The Walking Dead S08E02 “The Damned” REVIEW

The Walking Dead S08E02 “The Damned” REVIEW

0 comments 📅30 October 2017, 21:05



Airing in the UK on FOX, Mondays at 9pm
 Channing Powell & Matthew Negrete
Director: Rosemary Rodriguez

Essential Plot Points:

  • We get a montage of the main characters, all looking worried as Hell. Carol and Ezekiel are swathed in smoke and may have only just regained consciousness.
  • The Saviors are prepping for retaliation. One of them checks in with the lookouts. Nothing.
  • Suddenly, the Coalition show up in the fortified vehicles and a firefight ensues.
  • Back at the relay station, Tara, Morgan and Jesus are trying to work out how to get through the moat. Morgan figures it’s just a matter of timing and volunteers to go.
  • Carol and Ezekiel, caught in the blast from the end of the last episode, get back up. They’re groggy, there’s smoke everywhere and Walkers pouring out of the nearby buildings. They fight them off, but lose the Savior who sounded the alarm. Ezekiel is JOYOUS. Carol is…well…Carol.
  • Back at the main firefight, things are heating up.
  • Rick and Daryl’s team, striking on a fourth front, infiltrate the Saviors weapons depot.
  • At the relay station, Morgan bangs on the fence. The dead surround him, shield him from view of the guards and give the others time to take them out.
  • Rick and Daryl are having trouble finding the firearms stash. At the main front the Saviors are dug in, starting ro realize all the Coalition are doing is holding them in place. They move to flank, and Eric leads the charge despite Aaron’s clear objections.
  • At the relay station, the strike team are met with a thunderous counter attack. Three men drop, including Morgan.
  • At the depot, Rick and Daryl find the only place left the weapons could be.
  • At the relay station, Jesus and Tara clear one of the final rooms. They find a terrified Savior, who’s wet himself. Tara wants to end him. Jesus doesn’t. They have no idea if Morgan’s alive, the firefight is getting nasty. Tara wants this guy gone, despite the fact that he’s just a worker.
  • The firefight gets close. The guy grabs Jesus and his gun. Tara is still ready to kill him. The guy sees this, tries a different tack and Jesus just straight up dismantles him. He knocks the guy out, ties him up. Tara is disgusted but there’s no time. They have to go.
  • At the site of the ambush, Morgan wakes up. One of the two men with him is still alive but seriously injured. The other is dead.
  • Morgan sits up, checks all their weapons and leaves the man to die.
  • At the main front, Tobin gets clipped. And the first dead start getting back up.

  • Far, far too late, the Saviors realize the plan; kill enough of them. Hold them in place. Wait.
  • Ezekiel and Carol’s team encounter an unusual Walker that looks like it’s been mutilated. They dispatch it and Carol asks Ezekiel where the hell the optimism comes from. He tells her his role, and his responsibility in a scene that’s really sweet, and kind, and weird.
  • They find some blood. The Savior was hit. He’s moving slowly.
  • Daryl and Rick search deeper into their building. Rick finds a bedroom, recently occupied.
  • He’s jumped. A brutal, untidy fight ensues in which the guy punches Rick in the back with multiple walls and Rick chokes him and impales him on a shelf bracket.
  • Morgan, mildly concussed, walks through the compound murdering every Savior he finds with almost offhand ease.
  • Outside, Jesus rings their forces up around the only possible door the Saviors could escape through. A dozen Saviors appear and, despite Tara’s objections, Jesus lets them surrender.
  • Morgan continues to kill everyone he shoots at. He staggers out into the light, sees the line of prisoners. He hears Rick say ‘we have to get them before they get us’.
  • He sees Jared, the scumbag Savior who tormented the Kingdom last season. He draws on him and Jesus, just, BARELY, stops him killing the hideous waste of human life.
  • Rick finds a baby.
  • Her name is Gracie and he just killed her father. A man who wasn’t trying to protect a stash of weapons, he was trying to protect his child.
  • Carol and Ezekiel’s unit find the Savior. Shiva gets there first though.
  • Back at the main firefight, the Saviors are desperate and Eric’s team are in big trouble. In the space of 30 seconds, Eric is suddenly the last man standing on his sector. Aaron sees his boyfriend getting cornered, grabs one of the cars and punches a hole through the Saviors’ lines. He gets to Eric. And that’s when he sees the gushing chest wound…
  • At Ezekiel and Carol’s front, they realize the Saviors know they’re coming. Ezekiel grins, draws his sword, rallies his men and for the first time Carol buys into his schtick.
  • Rick finds a photo of the dead man’s wife. He’s cornered by a very familiar face. Morales, a survivor back from the Atlanta days.
  • Morales is a Savior. He’s called in help. They’re too late.
  • We see Daryl. We see Aaron dragging Eric towards help. Morgan trying to work out who he is now. Jesus making his peace with the cost of the war. Tara, her eyes dead. Ezekiel, confident, serene. Carol, aware.
  • And Rick, at gunpoint.


One of the most successful things The Walking Dead has ever done was the ‘Stop the massive herd!’ serialized story from the top of season six. That did an excellent job of telling a story on multiple fronts, keeping everything moving and lots going on.

This episode tries the same thing. And doesn’t quite manage it. However, the reasons it fails are really interesting.

The stuff that works first. Ezekiel and Carol are adorable, and its fantastically smart writing to have the show’s most pragmatic, and brutal, character standing next to a man who has a fanfare basically every time he’s on screen. Ezekiel is cheesy as ALL Hell, but he knows it and he’s absolutely sincere and that makes him work. Having someone who is this endless fount of hope next to Carol makes them both even more interesting and that plot’s great fun.

The relay station assault is great too, largely because it neatly shows the only thing that’s going to beat the Coalition is their own differing opinions. Tara and Jesus both have completely valid points of view. It’s not that either is wrong it’s that neither is wrong enough for there to be a clear course of action. They absolutely shouldn’t murder people in cold blood. They absolutely cannot let the Saviors live. It’s a fascinating dichotmy and one that Morgan is trapped inside too. Lennie James is amazing this week, simply because he’s so completely different to every other time we’ve seen Morgan. This isn’t the ranting, off the rails figure of his flashbacks or the hard fought, gentle pacifist warrior monk who rebuilt himself brick by brick. This is a man who lives. Whatever the cost. Whether he can come to terms with that cost remains to be seen but it looks like Morgan’s getting some fun stuff this season.

Even the Rick and Daryl plot leads somewhere really interesting. Two really interesting places in fact. The first is the burliest, nastiest fist fight this show has ever done. You’ll never look at wall brackets the same way again.

The second is the fact Rick screws up in a way that is vastly personal and clearly takes his legs out from under him. Murdering Gracie’s dad is absolutely justifiable (If squishy) and utterly uncalled for. It changes Rick’s life, instantly. It’s a massive kick in the pants for the show and whether Gracie becomes his adoptive child or has a far nastier fate, she’ll change Rick forever.

And yet. There are two moments this episode that pull its teeth.

One of them arrives right after Gracie does. The return of Morales, who we last saw a frankly astounding seven seasons ago, is a great left field twist. However, it’s so massively obscure a twist that Rick almost to camera has to explain who Morales is for us to get it. It feels a little clunky, a little inorganic. Like a second run at the ‘OH DEAR GOD IT’S MERLE’ moment from a few years ago with almost none of the impact.

And then there’s Eric.

We like Eric. We’ve always liked Eric. We don’t like that Eric is consistently one of the characters that hits the cutting room floor. We like that Eric’s first major plot point in…well…basically ever…is being possibly mortally wounded.

This opens up a can of worm which we’ll discuss in more detail below. Suffice to say, that having a gay couple front and center just in time for one of them to (maybe) die is cheap and easy in a way this show moved past years ago. And in a year where Discovery and Mindhunter have both done gay relationships with none of these ludicrous death tropes, it looks out-dated as well as offensive.

We’re not there yet though. Not quite. There’s still time for the show to turn this around and we hope it does. But, in the meantime, this feels like a transitional episode. Frequently good, occasionally great, occasionally awful and barrelling towards the next part. We’ll see how these plots develop then.

The Good:

  • So it turns out Jerry can HANDLE THAT AXE.
  • The Coalition member shaking with terror at the moment before they storm a room is why this show works. These people aren’t soldiers and the violence has to be realistic for it to matter.
  • Andrew Lincoln never gets enough credit for his work on this show. The sequence where Rick finds Gracie and we see every step of the justification, and guilt, and horror, on Lincoln’s face is just flat out brilliant.
  • The fight with Gracie’s dad is just extraordinarily horrible. Brilliant, untidy, realistic stuntwork.
  • Lennie James and Tom Payne are the breakouts from a ridiculously strong cast this week. Brit thesps represent!
  • ‘This isn’t you.’
    ‘It is NOW.’
  • ‘What befell this creature?…I mean before you.’
  • ‘Do I feel such supreme confidence? Or is it my lot? My job? To project such supreme…certainty? No.And yes. Yes and no. And then finally yes to both…Fake it till you make it baby.’

The Bad:

  • The Morales thing isn’t necessarily bad. It’s just…imagine you’re a Doctor Who fan. Your first Doctor was Christopher Eccleston, you love the show, you’ve followed it for a decade. And then, at the end of Jodie Whitaker’s first episode, this guy shows up:

    A small percentage of the viewers go ‘OH MY GOD IT’S SABALOM GLITZ!’. Everyone else goes to Wikipedia. Its got potential but it is more than a bit obtuse.

  • The Eric thing. Right then. The thing is, gay characters aren’t on TV very much, especially mainstream TV. And when they are, they tend to die. A lot. A statistically anomalous amount in fact.This is something The Walking Dead itself is guilty of with the death of Doc, which we’re seeing the consequences of for Tara. Likewise Tom Abigail on Fear The Walking Dead. For no good reason AT ALL, gay characters tend to default to ‘angst ridden over horrible death of lover’ when it comes to their main plots.

    It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. Ever. Like we said up top, both Mindhunter and Star Trek: Discovery have done a great job of presenting gay characters in relationships as people. Neither couple are without jeopardy (Stay good, Stamets! STAY GOOD!) but the jeopardy is earned.

    Putting a gay character who has barely had any screen time front and center and then immediately wounding him to near death? That’s cheap. Here’s hoping the pay off is worth it.

And The Random:

  • Channing Powell and Matthew Negrete co wrote this episode. They’ve been frequent collaborators on the show since season 4, writing episodes like ‘Slabtown’ and ‘Knots Untie’ as well as solo efforts like ‘Go Getters’ for Powell and ‘The Well’ for Negrete
  • Rosemary Rodriguez has directed for Third Watch. The Good Wife, The Walking Dead and Jessica Jones among others.
  • The Morales family were last seen in ‘Wildfire’ waaaay back in season 1. In the intervening years, Juan Gabriel Pareja, who plays Morales, has appeared in The Mist, Dead Rising 3, Fort Bliss and others. 

Review by Alasdair Stuart

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