This is a spoiler-free review. Read on below for additional, spoilery notes – plus how to watch online.
Jumping around in time again, the fifth episode of The Walking Dead Season 8 returns us to the moment Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his merry band of survivors attacked the Sanctuary, only this time, we see the story from Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) point of view. The pre-credits scene provides obvious exposition in case you missed any of the season so far, but does deliver some idea as to why Negan wants Rick, the King and the Widow in his possession. Aside from a brief scene with Rick and Daryl (Norman Reedus), The Big Scary U focuses exclusively on the Saviours, both the lieutenants trapped inside the Sanctuary and Negan and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) confined to the small trailer outside, all surrounded by the undead. With nowhere to go, Gabriel thinks it’s a perfect time to take Negan’s confession – but just what does Negan have to confess?
The heavy character development sees Negan make some valid points, points that when looked at without prejudice, will have you questioning just how evil he actually is. Apart from holding other groups to ransom, Negan hasn’t done a great deal wrong – in The Walking Dead terms, that is. He has killed, happily, especially the two Alexandrian victims, but that was in retaliation to dozens of his men being slaughtered by Rick at the satellite outpost and that whole gang Daryl wiped out with the rocket launcher. As they kneeled before him, Negan admitted he had to do this, not for fun, but to make them understand the consequences of their actions. Negan knows that people are a commodity, a resource to keep the ship sailing.
“Kill one to save many,” says Negan who instructs his lieutenants to take just three Alexandrians to make the rest fall in line; no one else needs to die. This philosophy had mixed results the last time he tried it, having broken Rick for a short time, before he started this uprising. But the more Negan and Gabriel converse, the more it seems that Negan is fairly reasonable and in this intimate setting, he becomes more honest than we’ve seen him before. Admitting he enjoys killing, Negan knows that he should only do so if it serves a purpose. He burns people who disobey the rules or lie – sins in the eyes of the father – but he does so to ensure that order is kept and to help make his people stronger. In this zombie apocalypse, where he with the biggest stick rules the roost, Negan’s harsh punishments may be more tolerable than being eaten alive – and they sometimes work. For all the horror that the Sanctuary and Negan may look like from the outside, Negan has built an economy where everyone is alive and nobody goes hungry.
The character development extends to Gabriel, once a coward who locked his congregation out of his church, now bravely facing the head of the opposition – the only man Rick wanted dead from this escapade. Having often been the irritating itch that you just can’t reach, Gabriel makes you believe he may be able to tame the monster.
Under siege from the undead on the outside, inside the Sanctuary must regroup and prepare for what’s next, if the lieutenants can stop arguing and pull it together. The episode is slightly longer than usual, but, unfortunately, for all the good between Negan and Gabriel, the extra minutes aren’t used well enough, instead padding with exposition and a needless scene where Rick and Daryl argue over the plan. It may have been more effective to have left the runtime as it was, giving more attention to where it does excel: Gabriel and Negan and the confession that maybe he isn’t all bad after all.
The Walking Dead Season 1 to 8 are available on Sky Box Sets until 30th November 2018. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, for £7.99 a month, with no contract and a 14-day free trial.
Innards and entrails (spoilers
– To what purpose was that Rick and Daryl fight? They had spent a lot of effort to find those weapons and a lot of the Kingdom lost their lives, yet a childish squabble about using dynamite ended up with the guns being blown up. The pair share a fun exchange afterwards about the choke-hold being an illegal move, but they’ve just lost a major weapon that they’ve spent four episodes searching for and one that could have helped them win this war. Those who died in the Kingdom have now died in vain, all because Rick and Daryl couldn’t stay on the same page for five minutes.
– In the season premiere, we saw Rick crying in a wood. It looks like that scene may be coming up soon, as he’s now heading off alone and sporting similar sweat stains and blood. Will it have anything to do with the Junkyard people who betrayed him, or that mysterious helicopter that flew overhead? Who could be in that helicopter? We have seen one before, but it didn’t really have any consequences then. Could this be part of the Fear The Walking Dead crossover? For anyone that watches that show knows that the group the main characters ended up with at the start of Season 3 have a helicopter. Either way, don’t expect to see it again for a while.
– Although their escape from the trailer was fairly unimaginative, Father Gabriel is now showing signs of a fever. Was he bitten or was that conversation with Negan about no one ever getting sick from rubbing zombie guts on them more than just a passing comment? Could this be the end for Father Gabriel? He was looking for a purposeful death, he believed he was trapped with Negan to take his confession. Now he has, is he being called to the afterlife?
– Once again, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is threatened with either finding the mole or dying quickly. This time, he knows that Dwight (Austin Amelio) is the inside man, so will he rat him out or is this his way back into Rick’s arms? Finding out that the man he shared a meal of dog with is sick may help him make up his mind. For all the great dialogue that Negan and Gabriel have in this episode, Eugene confronting Dwight with a jar of pickles that he offers him for getting out of the “pickle” is hilarious.