TV Review: The Walking Dead - Season 8, Episode 11

Season 8, Episode 11: Dead or Alive or 

PLOT: While things are looking dire at the Hilltop, some characters are going to need a miracle to get there.

REVIEW: One thing The Walking Dead has proven to do well is find a way to redeem characters once perceived as irredeemable, which is certainly a skill it's going to have to put to use in a major way when it keeps Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) around beyond the current "All-Out War" storyline. One example of a character redeemed is someone who was a major player in the Dead or Alive or episode, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), who was despicable and rather worthless when he first showed up on the series. Now Gabriel is a devoted member of the "good side", and he has retrieved Dr. Carson (R. Keith Harris) from Negan's Sanctuary so he can get him back to the Hilltop, where he's needed to aid recently appointed Hilltop leader Maggie (Lauren Cohan) during her pregnancy.

With Gabriel one of the leads, Dead or Alive or felt like one of the most Christian pieces of televised horror since the days of The Stand, and features some unbelievable things that seem to be the result of divine intervention - not quite on the level of the hand of God in The Stand, but along the lines of the "God came down from Heaven and stopped the bullets" moment in PULP FICTION. While making their way toward the Hilltop, Gabriel definitely need such intervention, because these are two of the most hapless bastards you could ever find. Even with God carrying them on the way "Footprints" style (Gabriel references that popular poem early on), pretty much everything that could possibly go wrong for them does go wrong.

It was sort of fun to watch the nearly-blind Gabriel lead Carson down the path of faith, and I guess I can't complain about the believability of some of the things they experience on a show about an apocalypse of flesh-eating corpses. I could complain about how pointless it all felt in the end, but I guess I'll wait and see where the story goes with Gabriel and Eugene (Josh McDermitt)... a despicable character himself who is so far whiffing every time he steps up to the plate to take a swing at redemption.

With how things are going at the Hilltop, and with the situation there looking to get even worse in the next episode (thanks, Eugene!), Gabriel might be better off at the Sanctuary anyway. I do like that Eugene is finally attempting to get into the mass production of bullets business, so long down the line from when that idea was set up. These folks had a hell of a lot of bullets, if they weren't using them up shooting at each other Eugene could have been waiting years for his bullet-making skills to be of any use.

Gabriel and Carson weren't the only ones trying to get to the Hilltop, as a group that included Daryl (Norman Reedus), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Tara (Alanna Masterson), and Dwight (Austin Amelio) were also making their way through the wilderness in that direction. Dwight is another strong example of a successful redemption on this show; he has become one of my favorite characters, which I never would have expected in the days of him killing Denise and Eugene munching on his junk. He has been useful in the fight against Negan, so I have forgiven him for killing Denise. Denise's girlfriend Tara has not, so in this episode I was given the sight of one of my favorite characters (Tara became one of my favorites as of that much-maligned episode she carried last season) attempting to execute another of my favorites.

As Tara walked Dwight off into the woods with a deadly ulterior motive, I was reminded of earlier seasons, my thoughts going back to the very early days when Shane would be a threat to people in the woods from time to time. I couldn't help but wonder, now that Rick's wife Lori and son Carl are both dead: would Shane have been better at protecting them, as he so strongly believed? That question makes me want to see a "what if?" episode - or hell, really shake things up and make it a whole "elseworlds" season - that shows what would have happened if Shane had killed Rick back in season 2 and gone off into the apocalypse with Lori and Carl. 

Dead or Alive or was a middle-of-the-road episode for me. It didn't feature anything all that great, but it told a decent story, and it never got as frustrating as so many other episodes have been this season. It has me looking forward to seeing what comes next, which is nice.

Also nice: for the dialogue he had to deliver in this episode, Reedus (mostly) dropped that ridiculous growl he's been doing lately. I fondly recall the days when Daryl could speak, and was glad to hear that he still can.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Daryl's group has to traverse a dangerous, zombie-filled swamp on their way to the Hilltop, so he and Siddiq (Avi Nash) slash a path through a bunch of slimy, mossy, disgusting walkers.

GORY GLORY: Negan coating his barbed wire-wrapped bat Lucille in zombie blood was a nicely done effect, especially when he digs the wire into the dead man's cheek.

FAVORITE SCENE: Swamp zombies for the win!


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