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The Walking Dead 8.11 Review – ‘Dead or Alive Or”

March 12, 2018 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead - Dead Or Alive Or
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The Walking Dead 8.11 Review – ‘Dead or Alive Or”  

It’s a traveling week on The Walking Dead, with a lot of going in circles both physically and metaphorically. Some people manage to break out of their cycles, and some are much less lucky–for example, anyone with an “M.D.” at the end of their name!

The plot: Daryl, Rosita, and Tara lead the Alexandrians and Dwight through the woods towards Hilltop, searching for a route that won’t be blocked by the Saviors. Dwight suggests a swamp that Negan deemed too risky to bother with, and the group goes despite Tara and some others not trusting him. While Daryl and Siddiq clear out the swamp, Tara tries to kill Dwight, but he ends up saving the group from some Saviors by revealing himself and leading them away. At Hilltop, Maggie is facing some ration shortages and must decide again how much consideration to give the prisoners–but after the survivors come back, she’s moved to mercy and agrees to show some leniency and to keep feeding them. Morgan tries to keep being a hardened man with regard to himself and Henry, who’s looking for more blood for his brother’s death, but eventually lies and tells Henry that Gavin is the one who killed Benjamin–even when his true killer, Jared, is in the pen at the Hilltop. Father Gabriel and Doctor Carson are lost on the road, with the priest’s eyesight failing. They find a cabin with a radio, the walker of a man who killed himself, and some antibiotics. Half-blind Gabriel even manages to get a perfect kill shot on a walker attacking Carson after he stumbles into a bear trap, but the two of them end up caught by the Saviors again. What’s worse, Carson tries to grab a gun to free them but ends up shot, and Gabriel ends up being forced to join Eugene’s production line to make bullets for the enemy. And Negan is inspired to a new form of biological warfare: weapons tainted with walker blood.

All roads lead to the Sanctuary or the Hilltop these days–even when someone’s left one of the two places, they keep ending up back there regardless! It feels like it wasn’t all that long ago that Daryl was back at the Hilltop after escaping Sanctuary, and now here he is again. Likewise, Gabriel is back at the Sanctuary, as is Dwight, despite that neither of them wants to be there. And in the mental and emotional sense, there’s also a lot of ground being retreated by various characters: Gabriel’s faith, Eugene’s loyalty, Maggie’s mercy, Tara’s trust, Daryl’s thirst for vengeance, Morgan’s sanity. And while the show is finding new ways and situations in which to test things while the plot moves forward, it is starting to feel like a bit of retread in some cases.

Father Gabriel’s storyline tonight in particular felt a little meandering tonight. I don’t mind, generally, how Gabriel presents himself as a man of faith on the show. He’s consistent in his belief in God and his trust in GOd–for the most part–and he shows it without being overbearing about it, which can be a hard line to walk in media. But in this episode it started to feel more like nagging with how often Gabriel was pushing the idea of faith on Carson. Gabriel didn’t even push it on Rick this much, but now it’s in every scene. This combined with the repeated instances of insane luck made this storyline feel too hokey–the two men finding a cabin and some medicine I’d be fine with, but when half-blind Gabriel makes a perfect headshot on a walker who is literally on top of Carson, it’s gone too far. At that point, I was just waiting for when the other shoe was going to drop, and boy did it. I did not think that Carson would die, but the sudden and almost casual way in which it happened did fit almost perfectly in contrast with all the luck the pair had up to that point. This does bring Gabriel back to a true crisis of faith, of course, and he seems a broken man in a way we haven’t seen in a very long time when he’s dragged into the bullet workshop. His little sidetrip with Carson felt like filler in the end, though, so I hope we see something new and interesting in the coming episodes for Gabriel.

On the other hand, I felt we at least got something new out of the journey of the Alexandrians to the Hilltop. While Rosita has come to some acceptance and calm, and a desire for the death to finally end, Daryl and Tara are still filled with anger. Daryl hasn’t excised his by the end, but Tara does change. She has good reason to hate Dwight at the start; not only was he one of Negan’s lieutenants, he personally killed her girlfriend, Denise. Trying to find any reason to kill Dwight isn’t a terribly smart decision, but she’s been the queen of not good ideas lately, so it’s not a shock, either. But it does lead to Dwight proving himself to her by revealing himself to the Saviors who, for all he knows, are out there looking to kill him specifically. When he learns they aren’t, he then makes sure to lead them away from the Alexandrians, choosing to go back to the man he hates, who may know Dwight betrayed him and be ready to kill him as soon as he shows up. This act alone is enough to finally give Tara pause, but it’s not enough for Daryl–he may know the value of waiting, but he’s still out for someone’s blood. At least this group makes it to Hilltop, even if it is a sad reunion since they bring the news of Carl’s death with them.

That knowledge of how Carl died marks a turn for Morgan and Maggie, too. Morgan’s been on the fence with how to treat Henry, insisting he can take care of himself when Carol shows concern for both of them. But something in hearing how Carl died changes his mind; he tells Henry that Gavin killed his brother, even though Ben’s true killer, Jared, is alive and right in front of them. As well, Maggie changes her mind about treating the prisoners more harshly and denying them food to sharing with them–even after yet more survivors have joined the community–and letting them out, but only if they’re well-behaved and are working. I’m glad Maggie is more or less keeping to her ways here; we’ve seen enough harsh treatment of the enemy on both sides already. There really can be a middle ground somewhere!

And there’s Eugene, who as usual is making sure to look out for Eugene in the way that least offends or endangers others, but he’s both scared and not very much at ease with how things are going. It’s no surprise that he asks about what was done to Alexandria–confirming that he wasn’t there or a part of the plan–and similarly unsurprising that he backs down when Negan pushes him about whether he cares about those people anymore. And I get the feeling Eugene isn’t thrilled about being offered his own outpost. For one thing, the security Negan promises sounds as much like a threat as it does a promise. As well, Eugene doesn’t let Negan forget that he’s the one who called people a resource when Negan brings up wanting more bullets and soon; nor does he let Negan’s desire for more bullets faster make him promise something he can’t deliver and doesn’t want to. So, there is some back-and-forth, though in the end Eugene is still Negan’s man, even when Gabriel is sitting at his workbench. There was a nice touch in the first scene with Negan and Eugene with the lighting on Eugene leaving him half in shadow, too, which I’d like to think shows how Eugene is feeling about the recent developments and his place among the Saviors, and what’s done–or will be doing–to get there.

While we had some new ground and some forward movement, there was a lot of retread in this episode. Which is okay to a degree since we haven’t seen these characters in a while, what with the break, but I would’ve liked some more new and interesting developments. As always, even an average night on The Walking Dead is still enjoyable, but I know this show can do better.

6
The final score: review Average
The 411
While we had some new ground and some forward movement, there was a lot of retread in this episode. Which is okay to a degree since we haven't seen these characters in a while, what with the break, but I would've liked some more new and interesting developments. As always, even an average night on The Walking Dead is still enjoyable, but I know this show can do better.
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