Season 8 episode 2 of The Walking Dead titled, “The Damned,” continues where the season 8 premiere left off. With even more action. Looking like showrunner Scott M. Gimple is a man of his word.
Even so, reaction has been mixed as others found the action packed episode either confusing or messy. Though true in a sense, there’s actually a viable reason. War can be confusing and messy.
According to the FiveThirtyEight statistics online site March 19, 2015 online article titled, “What Percentage of Americans Have Served In The Military?” by Mona Chalabi, it’s estimated at 0.4 percent of the American adult population are currently active in the armed forces. Meaning the unlikelihood most of us will experience fighting on foreign lands. All it takes is to read any of reputable sources, or seek out documentaries such as The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, to be aware that war is not as neat and tidy as playing chess or the Hasbro strategy board game Risk. Season 8 wasn’t called “All Out War” for nothing. Therefore this review of The Walking Dead episode will be my first ever with major spoilers. You heard right. Let’s begin.
In the action packed episode, “The Damned,” perhaps the main reason some critics have found it confusing was there were three areas of battle, instead of just one at the Saviors Sanctuary in the Season 8 premiere. In the Season 8 premiere titled, “Mercy,” Carol, Tara, Morgan and Daryl had teamed at a highway bridge to coordinate leading a herd of walkers. Once the herd came in sight, Daryl hops on his motorcycle while firing at dynamite boxes along the way leading the herd to the Sanctuary. This happening after Daryl and Morgan had also rigged a tripwire on a road.
Meanwhile, at the Sanctuary’s main entrance after Rick, Maggie, and King Ezekiel’s forces all arrived in armored vehicles, Negan, who is unaware of what awaits, taunts Rick. “Let me ask you something Rick. Do you have the numbers for this fight? You don’t,” Negan stated boldly. Yet shortly after, the trap set by Daryl and Morgan had gone off when a caravan of Saviors en route to the Sanctuary tripped a wire across a road. All at the Sanctuary heard the explosion and saw the smoke at a distance. Soon after Negan’s lieutenants disregarded Rick’s final warning to surrender, the herd of walkers led by Daryl arrives after Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel’s forces had all unleashed firepower. Thus leaving a horde of walkers to assault the Sanctuary to mop up to conserve Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel’s manpower to retreat. Such was the season 8 premiere.
Season 8 episode 2 showcased three battle sites. The location of the three all Savior stronghold’s, from a written note Savior Dwight sent to Daryl in the season 8 premiere. Thus leaving Negan unaware of Dwight’s betrayal by revealing the full list of Savior strongholds.
From a strategy standpoint it appeared the assault on the Sanctuary was to serve two purposes. To weaken the Savior’s headquarters, and to show the resolve of Rick and accompanying forces. It was never about totally taking out the Sanctuary, as Rick knows Negan was right about Rick’s numbers. It was to hit, weaken, and retreat to fight another day, for Rome was not built in a day.
Season 8 episode 2 opens with a montage of battle scenes. Soon after, the action commences. At one battle site, the Savior Mara (Lindsey Garrett) oversees a team at a gun maintenance station. Soon after she radios some of her lookout men and getting no replies, Aaron (Ross Marquand), Eric, Francine, Tobin, Scott and other Alexandrians all arrive in armored vehicles and attack.
At another battle site, Jesus (Tom Payne), Morgan (Lennie James), Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Dianne (Kerry Cahill) all arrive with manpower at the perimeter of the Savior’s satellite station. Only this time, unlike the first time when Rick’s group, two Alexandrians, and Andy and Jesus of Hilltop, all 15, all hit the place at night back in season 6 episode 12, the Saviors saw fit to have walkers roam around the perimeter gate for defense. Like a moat. However this doesn’t stop Morgan, who by rattling the fences to get the walkers attention, allows Dianne to kill the men at guard with arrows. The team then silently infiltrates the satellite station.
Then finally at a third battle site, Carol (Melissa McBride) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and their forces all recover from a grenade explosion by a Savior at another stronghold. After managing to kill off a small herd walkers unleashed by the explosion, they discovered the Savior escaped. “If he tells them we’re here, it’s over before it started,” says Carol. Yet Ezekiel states it’s not at all over to reassure her and his people. Then all proceed to track the Savior down.
Meanwhile, Aaron and his team attack the Saviors by occasionally taking cover behind armored vehicles, allowing Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) to both shoot two Saviors in the head before entering an adjacent building. All to find a cache of guns. Upon entering, both agree to split up to cover more ground. From there on, things get interesting.
Savior Mara observes that Aaron’s forces are not advancing, prompting her to say, “Their too chickensh** to move in on us.” Soon after, she knows why yet it’s too late. Aaron and his battle group allowed time for the fallen Saviors to turn, thereby feasting on their own. Including Mara.
Back at the satellite station while entering in stealth, Jesus, Morgan, Tara and the others manage to kill Saviors. Then as Morgan led a separate small group down another hallway, they were met by a surprise barrage of gunfire that kills the men in his group except Morgan. Morgan later then becomes a killing machine as he guns down Saviors one by one.
Francine (Dahlia Legault) gets shot by a Savior, whom Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) after seeing Francine get shot, attempts to come to her aid. Soon after, Aaron sees Eric advance and goes to Eric. Seeing Eric is shot, Aaron quickly helps Eric to safety. Tobin (Jason Douglas) also gets shot, though it’s only a shoulder wound. All happening at the gun maintenance station.
Jesus and Tara come upon a Savior hiding in a closet, while Dianne fires at Saviors in a hallway at the satellite station. Wanting to give himself up, Tara tries to shoot the Savior while Jesus stops her. The pause allowed the Savior to get the drop on Jesus by holding a gun to his head. While Tara holds her gun, knowing martial arts, Jesus’s smooth moves overpowers the Savior.
While tracking the escaped Savior, Ezekiel allows his men to let Shiva, his tiger, out of the cage. Then later, all see Shiva jump upon the Savior in the woods. Yet he already radioed to the other Saviors before his death. Even so, Ezekiel still reassures Carol and the others they will prevail.
Meanwhile in the adjacent building away from Aaron’s battle force, Rick is tackled by a Savior. Both fight hand to hand before Rick impales the Savior. Soon after, Rick opens a door expecting a gun cache. Yet he sees a baby sleeping in a crib, the dead Savior’s baby. He then sees his reflection in a mirror, showing a look of remorse. This scene set off online reactions, as some viewers immediately thought the baby was accidentally killed judging by Rick’s reaction. Not to worry, for in Yahoo TV October 29, 2017 online article, “The Walking Dead postmortem: About the baby and that face from the past,” by Kimberly Potts, all’s well with the baby. Confirmed by Denise Huth, co-executive producer of The Walking Dead, the first question Ms. Potts had asked.
As Rick continues his search in another room, he’s met with another surprise. While holding a gun, a man tells Rick to turn around slowly. Rick turns around and both immediately recognize each other. “Hi, Rick,” says the man. “Your name is Morales. You were in Atlanta,” says Rick with a look of incredulity. “That was a long time ago. It’s over, Rick. I called the Saviors back. And they’re coming,” says Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja) while holding a gun.
Season 8 episode 2 was well put together all things considered. Though I felt Morgan going back to his killing spree ways had pushed it. You’d expect him to have sound judgement by now, ever since his character growth from season 6 episode 4 titled, “Here Not Here,” when he’s taught Aikido by Eastman. Then there’s the return of Morales, who last appeared in season 1 episode 5 while all were in Atlanta, telling Rick that he and his wife and kids have family in Birmingham, and will instead travel there. Not saying it’s impossible, as Morales obviously left Birmingham, Alabama to suddenly encounter Rick in a Savior stronghold in Northern Virginia. Yet it still seems like a gimmicky set up. On a side note I also didn’t want Francine to die, though it is The Walking Dead. The episode titled, “The Damned,” directed by Rosemary Rodriguez and written by Matthew Negrete and Channing Powell gets four and a half stars out of five.