This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 7
I’m going to keep things short this week, as “Time for After” was mostly a setup episode for the midseason finale, which will see several sides converge on the Sanctuary. We also had a bit of a catch up with Eugene. In fact, this episode sort of acts as a sequel to last year’s “Hostiles and Calamities,” which saw Eugene first become Negan after being “kidnapped” in the season seven midseason finale.
Josh McDermitt is the highlight of the episode, as he delivers a performance that explores all of the different sides of Eugene. He is equal parts cunning, hilarious, cowardly, infuriating, and lovable, even when it’s clear that he’s too far gone to save. “Time for After” shows a Eugene who’s willing to indirectly conspire with the other side by keeping secrets. Eugene carries the weight of Dwight’s alliance with Rick and Gabriel’s plan to save Dr. Carson (a strange little subplot this season), and when he has a chance to tell Negan everything at the end of the episode, he doesn’t.
There’s a clear conflict in Eugene’s loyalty to Negan, who shows “Dr. Smarty Pants” an unprecedented level of respect – even if we all suspect it’s just more of the villain’s manipulations (Negan has become a bit more nuanced this season, thankfully). Ultimately, Eugene doesn’t want to hurt his old friends (he calls Rick and company “traveling companions” but we all know that’s bullshit), but isn’t willing to endanger the lives of the people inside the Sanctuary’s walls. Oh, and there’s the fact that Eugene doesn’t want to become zombie meat himself or get his brains bashed in by Negan.
I love the fact that we’re not quite sure what is truly motivating Eugene throughout the episode – loyalty to Negan, loyalty to Rick, the innocent people at the Sanctuary, or his own cowardice? I suspect it’s a bit of each – especially in that great scene with Dwight on the rooftop.
Terrible CG background aside (oofah, it looked bad!), it’s undeniable that McDermitt and Austin Amelio have great chemistry. There’s a lot of tension in each of their scenes, and a hushed camarederie. Both men have been dragged onto a side they didn’t want and forced to adjust their thinking in order to survive. While Dwight’s finally decided to do the right thing, Eugene’s not quite there – and it does seem that, by the time the walkers break into the Sanctuary, he’s taken a few steps back from doing something heroic.
Speaking of Gabriel, we do find out why he had a fever at the end of “The Big Scary U.” He’s not been bitten after all. The show presents a more interesting notion that I can’t believe has never been explored before: Gabriel’s contracted some sort of virus from slopping walker guts all over himself. While it feels a bit convenient that this has only turned out to be a consequence so many years later, it does set a precedent for why the survivors can’t use this trick every time they’re surrounded by walkers. I do wish the “zombie gut germs” had been introduced just a few seasons earlier. At least now we know there’s an actual risk to wrapping walker intestines around your neck.
I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get any follow up scenes between Negan and Gabriel this week, especially after they delivered the best episode of the season two weeks ago. Gabriel did the impossible and made Negan feel like a real person for the first time since his debut. I was hoping for more of that tonight. That said, Negan was inoffensive in “Time for After.”
What is offensive is the incredibly stupid “Rick gets captured” storyline that lasted all of a couple of scenes before Rick was back to marching around with purpose. To say that the Heapster sequences this year are just absolutely terrible is an understatement. The show even lazily recycled the walker fight from last year’s “New Best Friends.” This one’s nowhere near as good as the first one, and is more likely to make you roll your eyes than shock you. All that said, I do still like Jadis, even if she’s made to be a bit silly this week. Why the fascination with sculpting trash statues out of Rick?
The way Rick convinces Jadis and her people to follow him again is terribly archaic. It’s much less based on a deal and more through a show of strength that Rick is able to rally the Heapsters back to his side. But really, couldn’t they have just shot Rick in the back as soon as he let Jadis go? It just seems really dumb to revisit this alliance when Jadis betrayed Rick the first time around – and there’s a very good chance she’ll turn again when she finds out walkers are no longer surrounding the Sanctuary…
That last bit is brought to you by Daryl, Tara, and Morgan’s dumbass plan to kill Negan once and for all – which actually gives the Saviors a chance to escape through the front door!
Daryl’s been a bit of an oddity this season, especially in the last few episodes. While it makes sense that he’d be a bit off after being held prisoner and tortured by the Saviors for half a season last year, his quest for revenge has felt a bit flat. Daryl has been one note with his merciless approach to fighting the Saviors – very much the stock character who’s been pushed past the edge by the enemy. It would all be more captivating if there were any chance Daryl was actually going to die this season. But the odds of that happening are absolutely zero. It’s way more likely that Daryl’s actions will get someone else killed – namely Tara or Morgan, who has been pretty much marked for death now that he’s moving to Fear the Walking Dead full-time.
The bases are loaded for next week’s midseason finale. While there’s no chance that the war will be over by the time the credits roll on “How It’s Gotta Be,” we’ll at least have arrived at the moment season eight dragged out for eight episodes: the battle within the Sanctuary’s walls. The fact that it took eight episodes to get Rick back to the Sanctuary after cutting off Negan from all of his resources in the season eight premiere is absolutely frustrating and a sign that the people behind this show didn’t learn their lesson from last year’s painfully slow approach to storytelling. Perhaps the wait will have been worth it this year?