Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Walking Dead 8X03 Monsters

Gene Page / AMC
After amping up the ante of The Walking Dead's opening episodes Mercy and The Damned, it's third installation aims to take us even further with its action-packed momentum. The groups are in the midst of attacking the Sanctuary but face a crossroads on whether or not they're becoming the monsters they despise so much.

Below includes spoilers of the show and comic book. You've been warned, but hope you enjoy!


The Pride Before The Scatter

You know when characters are happy in the zombie apocalypse, tragedy and bloodshed is just lurking around the corner. Well, King Ezekiel might've had a captive audience with his soldiers, holding onto optimism while conquering the Sanctuary...but the Saviors just weren't having any of it.

After dispersing through the forest between last week's The Damned, and this week, the Kingdomers managed to take down a huge group of their enemies, trapping them in a circle and shooting them without question from the tree lines. Despite Carol's warnings that they might have the numbers, and not knowing the enemies' strategy for retaliation, their moves forward were just a little too easy.

Ezekiel kept his vow they would not lose one of their ranks until the pride fell before the scatter. They finally made it to their destination, another satellite outpost/warehouse, seemingly having wiped out whoever was needed to be killed. Just in the nick of time, Carol made the first move for them not to get ahead of themselves and sweep the compound. From one of the rooftop buildings, bullets rain down on the Kingdomers, bodies collapsing to the ground everywhere. Some of Ezekiel's followers instantly shielded their leader leaving us on a massive cliffhanger of who might be captured or killed.

But perhaps a bigger question might be that, while Jesus are taking home Saviors to the Hilltop Colony, what will the Kingdom think about their actions to kill without question? Are they going to end up regretting their blow 'em up and ask questions later.


Judge Jury and Excutioners

Speaking of which, Scott Gimple wasn't joking around when he described this season as the past coming back to haunt the characters. We've gotten a taste of that, here and there, most specifically with the surprising return of an old character...but things really picked up between Jesus and Morgan.

Upon taking over the Sanctuary, Jesus made the executive decision on behalf of the Hilltop Colony to take responsibility for the Saviors instead of killing them. Trailing two rows of "prisoners" down an open road, which of course was overrun by walkers, Jesus and Morgan engaged in a showdown of who was right or wrong to keep them alive.
You honor the dead by going on, even when you’re scared…you live because they don’t get to.-Glenn Rhee
While Jesus believes in peace before war, and the fact that these people can't be condemned to death, Morgan and Tara are dead set on taking every last one of them out. Their conflict on whether or not to show mercy to the Saviors took us essentially all the way back to season two. Dale's values proved to be still alive and well as Jesus and Morgan's conversations and throwdown in the forest became a stout reminder of the philosophical episode Judge, Jury, Executioner. 

At the very start of the apocalypse when it didn't seem all that necessary to kill others on the off chance they might not be trustworthy, Rick, and Glenn and Herschel were caught in a scruffle with some stragglers. One of which, a young teen Randall, was horribly injured, and the trio ended up bringing him back to their camp. Unable to decide whether or not to let him go, hold him prisoner and make him apart of their group, or just down and out kill them, Dale took it upon himself to convince the group who just want to kill Randall that they need to keep their humanity and not assume the worst in everyone.

The groups vying to live with freedom, the choices they're making might not work in their favor. How will they live with themselves if they don't even attempt to save some of the Saviors? For every scumbag, there's an innocent worker just trying to get by and might not be a threat at all. While times has changed, and there's less and less people to rely on for support, the line's drawn in the sand: should they save the Saviors or kill them? Are our groups any better than the monsters they want to destroy?


Gregory, GO

As parts of Alexandria, The Hilltop Colony and The Kingdom enacted parts of their mission surrounding the saviors, Maggie returned to her community and awaited news about whether or not their first hashing of plans were successful. Of course, more than anyone else of who we would like to see, Gregory popped up at their gates, begging for his life. It didn't take a whole lot of alligator tears, and calling on Maggie's humanity and charity, before she allowed him back into the community, just in time for Jesus and Tara with the Saviors to arrive.

Even though Tara was sure that Maggie would side with her to kill the Saviors, Jesus still made an open-ended argument to put them in their empty trailers until this whole thing blows over.

Does it really make The Hilltop Colony better people if they hold their enemies hostage, people who don't want to be there in the first place? After you've killed their friends and obliterate their homes, aren't you just making them surrender by default? what makes them think that there's any hope for peace and coexistence after that?

More than Jesus and Maggie deciding what to do with their new refugees, this storyline is only really interesting if we finally see Tara and Maggie interact, or it puts alliances between the communities at risk. It'd be nice to see the two of them reconnect or for Maggie to try to bring her back down and remind her of the humanity Glenn truly believed in. This dynamic of keeping the Saviors alive will drum up issues between Alexandria and the Kingdom who's been to shedding blood all over Virginia.


I See What You Did There

In a shocking twist, Morales came back from the unknown in season one to pop up as Savior last week in The Damned. Facing an old friend turned foe, Morales cornered Rick in the Savior's warehouse long enough for them to peruse the men they used to be. It didn't take long for fans to realize, "Oh, so that's what the show had up its sleeve" for his big return.

Morales's reappearance on the show had little to do with doling out endless monologues about what happened to his family. Nearly two years have gone by within the world of the zombie apocalypse, so there's no accounting for what has happened to anyone who has made it this far. The point of bringing back Morales was another attempt of subjectifying Rick to his softer side and proving a point - that everyone by now who isn't dead might just be lucky.

Holding Rick up with a gun and waiting for reinforcements, the two of them verbally duked it out about how they've both made it this far by getting blood on their hands and surviving the loss of loved ones. But while we've been conditioned to look at the Saviors as guilty by association, and taking on Negan's cult-like mentality, Morales revealed the Sanctuary actually saved him, "they thought he was worth a damn, worth bringing back with them."

Their conversation reminded me heavily of one of my favorite episodes Nebraska, way back in season two where the deaths and violence had yet to rack up. Rick and Glenn go into a local bar to bring Herschel back to his farm, when two dangerous strangers Tony and Dave try to hit them up for details about their camp. Rick and Tony bat back and forth about what it is to still be around.
No, that's true. You don't know anything about us. You don't know what we've had to go through out there, the things we've had to do. I bet you've had to do some of those same things yourself. Am I right? 'Cause ain't nobody's hands clean in what's left of this world. We're all the same. - Dave
In that episode, Rick just barely managed to get them out alive by shooting Tony and Dave with an extra quick draw of his gun. So here again later as Morales has Rick gunned down, it's pretty interesting to see how the lines in the sand between people are still drawn; the morality and goodness people pledge allegiance to is all dependent on their leaders. Anyone could've easily become Morales had they been out on their own struggling to survive and in need of others to keep them going.
We're two assholes doing whatever we have to to keep going, the only difference is i'm the one holding the gun, that doesn't make me an asshole, it just makes me lucky. - Morales
Fans and critics aren't too happy that Morales was brought back just to be killed, and to be honest, I'm still on the fence. Their scene to me was quite intense, not knowing whether or not the Saviors were actually going to come in and have Morales's back, or if it would all go down south. While the plot conveniently hung around long enough for them to hash out all of their man-issues, the moment will have an affect on Rick. Especially since, while trying to appeal to Morales's other half, Daryl came up from behind and shot an arrow through his head.

Except for massive character deaths or stunning zombie kills, it takes quite a lot to shock this old gal. And, I will say, I was pretty surprised by the callousness of Daryl. His evolution of knocking out any obstacle that comes their way is a far cry from helping strangers and wanting to push Rick to look for people and bring them back into Alexandria in season five. Not only does he kill Morales in cold blood, but also another Savior outside of the warehouse who Rick tried to give his word that they will let him take a car and leave unharmed.

No doubt, Daryl's actions and drive is the results of what can happen to someone after being tortured and imprisoned by the Saviors. While Rick might be issuing orders about executing people who take and kill, we're also seeing some older sides of Rick who would give strangers second chances.


I Love You, I Had a Hunch

So, this is the semi-hard part. There's going to be casualities. As much as we pray they're going to be nameless red shirts wandering in the background doting Sanctuary gear, we know that that is not likely. While Eric endures a death in the comic book, one where he just gets shot and dies, the television version at least gave fans a grace period before he turned into a walker.

Television is no stranger to killing off one of the cutie patooties of gay couple, and unfortunately, following in the footsteps of Denise, Eric was the first of the all-out war to die. Just when he was finding his footing and following in his boyfriend's footsteps to step up to the front line, he got shot. Thankfully, not by Aaron, but someone else. The bullet made a clean exit through his abdomen, but there was little hope left to hold onto of his survival.

I'm not going to lie. While everyone's number is eventually going to get called on this show, Aaron and Eric's goodbye was one of the sweetest scenes of the series. As one of the underrated developed couples, we've seen their contrasting opinions of fighting for Alexandria on more than occasion. We know that they would do anything for each other, even stepping away from their recruiting duties to keep the other person safe. Seeing them fight together, and Eric trying to keep the moment as hopeful as possible cracking a few jokes, was an untimely dream come true.

In the similar way that Rick and the group fulfilled Jim's last wishes in season one by leaving him out under a shady tree to turn into a walker, Aaron led Eric outside and away from the carnage. Eric was consistently trying to give Aaron the courage to keep going. While it might've been a little expectant to see Eric die, it didn't make the departure between them any less moving and difficult. Aaron's got a little bit of a mission now on his own - taking the miracle baby of the Sanctuary Gracie to the Hilltop Colony and give word that the fight has only just begun.


Is It as Bad As It Seems?

High on merchandising and being a ratings darling, AMC used to tout that they could keep The Walking Dead forever. While their sky-high ambitions didn't seem like a viable option then, it seems even less so than now. With ratings slipping drastically last year, making the lowest rated season three look like an Emmy winner, season eight isn't doing the show any favors. Monsters itself is now the lowest rated episode of the series with fans and critics citing many of the same issues to be lurking under its hood.

The episode itself, as the past two episodes so far, was just okay. Certain moments were satisfying this time around such as the grudge match between Terminator Morgan and Ninja Jesus, Maggie getting an opportunity to scold Gregory, and Rick standing down to Morales. (Andrew Lincoln can make absolutely any scene work - this one might be one of my all-time favorites).

We're only in the third episode, so the season still has room to grow. However, the kill or show mercy storyline can only go on for so much longer before it gets super boring. Similar to season five where everyone saw corpses with W's carved into their heads hanging out around Alexandria, and nobody talked about it until the attack in JSS, it's unrealistic for the writing to rely on viewers to hang onto character's opposing viewpoints simply because they're different.

I find it next to impossible that Jesus's mind will be changed considering the amount of carnage he's already seen the Saviors witness and he still wants to reach out to them. But we've heard before that Negan has workers, possibly innocent people, mere bystanders in the Sanctuary's ruthless cog; it'd be interesting if Tara had any such encounter with someone who isn't a douchebag and might not deserve death-by-all-out-vengeance. We're already beginning to see Rick waffle on his stance, but there needs to be some deviation from standing around talking about maybe-or-maybe not saving people because it might make them more human in the long run. It's high time the series welcomed the characters experiencing definitive moments for their arcs instead of lukewarmly pursuing moments that ultimately lead nowhere except more blood on characters hands.

It's hard to believe that these episodes, while dishing out equal amounts character development and action, just can't seem to capture viewers' attention the same way it did two or three seasons ago. While The Walking Dead is still one of the most popular shows, fans have been dropping in droves for quite sometime. The ripples only continues to grow since the season seven premiere, making me wonder if time in the zombie apocalypse is as numbered as the days our characters have to survive.


Additional Thoughts

+ Fans are really digging for theories: Will baby Judith be killed off? Is Gracie the girl we see in Rick's dream?

+ Gregory mentioned that someone warned Negan they were coming. We're supposed to think it's Dwight, but could the snitch really be Gabriel or someone else?

+ Rick took even more pictures of the Saviors' bodies. Sure it's in revenge of Negan killing Glenn and Abraham, but doesn't seem quite heartless on our end?

+ Tara fake shooting the Saviors on the back of the truck was one of the best scenes of the entire series.

+ Todd told Rick that the guns were moved because someone told them about their attack. Is this eluding to Gregory, who held a meeting with Negan, or could it be someone else?

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