he sees, all while flashing back to when Rick originally pitched taking on the Saviors. Morgan still refused to kill back then, and argued against the pre-emptive strike. Rick maintained that it was better to hit the Saviors before the Saviors hit them, and we all know how well that worked out. Still, Morgan’s murder-happy now, and actually has to be restrained by Jesus to prevent him from killing their disarmed prisoners. Morgan’s mental state has never been the most stable, and now he’s swung too far in the wrong direction.

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

A Shred of Humanity

And finally we have Rick, who unsuccessfully searches a building for guns, but does find a guy who jumps him. After a scuffle, Rick’s able to kill him and enter the room he was protecting, only to find a little baby girl. Why… Rick has a baby girl! Since the scene wasn’t heavy-handed enough already, the baby’s crib has a big mirror above it so Rick can take a long, hard look at what he’s become (a guy whose murder tally is probably close to triple digits at this point).

Pardon the flippancy, but the show has feigned questioning Rick and the others’ morality any number of times before. But then the characters self-reflect with all the depth of Principal Skinner and decide that murder is essential, only the strong survive, and you must look out for your own people over all others. It’s always been a depressing message, and recent months haven’t made it any less depressing. If this is the season where they finally give it serious consideration, great, but we’ll believe it when we see it.

The War Effort

Will this one attack on the Saviors make up the entire first half of this season? There’s nothing this show loves more than some decompressed storytelling. But anyway, if you loved all the machine gun fire from behind cover from last week’s episode, well, here’s a bunch more of it! Plus guys running down hallways, guns raised! There is nothing here, action-wise, that you haven’t seen many, many other times on this show. The one break in the monotony is that Aaron’s boyfriend gets shot, but even that’s not that surprising, considering the worst thing a character can do on this show is have a long-term relationship (Rick and Michonne excepted, because they are Magic). Daryl and Carol should thank their lucky stars that they never consummated their attraction.

 Cooper Andrews as Jerry - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Remains

  • This show has got to knock it off with the pretentious openings. This week it’s just lots of slow-mo close-ups of various characters. Yup, there they are.
  • Rick ends up being held at gunpoint by Morales, a character who was on the show way back in Season 1. Congratulations if you did not have to Google him like I did.
  • Rick reveals that the plan is to get the guns, then head back to Sanctuary and use the guns to make an exit for those inside. This would make more sense if Rick’s entire army weren’t armed to the teeth and seemingly deeply unconcerned about conserving bullets. Does Rick want all his guys to arm up like Skurge the Executioner?
  • King Ezekiel takes a moment this episode to explain his entire deal to Carol again, for whatever reason. He’s just pretending to be a medieval king, you see.
  • Shiva gets to eat a guy this episode, which is always fun to see. How can she tell the good grubby humans from the bad grubby humans? Actually, never mind. It’s too fun to watch her wreck dudes.

Grade: C

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