SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen season eight, episode two of The Walking Dead yet, you may want to watch it before you read this.
The war continues! Last Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The Damned” took a much different turn than episode one, which was more reflective and character focused. For (most) fans that are looking for this war to escalate a little and see some combat, episode two definitely should not have disappointed. Chock-full of battle scenes, hostage situations, and a brutal fistfight between Rick and an interesting Savior, this was a very militaristic episode, which it definitely needed to be after that slower paced first episode.
In case you need a refresher, here’s what happened (there was a lot that happened, so if you don’t need a refresher, feel free to scroll down to analysis):
Aaron and a group of fighters open fire on some Saviors stationed at an outpost at close range. The battle is pretty even at first, with Aaron’s group having the upper hand slightly on account of their firepower, highly protected vehicles and ability to flee the situation, if necessary.
While the Saviors have heavy firepower as well, they are pinned down and it would be a challenge for them to flee the battle without losing people. As it turns out (no pun intended) many dead Saviors begin to turn into walkers and attack the others. Aaron’s group seem to have won this battle, but not without losses. Eric has been critically wounded, and some others lost their lives.
On another front, Tara, Jesus, Morgan and others prepare to storm a compound held by the Saviors. The Saviors have walkers purposely surrounding the outside, and Morgan is supposed to create a distraction by rattling the fence and drawing walkers to him, getting the guards attention while the others move in behind them. When he is asked if he needs some backup, Morgan turns down the offer and says, “I don’t die.”
Shortly after the group opens fire inside the compound, Morgan and a few others are shot. Tara and Jesus find a man hiding in a closet. He has his hands up and begs them not to shoot him, maintaining that he does not support the Saviors and has been forced to be there. Since he has his hands up, Jesus insists they should spare him. Tara cannot see past her anger and tells Jesus he is wrong.
It’s revealed that the man just created a sob story and he ends up holding a gun to Jesus’s head, while Tara points her gun at him. The man stomps on a bottle of prenatals that could have been for Maggie. Jesus suddenly twists free and knocks the man out. He ties him up and leaves him instead of killing him, much to Tara’s frustration.
Since Morgan had on some body armour, he has not been critically wounded by the shot he received. After he gets up, he automatically goes into kill mode, mowing down any Saviors he finds in the compound. At the same time, Jesus tells a big group of Saviors to drop their weapons and surrender and they do when they see how many enemies there are. Morgan comes outside, recognizes a Savior and wants to kill him, but is able to listen to Jesus when he tells him to stop.
On yet another front, Carol, King Ezekiel, and others are tracking down a Savior before he reveals their position. They are walking to another compound to storm it and want it to be a surprise attack. Carol reminds Ezekiel that the Savior may beat them to the compound and the plan would be ruined. However, Ezekiel keeps a positive attitude and keeps his men pushing on. Although the Savior is killed by Shiva the tiger before making it to the compound, the group hears on the radio that the Saviors already know their plans anyway. Acknowledging this, King Ezekiel wants to fight anyway, knowing they may win.
On a final front, Rick, Daryl, and others break into yet another compound to secure some guns. Rick wants the guns because he is worried they will be sent to the Sanctuary to free up an exit (a bunch of walkers have surrounded the Sanctuary from last episode). Rick gets into a brutal hand-to-hand fight with another Savior who attacks him, and ends up killing him.
Rick takes some keys out of the dead Savior’s pocket. A tattoo on the man’s chest reads “Grace Be God”. Rick opens the locked door nearby and finds a baby. The baby’s name is written on the wall as “Gracie”. This is clearly the dead man’s child. Rick is horrified that he killed the child’s father and gets emotional about what he has had to do.
Rick moves to a different room and finds a photo. He stops to look at it, but soon realizes that someone has trapped him. He turns and finds a man holding a gun to him. He recognizes the man as Morales, from the season one Atlanta group. He is now a Savior and tells Rick that he has called other Saviors and they are coming. In the closing scene, he cocks his gun.
Whew. *Breathes*. That was indeed a lot. So, finally, some analysis. I thought a lot of things about this episode were very new and refreshing. The show is definitely experimenting with the big question of what it means to be right and wrong. Yes, the show has always done this, but the format that it used for this episode was unique in that it seemed to show not just the “good side” (or shall we say “normal side”) of the enemy, it showed viewers the possible “bad side” of Rick and his group.
We all know that Negan and his die-hard followers are bad news– no matter their backstories, they still torture and kill others for no good reason, even just for inconveniencing them or breaking a rule (e.g. Negan ironing Dwight’s face, burning the doctor). However, it is interesting to consider how they may see Rick and his group.
We get a hint of this type of thing with the argument between Tara and Jesus over the fate of the trapped Savior. Even though he is lying, the man still has his hands up and Tara is willing to shoot him. This can easily (and should be) considered immoral and wrong. Jesus is able to recognize that. Granted, Jesus probably let his guard down a little too much, allowing the Savior to get he and Tara into a really sticky situation.
This goes along with the “mercy” theme from episode one. In the case of Tara and Jesus, the good side outweighed the bad. It doesn’t mean the bad isn’t there though. Not to mention the fact that this situation messes with you mind over what exactly is the right thing to do. I’d say the line is pretty blurry, especially after the Savior was shown to be a bad guy and Jesus spared him anyway.
Let’s face it: we all know that this guy is going to come back to haunt these characters in some way. I personally think Jesus did the right thing by not stooping to the man’s level. It remains to be seen how Rick will react to the group of Saviors Jesus spared. But, if they are going to have a successful civilization, they need to be prepared to make moral choices and have a plan for something like this.
In the scenes before and after Rick’s fistfight, we see the other side of the enemy. This man had a child whom he clearly loved and was willing to fight for, not unlike Rick. We see neatly made beds and photographs, things that normal people, not monsters, have in their rooms. The titles of Walking Dead episodes are almost always significant, and this one, “The Damned”, might have been chosen because it shows the behind-the-scenes lives of the characters Rick probably considers damned.
The man attacked Rick and was trying to kill him, so Rick had no other choice but to do what he did. It is a sad situation for Rick because no matter how they live, these people are enemies who are willing to kill him.
This is does not exclude a man named Morales, who Rick knew as a friendly family man from Atlanta. We don’t know if Morales is still a good man or not. He does not know Rick anymore, and may see Rick as just as evil as Rick sees the Saviors, especially after Rick just killed the father living there.
I have to say, seeing Morales again was kind of like, “Wait… hold on… what the heck? How’d he get here?” In all reality, it’s highly unlikely that Rick and Morales’s paths would cross again. But, since this is a television show, you know, why not make it happen? I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought they were going to bring him back eventually. The Walking Dead could never let a character go like that.
I recently read an article about how Rick should tell Morales about what happened to Glenn. Granted, this may not completely change Morales’s mind on the spot, but at least it would perhaps ignite a spark of regret and guilt within him that wasn’t present before. However, both characters have obviously changed so dramatically since their last encounter that it will be really difficult to draw up a partnership again.
On a side note, I thought it was interesting how the last slideshow of the characters faces ended on Carol before cutting back to Rick and Morales. Perhaps this was because she was also in Atlanta.
Some other things worth noting are Morgan returning to kill mode and King Ezekiel’s viewpoints. Any fan of Morgan will understand the “I don’t die” line. Morgan seems to be the one who lives while his friends lose their lives. This is something that drove him to kill without remorse in the first place, when he went crazy a while back before he returned to Rick’s group.
Morgan staring obsessively at the fence walkers was an early sign that he was getting slightly unhinged before he went into the compound. The fact the Morgan either refuses to kill at all or slaughters everyone shows that he believes killing is black and white. There is no in between for him. It is either completely wrong or completely right. Any gray area Morgan can’t afford to slow down for. Maybe that keeps him physically alive, but as far as moral health goes, Morgan has a serious problem and really has to watch out.
As far as King Ezekiel, I think his positivity is actually an asset to his group. He keeps up the morale for his men and has the vision to see a better outcome, two skills necessary for a winner to possess. While his gorgeously phony dialogue is an agony to listen to sometimes, Ezekiel’s overall optimistic mindset is very refreshing for the show and just continues to add more depth to the characterization.
Overall, I thought this was a good episode. It really showcased the war, while at the same time added some drama with the return of Morales. It will be interesting to see what happens next with Morales and which side he will choose– I’m looking forward to hearing what happened to him after Atlanta.
Thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts on last Sunday’s episode, “The Damned”, in the comments below or click the “Leave a comment” button at the top left of the post, under the author’s image. I would love to read what you think about this interesting episode. Stay tuned for a review of this Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead!