The one thing The Walking Dead really didn’t need to give us this week was another 42 minutes of characters arguing about morality in wartime while walking around Virginia and occasionally firing lots of guns.
So exactly what The Walking Dead gave us this week was another 42 minutes of characters arguing about morality in wartime while walking around Virginia and occasionally firing lots of guns.
More bodies dropped in “Monsters” than in “The Damned” or in “Mercy,” but that certainly doesn’t mean there were higher stakes — unless you were super attached to Sarcastic Savior #4, or any members of the background squad from The Kingdom. When the most exciting thing the season has going for it is Father Gabriel stuck in a trailer with Negan (neither character appeared in “Monsters”), it’s time to seriously worry about your writer’s room. This “All-Out War” has thus far been an all-out snooze-fest; to the point where I’m nearly convinced that Walking Dead will not recover. Things have been pretty lifeless, story-wise, since Negan’s big arrival last year, and so far this potentially series-making war with his people has been nothing but bouts of gunfire mixed in with characters arguing about the same old crap they’ve been arguing about since Atlanta.
That’s not to say the show can’t pull off a fantastic episode about this “same old crap” — the season 6 episode “The Same Boat,” in which Carol and Maggie were held captive by a group of sympathetic female Saviors, is exactly what I was hoping the All-Out War would become. But they certainly haven’t seemed to try very hard these past couple of seasons. The best thing that happened this week was Daryl coming in hot, shooting Morales point-blank in the head after his extended tête-à-tête with Rick ... but that’s only because the whole Morales thing was dumb, and Daryl murdering him without a second thought was exactly how Rick should have handled that situation.
Digging in … overall, the episode stuck with the same groups as last week; with a later scene at Hilltop thrown in for good measure.
Group A, the Rick and Daryl group, ended last week with Morales’ gun pointed straight at Rick’s temple, and Daryl … I’m not sure where Daryl was. Let’s just Daryl was somewhere else. All-Out War is confusing.
We found out last week that Morales was a Savior, and that he’d called the rest of his buddies back to capture Rick. Unfortunately, this week the show squandered any opportunity this strange reunion had by making Morales a totally ruined man; a self-proclaimed “Negan.” He accused Rick of being a murderous monster — hence the episode’s title — just like him; adding that he’d lost his family after Atlanta, but had gained a new one after the Saviors found him and saw his potential. (Potential for what, I’m not quite sure — to be a murderous bully who terrorizes the proletariat, I guess.)
Rick begged Morales for mercy; explaining that he was only killing the Saviors because Negan started it by murdering Glenn — in front of his pregnant wife! — and essentially by being Negan. But Morales continued to blather, and Rick continued to indulge it, so again — Daryl running in and immediately shooting Morales was a highlight of the episode. Morales himself pointed out that he and Rick had only known each other for a couple of days, so killing him, a direct threat, should not have been a very big deal.
Rick and Daryl then quickly dodged the Saviors that Morales had called, and joined the rest of their army after the first wave of battle.
Group B, the Carol and Ezekiel group, spent the episode running around killing large groups of unexpecting Saviors in very tricky, creative ways. Ezekiel was on Cloud Nine, ebulliently reminding his soldiers again and again that “we will lose not one in our ranks,” and it worked out pretty well for him until the episode’s cliffhanger. A gang of Kingdom soldiers were surprised by Savior gunfire from above, which obviously totally sucks for them, but A) we don’t really know them and B) Carol seemed to be out of harm’s way, so something tells me Walking Dead fans won’t be losing any sleep over this one.
Group C, the Aaron and Eric group, also killed a whole lot of Saviors while losing few of their own. (Tobin and Scott were still standing by the end of the night. ‘Nuff said.)
Aaron carried Eric to relative safety after his gnarly shot to the abdomen last week, and even though Aaron offered to carry Eric to a doctor, both men knew what was about to go down. Aaron blamed himself for convincing Eric to fight in the first place; Eric (rightfully) assured Aaron that he chose to fight on his own. They kissed goodbye for the last time, then Aaron went off to fight his war and Eric bled to death and turned instead of choosing to shoot himself with the gun Aaron had left him.
It was all very emotional and sad — especially when Aaron later spotted Eric in zombie form — but Aaron ended the episode with baby Gracie, the baby whose father Rick impaled last week, in his very capable care, so at least there’s that.
Ground D, the Tara, Morgan, and Jesus group, had a whole lot of trouble staying on the same page. They gathered the surrendered Saviors from that fallen outpost to lead them back to Hilltop for Maggie’s judgment — despite Morgan and Tara’s insistence that they murder them immediately — and all was going swell until a bunch of walkers literally rolled down a hill and started eating the tied-up Saviors.
A group of them, including the unhinged one who killed that nice teenager Morgan took a liking to last season, escaped during the attack. This set Morgan off both literally and metaphorically — he wasn’t able to catch and kill them all in the woods, and when Jesus followed him to convince him to take a step back and chill, he fully flipped out and tried to murder Jesus.
It was a strange, evenly-matched fight that eventually led to nothing — both men walked out of it completely unscathed, and with minds unchanged. Jesus still thinks that the surrendered Saviors can change their tune and live with the Alexandria-Hilltop-Kingdom communities in peace; Morgan thinks that’s horseshit. And Tara, for one, agrees with Morgan.
Morgan then left the group behind, and Jesus and Tara led the un-eaten and un-escaped Saviors back to Hilltop, where Maggie was already dealing with a whole damn thing because Gregory had come back to plead for his life. She chose to let both Gregory and the Saviors into Hilltop, which will hopefully have more interesting consequences than anything else that’s happened this season thus far.
So that was basically that! After the first wave of battle, Gabriel is (presumably) still stuck in a trailer with Negan, Hilltop is overloaded with Saviors, Morgan is nuts, Ezekiel, Carol, and their soldiers are being sprayed with gunfire in the woods, and Rick and Daryl will probably keep looking for the Saviors’ big guns, since they found a rogue Savior in the woods who informed them that they’d been moved the day before the fight.
Next week we’ll (again, presumably) check in with Negan and Gabriel in that godforsaken trailer, and after that, here’s to hoping the writers have something a bit more interesting in store to save the first half of their eighth season.
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