TV Review: The Walking Dead - Season 8, Episode 2

Season 8, Episode 2: The Damned

PLOT: The assault on the Saviors continues in multiple locations and a long-lost character returns.

REVIEW: This is more like it. The second episode of The Walking Dead's eighth season is, like the season premiere, all about the united communities' assault on the Saviors, the people led by baseball bat-toting villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). But this episode improves on what came before by dropping the fractured timeline editing and the dopey "flash forward" visions that tested my patience and at times confused me last week. This one was just 41 minutes of straightforward action, with attacks on Savior outposts taking place in multiple locations simultaneously.

Last season, the events of this episode probably would have been stretched out over a few different episodes, because they would have devoted an episode to each of the different groups attacking the Saviors. Thankfully, this season they're moving fast and widening the focus, so within just one episode we can see Aaron (Ross Marquand), Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson), and cohorts participating in a gunfight at the same time that we see Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) search for a weapons stash, Morgan (Lennie James), Jesus (Tom Payne), and others infiltrate a satellite outpost, and Carol (Melissa McBride), King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), and more pursue a Savior through the countryside.

We don't get to see what's going down between Negan and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) in that zombie-surrounded trailer we last saw them in, but we can't expect The Walking Dead to toss out all of its old tricks. Other familiar tropes on display in this episode were a character losing their hold on sanity (Morgan... again) and another deciding to take a non-violent approach to their enemies (Jesus picking up the pacifism Morgan dropped).

Despite Jesus sparing lives, a whole lot of Saviors die over the course of The Damned, and maybe some notable good guys die as well. We'll have to wait and see about that. Before the episode aired, executive producer Greg Nicotero hinted that we'd be seeing the return of a familiar face in this one, a character "we may have thought was dead". That character turned out to be Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja), who was featured in four episodes of the first season. We haven't seen this guy since season 1, episode 5, Wildfire, which aired one month shy of seven years ago. Most viewers have probably forgotten he ever even existed by now, so it's a good thing Rick did some remembering for them. Personally, I never assumed he was dead, and though I knew it was possible that we could see him again at some point, I really didn't do much thinking about him at all.

When Morales exited the series in Wildfire, he was headed to Birmingham, Alabama with his family. It's quite strange, then, that the next time we see him he's hanging out with the Saviors near Alexandria, Virginia. The show has some explaining to do now to tell us how exactly Morales got so off-track on his trip from Georgia to Alabama and oh-so-coincidentally ended up in the exact same place as Rick and the others he knew from season 1. It's seeming like quite a logic leap right now, even for a show that features the walking, flesh-eating dead. It's a small post-apocalyptic world after all.

The return of Morales stands out as the big event of The Damned (at least other than when Shiva the tiger feasts on a Savior), but there were plenty of good smaller moments mixed in amongst the copious amounts of gunfire. Moments like Rick finding a baby and realizing he had just killed her father, Morgan knowing that he's going to be fine during the satellite raid ("I don't die."), and King Ezekiel pouring on his King Ezekiel act to keep his people moving forward with confidence - while telling Carol "Fake it 'til you make it" in private.

There were also some annoying moments, thanks to Jesus. I can't imagine that letting a troublesome Savior like Jared (Joshua Mikel) live is a decision that's going to pan out well.

While The Walking Dead is providing me with the action I've been wanting this season, I'm still feeling like it's lacking something. I haven't connected with either episode so far on any deeper level than "Oh, that was cool" or "What the hell's with this Old Man Rick nonsense?" But this episode was better than the last, so that's progress.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Saviors engaged in a gunfight with some of our heroes realize their opponents don't have to move in on them to wipe them out because the fallen Saviors are going to become zombies and attack the others.

GORY GLORY: My favorite bloody death in this episode was dealt out to a zombie by the always awesome Jerry (Cooper Andrews). It was just a simple battle axe swing to the head, but it left a really nice blood splatter across the front of a building.

FAVORITE SCENE: King Ezekiel talking to Carol. "Do I feel the supreme confidence, or is my lot, my job, to simply project such certainty? No, and yes, yes and no, and then finally, yes to both. Fake it 'til you make it, baby."


Extra Tidbit: What did you think of The Damned?



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