War, What is it Good For? Walking Dead Season 8 Mid-Season Review and Analysis

So here we go….better late than never… season 8 of Walking Dead, mid season review. I’ll be honest going in here, there were multiple things that did not make me happy on this half of the season.

As always SPOILER WARNING; although there will be big spoilers for the comic in this entry as I will discuss at some length the storyline that follows after Negan in the comics and what affect certain developments in the show have on that upcoming story.

So in short, if you plan on reading the comics and haven’t done so yet, and don’t want it spoiled for you….come back here later.

Season 8 started with an episode that seems to heavily combine the present with flash forward scenes to a better future. Seeing how the midseason  finale went with Carl, I now question whether this was a real flash forward or just a sort of a dream sequence fantasy tease to the audience with Rick imagining Alexandria in peace. We see Judith much older, Carl is still alive and civilization is thriving. Michonne and Rick have a cute couple moment and Rick looks grizzled but relaxed as the whole thing starts with him oversleeping. I still want to believe this is an actual flash forward and not just a ideal future fantasy sequence, and one of the main things I’m holding on to with that is we see Rick walking with a cane in this sequence. In the comics Negan and Rick’s last confrontation ends up with Negan breaking Rick’s leg and he walks with a cane in the story after he sustains this injury. If this were really a fantasy Rick is having, why would he envision himself as an injured man? You usually wish the best for your future. I’m hoping this is a sign that maybe the outcome is different than what we think, but it seems highly unlikely. Another feature that gives me hope is they are preparing for some type of festival, and that is one of the first big events when happening in town when the Whisperers enter the plot….so who knows.

The other half of the first episode is Rick’s crew really mounting their offensive strike against Negan at the Sanctuary. Lots of shooting and confrontations, and there’s this fantastic bit with Gregory attempting to still play nice with the Saviors and telling his people that anyone fighting would be exiled from the Hilltop. None of the people from the Hilltop disperse to this announcement, Jesus declares that the Hilltop stands with Maggie, and it’s clear the power dynamic has shifted. This has made Simon look like like a fool to Negan because he was the one backing Gregory when that sniveling coward came to him, so he understandably gets pissed at Gregory wasting his time and effort and Gregory gets knocked down some stairs. (Hah hah!)

The first episode did have a lot of action and I kind of loved testosterone fueled Rick going in and taking charge, he’s clearly no longer afraid of Negan. The plan to draw the horde of walkers to the Sanctuary was also pretty brilliant and isolated the enemy from their supply outposts. It was amazingly strategic. However, I find it is rather ridiculous that throughout this firefight and all the bullets fired at Negan, no one managed to shoot or even graze him. The other issue I had was it was clear that Rick and Dwight and the others planned this assault on the Sanctuary, and season 7 ended with Negan proclaiming to his people that they were going to war…. But they let everyone come up to them first? That was a huge strategic fail. Especially since the Saviors always seemed to be ahead and organized and in charge in season 6. I suppose you could say that maybe the reason this strike was such a success was because of Dwight, and we do see he gave the group some info, but it’s not obvious what he gave them. From what we see, it looks like the only information Dwight gave them was the outpost locations and the guard schedule. Also a plan like the one the executed would have to take time to set up, they couldn’t have immediately done this after the last episode of season 7. Also also: Rick was shot in the flank by Jadis during the confrontation at the end of season 7, so that would have taken time to heal before they could strike, and Rick shows no hint to his gunshot injury ….so…. Negan and crew retreated and just waited for Rick and crew to strike? That seems odd to me. I suppose one could argue that the Saviors were also recovering from their losses, but it didn’t seem like they needed that long to recover.

For some stupid ass reason Gabriel tried to help Gregory who’s caught up in the chaos, but Gregory is a dick and he steals the getaway car that was Gabriel’s way out. Sigh…..Gabriel, you’re an idiot. This does bring us to a pretty interesting interaction with Negan and Gabriel and the audience gets a peek at Negan’s backstory. I did also love Negan’s initial “hope you’re wearing your shittin pants” line to Gabriel at the end of the first episode when it’s revealed they are both trapped in that trailer together. The only aggravating thing is it was 4 episodes from that line to get to the continuation of what happened in that trailer. This scene was quite interesting for a number of reasons, and it was very interesting to witness Negan insisting he and Gabriel work together to survive, but then he does give Gabriel a solid punch in the face so we know there’s no sentiment there, just business.😂

On Gabriel, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t know why he’s ill….that hadn’t really been explained. We’ve seen a lot of cast members “gut up” in the past, and it’s never been an issue, but it seems it was implied that this is the cause of Gabriel’s illness. We didn’t see him get bit….so there’s no other explanation. What I wonder is why he’s ill but this worked for so many other cast members in the past? I guess he’s just unlucky? Or….because….plot? This was on the list of the things that bothered me.

On some of the more painful moments of this season so far, I felt so sad for Aaron. Seeing him lose Eric tore me up, especially the way he just sees him shambling away and doesn’t even get to put him down. The last we see of him is offering to take the baby Rick found, Gracie, to the Hilltop. I would like to see what develops there, but we don’t really see him again for the rest of the first half of the season.

We see Morgan breaking down again, and he even gets into a battle with Jesus in the woods over the captured Saviors and Jesus not wanting to kill those people. The constant struggle Morgan has with either kill em all, or all life is precious has been interesting to watch. I wonder if he will ever be able to find a middle ground.

Ezekiel’s character arc really hit some painful moments as he sees most of his people die in battle, several of them being shot while shielding him. He approaches the battle with such a carefree and cavalier attitude and his positivity and confidence is so high because he never experienced a big loss in this fight, and then when he gets hit hard and sees so many of his people killed for him… you really see his character realize that this is serious and he has a crisis of faith in himself and what he’s been doing. Khary Payton is a great actor and such an awesome person and he rocks every scene he’s in. I could really feel Ezekiel’s turmoil. Especially once Shiva died….poor poor Shiva, is it sad to say I cared more about a CGI tiger more than most people? 😂

Carol seems to have grown closer to Ezekiel in this first half of the season and it’s pretty obvious to me that she cares for him…..though I still hope for a Carol/Daryl ship……it seems that Carol may end up with Ezekiel. Also I have to say, I was glad to see Carol back and kicking ass again this season. I missed you, lady. ❤

I enjoyed the fact that Morales was reintroduced as a Savior; it was a pretty cool callback. The only sad part about it was that the reunion was extremely brief. It certainly seemed to have made an impact on Rick and made him question his kill everyone method, but I almost feel like they hyped his return for something that was actually very short lived.

Though Dwight turned over to Alexandria as a inside man towards the end of the last season, we didn’t really see him help the group when he first came to them in the last episodes of season 7. That changes this season as the group’s attack is orchestrated and carried out based on information provided by Dwight and we really start to see more suspense with him being a double agent. Eugene figures him out right away and even threatens to turn him in to Negan. Gotta say, really hated Eugene this half of the season. His loyalties seem to be only to himself and staying alive. He almost seems eager to please Negan, and it may not be just because he knows that’s what will keep him alive, he seems to enjoy being in a place of power. It’s so different from the Eugene of the comics, and it does give an interesting dynamic to the story but I still hate that he saw so many of his friends die and he could still align with Negan so easily.

As much as I love Daryl, I found myself at odds with his methods a bit this season so far. As one of the kids at the outpost is surrendering and gives up the information he knows when Rick gives his word that they won’t hurt him, he asks if he’s free to go and Daryl shoots him dead without hesitation. (Side note: that kid was Minkus from Boy Meets World! Craziness!) Daryl has lost all restraint and sympathy and he and Rick come to blows over it ultimately in a very literal way. Daryl also spearheads the group that decides to go to the Sanctuary and take action, which COMPLETELY ruins Rick’s plan and their crashing the truck into the Sanctuary leads to the Saviors actually regaining control of their situation. The Walkers are dispersed by the time Rick tries to show the Scavengers how they have the Saviors trapped…..basically, his impatience (and also Tara’s and Rosita’s too, really) really fucks over Rick’s plan and that made me really annoyed……surely they knew why they did what they did and what the plan was….wtf, guys. It also annoyed me that of all people, Michonne was there! WTF! I would think if anyone knew what the plan was and why, it would be her. The fact that she allows them to do this really irked me.

While I’m thinking of it, Rick sees a helicopter fly overhead in the end of episode 5 of this season, which should be a shocking thing, but Rick ever mentions it on camera and it’s never brought up again….thus far, at least. The last time we saw a helicopter, it was a National Guard Helicopter that crashed in season 3 and the Governor promptly took resources from the me who were inside and killed them. Is there something more beyond the groups we have seen that survived? What could this mean?

The destruction of Alexandria, though predictable in a way, also seemed counterproductive. I can’t think that there are many houses in safe areas in this world and Negan destroys a place he could have used. Though it was cool to see all the destruction and the battle, it all seems to be a poor decision on the whole…. But it is Negan, and we know he tends to lead with anger and force more than anything else.

The fight between Negan and Rick in Rick’s house was fun, but for all Rick’s talk about killing Negan, it’s kind of ridiculous he just knocked him out. But, Negan has plot armor so he will survive this. Of course we found out one person in this show does not have plot armor and that’s Carl Grimes, as we see in the end when he shows Rick and Michonne his bite wound as they are hiding in the sewers and waiting for the assault from the Saviors to end.

Poor Carl, the revelation he was bit made me outright angry at the show, and I usually don’t get that mad over character deaths in any of my numerous fandoms. I was so angry primarily because Carl is a HUGE part of the storylines to come. He’s still alive in the comics. He has a pretty strong relationship with Negan, and is a major character involved in the beginning of the Whisperers storyline. It’s pretty much Carl’s budding interest in Lydia that gets the conflict going in the first place. Carl tries to convince her to leave the group, leading to a confrontation which then leads to Alpha and the Whisperers attacking the people of the various communities. I also credit Carl for being one of the characters who actually humanize a Negan a bit. Who will fill that role? How will he be developed if not through interactions with Carl? I don’t know what the show is going to do, but this is a huge departure from the source material and to be honest I’m also quite bummed for Chandler Riggs to be leaving the cast because he’s been there for so long and it’s obviously a huge part of his life. I have to wonder what Rick’s reaction will be like because he nearly lost his mind when Lori died and came unhinged. His whole life was about Carl, what will he do when his son is gone? Especially after he so famously acknowledged in the last season that he knows Judith is most likely not his daughter, but Shane’s. This was his last living family member that we know of….I know that the producers have teased that the Fear the Walking Dead group will eventually meet up with our cast and that they will have some sort of relationship, but we don’t know what that will be.

Carl is just so instrumental in the storyline to come, its such a huge departure, and I like Chandler Riggs and feel sad we will no longer see him. I guess it’s good for him as an actor to be able to explore other opportunities and not be tied to this show….still pissed about it though, I straight yelled at my TV that night.

There have been those who have had the conspiracy theories out there that have suggested it’s not a real bite, and Carl will be immune, and my favorite laugh is “Carl is the Cure”. But no, those all seem lame and bad writing. Also, upon re-watching the episode where Carl supposedly got bit when he’s in the woods with Siddiq, his reactions and facial expressions are all obviously telling me he got bit and knew he got bit. So the idea the bite is a fake out…. I don’t think that’s the way this is going. In Walking Dead, a bite is a death sentence; Scott Gimple even said on Talking Dead that this bite will “play out as bites on the show do,” so it’s pretty obvious there’s no way out from the obvious fate. Carl’s dead and I am highly upset about it.

“My mercy prevails over my wrath” is a huge theme in this first half of the season. We see a very shaken up Rick saying this to himself in the first episode and we start to see the dissent in attitudes from multiple characters from kill everyone they are all the enemy to hey…. maybe we shouldn’t kill everyone? This might be wrong? This along with the “all out war” tag line for the season plays up a deeper inner moral that war is ugly and there needs to be another way. We also see the return of the three questions that Rick initially used when Carl talks to Siddiq, a reminder to the times when outsiders weren’t immediately shunned. We have been chest deep in the desire for death and revenge with our characters and I forsee that turning around in a huge way. We begin to see Rick at the beginnings of regretting this fight. One sign in particular being the reaction that Rick has after killing all the saviors in the outpost to discover, to his horror, what they were protecting was a baby. His fight with Daryl, and his horror at seeing Daryl shoot the random kid outside the outpost all hint at what’s to come. Carl has continually tried to encourage to still have mercy throughout this half of the season. I think that Rick will, in an attempt to honor his son, and after re-encountering Morales who knew him when he was a gentler soul, be driven to go back to who he was like at the beginning.

And now, as always, memes.

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