The post-Walker Stalker Con weekend episode recap is always a difficult one to write. Mainly because I am just so tired. Our eating and sleeping schedules are out of whack and we run on pure adrenaline for endless hours over a 3-day period and then drive nearly 4 hours home, arriving just in time to watch the latest episode. I take as many notes as I can, knowing that I will soon pass out from exhaustion. And, no matter how many times I tried to will myself to start typing throughout the day, all I wanted to do was curl up under a blanket and watch TV. Zero motivation the day after any convention we work or attend. R&R is necessary to help stave off the possibility of ‘con crud’. But, enough about all that. Let’s talk “The Damned”.
If you haven’t watched the episode yet, or need a refresher, CLICK HERE for a spoiler-filled article that will bring you up to walker speed.
Well…the show-runners did promise there would be a lot of action. But the very first question I have to ask (because it bothered the hell out of me during the show): How much ammunition do Rick and the gang have? Remember, we are dealing with a very short timeline, in their world, and up until very recently their only hope for ammunition was Eugene. However, the mullet is no longer with the Alexandrians. The Kingdom had some guns and ammo, but not a whole lot, assuming that their deal with Negan was the same as everyone else’s was, “half your shit”. They lost a great deal of their weapons to the trash people. The Hilltop also had a limited supply of guns and ammo. Granted, they totally behaved like Saviors when they went in and robbed the Oceanside women of their weapons cache. But, dude, that was a LOT of gunfire. Each of their little factions laid down heavy cover with a seemingly endless supply of bullets, save for those moments when running out would make for dramatic effect, ie. Aaron, Morgan, etc. It’s funny how I always seem to take issue with continuity or the minutiae, yet I have no qualms believing the dead are walking among the living.
It seems this season’s theme will, indeed, be wrath vs. mercy. As with every season, we look at what makes a “good” guy vs. what makes a “bad” guy. Those definitions become blurred depending on what angle is used by the writers in presenting a character. As we’ve discussed, extreme circumstances can bring out the best and/or the worst in people. We’ve seen good people lose their way, like Shane. And, we’ve seen bad people come around, like Merle. We’ve met characters who were so damaged by the apocalypse that they became someone they themselves were ashamed of, like the Governor. The direction of, and definitions therein, of wrath and mercy shall be heavily influenced by revenge. Clearly, Jesus has seen Star Wars. He is very much aware that “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” He may not know what to do with captured Saviors, but he does know that something has to be done, lest the ‘good’ guys wind up behaving exactly like the ‘bad’ guys. And, I believe that, deep down, the rest of our favorite survivors feel the same way, it’s just difficult to find a place for morality when you are so conflicted about surviving in this new world.
A lot of what is happening right now has happened in some way before. The Jesus/Tara conflict reminded me very much of Rick/Shane trying to decide what to do with Randall in S2Ep “18 Miles Out”. When Tara snapped at Jesus, “You’re not Rick. You’re not Maggie” and then followed that with the comment about having Rick’s ear, that was a distinct line drawn in the sand. But, if future episodes remain somewhat predictable in the writing, something will happen to teach Tara a harsh lesson about going off half-cocked on a personal vendetta, and something else will happen to teach Jesus an unfortunate lesson in trusting the wrong people. As Michonne said in S4Ep4 “Anger makes you stupid. Stupid gets you killed.”
Speaking of going off all half-cocked, what was Eric thinking? Yes, okay, Francine was shot in front of him. [Side note: the guy writing the EW reviews needs to check his hearing or else pay closer attention to the episodes. I noticed more than one error in last week’s, and for this episode he claims Eric shouted “Tracy”] Eric was extending his firing arm and blindly waving that automatic weapon around, just wasting bullets in the general direction of the Saviors. I guess that’s okay, though, since they had a never-ending supply of bullets? His demise was expected, if you’ve read the comics, and imminent if you know how to read body language and camera angles. There were too many glances exchanged between Eric and Aaron, too many wide shots. And, then there’s that little bit with Eric being in a vulnerable position and Aaron not having enough ammo (oh, the horror!). It breaks my heart, nonetheless, but didn’t have the shock value that seeing Morgan get shot had. Let’s face it, our main protagonists each arrived at their designated outposts (thanks, Dwight) with a sea of “red-shirts”. When producers said a lot of people would die this season, I wrongly assumed A and B level cast members. Instead we got dozens of nameless Saviors and Survivors, Francine, Andy, and maybe Tobin.
So, let’s get to that bit with Andy and Morgan and that other guy. Is anyone else excited to see this conflicted Morgan breaking through? We knew he wasn’t going to die, he told us as much. But, that near-death experience really did a number on him. Waking up, unscathed, to find the two men you were trying to protect laying dead on either side of you? Damn. Morgan got up and worked his way through that outpost like the damn Terminator! We haven’t seen Morgan willingly, and expertly, handle a firearm like that since he was found by Rick, Carl and Michonne in Clear. And isn’t that exactly what he was doing? He “had to clear” again. He started remembering the debate he had with Rick after Daryl, Abraham and Sasha were attacked on the road, our initial meeting with Saviors. I don’t think he is going to go off the deep end like he did once before. But, I do believe, whether he likes it or not, Morgan is coming to a point of reconciling the fact that there must be a compromise between what he believes and what is necessary for survival. Benjamin’s death did a number on him. Murdering whatshisface afterwards with his bare hands did a number on him. His personal conflicts may end up in the loss of his own life by season’s end if he continues to let his past haunt him.
Speaking of the past meeting the present…did anyone expect that to be Morales?! I was so hung up on Rick’s personal turmoil and self-loathing that I was honestly shocked when he picked up that photograph and made the connection. The minute Rick opened the one room that was all decorated and clean, a pretty girl’s room, my first thought was that this must be where they house Negan’s wives when he impregnates them (the old Dr. Carter was always testing them, remember?). So, when that Savior said “No guns” the idea that there would be a child or children behind the door didn’t surprise me. I’d still like to know what happens to that baby and/or who it belongs to. But, damn. Morales? And he has changed. Our survivors have been through hell, but clearly so has he. His journey took him from Georgia to Alabama and back north again to Virginia. We feel a connection with him, what with the events of the first 4 episodes of The Walking Dead. Morales was the one who coined the phrase “Officer Friendly”. But, beyond the 3-days they spent together nearly 3 years prior, these two men have no affiliation, no obligation to one another. Morales and Rick are nothing more than two men who may have done temp work in the same office pool many years ago. No love lost. Morales is a Savior. Just another example of the past meeting the present, but physically this time [and very much like Rick and Andrea, then Rick and Morgan…] I’m curious to see where this goes!
Which brings us to “Trust the King” Ezekiel and our beloved Carol. I talked often, last season, about the charades that each leader played with their respective groups. The three new leaders we were introduced to didn’t enter into this apocalypse as leaders, rather they assumed the roles for survival purposes. Gregory’s ‘character’ has been dismantled by Maggie and co. Negan is still very much Negan in front of his people. But, we saw Negan let his guard down and become very ‘real’ with Carl, and according to the previews he will do so again with Gabriel, thus revealing his backstory. Ezekiel, however, is fun to watch. He is so over the top and his sidekick, Jerry, just helps to amp it all up a level. Ezekiel is quick to break character when speaking to Carol, “Fake it til you make it, baby,” as he had already revealed his backstory to her, shortly after meeting her. Some believe he came clean with her because he is a smitten kitten. Others believe it’s because he is a decent judge of character and as such knew right off that Carol found his charade to be entirely ridiculous. She spends part of her time amused by him and the rest of the time exhausted by him. Carol is a straight shooter and has little patience for theatrics. The farther along her story arc goes, the colder and harder she becomes. She treats Ezekiel like he is full of shit, but she knows his reasoning and respects his results. I think she is also fascinated by his endless supply of optimism. “And, yet, I smile.”
Really, beyond that last minute reveal, this episode didn’t do it for me. I understand that the first 4 episodes of this season are a continual thread, so I am hopeful the next two episodes really kick things in the right direction. I know I am going to cry with Aaron over his loss of Eric. And, my money is on the losses of Jerry and Shiva in the near future. I am confused, though this time it’s not about the ammunition. Daryl and Rick headed to opposite ends of the same floor of the outpost building. Daryl encounters nothing but a PTSD trigger. Rick, however, gets into the loudest, gruntiest wrestling match ever, complete with a gunshot. How disoriented down Easy Street was Daryl that he didn’t come running to save his boo when that shot rang out? Boy better get his act together and get the drop on Morales when that scene continues or he’ll have some ‘splaining to do! Oh! And holy crap! What if what we discussed last week about sweaty-red-teary-eyed Rick talking about mercy/wrath is the result of baby Gracie?? The comics addressed dead babies pretty early on. But so far, the series has yet to go down that path. They kept Judith alive. They’ve mentioned ‘lost’ children. Denise found that undead woman with the broken leg who had holed up in the back of the apothecary shop, who presumably drowned her baby to keep it from crying and then lost her mind when she had to put it down again. But, save for the word “Hush” written repeatedly on the wall in crayon and a tiny sneaker floating in the sink, we never saw the dead baby. What if dead Gracie is the reason Rick is in the condition he is in? Did he inflict wrath or mercy? Or both?