The Walking Dead, ‘The Damned’ – All Out War, All Out Stupidity

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Damned Plot Summary:

The battle between The Saviors and the alliance of The Hilltop, Alexandria, and The Kingdom rages on. However, the alliance begins to show all sorts of cracks. The offensive headed up by Aaron (Ross Marquand) isn’t going as planned. Jesus (Tom Payne), and Tara (Alanna Masterson) are odds over killing. Morgan (Lennie James) becomes unhinged. Rick (Andrew Lincoln), and Daryl (Norman Reedus) search for the Saviors’ big guns.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Last week, The Walking Dead returned with a thrilling episode. However, I wasn’t convinced that the series had really returned to form as I’ve been burned way too many times by AMC’s mega hit series. However, given how good the Season 8 Premiere was, I went into episode two, ‘The Damned,’ with optimism.

That was stupid of me.

The second episode of The Walking Dead’s eighth season was filled with well-executed action, and terribly executed storytelling. Everything felt forced. Everything felt obvious. Everything felt … exactly like it has for the last three seasons.

Let’s look at the stupidity of this episode.

First, we have Morgan. Usually he’s one of the best characters on the show. He’s a complex guy who has a difficult history with violence. And while his feud with Rick a few seasons ago felt a bit over the top, Lennie James made it work. However, tonight, Morgan turned into a cartoon character. All of a sudden he’s “the man who can’t die.” He kills with SEAL Team 6 like precision — eliminating Savior after Savior with perfectly placed shots in rapid succession. I’m sorry, when did Morgan become The Terminator? This was a weird turn for the character. I get he’s a skilled fighter, but now he’s John Wick?

To make matters worse (because this show ALWAYS makes matters worse), he gets all janky in the brain, and wants to kill everyone because “that’s what Rick said they had to do.” Of course, this only exacerbates the second stupid storyline in this episode…

Jesus doesn’t want to kill people.

We’ve seen Jesus people in the series (I don’t think I’m making that up), and he was all about Alexandria and The Kingdom banding together with Hilltop to wage war. However, now he’s all about not killing people. I understand he felt weird about shooting an unarmed man. Yet, you know Rick’s plan. You agreed with Rick’s plan. And that plan is simple – kill The Saviors, secure the peace. Sorry, that was logic speaking, how silly of me.

Oh, and then there’s Tara, who has been a dumpster fire of a character from when we first met her. (Please note this is not a criticism of Alanna Masterson; she has really done great work with some pretty ‘meh’ writing.) She’s been such a clumsy, non-factor in this series, and now all of a sudden she’s a stone cold killer? Now she wants blood on her hands? I’m sorry when did this change occur? When klutzy Tara, who was all about the feels, and was super awkward, and was trying to stop Rosita from killing Negan and was sad her girlfriend died turn into a unfeeling, shoot first, ask questions later character?

The jumps in all three of these character’s personalities are so jarring, and so poorly executed that it really takes away from the action of the episode.

Speaking of action, could this series stop telegraphing who is going to die? In the siege lead by Aaron — we knew his partner Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) was going to die. Eric did everything short of pulling an Schwarzenegger and screaming, “Kill me! Come on, I’m over here! Come and kill me!” Eric was just looking to get killed. The way they reveal he was shot was also a head scratcher. We didn’t see anyone shoot him, and until Aaron touches his stomach, we do not see any evidence he’s been shot, or he’s even hurt. Then Aaron arrives, and whoops there’s the blood. I can’t wait for this ugly cry death scene that’s going to take an hour to happen next week.

Then there was the “big return.” Yes, if you haven’t heard by now, Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja) is back. Wait, you don’t remember Morales? Oh come on he was such an “integral” part of the first season. Remember all those great scenes he had? And all that great dialogue?

Exactly.

The only thing I sort of remember about this character was that he and his family broke off from the Atlanta group, and were looking for family in Alabama. That’s it. We have not thought about this guy since 2009, and now all of a sudden we’re supposed to be shocked that he’s a Savior? Listen, this isn’t like Morgan who we didn’t see for multiple season. Morgan made an impact on the show. He saved Rick. He had great scenes (remember how he thought about shooting his walker wife?), and we never knew what happened to him. He wasn’t a faceless character that barely made an impact. Think about how many characters we’ve had to invest in? Think about how many members of Rick’s squad have come and gone. Morales is probably one of the most least memorable characters in the show, yet his return is this big ballyhooed thing? Cut me a break. This is just bad storytelling.

The biggest problem wth “The Damned” is that instead of giving us a build-up of tension and problems for the alliance, we get them off the bat, and they’re all crowbarred in. It’s just dumb.

Yes, the action is good, but the suspense just isn’t there. And when the action is basically the entire episode you need to have the audience emotionally invested, and right now, I’m not. This is a direct result of the show’s lackluster, jump scare, hot shot approach to the past four seasons. We need to care, and we just don’t anymore.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast.┬áHe is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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