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‘The Walking Dead’ Review: ‘Dead Or Alive Or’ Proves There Is No God

Season 8, Episode 11 has necessary character development and the punchline to a really dark joke.

Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes; group - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 11 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Gene Page/AMC

[Editor’s note: Spoilers for “The Walking Dead” Season 8 Episode 11, “Dead Or Alive Or,” follow.]

Whose Episode Is It?

We’re a few episodes removed from the premiere and the finale is some weeks away, so now is generally the time when “Walking Dead” starts spinning its wheels to fill time. Some walking from here to there, a few obligatory zombies kills, you know the drill.

And while there’s certainly some of that in “Dead or Alive Or,” the good news is that there’s some necessary character progress for Dwight, whose changing of allegiances hasn’t been fully addressed. There’s also a lengthy plot involving Gabriel and Doc Carson escaping from the Saviors that has one of the wildest endings the show has mustered so far. We’ll tackle that one first.

It Was Then That I Carried You

The story, in a nutshell, is that Gabriel has faith that God has a plan for them and He’s watching their backs, but the Doc is extremely skeptical. The wacky part is that no matter what crazy situation they get into, they find an even crazier way out of it. Their car breaks down but they find a house to take shelter in. The man who lived there committed suicide but he’s got plenty of antibiotics to break Gabriel’s fever. Gabriel’s gone partially blind due to his illness but while he’s fumbling around he breaks open a piggy bank containing car keys and a map. The Doc gets caught in a bear trap but Gabriel manages a miraculous headshot on the zombie that attacks him. Finally, they’re all set to head out when the Saviors capture them again. It’s cool, though, because Gabriel still thinks it’s all part of God’s plan. Carson, at long last, agrees that God has a path for them, says he can see it, and merrily goes for one of the Savior’s guns.

He’s immediately shot and killed.

My immediate response was laughter. Extremely prolonged laughter. Then Gabriel started crying about his dead compatriot, and that somehow made it funnier. Maybe the endless misery slog of this show has broken my brain, but I couldn’t imagine a better set-up and punchline than the one presented here. Now the obvious concern is that this wasn’t meant to be funny at all, but tragic – Gabriel’s misplaced faith leads to the death of the man he thought it was his destiny to lead to Hilltop. But there was so much build-up devoted to convincing Carson that there was indeed a plan for him, and the moment he started believing, it got him killed. Truly impeccable comedy. Of course, Gabriel winds up half-blind and sorting shell casings in Eugene’s bullet factory, so I’m probably the only one laughing. But I laughed hard.

Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes; single - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 11 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Man Is The True Monster

Back in the traditional storyline, Daryl is leading the surviving Alexandrians to Hilltop, but nobody trusts Dwight, especially Tara, who understandably holds a grudge against him for killing her girlfriend. It’s still a real bummer to see Tara, who was such a source of levity in previous seasons, turned into a scowling seeker of vengeance, but at least she’s got decent motivation. She’s finally allowed some time to talk to Dwight directly here, as he apologizes for what he did to Denise. In the episode’s most affecting moment, he admits that he knows he’s probably a dead man either way, he just wants to defeat Negan before he gets his ticket punched.

Naturally, the moment Tara and Dwight are alone, she tries to off him, but he manages to scamper deeper into the woods, where he and Tara spot a group of Saviors looking for the Alexandrians. Dwight runs out to meet them, pretending that he’s still on their side and guiding them away from the survivors. This is apparently enough to convince Tara that he’s on their team, although Daryl still seems skeptical. It’s interesting to put Dwight back among the Saviors so soon, especially since Eugene and that one lady know that Dwight’s the mole, but it should add some intrigue going forward.

Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon; group - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 11 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Remains

  • Daryl and the others do make it to Hilltop, and inform everyone that Carl is gone. Enid is there crying, so if you expected any follow up about Oceanside this episode, think again.
  • Maggie briefly decides to not feed her Savior prisoners, but news of Carl’s death and Siddiq’s offer to help with her medical needs makes her change her mind. Special bonus: Gregory shows up to be a weasel some more.
  • Negan’s new plan to defeat Rick: coat the Saviors’ weapons in zombie blood, so their enemies will get infected. Can’t believe it took this long for someone to have this brainwave, but sure.
  • Eugene finally gets his bullet factory, and he’s being a suitable dick when he takes it over. When Gabriel laments to him that he thought he found his purpose? “You have. So have I. Get sorting.”

Grade: B

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