The Walking Dead - S8E2: The Damned - Review: Too Much and Too Gritty
The Damned – After having neutralized The Sanctuary, Rick’s alliance splits to take out multiple Saviour outposts at once with varying degrees of success and moral conflict.
I really like what this episode is trying to do but ultimately, there’s just too much going on to make everything as impactful as it wants to be. Splitting into the 4 stories gives each barely 10 minutes of screen time limiting the amount each can accomplish. While the Satellite Dish Station attack gets a hell of a lot done and makes the best all around location, the pitched fire fight led by Aaron is relatively uneventful. Some of their scenes feel completely pointless, serving only to show that the fight is still going on. It just makes the episode feel very inconstant, which is a shame because it has some real high points. Starting with the aforementioned Satellite Dish Station (as previously assaulted in Season 6), this was a great blend of action and arguments for and against compassion in a time of war. From the build-up and breach to Morgan going full on John Wick, the gun fights are delivered, but it’s the exchanges between Jesus and Tara that provide the highlight. It lights another angle on the core dilemma of their war: are they trying to replace Negan or be better than Negan? Even with Jesus winning the argument for mercy (<insert Jesus saves joke>), Tara is just as strong in believing that Rick wouldn’t agree and that, “It’s not about revenge, it’s about getting it done”. There are even a few hints towards the logistical flaws in Jesus’s plan. They’ve taken prisoners. What will be the cost of feeding and detaining them until the end of the war? I really like the way the show is creating smaller antagonists within the alliance to keep things more interesting.
Rick and Daryl’s heavy weapon hunt (which sounds like an FPS mission) is also slow and dull for the first half of the episode but really came alive in the second. There’s some good still tension as the pair goes cautiously through the many rooms before the inevitable burst of action. This too has plenty of merit taking several surprise directions with genuinely shocking twists as Rick sees his resolve tested to a new level. I’m not sure how I feel about the blast from the past though. When the script needs to so heavily remind us who someone is, it’s a bit difficult to get excited about their return. As for the story of The Kingdom’s war party, while this is clearly embedding for an upcoming key event, it felt too much like re-treading old ground. Anyone that’s been watching the show knows that King Ezekiel’s whole stick is, “faking it to make it”, as an amateur actor taking on a King character to inspire his people. While it sets him up as over-confident for a fall, we don’t really need to spend so much time having him spell things out for a doubting Carol. There’s also way too much spelling out of the upcoming disaster. He’s marching towards an enemy that knows he’s coming with plenty of numbers.... enough for large casualties. I wouldn’t put it past them to kill off Shiva as part of that lesson learned the hard way, which would be a shame.
The biggest issue I have with this episode is the overall tone. It’s sees The Walking Dead returning to its overly grim and gritty state without trying to balance that out with lighter material like last week’s season premier did so well. While it’s understandable that the show is trying to show us the ugly side of war, we still want it to be an entertainment show. If this episode is setting a precedent for the coming weeks then we’re in trouble. It does conclude on a decent cliff-hanger but the next episode needs to be something different. Despite what the song says, war is good for something.... just not everything.