This is a spoiler-lite review of Episode 14 of Season 8. Already seen the episode? Read on below for full spoilers.
We’re down to the final three episodes of The Walking Dead Season 8 and if finales past have taught us anything, it’s that there will undoubtedly be something exciting just around the corner. Unfortunately, we’ve not reached that turning and Still Gotta Mean Something, for the most part, is just another filler episode. It succeeds in being decisively more exciting and interesting than the Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) drama from Episode 11, but falls apart when all the pawns that were set up to prepare for an epic showdown are brushed aside, leaving the playing field essentially as it was before the episode started.
The blurred lines of good and evil, heroes and villains, are regurgitated once again. During the episode’s big set piece, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) performs actions questionable of someone who we’re supposed to believe is the hero. It could be argued that he’s still in mourning and so his judgment is flawed, but Rick’s bloodthirsty hunger for revenge has been burning even before Carl’s death. This new world will bring out a person’s more aggressive side and we have seen Rick conduct many activities unbecoming of a good guy since the start of the zombie outbreak. He has seen and done so much that he is forgetting how to be human. Michonne (Danai Gurira) will do what she can to provide him with some redemption. She has been in Rick’s shoes and was saved, so she wants to help him through it. Her solution is to give him time to grieve his loss, but Rick can’t be trusted to be left alone with his own thoughts. To help him, he must want help, but all he wants right now is revenge.
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has always been painted as the bad guy and, while his actions have been violent, we have also seen a different side to him since his introduction, one of compassion and understanding. Where Rick uses violence against violence, Negan sees a bigger picture, one where people can work together to survive; he will accept violence, but only as a means of justice where there are no laws. He has shown genuine sympathy for Rick’s loss, despite the two of them being at war, and here, we see a more vulnerable Negan, one who has a past that wasn’t wrapped in barbed wire (but still had a Lucille). As the conclusion to the season ebbs closer, who we want to win this war is more confusing than ever. For all his violence and childlike insults, there can be no denying that Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan oozes charisma whereas Rick is an unstable enigma.
Both Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) have begun repeating themselves. With the disappearance of Henry (Macsen Lintz), Carol is suffering from sealing the fate of another child who looked up to her and Morgan keeps circling between sane and insane. The latter does make the character more interesting – Lennie James os more than capable of showing the turmoil behind his eyes – but it is the same anguish that we’ve seen from him before. This time, Carol experiences Morgan’s hallucinations first-hand and wants to help him like he did her. Just like Rick, Morgan would rather suppress any feelings with mindless violence, instead of facing reality. To stop himself repeating, Morgan needs to find himself a new path.
Only two episodes remain of Season 8 and Still Gotta Mean Something doesn’t exactly pave the way for the final confrontation. Instead, it has hit a reset button, leaving all parties as they were before the episode started. In Do Not Send Us Astray, Simon (Steven Ogg) brought the war to the Hilltop and the conflict felt like it had begun. Now, both Rick and Negan appear to have bigger problems than each other and their own battles to overcome. For how little time there is left, both Rick and Negan feel further apart than they’ve ever been.
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Innards and entrails (spoilers)
– Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) was able to capture Negan, tie him up and lock him in the junkyard. She’s keen to avenge the death of all her friends and family but doesn’t have much of a plan other than to burn Lucille (who we find out is named after Negan’s original wife). Negan, with all his charm and sincerity, is able to talk his way out of his predicament and, by the end of the episode, both have gone their separate ways without any threats or bloodshed – nothing has been gained from their encounter. The interaction does showcase Negan’s sensitive side and Jadis’ complete lack of conviction now she’s lost everything, but there is only one thing that really happened during these scenes…
– The helicopter returns! Jadis was packed and ready for the chopper, wanting it to come and take her away. We are still none the wiser as to who is on board and scouting our heroes, but a good guess would be the crew from The Walking Dead’s sister show – Fear The Walking Dead. The groups there have a helicopter and we know that there is to be a crossover, so is this how they will meet? Although Negan does query the vehicle’s appearance, he doesn’t give the reaction of complete bewilderment we would have expected. Nor does he question Jadis about it; if she has any information, she doesn’t share it and as quickly as it appears, the helicopter just flies away as if it was never there.
– When Negan leaves Jadis behind, he returns to the Sanctuary in secret. He wants his return to be a surprise and part of that surprise is a mystery passenger that he picks up en route. The passenger is likely to be Laura, the Saviour that knows Dwight (Austin Amelio) is a traitor, which means there will be a war, but this will be one fought at the Sanctuary between the Saviours. Simon made the right play against the Hilltop, despite defying Negan’s orders, so he might be able to talk himself out of the iron. But if it was Laura in the car, Dwight needs to get out of there right now.
– If Rick had read Carl’s letter when Michonne wanted him to, the slaughter of the Saviours may have been avoided. By the end of the episode, he finally decides to read it and with Morgan’s words about Duane still fresh in his mind, perhaps Rick will see the error of his ways. If he does, what does that mean for the war? Will there be a peaceful resolution after all?
– Before he can redeem himself, Rick is front and centre of the execution of the Saviour escapees. Blatantly lying to them about second chances, Rick literally stabs them in the back in a way that would make Brutus proud. Morgan finally gets his hands on Jared (Joshua Mikel), holding him through a gate as walkers feast on him. It’s a fitting death for such a slimy character who has his cheek torn right off, showing off the superb make-up effects once again. His personal success doesn’t get quite the reaction he hoped from Henry when he tells him the man who killed his brother is dead by his hands; instead, Henry is sorry that Morgan had to do that – another blow to Morgan’s mental state.