Warning: This review contains mild spoilers for the start of Season 8’s second half. For full spoilers, read on below.
The Walking Dead tries to go Quentin Tarantino with The Lost and the Plunderers, even complete with title cards before character-centric scenes and sequences that overlap and tell the same story but from a different perspective. Unfortunately, the style doesn’t exactly work in the same way as it does for the Academy Award-winning director; the story wouldn’t change in any way if each section didn’t have the introductory card.
Reeling from his son’s death, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) appears in a constant state of disbelief and rage. He doesn’t have time to grieve; not only does he have the undead pouring into Alexandria through the now wrecked fortifications, he has a community to lead and a war to win. But how is Rick going to win that war? Carl’s (Chandler Riggs) dying wish was for a peaceful resolution, one that even saw Negan forgiven and made part of the community. Without the proper time to mourn, Rick doesn’t seem to be able to grasp Carl’s bigger picture yet, still intent on blaming someone for this death when maybe he should be looking at himself. That’s certainly what Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) thinks. As the two converse over radio, an unforgiving Rick forces an originally remorseful Negan to question the price Rick is willing to pay in this war. The scene would have been much better if the two could have somehow come face to face, a parlay perhaps. It is therefore credit to both Lincoln and Morgan for being able to express serious emotion with just words over a radio.
We have always said that Negan has good intentions but a sadistic way of showing them. His reaction to the news of Carl’s death shows a more humane side to Negan, who then also reigns Simon (Steven Ogg) back from going full-on Kill Bill. Simon may be making a mistake, questioning his boss right in front of Lucille, but amid the friction, Negan remains calm. There is palpable tension in this scene and a sense of danger, something missing from the radio conversation with Rick. Pressing Negan’s buttons, Simon is treading on thin ice, which makes it hard to comprehend one of his later decisions. Simon could be seeing the bigger picture clearer than his boss or he could be gunning for his own power. The one thing Steven Ogg is doing for certain is scene stealing. He brings genuine fear through Simon’s unstable demeanour, which means trouble for anyone, even Negan.
Elsewhere, we finally catch up with Enid (Katlyn Nacon) and Aaron (Ross Marquand), trying to convince Oceanside to join the fight, even after Enid shot their leader. It feels rather pointless and undeserving of its own title card but put in to show that they’d not been forgotten about. Enid does get a couple of poignant lines about how killing isn’t the way; the kids certainly seem to know how to plan for tomorrow. Oceanside still remaining as introvert as ever, relations aren’t made any easier in these merely filler scenes.
Finally, we have Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) of the Scavengers. This group has been only looking out for themselves, double, triple, even quadruple-crossing both Rick and Negan. For the most part, their appearances have been dull, made even more excruciating by their pidgin-English speak. After certain events however, it finally seems as though Jadis is going to become a much more compelling individual. With scores to settle with both Alexandria and the Saviours, Jadis may end up being one of the key players in the war to come and after what she has to do to survive in this episode, everyone is going to want her on their side.
Although the style of the episode doesn’t add much, the substance at least remains solid. Visually, there are some horribly grotesque scenes; there are not enough plaudits available to the special effects and make-up teams who continue to surpass themselves every episode. The news of Carl’s death has spread faster than expected; the impact of Carl’s death could take longer to affect either camp.
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Innards and entrails (spoilers)
– Incredibly, one of the more irritating characters on the show could have just become the most exciting. Jadis has thrown away her outfit (literally, she lives in a dump – that doubles as her wardrobe) and become someone to fear. Despite being left broken by both Simon and Rick, Jadis is able to save herself from her now revolting zombie family by luring them all into an industrial grinder. She looks genuinely traumatised at having to stand there and watch her friends get ground up into zombie mulch (the obvious choice for Zombie Kill of the Week) – the trigger to start her own Tarantinoesque quest for revenge.
– It does question how once Jadis is broken, she loses her pidgin-English. Does this mean that her very few words were intentional? Was it supposed to induce fear? And if these scavengers weren’t already living at the dump when the world ended, why on earth did they choose to call it home? Simon notes they have solar panels and a helipad out back (remember we saw a helicopter at the mid-season?), so does Jadis have another life that she hasn’t revealed to us yet?
– What will Negan’s reaction be when he finds out that Simon went against his orders and slaughtered the Scavengers? Simon will likely cover his tracks, say they made the first shot, but if that was the case, why lie about it when he returned? Simon is on course for a hot iron to the face if he continues to defy Negan, or is he planning to usurp the arrogant head who is showing a softer side? Simon is displaying more leadership traits akin to an evil organisation than Negan is. Fortunately, when Rick calls over the radio, Negan looks alone. His kind words about Carl could have been enough to push Simon over the edge.
– The Oceanside visit was brief but shows that with the death of their leader, they aren’t too sure what part they’re going to play. It looks as though Enid and Aaron are destined for death, until Enid manages to talk them out of it. The indecisiveness of Cyndie (Sydney Park) may create dissension in the ranks but she has been the voice of reason before – she could be the one to lead the group to a new tomorrow.
– Rick is showing no signs of accepting Carl’s wishes and looking for a peaceful resolution. Instead, he threatens Negan and promises to kill him. Rick is still grieving, so he can’t be blamed for being angry, but not only does he threaten Negan, he also leaves Jadis for dead. Michonne lets out her mourning by slashing at zombies – lopping off their heads and allowing one to get its face ripped off on a door lock. The slaughter is her cathartic process, and, although dangerous, it seems to have paid off. Rick could do with taking a page out of her book.