Warning: Contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season eight.
The Walking Dead presented the first major deaths of the season in Monsters, in what was a hit-and-miss affair of continued concerns and flashes of promise.
This season’s second episode was an incredibly worrying glimpse at the show’s handle on All Out War; filled with nonsensical gun-rattling, background characters and dramatic reveals which probably caused more baffled Google searches than shocked gasps.
In Monsters, the show continues to feel like it’s barely clinging to the wheel, but some standout moments with key characters make this a more memorable outing over its predecessor.
Faith was hardly restored at the outset; with bizarre, choppy editing during Ezekiel’s woodland march confusing a straightforward sequence as they tackle the Saviors. The return of Morales also, essentially, amounted to nothing, as Daryl interrupts a tense exchange between him and Rick by shooting Morales dead with comical Monty Python-like timing.
Aside from confirming his family’s death and reminding of their growth since season one, the return and death of Morales felt like wasted time. The Walking Dead has a reputation for shuffling its feet between milestones, which season eight appeared keen to avoid, but the war backdrop seems to have merely replaced shuffles with inconsequential dramatics.
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Thankfully, the show did give the relationship between Aaron and Eric some payoff with the latter’s expected death. After being shot, Aaron propped Eric away from the fight against a tree as he continued the battle against the Saviors, only to return and find Eric had become a walker.
While the outcome was predictable, the performances from Ross Marquand and Jordan Woods-Robinson made their scenes the emotional standout – which is more heartbreaking considering they’ve generally been snubbed screen-time ever since their arrival as a couple.
The moral conflict between Jesus and Morgan also became physical as they escorted Savior hostages to the Hilltop. Their tense fight resulted in Morgan refusing to help their cause and go rogue once again, with this season continuing to feel like it’s curtains for the beloved stick-wielder as he descends into madness with nowhere else to go.
As the episode closes with a surprise attack on Ezekiel’s warriors, the show feels weirdly aimless despite the clear goal of tackling Negan. There’s interesting setups, with Daryl on a vengeful path, Morgan going solo and Rick rescuing baby Gracie, but these split divisions are, once again, proving a distracting downfall to the show’s momentum. Let’s hope the gang are reunited sooner rather than later.
The Walking Dead continues on AMC Sundays in the US, and on Fox in the UK Mondays at 9pm.
Questions we have after episode 3
Will Morgan become a problem for Maggie at Hilltop?
Could Rick intervene against Daryl’s killing streak?
How will Aaron be affected following Eric’s death?