This is a spoiler-free review of Episode 11 of Season 8. Already seen the episode? Read on below for full spoilers.
It’s understood that when Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) enters a room, you kneel. When he leaves that room saying “big day tomorrow”, that’s code for “the next episode will be better”. Unfortunately, Dead or Alive OR is nothing but filler, full of painful dialogue and more illogical decisions that feel forced just to drag out the season. Between Father Gabriel’s (Seth Gilliam) path to redemption and Dwight’s (Austin Amelio) mistrust within the group, the episode feels like it’s wading through a swamp full of zombies.
Gabriel has been one character it has been hard to like in this apocalypse. Since locking his congregation out of his church when the outbreak first started, he has always been looking for redemption, for his faith in God to be restored. After slight deviation spending some time at the Church of Rick (Andrew Lincoln), since being captured by the Saviours, Gabriel has once again started looking for God to guide him, more than ever now as his eyesight is failing him – embarrassingly shown to us from several Gabriel point-of-views.
Gabriel’s blind faith is grating to both us and his travel companion, Doctor Carson (R. Keith Harris). Each “act of God” the pair encounter will cause eyes to roll. When Gabriel finds himself using the force, his faith turns from grating to just pure ridiculous. There doesn’t appear to be any point to this story arc other than to, yet again, test Gabriel’s faith. Other than his now loss of vision – most likely caused when covering himself in zombie guts – nothing has changed; the character hasn’t learned nor has the story been able to entertain.
This is not restricted to just the Priest – Gabriel appears as lost as the survivor who tried to save him from the Sanctuary, Eugene (Josh McDermitt). Despite some more wonderful Southern drawl, Eugene is only helping himself survive at the Sanctuary by drowning his sorrows in wine. Instead of plotting an escape or revenge, he is doing what he is told, like the coward he is, making bullets and giving Negan some bright ideas on weaponising the zombie virus. Neither Gabriel or Eugene look like they will be able to find redemption in this war and their stories aren’t engaging enough to care about at the moment. If the show is looking to continue its tradition of killing people off for “shock” value, then these two characters don’t look long for this world. Both have done very little for their own salvation, relying on others to guide them – like God or Negan – whereas Dwight has at least been able to supply Alexandria with important information.
There is obviously going to be tension among the Alexandrians when Dwight is part of their number. To them, he is still a Saviour responsible for killing Denise, and Tara (Alanna Masterson) won’t ever let him forget it. But Dead or Alive OR abuses this lack of trust, using it to have Tara desperate to kill Dwight in one scene then defending him in the next. By the end of the episode, Dwight has found himself in a much tougher position that isn’t going to gain him any more trust in either camp. Despite this and unlike Gabriel, Dwight’s story does spark some interest in the episode. He will continue to be an asset in this war, whichever side he chooses to be a part of. From the position he ends up in, for Dwight and all the Alexandria’s, we can only hope for a big day tomorrow.
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Innards and entrails (spoilers)
– It seems you can’t have more than one doctor in the zombie apocalypse. Siddiq (Avi Nash) has some medical training, so it’s goodbye to Dr. Carson. Gabriel told Carson to keep the faith but he ended up going for a Saviour gun and got himself shot. He might not have lasted long anyway, after getting his foot caught in a bear trap at the hidden radio shack that’s been concealed from everyone despite only being a few miles from the Hilltop. Carson’s death isn’t particularly upsetting or meaningful other than to break Gabriel’s faith in God (again). We don’t think he’ll be missed, at least until Maggie’s (Lauren Cohen) baby arrives.
– Having evaded Tara’s bullet, Dwight has ended up back with the Saviours, but managed to convince his biggest nemesis that he is on her side. He learns that Laura (Lindsley Register) has been missing as long as he has, so, conveniently, no one yet knows of his betrayal. Dwight is still walking a dangerous line being back within the Sanctuary walls – his absence will not have gone unnoticed. Learning of Negan’s plan to use zombie blood as a weapon, will he be able to let Alexandria know in time, if, indeed, he wants to?
– Negan is planning a big day tomorrow. He and his remaining soldiers are going to march on the Hilltop, unaware that all of Alexandria have decided to regroup there. Negan is done saving people. Eugene questions about people still being a resource: how will they be helpful if they’re dead? Negan is clear that death is a last resort and if Rick tries something, he needs to be ready to retaliate. Later, after Eugene suggests catapulting zombies over Hilltop’s walls, Negan reveals that a touch or a kiss with a zombie-gut-covered Lucille will be enough for any Alexandrian to join the ranks of the undead. Negan believes that fighting undead Alexandrians will be easier than fighting them alive – he might not have thought this plan through.
– Maggie once again shows signs of compassion when she agrees to share her rations with the Saviour prisoners, as well as allowing them time out of their cell to perform chores around the Hilltop. Her sympathetic leadership will undoubtedly lead to trouble, because, as this episode has proved, nothing good can happen without dire consequences.
– Henry (Macsen Lintz), having killed one Saviour, is now out for bloodthirsty revenge against the person who killed his brother. Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride) share differing opinions on whether they should tell him the truth, either protecting an innocent child or turning him into an unbridled killing machine. We have already seen what this world can do to children – Carol has first-hand experience of it, so she will do what she can to prevent that from happening again.
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC