‘The Walking Dead’ S08E14: “Still Gotta Mean Something”

I guess it’s appropriate that this episode fell on April Fool’s Day, we’ve seen for a while now the steady vilification of Rick and little hints of Negan’s well-meaning core. This week that is all put on Front Street. As we saw two weeks ago Jadis, aka Queen Trash, had captured Negan intending to take revenge for the slaughter of her people in his name by Simon. Their part of the episode displays some more of the undead ingenuity of the residents of the heaps…err, I guess that is just resident now, and unveils more of that softer side of Negan we’ve seen flashes of here and there. Jadis brings Negan back to the heaps and has him tied down on a mechanics creeper, she plans to burn his beloved bat Lucille in front of him before letting the walkers have lunch on his neck. Negan immediately seems shocked and angry that Simon had the entire population of the heaps massacred. Something Jadis doesn’t buy, it’s not until he breaks down and explains the significance of the bat that she starts to believe him. The bat, it turns out, is named after Negan’s late wife, and it’s all he has left of her. His monologues throughout remove any doubt that his altruistic goals were fake. He REALLY is just a misguided soul. Sure, he killed Glenn and Abraham, but in his mind asserting that dominance by taking on life is better than losing 20 lives because they don’t want to follow his plan. He is wrong, of course, but it’s almost like he doesn’t know any better. It’s blatantly apparent that, contrary to his swagger, he doesn’t like being the bad guy, he sees himself as a necessary evil.

On the other side of the fence Rick and Morgan, go off on a mission to round up the Saviors that broke free during the Zombie outbreak at the hilltop. Rick’s tumble from the moral high ground is something that’s been touched on repeatedly throughout the series but his actions here end up putting him past a line of redemption in my opinion. After being captured by the escaped saviors Rick and Morgan convince them to let them loose thanks to the walker horde collapsing on their location. Even before it became life or death most of the savior’s in attendance voiced their conflicting thoughts on who the bad guy was, Rick or Negan. In the midst of being overrun by walkers Rick and Morgan help the saviors thing the heard, with one of the Savior’s even going out of their way to save Rick as he was being attacked. To thank them for this Rick and Morgan wait until everything settles down and then murder no less than 5 saviors in cold blood. The difference here is motivation. Negan truly has no personal gratification in killing; he wants as many people to live as possible. Rick, on the other hand, has gone off the deep end, his sole motivation is revenge and protecting his inner circle at any cost, something that’s COMPLETELY the opposite of his son’s dying words.

The Good: 

  • Negan’s entire arc during this episode. I know people disliked Jeffery Dean Morgan’s portrayal right off the bat but he really is bringing the character home. His ability to signify the subtle inner pain Negan has is just short of amazing. He’s taken the most hated character on TV and turned him into an empathetic anti-hero.
  • The helicopter. In a surprising twist a helicopter hovers overhead during the events in the heaps. I didn’t realize until this just how long it has been since we’ve seen advanced technology on display here. The possibilities of what this signifies are endless and nprovide some real mystery and possible hope to the show. 
  • Rick and Morgan aka the Terminators. Contradictory to what I will say about this later, on a purely action fanboy level this paring is awesome. Neither actor is intimidating by nature but the way these two turn into Jo Schmo Rambo’s is always fun to see. They work so well together and are both ice cold helping you to believe that they actually could attain the legendary level they hold in the apocalypse. 
  • Tara’s turn on Dwight. In the only scenes outside of the two main arcs we get a quick look at Tara and Daryll discussing Dwight and the magical “clean arrow” he shot her with during the battle. Daryl is still predictably suspicious but I was glad to see Tara come to her senses. Her whole death grudge with Dwight was becoming tiresome and she’s much better in that ‘Angel on your shoulder” role. 
The Bad: 
  • I think I’ve made it pretty clear but I think this villainous turn made by Rick is going to hurt. You need to be able to identify and side with him. There was a way to do this right and have the same outcome, but they seemed to really want to nail home the fact that Rick knew this was wrong and went through with it anyway to give himself some short term relief. No less than 3 other characters give him a choice and guidance throughout the episode prior to his killing of the saviors, all of which he ignores. To make matters worse he doesn’t seem the least bit remorseful. 
The Dead: 
  • This week’s highlight comes from a repeat feature on this section, the walkers of the heaps! Jadis aptitude for all things artistic has been showcased a time or two but it wasn’t until this episode that I realized the walkers they armour up and convert into Mad Max extras are actually, art. With Negan strapped to the creeper Jadis rolls out a cart, the type you see at Home depot for moving lumber, with a walker pinned to it an a completely unnatural angle. It’s got steel plates on it’s face and some kind of brace stuck to it’s head…really the stuff of nightmares. 
  • We get a second entry this week thanks to the slowest, most gruesome death I’ve seen in some time. When walkers trap the savior who killed Henry’s brother, Morgan holds his only means of escape, a chain link fence, closed. The walkers encircle him and slowly start ripping flesh, starting with an agonizing uncut shot of his cheek being ripped off. The gore effects here were top notch but it had to been his slow, pleading screams that tapered off to deathly silence that really made this scene unnerving.