A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 8, Episode 3: “Monsters”

It’s kill or be killed.  No questions asked.  This is “Monsters.”

The episode begins with Ezekiel telling the Kingdom warriors that the Saviors are coming for them.  And yet, he smiles.  They make their way onward and hear the familiar Savior whistling and soon find themselves outgunned.  The Saviors have numbers, but the survivors have strategy.  Others spring out of the woods and gun down the Saviors. Ezekiel then proudly says that they will lose not one of their ranks.

You wanna put that in writing, Ezekiel?

Back at one of the outposts, Morales orders Rick to lower his gun.  He knows good and well that Rick took the same trip as him, but they’re clearly not the same men, as Morales calls Rick a monster.  The Saviors have been told not to kill Rick, so Morales wants to know why Rick is here, as Rick is the type to run in for a fight.  Regardless, it doesn’t matter for whoever else came with Rick- he’ll be delivered to Negan soon.

The Alexandria fighters continue their assault on the outpost when the Saviors suddenly stop firing and fall back.  All at once, the Alexandria group turns around and heads inside the compound.

Aaron, meanwhile, takes Eric to rest against a tree and tells him that there’s an exit wound.  He vows to get him to the Kingdom’s doctor, but also apologizes.  Not because he shot Eric, but because he pulled him into this.  Eric tells Aaron to leave and help the others, and that he loves him.  The two kiss and say their goodbyes while Eric remains resting on the tree.

The Hilltop group continues on foot with the captured Saviors.  While Tara is confident that Maggie will see things her way, Morgan, after taking a jab at Jared, is told by Jesus him that they aren’t far from the Hilltop.  Morgan’s content that nothing has been decided, but Jesus still plans on taking the Saviors to the Hilltop, despite the dangers.

No matter what’s happened, they’re still people in Jesus’ eyes.  After all, he’s killed, as has Morgan.  But they don’t execute.  Well, Jesus doesn’t.  Morgan, though, has.

Morales informs Rick that his family never made it to Birmingham.  Rick is sorry, as he’s lost people as well.  Plus, Negan is the one who killed Glenn in front of his pregnant wife.  Rick asks if Morales is Negan.  After losing his family, Morales lost his mind until he met the Saviors, who thought he was worth a damn.  So in that regard, Morales is Negan, given how far he’s come.

Rick contends that he and Morales are different, but Morales disagrees.  They’d both do whatever it takes to keep going, but right now, Morales is the one holding the gun.  That just makes Morales luckier.  But if Rick held the gun, Morales is certain that he’d be dead.  Somewhere along the way after the likes of Lori and Shane died, Officer Friendly died along with them.

And then Daryl enters, puts an arrow in Morales, and that is that.  Rick tells Daryl that there aren’t any guns.  And that’s when they hear the sound of approaching Saviors.

We return to the Hilltop group as Jared realizes that Morgan is wearing Benjamin’s armor and wonders why he would even have that.

Then walkers start rolling down the hills.  Sure, why not?  As the Hilltop fighters take out the walkers, Morgan pursues a few Saviors attempting to escape.  After Morgan shoots one, Jesus stops him.  Morgan is confident that the Saviors will continue coming after them, but Jesus is adamant that Maggie will find another way.  Though Morgan believes Maggie would want the Saviors all dead.

Then Morgan makes it clear that they’re all the same, no different than the Saviors. But Jesus reminds Morgan that they’ll have to find a way to peace since they’ll probably still be in the same world with the Saviors when this war ends.  That mindset isn’t for Morgan right now, and that’s when a fight breaks out between the two.

While the Kingdom group continues their journey, Ezekiel tells his followers that each victory will lead into the next.

Rick and Daryl, meanwhile, take on incoming Saviors, but they both soon run short on ammunition.  Rick shoots a fire extinguisher which creates enough of a smoke screen for the two to take on and finish the approaching Saviors.  They hear Aaron’s voice as Rick yells out that they’re by the elevator.

Morgan and Jesus continue their fight, but Jesus has the upper hand.  He tosses Morgan his stick and asks if this is over just as Tara and the others arrive.  To Morgan, though, it’s not over.  He knows that he’s not right, but that doesn’t make me wrong.  He then tells everyone that he can’t be a part of this, though Tara insists that Morgan is right.  Still, Morgan heads off.

Gregory finally returns to the Hilltop, but isn’t allowed in, as Maggie asks why Gregory returned in Gabriel’s car.  Despite Gregory building the community, he still tried to sell them out, even though he claims that he did it in the name of safety.  More than that, he says that all of his words came under direct orders from Negan.  Plus, Gregory throws Kal, played by James Chen, under the bus.  Don’t mess with Kal.

Maggie knows that Gregory was just saving his own ass.  Gregory says that he didn’t harm Maggie’s cause and admits that he was scared.  He didn’t want to be complicit because he had no idea if Maggie could win.  In his mind, you can’t reason with the Saviors and he admits that he was wrong.  The only way to defeat the Saviors is to fight.  He pleads to be let in and Maggie soon tells Kal to open the gate.

In Maggie’s mind, Gregory isn’t worth killing.  Yet.  Then the others arrive with the Saviors.  Gregory won’t allow them in, but Maggie tells him to leave.  Jesus still wants to keep the Saviors alive, despite what they’ve taken, but they still surrendered.  They can’t be let go and Jesus has no mind to kill them.

The Alexandria fighters, along with Rick and Daryl, finish off the remaining dead while Rick takes pictures with his camera that continues to materialize out of nowhere.

Aaron, meanwhile, returns to the spot where he left Eric, but finds nothing but blood on the roots.  He heads off and soon spots what he believes to be Eric, but Scott pulls him away.

As the survivors note that there aren’t any guns at this location, Aaron mourns Eric’s loss while Rick brings out the baby, who Aaron offers to take to the Hilltop, as he’d plan to go there to update Maggie.  Everyone else soon leaves.

But before Rick and Daryl can leave, though, they hear gunfire.  Rick figures that whoever came for them is alone, so he yells that a herd is coming.  He offers to make a deal with the lone gunman.  If that happens, the assailant can take the car.  The person wonders how Rick can trust him, but Rick is offering his word.  A man’s word has got to mean something, after all.

The Savior comes out and tells Rick and Daryl that the guns were sent to Gavin’s outpost west of here.  When the Savior then asks if he can leave, Daryl shoots and kills him point blank range.

The Kingdom warriors are all accounted for when Ezekiel proclaims that, indeed, no one has been lost. Carol still wants to sweep the compound, so she heads inside.  But then gunfire rains out from the compound as the Kingdom ducks from oncoming gunfire.

It’s fair to say at this point that there are no definitive heroes, in the classic sense, on The Walking Dead.  There are the survivors whom we root for, but that does not make them inherently good people.  As far as the bigger picture goes.  They’re protecting their homes and families by any means necessary, but their actions often blur the lines between good and bad.

That’s where we end up here in “Monsters” as the characters note the differences and similarities between themselves and the Saviors, echoing sentiments expressed in the past with groups like the Wolves and the lessons learned from past encounters.

Take Rick and Morales, for example.  You’d think two people who spent time together way back in Atlanta would have a lot in common, given that their families knew each other as well, but let’s remember that Morales wasn’t a prominent character.  He was just another part of the group.  Morales found purpose with the Saviors and calls Rick a monster, but neither is 100 percent in the right.

We side with Rick because he’s seen as the hero of the show, but as seen last time when he killed Gracie’s father, his actions have consequences.  And no one can argue that they have the moral high ground because, in this world, no one does.  Like Morgan said, they may not be right, but that doesn’t make them wrong.  While Morales found solace in the Saviors and went down a dark path, Rick embraced a different family.

Indeed, Officer Friendly did die and now we have what’s called the Ricktatorship.  Rick may not see himself similar to Negan at all the same way that Wilson Fisk says that he and Daredevil have a lot in common, but the similarities are there.

But we’re not with Morales for long, thank goodness.  In hindsight, Morales being here does feel like an Easter Egg to placate those who’d been wondering for so long where he was, so the writers deliver and then end him.  And I like how Daryl doesn’t give his past association with Morales a thought.  In his mind, it’s kill or be killed, no questions asked, unlike Rick, who will take the time to try and talk.

You see the shock on Rick’s face both at Morales death and when Daryl shoots the Savior after he’s told them about the guns, but he can’t let it show on his face because this isn’t the time to be the voice of reason.  Rick isn’t disagreeing with Daryl’s swift kills, but between this and Rick killing Gracie’s father, he’s troubled by what he’s becoming. So this, coupled with his talk with Morales, shows how this is affecting Rick.

But not Morgan.  He learned what mercy can do when he decided to let the Wolf leader live, which came to bite him in the ass and led to his confrontation with Carol.  Now he’s come full circle and abandoning the notion of life being precious because the Saviors have to die.  Again, as he said, he may not be right, but he’s not wrong, and I love the progression Morgan has made from then to now.

So for him to fight Jesus shows how he may just continue on being a one-man mission. Like Tara, Morgan sees no need to keep the Saviors alive.  But Jesus is right when he points out that, once the war is over, they may have to work and associate with the Saviors.  After all, Dwight’s become an asset.  So there’s always the possibility of redemption, but it comes at a huge risk.

Keeping the Saviors under constant watch keeps resources out of the war and just creates too much of a headache or potential violent outbreak when the problem could be solved by just killing them outright.  Like Glenn, Jesus is the moral center here, but also has no qualm admitting that he’s killed.  However, he draws the line at killing prisoners who have surrendered.

However, Maggie isn’t as merciful.  It goes beyond the fact that these Saviors are responsible for Glenn’s death, but that they threaten the lives of every community so long as they’re allowed to walk the Earth.  Now I don’t think she’d go as far as Tara and just wanting them all dead right now, but like Gregory, she may figure that they’re not all worth killing yet.  And at least she’s smart enough to see through Gregory’s bullshit.

Also, great way to bring Gregory back, as I didn’t expect him to return to the story right now since we’ve been dealing with the outposts skirmishes.  But his return showed that he’s as slimy as ever and Xander Berkeley is just excelling in his role.  He’s fun to hate, but fun to watch at the same time.  Plus, nice moment of humor there between him and Kal.

With the Kingdom gaining the tactical advantages over the Saviors, it seems like they were holding off the best, but I didn’t expect them to walk into the line of fire at the end.  That was a nice surprise, given that they’d managed to get the jump on the Saviors so far. But Ezekiel had to go and jinx it when he proclaimed that they would lose not one of their ranks.

I have a suggestion: for every Kingdom warrior killed in this warrior, they must have ‘We will lose not one of our ranks’ inscribed on their graves.  Hey, Ezekiel was the one who called it.

“Monsters” put the characters in some morally conflicting circumstances as we start to see them break apart in light of all the mindless killing they’re doing to people who, even with the smallest chance, could prove to be beneficial in the future.  But this isn’t the time to speculate on that.  For now, the survivors are in a war, and for better or worse, it’s kill or be killed.

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