by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 14.
A lot of loose ends were tied up in this episode, in preparation for the season finale in 2 weeks. Much of this revolved around the search for Henry. After letting the Savior prisoners loose last episode, Henry disappeared. Was he ashamed of what he had done, or was he still looking for his brother’s murderer? I suspect that it was a little of both. For all of his bravado, Henry is still a little kid. He doesn’t have the best judgment (which has been amply demonstrated) and can make spur-of-the-moment decisions without seeing the likely consequences. From the evidence in the episode, it’s clear that he encountered at least one walker and tried to take it out with his staff, but was unsuccessful, and ended up in hiding.
In the beginning of the episode, Ezekiel tries to convince Carol to go out and look for Henry, and calls her a coward when she is reluctant to do so. However, Ezekiel doesn’t go out to look for Henry himself, nor does he send anyone else to do it. I’m seeing some inconsistency here. If Ezekiel cared so much, then why did he leave Henry’s welfare in Carol’s unwilling hands? Perhaps he had confidence in Carol’s ability to ‘do the right thing’, but it just seems like this isn’t the behavior of a good king, looking out for the welfare of the few people he has left.
So why was Carol so reluctant to go after Henry? She said that she was afraid of being ‘swept away again’, but by what? My thought is that she was afraid to find Henry dead, or worse yet, in a position where he needed to be killed. It’s all well and good for people online to make ‘look at the flowers’ memes, but Carol has been affected by her (seemingly doomed) relationships with children. She is haunted by having had to kill Lizzie, and by the fact that her inability to see what was really going on with Lizzie led to Mika’s death. I suspect that a good part of the reason that Carol was reluctant to go after Henry was because she didn’t want to have to make him ‘look at the flowers’, either because he had been bitten, or because he had gone over the edge mentally (as Lizzie did).
Of course, the biggest impact on Carol’s reaction to Henry’s disappearance is Sophia. For viewers, it seems like so long ago, but a mother never forgets the loss of a child. Carol was an entirely different person when she lost Sophia. She was weak and unable to go after her daughter herself. She had to rely on others, who were also less well-equipped to deal with the zombie apocalypse than they are now. In Season 2, Rick found Sophia, but was unable to kill all of the approaching walkers, he told her to hide in the tree while he took care of them, and that he would come back for her. Of course, when Rick came back, Sophia was gone, and it was later revealed that she had turned. At the time, Carol was unable to do anything but helplessly wait for news. Even while they were uncertain of Sophia’s fate, Carol was too weak to go looking for her own daughter, but had to rely on Daryl to do it for her.
Because of these tragic events, Carol took on a new role, and evolved into the strong woman we know today. They shaped her, and are still a part of her. When she rescued Henry from walkers, it was as if she was finally stepping up and rescuing her own child. Interestingly, the creators of the show purposely filmed the scene where Henry was hiding in the exact same location where Rick told Sophia to hide, even though story-wise, they are hundreds of miles apart (Virginia versus Georgia). I’m hoping that this will be an opening to a new path for Carol, where she can be comfortable with her mothering (human) side again, yet retain that toughness that she needs to survive.
One sign that Carol’s mothering nature is returning is in the way she dealt with Henry. She didn’t scold him for letting out the Saviors, or for running away, or for disobeying her instructions, but hugged him and told him that she was wrong, that he could survive. That’s what Henry needed to hear, and hopefully this terror of this misadventure will be enough to snap him back to a more realistic worldview and assessment of his own importance and abilities.
Unfortunately, Morgan’s emotional journey was not nearly so interesting or satisfying. He was unstable at the beginning of the episode, and unstable at the end of the episode. Rick actually used Morgan’s instability to get him to work together to kill the Saviors. As a result, Morgan isn’t any better off at the end of the episode, and is arguably worse off, having been used by the person he trusted. Morgan says that Carol saves people, implying that he is the opposite. He doesn’t die, but he sees it happen to others, again and again. Morgan desperately needs to get out of this vicious circle before he becomes a danger to himself and to everyone around him. It seems that this is what’s going to get him to wander off at the end of the season and into Fear The Walking Dead. Although I should note that it was very satisfying to see Morgan be responsible for Jared’s death.
I was very disappointed by Rick in this episode. He told Alden that he would consider taking back the escaped Saviors to the Hilltop, but it’s clear that he didn’t have any intention of doing that. His speech to the escaped Saviors was heartfelt and moving and honest… and then he completely betrayed that by turning on those whom he was purporting to rescue. Rick knows that he has sunk to a new low, and so does Alden. It was clear from Alden’s face when he saw Rick and Morgan returning ‘empty-handed’ that he had a sense of what Rick had done. I don’t think that’s going to bode well for Rick in the future.
Rick’s actions in this episode were a definitely step backward, leading to his own spiral of despair. I’m hoping that reading Carl’s letter will snap him out of this and back toward common sense. For all of his villainy, Negan is a reasonable guy, and the same could be said of Rick (both being villainous and reasonable). Given that they now both understand what happens when they’re at war, they could both have motivation to seek out a different alternative by the end of the season.
On a side note, I think this episode might be the first time Rick and Michonne have said ‘I love you’ to each other (on screen). They’ve both made emotional mistakes in this war, but Michonne is further along the path to recovering, and hopefully she can guide Rick along with her.
The other big storyline this episode was Jadis’ capture of Negan. Yet surprisingly, this plotline revealed more about Jadis than Negan. First of all, she apparently lives in an Ikea showroom buried in the trash heap. Who knew? Second, she knows something about these helicopter people. She was packing her suitcase to leave with them, which is why she wanted the flare, then unpacked it later, when she failed to make the signal. Where would they have taken her? Where do they belong? They can’t come by with the helicopter regularly, or she wouldn’t have unpacked, but simply waited for the next opportunity. My guess is that they are with Georgie’s people, who (in the comics, if you work on the theory that Georgie is the television universe’s Pamela Milton) are likely a far distance away, and may not get out in this direction often. Of course, I could be wrong, and the helicopter people might be something entirely new, such as a different group, or the remnants of a military base. This remains to be seen next season.
We also learned that Jadis had photographs of the people she held dear before the apocalypse, and that she was truly terrified when Negan threatened to burn them, just as he was terrified when she threatened to destroy Lucille. In the end, they bonded over their shared loss, and realized that they have something in common after all. Underneath his bluster and bravado, Negan is human, and there is even something to be pitied about him. He showed that side to Jadis. Sure, he was pleading for his life, but I believe that he was being genuine when he spoke with her. This is the ‘real’ Negan, whom he has pushed aside, because this other side of him is generally a liability in the post-apocalyptic world.
So after all of this bonding and confession, Jadis let Negan go, and Lucille (after having her life threatened twice tin recent episodes) remained intact. She looks surprisingly uncharred, given the trauma she went through with Rick.
Of course, once Negan left Jadis, he returned to his ‘new’ self, and it was the familiar cocky Negan who picked up someone on the road. This episode did not reveal who that person was, but we know that it has to be someone whom Negan knows, and someone who would not be reluctant to return to the Sanctuary with Negan. My guess is that it was Laura. She’s been wandering around since the mid-season finale and no one has heard from her. But she has important information about Dwight, namely that he is the traitor. If it is Laura whom Nagean picked up, then he now knows that both Simon and Dwight have betrayed him, which would explain why he wanted to keep his return to the Sanctuary a secret. I’m expecting Dwight and Simon to play into a Negan trap next episode.
But there is some hope for Dwight. As expected, Tara figured out what Dwight did to save her, and she has forgiven him. She even told Daryl that if he goes after Dwight, he’s on his own. Slowly, the people of Team Rick are coming to see that the Saviors are human too. People like Dwight and Alden are going to help the Saviors integrate into the ‘society’ that Team Rick is trying to form… presuming that Rick allows them to do so. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the season finale.
For those who play the Walking Dead: No Man’s Land mobile game, this episode’s season mission is Rick and Morgan clearing out the last of the walkers from the bar and escaping, after the Saviors have been slaughtered. The mission begins with a number of walkers munching on the fallen Saviors, which can offer some interesting strategic opportunities for players.
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