The Walking Dead came roaring back to life with an action-packed opener last week, and though it remained imperfect, the optimistic tone and promptness in getting the “all out war” ball rolling was a step forward from a mostly bleak seventh season. Did episode two maintain or improve on the pre-established level of quality? Here are our takeaways from ‘The Damned’!
1Welcome Back, Morgan
Morgan has been reprogrammed so many times since the apocalypse began that it’s quite simple to understand why he’s so goddamn loony. After losing his wife and son, he lost his mind and took up arms against everyone who crossed him. Upon being imprisoned by Eastman, Morgan converted to a peaceful, no-kill mentality in which he deeply struggled to maintain in moments of high tension. Now, however, he’s back to doing what’s necessary. The highlight of the episode was undeniably the “Terminator Morgan” sequence in which he shot his way through the compound like an expert assassin. Though this season has laid on the time jumps and flashbacks quite heavily, it was a nice touch to splice in the moments of Morgan speaking to Rick about his no-kill mentality while we witnessed him pop caps in fools.
Jesus is a good guy, but his methods have become quite aggravating. The Saviors are bad people who, in large part, will not hesitate to kill you and take your shit. They suck. Throughout the episode, Jesus attempts to do “the right thing” by allowing Saviors to surrender and be taken into custody, even if they intentionally urinate on themselves and pretend to be vulnerable as a means to put a gun against his own head. His peaceful approach to the situation creates an hour worth of conflict between himself and Tara, who just wants to kill everyone. Each of the last three seasons has featured this exact same character conflict, albeit among different players. Carol stops killing, Carol starts killing again. Morgan stops killing, Morgan starts killing again. Let’s see what happens with Jesus.
Since Morales and his family parted ways with our group in season one, it’s been a running joke among fans that he’d show back up in a big, unlikely way. That joke can be laid to rest, however, as Morales ACTUALLY returned in the second episode of The Walking Dead‘s eighth season. Perhaps more shocking than his return, though, is that the character is working with the Saviors. As the episode closes, Morales points his gun at Rick, informs him that he’s called the Saviors back to the compound, and appears to be ready to shoot Papa Grimes should he make any sudden movements. While I’m not convinced that this isn’t a bait and switch and that Morales has actually called the Saviors back so that he can help Rick kill them, it’s still fun to have a long-gone character return to the fold.
In regard to the technical quality of the episode, ‘The Damned’ may just be my least favorite episode of The Walking Dead. This series thrived most when it was a careful, character-driven story. That approach has since been replaced by huge action set pieces, which works in small doses. But how much action is too much action? Watch this episode to find out.
‘The Damned’ raised all of my red flags when it began with an overabundance of facial closeups, and it never wavered in its frustration. The action is choppy and sloppy, with the director of the episode choosing a hectic approach and utilizing far too many zooms and shots of faces. It jumps all over the place while bullets are flying, and unfortunately, focuses on characters we hardly know or don’t have any knowledge of whatsoever, which makes it difficult to grasp what’s going on or make yourself even care while trying to do so. When coupled with more terrible dialogue, dumb character decisions, and a lack of emotional depth, the entire episode feels like one worth skipping.
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