This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 3
The Walking Dead‘s war storyline isn’t working. While I liked “Monsters” just a tad more than last week’s boring “The Damned,” the episode still falls into many of the same traps. What is this episode saying that we haven’t heard before on this show?
The writers have spent a lot of time putting many of these characters under a microscope over the years, examining how they’ve changed throughout the postapocalypse, what lines they’re willing to cross to survive, and whether they’re ultimately good or bad. But we all know by now that Rick and company fall somewhere in the middle – with the exception of characters like Maggie, who continues to be gracious in this episode’s best scene – so spending so much time on how the war is “changing” these characters is pointless. It just doesn’t seem that the show has much to say with this story.
Watching Morgan lose his shit isn’t anything new. In fact, the lengths to which the writers have gone to make this dude relapse are pretty ridiculous. It’s hard to believe that, after Morgan endured the death of his son and then found peace, the character would relapse so hard over the death of Benjamin. This week, Morgan decides to go rogue, execute some Savior prisoners, and then fight Jesus in the woods. Their fight, by the way, is so silly that it might as well have been part of the Robot Chicken special from a few weeks back.
Seriously, didn’t it seem like Tom Payne was playing the scene like it was supposed to be funny?
“Are you done, Morgan? Is it over?”
It’s just bad. And to top it all off, none of the other good guys do anything about Morgan attacking one of his own. Tara, Jesus, and the rest just let him march off into the woods. What is even happening?
Meanwhile, Rick has a conversation with Morales, who shows up for a few minutes to remind the audience that the postapocalypse changes people. Morales draws many of the same tired comparisons we’ve heard about Rick for years – that he’s just as bad as the bad guy, that he’s done terrible things in order to survive. Mostly, their short talk serves to flesh out what happened to this secondary character after he left with his family for Alabama. They never made it.
Like Rick, Morales has lost a lot and the only true difference between him and Rick is that he’s on the opposite side – and holding the gun. Not that it really matters that Morales is pointing a gun at Rick because we all know Daryl, who’s roaming around the building, is going to come to the rescue.
Ultimately, Morales’ return is about as important as the character himself, which is to say not at all vital to the story. I’m pretty bewildered by the choice to bring Morales back this season, especially since his whereabouts weren’t some kind of big mystery. I think most fans were probably okay with the conclusion that he either made it or didn’t make it to Birmingham. That seemed to be enough.
The Ezekiel and Carol portion of the episode presents the war with a completely different tone. The Kingdom soldiers almost look like they’re having fun, and it has everything to do with how annoyingly jovial Ezekiel is about going to battle. His speeches this week are absolutely grating. Every episode, this character seems like more of a cartoon character. If the tiger and the Shakespearean delivery didn’t do it in the first place, these last two episodes definitely have. And Ezekiel has Carol smiling along with him.
Why haven’t the writers given Carol anything interesting to do since season six? Last year, she spent most of her time in a house away from all of the other characters, and season eight has treated her as more of a sidekick to Ezekiel. It’s a tremendous waste of the show’s best character.
The end of the episode sees Ezekiel’s squad get ambushed by the Saviors. Shots from the missing M2 Browning machine guns ring out and blast many of the Kingdom’s soldiers as they scatter. The sudden cut to black teases that Ezekiel might’ve been hit, but it seems clear to me that one of his soldiers took the bullets for him. Either way, I hope to see a very different Ezekiel next week, one who’s ready to take things a bit more seriously.
Speaking of not taking things seriously, Xander Berkeley was hilarious this week as Gregory. The former Hilltop leader’s return to his settlement was the best scene of the night – perhaps because it was the only section of “Monsters” that wasn’t trying to show the scars of war on the characters. Gregory is simply a coward who can’t survive on his own. While the scene did seem a little out of place with the rest of the proceedings and I was surprised Maggie let him back into the Hilltop, the few minutes featuring Gregory were a nice breather.
Casualties finally came to Rick’s coalition tonight. Eric is the first recurring character to bite the dust in the war against Negan. I was actually really surprised that the show actually killed him off, considering he was shot last week and his fate was left on a sort of cliffhanger. Usually, this means a character is going to be saved at the last minute. I fully expected Eric to be miraculously saved tonight, but the casualty was necessary.
I complained last week that the show’s lack of stakes was really cheapening the all out war storyline. Since the main (and most of the supporting) characters have obvious plot armor to protect them, why should we care about these battles? No one we care about is going to die, so there’s no point in worrying about whatever is going on in episode three of the season. We know the beats by now: the big deaths come during the premieres and finales.
Whether you cared about Eric, who was played by Jordan Woods-Robinson, is beyond the point. His death at least shows that not EVERYONE is safe this season. It’s unfortunate that it had to be one of the only gay characters on the show, but hopefully this also means that we’ll get some interesting stories out of Aaron, as he copes with the death of his husband.
Overall, “Monsters” is another dull hour of The Walking Dead that I’m happy to leave behind. I never thought I would say this, especially after last year’s terribly slow first half, but all of the action this season has turned out to be a bit boring. Congratulations, universe, you win.