Review by J.T. Johnson
When “The Walking Dead” returned last week, I gave the premiere a soft pass because it was an improvement over just about everything in season seven. It promised to focus more on Rick and his survivors and less on Negan and his Saviors. This week’s episode, ‘The Damned’, is a direct continuation of last week’s episode as Rick and his people continue their assault on Negan’s compounds.
The episode opens up with an assault led by Aaron in order to hold back some Saviors while other teams move in. Meanwhile, Jesus and Tara are leading another team as they search a compound for even more guns. Along with them, Morgan is beginning to show signs that he’s a little more unhinged than we thought as he now thinks that his ultimate curse is that he cannot die while everyone else around him falls.
In another area altogether, King Ezekiel and Carol are leading a team… somewhere else. I’ll be honest that so much has gone on in the last two episodes that I’m not quite sure where they’re going or if we should even have that knowledge at this point. Still, the point of their scenes seems to be establishing that Ezekiel always puts on his facade as the King and promises victory, even if he confides in Carol that he knows that victory is far from assured.
Finally, there is Rick and Daryl heading into what appears to be another compound, again looking for guns. While there, the episode reveals a “major” character’s return, which leads to my biggest problem with the episode. In the end, actor Juan Pareja returned to the series as Morales, a character that left Rick’s group way back in season one and he appears to be with the Saviors now.
I guess my question at this point is wondering how many people really care that Morales is back. I haven’t been watching for the past seven years going, “Guys, remember Morales? I sure hope they bring him back!” This made the episode end on a climactic note for me as I really didn’t care that this particular missing character was back.
That problem aside, I can say that I did enjoy this episode even more than I did the premiere. I think the show continues to improve over last season simply by focusing more on the survivors that we’ve been following throughout the series. There was plenty of action that definitely showed more of the “All Out War” that we’ve been promised this year.
Also, the episode does contain a great scene involving Rick and the casualties of going to war with Negan’s people. Rick gets into a fight with another Savior and realizes that the guns he’s been looking for must be in the locked room the man is trying to protect. Rick takes out the man and gets the keys.
Unfortunately, Rick does not discover a cache of weapons. Instead, he finds a sleeping baby girl in a crib and Rick realizes that he’s probably killed this kid’s parent or at least the kid’s guardian. Rick immediately shows remorse, even finding it hard to look in the mirror on the wall above the baby’s crib.
This is the only real character moment in the show, however, and I do wonder if the show will have more solid moments such as this after the action subsides. “The Walking Dead” doesn’t have a problem creating action and that’s why this episode ultimately works. The real test will be how the writers handle the aftermath and if we can get back to some more genuinely human moments post-war.
Until then, I’ll just be happy that I at least got this one good episode in a season where the filmmakers seem to want to improve over past mistakes.