Warning: Contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season eight.
The Walking Dead takes a few stumbles in Dead Or Alive Or after two strong episodes, jumping through events with little explanation to accelerate towards the next confrontation.
After some brilliant moves which provided Jadis with much-needed characterisation and saw Simon shoot fast and loose, this episode proved the show hasn’t quite overcome its stupid streak – radically switching to extremes which didn’t feel entirely earned.
We kick off as Daryl is escorting Alexandrians to the Hilltop with Rosita, Tara and Dwight – as tensions increase with the latter after turning his back on the Saviors. This journey is interspersed with Maggie’s dwindling situation at Hilltop as limited supplies force her to cut rations, while also catching-up with Gabriel and Dr. Carson who escaped Negan’s grasp thanks to Eugene.
While episode 10 The Lost And The Plunderers felt cohesive and structured, Dead Or Alive Or’s strands don’t gel together as a whole. Without this, The Walking Dead’s bad habits are pushed to the front – with obvious plot cog-turns being more transparent and possessing little finesse to carry you through the weeds.
Gabriel’s struggles with his vision particularly felt like a missed opportunity. After being struck with infection after wearing walker guts in an earlier episode (something which is now apparently a danger, despite Rick constantly doing it), we discover quickly Gabriel’s eyesight is waning. If it wasn’t already slightly out of the blue, his other senses are also being heightened – as he hears a ‘bell’ from far in the woods which lead them to a stranded house.
Inside the house, Gabriel’s unwavering faith is validated by the discovery of antibiotics to help combat his fever. These pills act, quite ridiculously, like magic, seeing him cured of his fever after barely any time passing – with his eyesight however being permanently damaged.
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While letting his faith ‘show him the way’ worked wonders against a walker herd, this proved the end of Dr. Carson who was killed by a Savior group after he reached for one of their guns. It was meant to be a stinging reminder of this unforgiving apocalyptic world, but it felt like a silly escalation – resulting in Gabriel crying on the back of a truck as he’s quickly taken back to Negan’s clutches.
Tara’s suspicions of Dwight also escalate in similarly silly fashion, building up to a chase through the woods as she attempts to kill him while the rest clear a route through a swamp. While she has reason to hate Dwight considering he killed her girlfriend Denise back in season six, this felt similarly daft considering Tara was previously aligned with The Governor – meaning, if anything, she should have sympathy or some understanding of his plight. The less said about Rosita’s sudden ability to teleport after being knee-deep in a swamp too, the better.
There were however some great moments. Daryl’s arrival at Hilltop prompted a touching reminder of how Carl’s death is still yet to ripple through characters. Negan also managed to steal the episode whenever he appeared, with a particular shout-out to the prosthetics which made his gory bludgeons with Lucille against a walker even more unsettling.
The episode ends by setting up the next confrontation as Negan vows to rain guts from the sky on an unsuspecting Hilltop. It’s a questionable plan considering it’s never been explained how the virus affected Gabriel and not others who have been showered with undead entrails, so we’re hoping The Walking Dead doesn’t force us to suspend our disbelief once again for spectacle’s sake.
The Walking Dead continues Sundays on AMC in the US and airs Mondays on Fox at 9pm.
Questions we have after episode 11
Will Negan’s plan work to infect Hilltop?
Will Dwight cause the end of the Saviors from the inside?
Are Gabriel’s days numbered following the loss of his eyesight?