The Walking Dead: S8E2 ‘The Damned’ – Review

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By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

This review contains spoilers.

I really enjoyed the opening scene, there is a real artistry to the cinematography this season. More care and attention has been spent on it, at least so far, than any other season of The Walking Dead. The episode wasted no time in continuing the assault on The Saviors, with three separate groups all attacking different outposts. The editing and transitions were all on point, and the fluidity between locations and scenes were very strong throughout the episode.

I think, for me, the most enjoyable moment in the episode was Rick’s fight with lone Savior. It was hard-hitting, raw and ended in pure brutality. The look the man gave to the door, and with Rick being in ‘mission mode’ ends with Rick coming to the wrong conclusion. That man was doing what Rick would do for Judith, and he just extinguished him from existence leaving a baby, helpless and defenceless. The tortured look on Rick’s face emphasised the severity of his actions after the initial conflict. While it could not have been helped, it does paint The Saviors as more grey rather than black and white. In this episode mistakes and wrongs were made on both sides. The lines are well and truly blurred. This just creates more drama and more tension, it was well executed. Oh, and as for that hallway shot with Rick? I could have watched that for the entire episode, it was majestic.

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Away from Rick and Daryl, the other assaults all had their intense moments too. With Aaron’s group, it was pretty much a stand off between the two factions. With both sides firing off shots whilst holding their ground. You started to wonder what the end game was going to be, then it became very clear. The plan was to pin them back and allow the downed Saviors to turn into Walkers. The look on Mara’s face when the penny dropped was haunting, but by then it was too late.  In a way that was a shame, as I thought Lindsey Garrett did a really good job with the character given the limited dialogue she had. But there was casualties on both sides. It didn’t go so well for Francine who was gunned down presumed dying, Dahlia Legault has since confirmed on Twitter her departure from the show, and  Aaron’s husband who was shot, but carried away. I like Aaron. He’s one of my favourite characters from the comic series, and is criminally underused in the TV adaption.

Jesus and Tara had a mini-arc this episode, with both coming from different sides of how to best proceed. Tara is wanting a more Savior approach, killing all that crosses her path, whilst Jesus is going for the hearts and minds approach. This contrast and conflict was enjoyable for the most part, and further shows, very significantly, how much Tara has changed since her arrival on the show. While I get her point of view, and it was proved right with Mr Pissy Pants, Jesus has the better overall approach. A war is not just about the body count, the whole point is to remove Negan and stop the bloodshed. Tara seems to have forgotten that and wants to kill any Savior that she sees. But as we found out with Rick, its not so black and white. We know there are people, good people, in the Saviors. We saw that in the Eugene episode last season. I have a feeling though that Tara is not done yet, expect this to play out for a while longer. There was also Morgan, and his ‘Punisher’ style shoot-em-up sequence. That was a man on a mission and it was brutal to watch. This is just the beginning of what I fully expect to be a significant sub-plot this season.

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Episode 100 saw a lot of nods and winks to previous seasons, episode 101 saw another throwback, but this time an actual character. Morales is back! (Guess that puts the meme to bed?) Rick’s reaction to seeing Morales was a testament to Andrew Lincoln’s acting ability. It was the perfect ‘Rick face’. Clearly, now on the side of Negan and The Saviors, it will be interesting to find out how he got to this point. What happened to him after Rick & co left Atlanta? Where is his family? Did Negan save him? Is Lucille the same baseball bat that Morales used in Season One? So many questions, but hopefully, we get some answers next week.

The omission of Negan, Father Gabriel, Michonne and Maggie in this episode probably means that next week we will probably switch focus on them. But while this may be the main focus of the episode. I fully expect them to carry on with the aftermath of the events of ‘The Damned’. At least that is my hope. Over the past three to four seasons The Walking Dead has become predictable in terms of the story focus episode-to-episode. If you had an action-packed story one week you knew that they would follow this up with a dialogue heavy episode. I’m hoping that they are finally pulling away this concept and heading towards a more fluid and balanced production.

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The episode ending was a mirroring of the opening. Everything started off so positively, but the faces, particularly Rick and Aaron’s, have since changed. The most interesting close up for me though was King Ezekiel. He exuded confidence throughout the episode, and even though he was smiling here, there was a noticeable strain in his eyes, indicating his ‘mask’ may be slipping. It shows there is so much more to his character than just his ‘theatre performance’. It was perfectly subtle and worked really well.

Overall another very strong episode, the strongest of the two so far. It was exciting and tense and yet there was still some noticeable and subtle character development sprinkled into the mix. If you had fallen out of love with The Walking Dead, surely Season 8 has you back on board?

What did you think of the episode? Were you shocked with Morales returning? What do you think will happen next? Let us know in the comments. 

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