‘The Walking Dead’ Season 8 Episodes 2-5: All-Out War

As promised, the new season of “The Walking Dead” lives up to the tag-line of “All-Out War” this season, as the action has been near non-stop. Accordingly, there have been quite a few losses- especially on the Savior end- but also amongst our heroes here and there, albeit few of the “Big Name” variety. But then I wouldn’t expect that to happen this early on, last season’s trauma-inducing opener notwithstanding.

That’s not to say there weren’t some affecting deaths, however. (Needless to say, spoilers from here on out.) Though we didn’t get to know him that well along the way, the death of Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) was certainly a heart-breaker, thanks to the reaction of a character we do know pretty well by now, his significant other Aaron (Ross Marquand). Not in the least because he likely wouldn’t have been there in the first place if it wouldn’t have been for Aaron inspiring him to fight.

Furthermore, one got the sense that he was mostly there simply to spend time with Aaron, as he had been off fighting more often than not, making it doubly sad that, in some ways, that’s what really got Eric killed. In other words, Eric paid the price for spending a little more quality time with his man. Love in the post-apocalypse- it takes no prisoners. Just ask Maggie (Lauren Cohan). (Too soon?)

We also got a special surprise return from none other than Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja), not seen since way back in season one, and no doubt inspiring a mass exodus to the internet for those who were like: wait- who is that again? Well, they needn’t have worried, as he didn’t last long.

No sooner had he appeared at the end of episode two, “The Damned,” as a card-carrying member of the Saviors, who lost everything- and everyone he loved- than he was taken out in the very next episode, “Monsters,” by Daryl (Norman Reedus), after threatening to kill Rick (Andrew Lincoln).

However, the real gut-punch for most fans came courtesy of a character that technically didn’t exist in the first place, as it were: Shiva, the much-beloved tiger sidekick of King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). She sacrificed herself to save her master when he got in hot- make that possibly radioactive- water with a bunch of chemically-mutated walkers, apparently on leave from “Planet Terror,” lol. If you didn’t think it was possible to get weepy over a CGI critter, then you now know better. She will be missed.

As was the case with last season, we divided our time- and individual episodes- to various cast members, following the action that was happening concurrently with the different groups. I know some people don’t care for this approach, as it robs the show of a certain amount of forward momentum, as well as forcing the viewer to pay attention and keep up with what’s going on and where and at what time, but I don’t mind working for things a bit, as it does keep things interesting.

I noticed that there was some minor pushback on my statement in my first review this season, about how the last two seasons marked a return-to-form of the show for me. I should mention that I graduated college around the end of season five- after that, the whole getting-together on Sundays to watch “TWD” (and “Game of Thrones”) fell by the wayside, as many of my friends and myself segued into jobs from there and working on Mondays became a hindrance to continuing on with watching the show as a group.

As such, with season six, I started recording, then binge-watching the entire seasons as a whole, instead of watching them live after a certain point. The simple truth is, for all the coolness of a mass get-together to watch the show, it actually fares much better as a binge-watch. It’s a lot easier to accept a character-centric episode, even if you don’t care much for a character, if you’re watching several episodes in one big batch.

Obviously, not everyone was adopting this approach, so I can see where, watching it live from week-to-week would be trying for some, especially if the entire episode revolved around a character you hated and/or were completely indifferent to.

That said, it worked for me because I did watch the entire seasons mostly in one fell swoop, over the course of a week or so. Granted, it took some doing getting used to going back to watching it week-by-week, but it’s really not that big of a deal.

Due to the action-packed nature of the season so far, I can’t say I’m really complaining. The show- for me at least- has yet to be boring, and I haven’t minded that they’ve divvied up the storylines between various characters again, because I happen to like all the characters they’ve chosen to follow thus far.

The moral intrigue between a newly back-to-killing Morgan (Lennie James) and Jesus (Tom Payne) was riveting, not in the least because the turn clearly- pun intended- brought back the more PTSD-ridden version of Morgan we saw before he went all Zen with Twisty the Clown, aka Eastman (John Carroll Lynch). It will be interesting to see if Morgan can get back some of that peaceful vibe, now that his inner Beast Mode has been unleashed again during war-time.

Likewise, I knew that King Ezekiel’s hubris, however good-intentioned, and despite how cool all those admittedly blood-pumping Shakespearian crowd-rallying soliloquies were, was not going to lead to anything good. He ain’t smiling anymore, am I right? Can’t get all Shakespearian without a little tragedy- it kind of comes with the territory.

And boy, did he ever get some, when literally his entire group was taken out, save the axe-wielding Jerry (Cooper Andrews), who finally got to put that weapon to impressive use in defending his king; and wary, late-in-the-game addition Carol (Melissa McBride), who let herself be swept up in the rhetoric after some early wins for their side.

Thankfully, Ezekiel, Jerry and Carol were able to band together to take out the remainder of the imminent threat, while Rick and Daryl swept in and handled the interception of the guns that the few who escaped were able to get away with in the short term. Alas, it also resulted in a bit of a splintering within the group when Rick and Daryl didn’t see eye-to-eye on how to handle the next bit of business. Rick wanted to try and rescue the workers and draft them to their side, while Daryl wanted to blow things up first and ask questions later.

This led to an unfortunate waste of some of their new resources, as Rick tossed away some explosives to keep them away from Daryl, only to see them blow up when they got to close to a burning vehicle nearby. Whoops! Needless to say, Daryl wasn’t happy about this, and when we last leave them, the two have gone their separate ways, with Rick arriving at the Kingdom towards the end of the episode- on foot. Daryl, naturally, took his trusty motorcycle, having a new episode of “Ride” to get to. 🙂 (Writer’s Edit: Rick actually arrived at the gates of the “Garbage Kingdom” or whatever you call it, aka where Jadis and her people reside. Ill-advisedly, I might add.)

Finally, we got a glimpse of things from the Saviors’ end, as Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) quite correctly realized that they must have a traitor in their midst, what with Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel having logged so many wins over the last few days. Correctly guessing that they couldn’t possibly have done so without inside information, Negan was about to start interrogating people to figure out who the culprit was when all hell broke loose with Rick’s latest attack.

This, of course, led to Negan being out of the game for a while, as he ended up trapped in a trailer nearby the main headquarters of his group, aka the Sanctuary, in the aftermath of Rick and company leading a bunch of walkers right to Negan’s doorstep. Fortunately for him, along came Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), who was left abandoned when Hilltop turncoat Gregory (Xander Berkeley) took off in Gabriel’s car after the latter went out of his way to rescue the a-hole, which did not go unnoticed by Negan.

The two were able to set aside some of their differences for the time being to work together to escape their situation, though Gabriel being Gabriel, he wasn’t about to do anything without a little confessional on Negan’s end. Negan finally admitted that he had cheated on his sick wife back in the day, just as all hell was about to break loose with the walker apocalypse.

Her death, and his guilt, had led to his becoming the man he was today, as he saw an opening with the weak leadership he was seeing and wormed his way into becoming the new leader, ruling through fear and the belief that “one good death” could make all the difference.

Obviously, it worked, as, no sooner had Negan left the building than the center began to lose hold and the worker contingent came pretty close to rioting, as they realized that Negan was nowhere to be found, and maybe they didn’t have to follow the rules anymore. This was a nice reminder that any sort of leadership in these twisted times is tenuous as best. But like another leader we’ve become all too familiar with as of late, Negan rules through fear, and it was that fear that put the workers right back in line when Negan returned.

In addition to all this, we got to see a nifty showdown between Morgan and Jesus, both showing what they could do in earnest, and how Morgan’s approach as of late might not be the way to go- in other words, Jesus kicked a surprising amount of ass there, putting Morgan in his place, but only for now. Morgan obviously still has a way to go before he can start thinking “clearly” again.

I also loved seeing Carol go all commando at that compound. It’s always gratifying to see her kick some ass, but watching her quietly and calculatedly take out damn near everyone at that compound one by one on her own was a whole new level of badassery. Honestly, I could watch an entire movie of Carol just on her own, being awesome, taking out walkers and enemies alike. Pretty awesome.

Despite all the victories, the various crews aren’t completely out of the woods yet. Obviously, King Ezekiel has been humbled and more than a little taken aback by his losses, rendering the fate of the Kingdom in flux- though the appearance of Rick might help with that. Likewise, Maggie’s decision to both let Gregory back in, as well as some Savior strays, may be a dubious one. As Gregory himself pointed out, nothing good can come from letting a fox into a hen-house.

One thing the various crews need to work on in the immediate future is going back to working together. Say what you will about Negan, he runs a tight ship, and his foes wouldn’t have gotten this far if it hadn’t been for a key assist from Dwight (Austin Amelio), who leaked some serious inside info to Rick and the gang.

From the looks of things, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) might have figured out that Dwight is the snitch in question- but will he spill the beans? (Or should I say, the pickles?) If so, Rick and the rest better get it together and start working in tandem with one another again, or they might be back to square one. As they say, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

All in all, a pretty solid run of episodes so far this season, I thought. Just three more episodes before the winter break- who will be left standing as we head into the second half of the season? I suspect there will be more casualties forthcoming, and sooner than later. I don’t suspect that Negan will be going anywhere anytime soon, though. I think he’s safe until at least the second half of the season. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. (Though I imagine comics readers have a pretty good idea where all this is headed.)

We shall see, but until then, I’ve quite enjoyed the season so far. Any complaints that last season was too slow-moving have been readily addressed- there’s already been more action this season damn near than the last two seasons combined, and it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. After all, this is, as the tagline states: “All-Out War.” Count on things getting worse before they get better- we’re hardly out of the woods just yet, despite all the headway made thus far.

Join me in a few weeks for another recap, and a look ahead at what may be coming down the pike before the season’s end. Thanks for reading, and be sure and leave your predictions for the rest of the season in the comment section down below!