“Winning just means we get tomorrow. Maybe one more night. Maybe one more morning. After that – no guarantees.”
Negan may have taken a leave of absence from the All Out War in this week’s Walking Dead, but his plan went on regardless in another rather average episode. It’s taken a few weeks, but finally the Savior attack squad has reached the Hilltop (aka The Last Settlement Standing), and Negan’s bio war plan was still on. Only now it’s in the even less compassionate hands of Simon, who rallied his troops with, “our goal is not merely infection, it’s CONCLUSION!”
Ho hum. I like Steven Ogg as Simon, but I’m afraid for me the All Out War is still failing to grip. Angela Kang’s script did a reasonable job at wringing some tension from the premise, but it still feels like it’s dragging on. There was action, yes, and gunfire, and suspense – but nothing the show hasn’t done innumerable times before. And that feeling of familiarity rendered a reasonably decent episode rather dull.
To be sure, there was plenty of the show’s trademark character development threaded through the action, but it felt rather pat somehow. Morgan’s plainly coming unglued again, as his visions of neck-impaired Gavin showed; but we’ve seen unhinged Morgan before, and returning there feels unnecessary.
If there was a character theme this week, it was about the desires of the individual versus the good of the many. Nowhere was this better embodied than in Maggie, who spent much of the ep embarrassedly admitting that everything she was doing was purely to sate her personal desire for revenge, however altruistic it might seem. The irony of course being that whatever her motives, she was still serving the greater good by acting on them.
Lauren Cohan pulled all this off with some earnest acting, but it did seem to negate the more hopeful outlook the character had just last week, when dealing with optimistic prophet Georgie. Indeed, it felt odd that the episode with the wandering eccentric was completely forgotten this week; even if Maggie’s optimism was to be short lived, you’d expect someone at the Hilltop to at least mention the encounter, given the significance it was freighted with in the previous instalment.
Probably it was put on the back burner in favour of focusing on the Savior attack, and the subsequent Walker infestation. All this had the potential for a tense ep – something told in real time, perhaps, or maximising its one setting. The show’s done good eps like that in the past; but no, this was a very standard RickRabble/Savior clash, with the requisite gunfire and confusion. Yes, it was quite a clever strategy on the Saviors’ part to mask their true plan behind the volleys of gunfire that always accompany them, but once the plan was discovered it was routed in fairly short order, without much tension at all.
In the past, such episodes have spiced up the drama with the unexpected death of a major character (or two), and here we did at least get a bit of that with the demise and resurrection of Carol’s ‘love interest’ Tobin. But even though Jason Douglas has been around for nearly three seasons, Tobin’s hardly a much loved character, and his death is only really interesting because of whatever effect it might have on Carol. Given her weary but unhesitating dispatch of his walking corpse, I reckon she’ll get over it.
One aspect of the script that worked almost despite itself was the suspense about precisely which characters had been scratched with the Saviors’ tainted blades. Various characters remarked on cuts they had received during the ‘battle’, not least of which was Rick himself. Given the recent death of Carl, it almost seemed like a possibility that the show might actually do away with its leading man; but not in an episode like this. If Rick is on his way out, I’d expect him to go in a blaze of glory.
There still seems to be some doubt as to whether Tara is infected; as we saw even here, the progress of the infection is variable. If so, though, she hasn’t really made enough of an impact to be missed. This ep did at least go some way to giving her an actual character, as her newfound confidence in Dwight gave her pause to reflect on her own past as a footsoldier for the Governor. That conversation with Daryl was thought-provoking, but dwelling on the events of fondly-remembered, better episodes unfortunately only served to highlight how mundane the show is presently.
More predictably, young Henry hadn’t believed a word Morgan said about Gavin, and was taking advantage of the chaos to try and find the Savior who’d really killed his brother. Which, let’s face it, was a pretty stupid thing to do given everything else that was going on at that point. I couldn’t help being reminded of Carl’s behaviour way back in season 2, when seemingly every week saw him stupidly endangering himself or the whole group. I get that they might be shaping Henry up to take on some of the now-departed Carl’s future plotlines from the comic, but modelling him on season 2 Carl is not really the best way to start.
Gore of the week
This was probably a pretty gory episode, what with all the gunfire, and stabbings, and Walker-bitings. Trouble was, I couldn’t really make any of it out in the near-total dark of the proceedings. Yes, I get that, in the narrative, it made perfect sense for the Hilltop to be keeping the lights off. But if you want your audience to properly follow what’s going on, it would probably be a good idea to use a little artistic licence and have a little more light than would be entirely realistic. Minus points to director Jeffrey January for not at least giving us some decent moonlight. Usually when I write, “this was a really dark episode”, I don’t mean it literally.
Another largely unmemorable episode of the increasingly draggy All Out War then, even with the capable Angela Kang on writing duties. As ever, not terrible – but nothing we haven’t seen before, and better in The Walking Dead.