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‘The Walking Dead’: Rick Goes To The Dark Side In The Excessively Grim ‘Still Gotta Mean Something’

Season 8, Episode 14 kills time (and more) leading to the finale.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Gene Page/AMC

Whose Episode Is It?

“Still Gotta Mean Something” plays a mean trick. The opening depicts Jadis’s escape from the Savior’s Dumpster massacre (because there’s no “i” this show won’t leave undotted), and then cuts to Jadis in the present, as she holds Negan prisoner. And just as soon as you might think “Oh wow, they did a Jadis episode,” we’re right back to Rick and his quest for vengeance. It’s doubly disappointing: on the one hand, Jadis’s story goes nowhere and just raises some random questions. On the other hand, Rick’s story is oppressively dark and might irreparably damage the character. So, not a big success, this episode.

How Far Is Too Far?

Look, Rick is still reeling from Carl’s death and part of his grief includes denying Carl his last words, both by not reading his letter and completely denying his last spoken words, which were a plea for mercy. Rick’s spent every minute since Carl died either threatening to kill Negan or actively trying to do so. It’s tiresome and it makes Rick rather unsympathetic (you’re really going to blow off your kid’s dying wish?), but it basically tracks.

But in “Still Gotta Mean Something,” Rick’s not facing Negan – he’s after the prisoners that escaped from Hilltop last week. Men who, save for the always villainous Jared, just seem scared and conflicted. Men who would accept an offer of amnesty and return to Hilltop. So when Rick started swearing up and down to the Saviors that if they only untied him, he would let them all live, I knew they were doomed. Unfortunately seeing it coming didn’t make it any easier to take. For a few brief seconds, everything’s going swimmingly – Rick, Morgan, and the Saviors work together to fend off the incoming walker herd. One of the Saviors even saves Rick’s life! Naturally that’s the first guy Rick literally stabs in the back once the battle is won. Rick and Morgan quickly massacre the others, and my heart sank. This is our hero?

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Lennie James as Morgan Jones - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

It’s one thing to go after Negan. He’s been the main villain for years now and he’s done a lot of terrible things. But these were just scared guys trying to survive, and Rick exploits their fear so he can catch them off guard and destroy them. There’s no strategy to it, it’s just rage. Sure, Rick takes a moment after the slayings to pensively look in the mirror, but he was doing that exact thing way back in episode 2. Rick was going too far then, and he’s going even further now. Carl’s death, which Carl wanted to exploit to deter his father’s violence, has instead acted as an accelerant. Rick does finally read Carl’s letter at the end, so I guess betraying unsuspecting allies is Rick’s form of therapy? For me, it’s grim, it’s exhausting, and I’m running out of reasons to root for Rick at all.

A Shred of Humanity

Meanwhile, Jadis has Negan hostage, and it sadly doesn’t go anywhere interesting. Jadis wants to kill Negan, but he says he wouldn’t have ordered the massacre because people are a resource, nothing we haven’t heard before. He does take responsibility and apologize, saying he trusted Simon when he shouldn’t have. Each of them threatens to destroy something precious of the other’s — Jadis intends to destroy Lucille, while Negan gets a hold of photographs of Jadis’s dead friends — but the flare each one intended to use gets doused in the ensuring struggle, so Jadis is unable to signal the helicopter(!) that suddenly appears in a downright “Lost”-ian WTF moment. Not that any explanations are forthcoming this hour.

The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

In the end, Jadis lets Negan go and declines his offer to join the Saviors. Jadis has always been an enigma, but this episode didn’t really serve to flesh her out in any significant way, and Negan doesn’t offer any new info, or at least any we couldn’t already infer. (Did Negan mention to Gabriel that Lucille was named after his wife? Well if that wasn’t mentioned before, it’s made explicit here.) This story seemed more like an exercise to take Negan off the board for a couple of episodes to delay the main event for the finale. Pity.

The Remains

  • Morgan’s craziness has gotten tedious, but his sense of triumph when he shows up in front of Henry covered in blood, gloating how he finally killed the guy who killed Henry’s brother, was pretty great. Henry is… not as enthused.
  • Tara’s fine, so yes, Dwight hit her with a clean arrow. Daryl still wants to kill Dwight on sight, which would make way more sense if he hadn’t argued that Tara should spare Dwight just two episodes ago. If he was useful then, he’s even more useful now that he’s back in the Savior fold, Daryl!
  • Speaking of Daryl, he and Rosita case the Saviors’ new bullet factory and decides the best way to shut down production is to kill Eugene. About time Eugene had to face his old friends.
  • This week in embarrassing Negan lines: “I can settle it. I swear on my sack, I will.” If you want us to get invested in Negan as a character, he’s got to stop talking like an “edgy” cartoon.
  • Lucille has survived two attempted murders in the last few episodes. Good news for all the bat perverts out there.

Grade: C-

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