A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 8, Episode 2: “The Damned”

It’s a small world after all.

The episode begins with extreme close-ups, followed by some Saviors hard at work.  The lead, Mara, played by Lindsey Garrett, radios to Little Roy to lock the stairwells because a caravan of armored cars arrive.  Members from Alexandria file out and open fire on the Saviors.

Over at the satellite outpost, Morgan, Dianne, Tara, and Jesus wait outside the gates and find that there’s a walker moat now.  Right now, all they need is a clear shot, and Dianne needs to take that shot to make sure no Savior fires a gun.  Two others offer to help cover Morgan, but he doesn’t need it because, as he says, he doesn’t die.  His plot armor is that thick.

Ezekiel and the Kingdom warriors recover from the grenade and begin opening fire on the incoming walkers, but can’t locate the lone Savior.  They need to stop him before he alerts the other Saviors, otherwise their assault will be all for naught.  The nearest outpost is due north, so that’s where the Kingdom will go.  Ezekiel tells some warriors to return to the staging area and gather with the others when they land.

And if they others haven’t done so already, it’s time to release Shiva.  The group splits and heads onward to certain victory.

While the Alexandrians continue their assault on the Saviors, Rick, Daryl, and a few others arrive at a different outpost to locate some guns.

Back at the satellite outpost, Morgan makes some noise to attract some walkers. This gets the attention of a few Saviors, who are swiftly killed by arrows to the head. Nice shot, Dianne.  They all head inside and eliminate any Saviors they can find.  Tara finds an inscription reading “Tommy says ‘Kill the bitches” as the others approach a door, where they hear noise coming from the other side.  They head in and open fire.

As Rick goes over Dwight’s list of outposts, he and Daryl, having found nothing on the current floor, decide to head up

Mara, still hiding from gunfire, concludes that the Alexandrians don’t plan to move in, so the Saviors need a way to push them back.  Eric advances forward, all while keeping a close eye on Aaron.

Just as Morgan and two others open fire on a few Saviors at the satellite outpost, they also receive some gunfire in the process and ashes, ashes, they all fall down.

Daryl and Rick head up an elevator shaft and try to locate any additional guns.  They split up in order to cover more ground.

Tara and Jesus locate a man named Dean, played by Adam Fristoe, who claims to not be a Savior, but someone brought to the Sanctuary to cook and clean- he even had to leave his wife and kids.  Tara doesn’t buy this and wants to kill the Savior outright, but Jesus won’t kill him and doesn’t let Tara do so, either.

After a distraction, Dean gets the drop on Jesus, holds him at gunpoint, and crushes the medicine bottle containing Maggie’s prenatals.  Though Tara still wants to shoot him, Dean tells her that he’s not worth it, as he just talks a big game.  Jesus manages to overtake Dean and retrieve his weapon, but Dean knows that Jesus won’t kill him.  Tara says that it’s not about revenge, just getting it done.  Jesus opts to knock him out.

Tara hates that Jesus won’t kill Dean, but Jesus reiterates that this isn’t about her.  As the others file out, Morgan awakens, as he, and not his two cohorts, survived.  He arms himself with two guns and heads off.  See, that is the power of plot armor.

Tobin takes a bullet as the firefight continues.  It’s at this point that Mara realizes that the Alexandrians don’t have to move in on them.  Why?  Because the dead begin to reanimate and one walker heads right for a gets a good bite on Mara.  She doesn’t even put up much of a fight, which is odd.

Carol, Ezekiel, and the others head through the woods in pursuit of the lone Savior.  Ezekiel explains to Carol that he’s so confident because part of his job is to show certainty.  Fake it until you make it.  As king, he provides light to lead his people through the darkness.  There will be no failure this day.  They then realize that some nearby blood is from the man they shot, meaning he’s moving slowly.

Having split up from Rick, Daryl explores a section of the compound while Rick ends up getting tackled and fighting a man, who actually manages to put up a good enough fight.    The two fight and the man tells Rick that there are no guns.  The struggle ends when Rick impales the man against a spike in the wall.

Meanwhile, Morgan is on a one-man mission as he executes any Savior in his path.

Outside, Jesus, Tara, and the others find one Savior who yells to the rest that they’re surrounded.  Other Saviors file out and lower their weapons.  Again, Tara wants to end this now by just killing the Saviors.  Not to mention that even if Maggie listens to Jesus, Rick will listen to Tara.

Morgan heads outside, sees the light, and, remembering Rick’s words about preemptively taking out the Saviors, recognizes Jared among them and goes to execute him, but Jesus stops him.  Morgan reminds Jesus that they’re supposed to kill the Saviors, but Jesus tells Morgan that the Saviors surrendered, and this isn’t what they do.  So Morgan asks what they do, then.

Rick grabs a set of keys from the dead man and enters a room which turns out to be a nursery.  Inside is a baby resting in a crib.  From the word on the wall, I’m guessing the baby’s name is Gracie.  Realizing that he’s just orphaned a child, Rick stares at himself in the mirror with disgust.

Back in the woods, Carol, Ezekiel, and others spot some blood on the leaves and trees as they continue their pursuit.  Before they can open fire, the lone Savior is soon devoured by Shiva.

Back at the firefight, Eric watches in horror as Francine is shot and goes down. Aaron heads into one of the nearby cars, plows through a few Saviors, and joins up with Eric, who has also been shot in the gut.

In the woods, Ezekiel tells the Kingdom followers that while he’s not glad for the death of the Savior or anyone else, they have still achieved certain victory.  Everyone then hears on the radio that the Saviors are aware of the firefights and now taking active measures.  Even though the Saviors know the others are coming, Ezekiel is not worried.

Rick continues exploring the compound and finds a photo, but this distraction is enough for someone to point a gun at him.

It turns out to be, of all people, Morales, who Rick remembers from Atlanta, but that was a long time ago.  Morales tells Rick that he called the Saviors, who are now on the way.

Well, this was quite the fast paced episode with the survivors continuing their assault on the Saviors by attacking multiple fronts.  And in the middle of all of that, we get some some conflict as characters deal with morality and the consequences of murdering any and everyone in their path.

But we’ll get to that in a moment.  Let’s talk about Morales.  For so long, the idea of Morales making a sudden return in the world of The Walking Dead has gone on for so long that it’s become a running joke.  And now that joke has come to fruition.  Last we saw Morales, he and his family were headed to Birmingham back in Season One. Since then, looks like Morales took a wrong turn on the way to Alabama.

We have confirmation that Morales’ family is gone, so it remains to be seen how someone we saw as an ally becoming a Savior.  In a season with a lot of throwbacks to Season One, this is a big one with a survivor we watched now going down a darker path.  It is a nice, surprising way to end the episode because for all the talk there’s been about Morales coming back, it actually happened.  Small world, isn’t it?

And this couldn’t have happened at a worse time for Rick.  In a very emotional moment, for Rick to find out that the man he killed was just someone trying to protect his daughter felt like someone taking the wind out of me.  Rick has a daughter and knows what it’s like to lose someone close to him.  And when he’s staring at himself in the mirror after finding the baby, at that point he’s no worse than the people he wants to kill.

It’s a brief moment that tells us everything we need to know about Rick’s state of mind in that moment and makes him killing the man all the more tragic because, like Rick, he’s trying to protect those that he loves.

In the middle of an ongoing war against the Saviors, I doubt this man would’ve been able to reason with a hothead like Rick, but this shows how even though Rick’s trying to do the right thing by killing the Saviors, he still makes a major error with killing the father.  And even if this guy somehow ended up being a Savior, Rick has to contend with the reality that he’s just left a baby to grow up without their father.

Often, in a war, there’s not always time to consider who is good or bad.  As Rick said in “Not Tomorrow Yet,” you have to strike first before the enemy.  That’s the dilemma we see the survivors at the satellite outpost face.  Tara, still livid over Denise’s loss, isn’t taking any chances and is willing to kill anyone she may even think is a Savior because that’s their mission.

But Jesus is a bit more merciful than that, if the name wasn’t obvious enough.  He won’t kill someone who surrenders, and even when it turned out that Dean was a Savior, Jesus handled himself fine.  But it’s the hesitation and unwillingness for a quick kill that pits Jesus at odds with Tara, as well as Morgan.

Morgan, the man who said he didn’t die, looked walkers right in the face, and recovered from being shot to then go on a one-man mission against the Saviors.  I like the juxtaposition of his debates with Rick over life and killing first or be killed because it lines up with his character arc.  Not to mention he wants to avoid another mishap like keeping the Wolf leader alive.

So when he gets the opportunity to kill Jared, he not only feels justified in trying to do so, but he has more motivation now since Jared is the one who shot and killed Benjamin.  And when he asks Jesus what do they do, he’s seeing what happens when someone else hesitates and doesn’t kill, but opts to let the enemy live.

That said, it’s always great to see Morgan unleash and just let loose.  He really was right on the money when he said that he doesn’t die.  And when he gets shot, it couldn’t have been a bad shot because he’s able to play dead long enough to get up and go on his rampage.  And given all that Morgan’s endured and his stance on life compared to the others, it made for great internal conflict.

The shootout at the Savior outpost provided some great action and a surprise reveal into the bigger plan.  And it’s something I never even considered.  Sure, the survivors can keep the Saviors at bay by peppering them with gunfire, but there’s an underlying plan by leaving the Saviors stranded and allowing those killed to just reanimate and then feast on the remaining Saviors.

Though it would’ve been great if Mara had put up more a fight.  It looks like once the walker approached her, she didn’t even attempt to keep it away from her.  At least kick the walker away from you.

Plus, the Alexandrians didn’t get away from this battle unscathed.  Tobin took a shot, it looks like Francine received a fatal wound with no one around to provide medical support, and now Eric has been shot as well.  And we saw a fair bit of Eric compared to previous episodes, so I was wondering whether something would happen to him.  But I get the feeling that he’ll pull through until the next episode.

“The Damned” delivered both on action and character development and conflict with the ongoing war against the Saviors and Morgan’s rampage.  Morales’ somewhat surprise return was an unexpected twist and I’m very much looking forward to seeing Rick catch up with his old friend.

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