The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 2 Recap: "The Damned"

Photo: Courtesy of AMC.

What is there to say about The Walking Dead that hasn’t been said before?

Last week’s season premiere, “Mercy,” reminded fans that Walking Dead is still capable of producing a heart-thumping, guts-squishing, if maybe not pants-shittin’ (sorry, Negan) premiere eight years into its run. But if “The Damned” is an indicator of what’s ahead in this “All-Out War” against Negan and his Saviors, we’re in trouble.

Much has been said by fans and critics alike about Walking Dead running out of interesting things to say a couple of seasons ago. Still, it’s populated by more than a few highly watchable characters (Carol, Daryl, Michonne, Morgan, and usually Rick, to name a few), and produced by special effects makeup wizard Greg Nicotero, so I still believe strongly that Walking Dead is capable of being better than “The Damned;” a sluggish hour that found four groups of Alexandria, Kingdom, and Hilltop soldiers running around Virginia to eliminate the Savior threat.

Is this issue the series’ stubborn refusal to deviate too heavily from Robert Kirkman’s source material? (Which, by the way, is not an indictment of the TWD comics … but more of the writers’ inability seize on the TV show’s very different strengths.) Is it a lack of interesting cud to chew after seven-plus seasons of Rick Grimes and his friends wondering if life can truly go on after the apocalypse?

My money is on a mixture of both. But either way, here’s to hoping season 8 moves past the “can we really be the good guys if we keep on killing people?” question it repeated — again — in “The Damned,” as Rick, Jesus, Tara, and Morgan wondered who to kill and who to spare after taking out Negan’s Sanctuary home base last week.

After all, Rick himself decreed a pretty sensical killing philosophy before the war began, so it would have been nice to not devote the season’s second episode to asking the same damn question. The same damn question they asked when Carol burned Tyreese’s girlfriend for the “greater good” back in Season 4. The same damn question they asked when Rick killed those strangers in a bar back in Season 2.

It’s been asked so many times at this point that we all pretty much know the answer straight away. So in case any of the Grimes Gang members have the internet and read recaps of their show, I’ve gone ahead and made it easy for them:

Should Rick kill Season 1 Atlanta survivor Morales, who — in a somewhat shocking turn of events, if you don’t read on-set spoilers — is now one of Negan’s Saviors; living in a Savior outpost that may or may not house their arsenal of guns? Yes, because Morales called the Saviors, and blatantly threatened Rick to his face. This is war, and Rick should kill Morales right away. Which is a shame, cause Morales was a pretty cool dude back in Season 1.

Should Tara and/or Jesus have killed the unarmed Savior who peed his pants at that other Savior outpost, before he managed to gain an advantage and step on Maggie’s prenatal vitamins? No, because he was alone and unarmed and had ostensibly surrendered, but they absolutely should have restrained him instead of bickering about it for a couple of minutes right in front of him, allowing him to gain the upper hand.

Should Tara, Jesus, Dianne, and Morgan kill the surrendered Saviors that Morgan seemed keen on murdering towards the end of the episode? No! They very clearly surrendered!! And Morgan needs to go home, chill the hell out, and refill his medications ASAP because dude is not well!!!

Now that these very essential life-or-death questions have been answered, there’s not much more to say about “The Damned.” As I mentioned above, four teams of Good Guys moved in on various Savior outposts to either steal their big guns (this job went to Rick and Daryl), take out their soldiers (Morgan, Jesus, Tara, Dianne, Aaron, Eric, and more), and/or find Negan (I think this is what Carol and Ezekiel were doing? They didn’t explain their plan very well, to be quite honest); though the Big Bad himself and Father Gabriel, who ended the season premiere stuck in a trailer surrounded by zombies, did not appear in the episode.

Group A, Rick, and Daryl, were not successful in finding more weapons (Dwight, via their message-in-an-arrow communications system, had told them the “heavy guns” were located at an office plaza, so Dwight might be a liar, now), but Rick did find Season 1 throwback Morales after separating from Daryl, then impaling the father of a beautiful baby girl named Grace. Grace and Morales’ fates are both TBD, but either way, Father Gabriel seems even more screwed now that the Grimes Gang has no way to shoot their way through the zombie herd and rescue him.

And Rick is screwed, too — well, as screwed as Rick can be — because even if he does kill his old pal Morales, the Saviors are supposedly headed back to that outpost to kill him.

Group B — the Morgan, Tara, Jesus, and Dianne group — returned to that Savior outpost the group took out two seasons ago, slaughtering its soldiers while they were awake this time. And while Jesus lived up to his namesake when he and Tara met that “surrendered” Savior survivor, Tara was hellbent on avenging her dead lover Denise.

And Morgan, well … let’s just say the writers decided to give us “Clear” Morgan instead of late-stage “Here’s Not Here” Morgan this week, and dude is a total dead shot, now. Morgan spent the episode essentially playing “Mass Effect” with the Saviors, which was fine until he nearly slaughtered the surrendered ones, freaking out even Tara. It’s a pretty safe bet that Morgan’s loosening grip on reality will become a major problem throughout this season.

Group C — the Carol, Ezekiel, Shiva, and Jerry group — was inarguably my favorite, because Carol and Ezekiel’s chemistry is smokin’, Ezekiel’s “fake it til’ you make it” mentality is actually intriguing, and Jerry is adorable. It’s so nice to spend time with happy characters on this show. They didn’t accomplish a whole lot outside of wandering through the woods and occasionally killing people, but they ended the episode ready to bring war to a new Outpost of Saviors — who now know that they are coming — so let’s see if Ezekiel’s premonition of success comes to fruition next week.

Group D was just Aaron, Eric, and a bunch of red shirt Good Guys shooting up red shirt Saviors. The first thing I wrote in my notes was “Aaron’s boyfriend is totally going to die tonight” and, well, Eric will almost definitely die from that gnarly gunshot wound to the belly. Gay relationships do not have a very long shelf life on this TV show.

Hopefully next week’s episode will move past the same old same old questions, and the tiring gun fights between characters we don’t really care about. I’d also like to see more from Carl, Michonne, and that dude from the gas station whose life Carl may or may not have saved last week. Until then, I’ll see you on the Carol and Ezekiel fan-fiction Tumblr.

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