This is a spoiler-free review. Read on below for additional, spoilery notes – plus how to watch online.
Things have been slowing down a little since the blistering opening of The Walking Dead’s eighth season and The King, The Widow and Rick grinds things abruptly to a halt. Perhaps this is just the calm before the storm, a chance to process everything that has come before. In reality, though, this sixth episode is slow and disjointed and only serves to shine light on the flaws that had been masked by the action previously. For anybody joining the show six episodes in, you’re in luck: the episode once again starts out with another regurgitation of what has already happened via voiceovers reading snail-mail letters – the US Postal Service is still alive and well in the zombie apocalypse – before splitting into lots of little scenes for a large number of survivors still dealing with the aftermath of the assault, stage one.
Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is enacting the next part of his plan, which involves the polaroid photographs he’s been taking and Junkyard tribe who betrayed him at the end of Season 7. Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) receives her visitor with nary a worry. This is the man she turned her back on and betrayed, threw into a pit with a spiked walker, even shot the last time the two were face to face. It doesn’t occur to her that Rick may be here with an army in tow seeking revenge – no, instead she bravely chooses to parlay, listening as Rick reveals his incredibly weak next phase of his 10-point plan to kill Negan, especially when compared to the bullet-laden first section. In fact, if Rick doesn’t have anything else up his sleeve, he deserves everything he gets.
Having spent the season so far back at Alexandria recovering, it’s time for Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) to go for a drive, both itching to see their companions’ efforts at the Sanctuary and ensure everyone is OK. Where are the green balloons when you need them? Along the way, they are distracted by music, choosing to investigate. This section provides the only highlight of the episode, dripped in tension, threat and a sporting a mighty fine explosion that will make you forget the drudgery that you’ve had to sit through to get there. Unfortunately, it is over far too soon, and, in some fortuitous circumstances, the pair are conveniently joined by Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Tara (Alanna Masterson), who just so happen to be on their own journey to the Sanctuary from Alexandria – yet none of them thought to save on petrol by car sharing.
This plot point is most likely going to bring us into the mid-season finale – Daryl and Tara both still harbouring ill feelings towards Dwight (Austin Amelio) for what he has done to them, both hungry for revenge. That Dwight has been a valuable source of information and probably the lynchpin to Alexandria’s success in taking out the Sanctuary is forgotten by Daryl and Tara, both still bitter Dwight lived after he killed their friends. With an uprising within the uprising, could this be the start of civil war inside Alexandria? Was the scuffle last week the start of Daryl v Rick? Shouldn’t we focus on Negan first?
There are also visits to both the Kingdom and the Hilltop. Maggie (Lauren Cohen) needs to show the leadership that Gregory (Xander Berkeley) never could, even as the snake whispers advice in her ear. Carol (Melissa McBride) has an interaction with a small child, asking him if he knows what happens to little children alone in the woods – don’t look at the flowers! But it is her and a broken King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) where small salvation can be taken from an otherwise disappointing episode. While The Big Scary U had an extended run time that wasn’t utilised properly, The King, The Widow and Rick feels rushed and without focus. The extra minutes may have helped in that episode, but without any scenes with a clear direction, they may have been wasted here too.
The Walking Dead Season 8 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. You can also buy and download it on pay-per-view VOD. For more information, click here.
Innards and entrails (spoilers)
– Maggie rose to power at the Hilltop and with that power comes great responsibility. Having to decide between slaughtering the Saviours taken captive by Jesus (Tom Payne) or letting them live is something that will take its toll on her. By keeping them alive, she and her community will have to sleep with one eye open, never able to really trust them. Judging by the sly goings-on in their new cage, these are Saviours who aren’t going to change and will take an opportunity should it present itself.
– Unfortunately for Maggie, she seems damned no matter what she does. If it was a mistake to keep the captives alive, it was an even bigger mistake to put Gregory in the cage with them. She said herself that she knew about wolves and sheep, so she should know that Gregory, who has already tried to sell out the Hilltop once before, will do anything he can to end up on the winning side. The wolves now have a snake in their grass.
– While it is refreshing to see that Carl (Chandler Riggs) isn’t becoming too much like his father, his good nature in this episode is ill-placed, nearly getting him killed. Outside the walls, Carl searches for Siddiq (Avi Nash), the man he met at the petrol station. Their interaction brings the only zombies of the episode, who arrive out of no-where and overwhelm the pair, both of whom are experienced zombie killers. The introduction of any new character is always interesting, but it feels as though there is still so much to tell with so many of our main characters that adding another one only waters things down. Where is our Jerry-centric episode?
– Is there anything more tragic than the loss of a beloved pet? Seeing Ezekiel mourning the loss of Shiva – and undoubtedly his warriors – was heart-breaking. He plays the broken man much greater than when Rick was in his shoes and it’s another display of how tragedy can change a person – Morgan (Lennie James) had to clear by going on a terminator-style rampage – as Ezekiel sheds the persona that led him to the top at the Kingdom.
– With Ezekiel broken, Rick now imprisoned at the Junkyard (and naked), Daryl going off script and Maggie with her hands full at the Hilltop, has the plan collapsed before it has really begun? How will they all come back from this and will they get back on the same page, before Negan seizes the opportunity he needs to put his pawns back in their place?
Photo: Gene Page / AMC