The last two Sundays, The Walking Dead zeroed in on individual characters fighting its All-Out War — first Ezekiel, then Gabriel and Negan. This week, it went back to a broad focus with brief, Game of Thrones-style check-ins on our heroes, as morality differences continued to push them apart at the worst possible time.
Slowing the momentum down after last week’s gripping, life-or-death cliffhanger in the Sanctuary was disappointing enough (but also expected after eight long seasons of The Walking Dead — remember waiting a month for Glenn to roll under that dumpster?) but it was season-low writing that made "The King, the Widow, and Rick” a bit of a slog.
Carol, the lethal, no-nonsense badass with a heart of gold (who used to be the most believable and consistently well-written character on the show until this past year; though Melissa McBride manages to save the character), gave Ezekiel a cheesy “you’re not the hero we deserve, but the one that we need” speech as he totally bitched out and abandoned his people after leading them to war. Jesus, whose name is freaking Jesus, offered bread and words of kindness to his hungry, homeless flock outside of Hilltop. Our favorite reformed teen psychopath, Carl, said the words “sometimes kids have to find their own way to show their parents the way” to newcomer Siddiq; and — as we expected when he passed one of their lookouts last Sunday — Rick’s plotline involved the Scavengers.
No good can ever come of that.
I do think it’s interesting that their inability to get on the same page about war crimes is what’s actually defeating our heroes in the All-Out War; especially since it’s making Negan’s, um, rigid way of doing things actually seem sensical. Like, if Maggie were to murder the right people (both the long-haired and the pee-pants Savior) in a very wrong way in front of all of their buddies, I’m pretty sure the rest of them would fall in line. And if Rick had a better leadership track record with a far lesser body count, there’s a good chance his best friend Daryl wouldn’t be sneaking around in the woods with Daryl’s Angels; ready to directly undermine Rick’s entire mission.
But The Walking Dead has made several disappointing missteps in season 8. This week alone, it saddled good characters like Carol and Carl with cheesy dialogue, slowed its momentum down abruptly after things finally — finally! — got interesting in the Sanctuary, and had Rick go on an extremely stupid side-mission that would almost definitely get him killed, while he was mere hours away from defeating his mortal enemy.
At this point, even its most unflappable supporters probably agree that what The Walking Dead truly needs is a season 9 end date. It will never happen — Carl will have three kids with Alicia from Fear the Walking Dead who somehow made it over from Mexico in a two-part crossover spectacular before that happens — but still. I’ve long since mourned The Walking Dead that was in its season 4 and 5 heyday, but episodes like last week’s are a firm reminder that the show can still deliver … making follow-ups like "The King, the Widow, and Rick" especially hard to swallow.
But I digress.
As the title suggests, after what my friend called a “Ken Burns Civil War-style montage of everyone writing letters to each other,” the episode focused on Ezekiel, Maggie, Rick, and a few other heroes during their brief hiatus from battle. The plan was for “everyone who can fight” to meet at Sanctuary to “end this once and for all” in two days, but all three leaders had some serious shit to deal with in the meantime — and by the end of the night, a last-minute power play from Daryl threatened to ruin it all.
“The King,” bereft from losing nearly all of his people and his cat, promptly went into hiding in that high school auditorium he hangs out in. Jerry and the few others left still supported him, but as he eventually explained to Carol, he no longer felt up to the task of pretending to be their swaggering king — he was sitting on a theater stage, sure, but Ezekiel’s performance was over.
“Those people need King Ezekiel,” Carol pleaded with him. “If you can’t be the king, then do what you do best, and play the part.”
Meanwhile, “the Widow” had to deal with all of the hungry, potentially deadly PoWs living outside of her community, as well as with the two men trying to tell her what to do with them. On one end, Jesus thought Maggie should invite the Saviors in, break bread with them, share their Netflix password, and generally ease them into the Hilltop way of life; because otherwise what are we fighting for?!
Gregory, however, thought Maggie should set up a gallows and just go full-on war criminal.
Maggie eventually realized that keeping the Saviors around and well-fed as potential bargaining chips, but exiling Gregory, was actually the right decision; because Maggie is undoubtedly the most capable leader on this show. (I still think no one would judge her if she executed a couple of them, but whatever.) The only other thing that happened at Hilltop was Enid convinced Aaron to let her join him for Phase 2 which, sure, why not.
Now Rick, as we all surmised last week, decided to pay a solo visit to the traitorous Scavengers; asking them to play nice and join his new world after the war. He showed Jadis those polaroids he’s been taking of dead Saviors to drill home the point that, if the Scavengers don’t play nice, “we destroy you.”
This was so overtly stupid that we should expect Rick to have a genius plan to destroy them all (and steal their arsenal) hidden in his proverbial back pocket, but for now he’s their very naked prisoner. I know Rick told Daryl last week that mass murder is against his moral code, but the Scavengers are so irredeemable at this point that I don’t think anyone would mind — and I highly doubt that anyone in the Kingdom, Hilltop, or Alexandria truly wants to do business with those greasy weirdos.
(However, the naked sculpting bit was genius. I actually cackled.)
Elsewhere, Carl finally managed to find and feed the lonely man in the woods, Siddiq. I’m not sure why Carl has been so extra about finding Siddiq while a literal war that might end everybody he loves is going on, but I like Siddiq so far so I’m not mad at it. He might not be long for this world though since, due to his father’s belief that doing so releases their souls from their bodies, he insists on ending every single walker he meets. This very nearly got Carl killed moments before Carl invited Siddiq to Alexandria, which he’ll hopefully leave out once he finally introduces his new friend to Rick.
Also elsewhere, Rosita returned from
pregnancy being shot and headed out with Michonne to take a peek at the surrounded Sanctuary, because both of them needed to see it for everything to truly sink in. On the way, they discovered a couple of Saviors who had escaped the carnage at the Sanctuary, and were planning to lure the walkers away with the ol’ “blast opera music from giant speakers you attached to your truck” trick.
A fight broke out, Rosita full-on exploded a dude with a flame gun, and the other Savior nearly escaped — only for Daryl and Tara to promptly crash into her with their even bigger truck.
Daryl and Tara were headed for the Sanctuary too, but for much more nefarious reasons — they planned to kill Dwight and “end this thing right now,” presumably without the knowledge of Master Rick. Why Daryl would try to do that with Michonne by his side is beyond me, but here’s to hoping whatever he has planned manages to salvage this shaky-at-best first half of season 8.
Read These Stories Next: