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The Walking Dead - The Damned - Review

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The Walking Dead “The Damned” was written by the team of Matthew Negrete and Channing Powell and was directed by Rosemary Rodriguez. Perhaps the biggest surprise comes at the very end of the episode when Rick (Andrew Lincoln) comes face to face with Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja) – someone we haven’t seen since he and his family parted ways with Rick’s group outside of Atlanta in season one.

The title is an interesting reflection on who will be the damned – and is a nice follow up to mercy. Are you damned if you don’t offer mercy? But should the damned be offered mercy? Bringing Morales back at this point also reminds us of how much Rick has changed. We’ve seen Morgan (Lennie James) swing between between mercy and insane killing machine several times now. After all the speeches about taking back the world and killing those who get in their way, will Rick and his followers be able to create a better world than Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)?

The action picks up where we left off as the groups start their individual attacks to dismantle Negan’s world – to re-shape it into their own. Rick and Daryl (Norman Reedus) are leading one assault. Carol (Melissa McBride) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) are waking up after walking into a grenade. Morgan, Jesus (Tom Payne) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) get ready to lead an assault on the satellite station. Aaron (Ross Marquand), Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson), and Tobin (Jason Douglas) lead an assault on what appears to be a weapons cache protected by a group lead by Mara (Lindsey Garrett) who realizes they are in danger just before they’re attacked and pinned down.

The group gets ready to go in to the satellite station, but Negan’s people now have a “moat” of walkers. They need to get in silently so as not to tip them off that they’re coming. Dianne (Kerry Cahill) assures Morgan she can still get the guards silently with her arrows. Andy (Jeremy Palko) and Freddie (Brett Gentile) offer to back Morgan up, but he assures him that he doesn’t die. And he’s creepily right when the three do open a door only to be met by a wall of bullets and Andy and Freddie are killed while Morgan is not – sending him over even further into madness again.

Carol, Ezekiel, and their people wake to be confronted by a small herd of walkers. It never gets old to watch Jerry (Cooper Andrews) take out walkers with that giant ax! I also loved him telling the others to protect the King while Ezekiel tells them to protect themselves.

Carol is rightly concerned that the lookout who threw the grenade got away. Ezekiel, however, refuses to be daunted. I adored Ezekiel’s positive attitude all through this episode, and especially him telling Carol that they would catch the lookout before he could do any damage and to “Trust the King!” Carol just shakes her head… but she follows.

It seemed like Francine (Dahlia Legault) was in charge of keeping Mara’s group pinned down and busy while Rick and Daryl’s group were assaulting the building from the other side? Though this was unclear. I didn’t recognize the building that Rick and Daryl’s group burst into, but they were after guns. Aaron worries about Eric being on the front lines, and I have to admit that I was waiting for Eric to do something stupid the entire episode, but he actually really rises to the occasion.

Morgan creates a diversion at the fence to get the guards attention and Dianne handily takes them out. The return to the satellite station seemed eerily like the first attack, with our group going in with silencers and taking out Negan’s people with no chance for them to surrender or defend themselves. When Morgan’s run goes bad, however, it becomes an out and out firefight.

Rick is following intelligence from Dwight (Austin Amelio) that the heavy guns are in this Office Plaza. They keep going up as they find nothing. Meanwhile, the firefight rages and Aaron tells the others that the plan is to pin Negan’s people down “and it takes care of itself.” As they shoot and kill them, they turn, and the walkers then kill the ones pinned down.

I loved the scene in the satellite station as everyone is lined up in the hall and spring the doors together at the drop of a hand – Jesus’ hand. Jesus and Tara find Dean (Adam Fristoe) in a closet. He’s pissed his pants, so Jesus wants to take pity on him. Tara wants to just kill him. Dean insists that he’s just a worker, and they have his wife and kids. Jesus insists that he’s not killing someone with their hands up and he’s not letting Tara either. Tara recognizes the medicine that they took from the Hilltop, including Maggie’s (Lauren Cohen) pre-natal medicine. She is desperate to kill Dean. Jesus insists that this isn’t who Tara is. He understands that she’s angry they killed her girlfriend, but they aren’t there for revenge. Tara insists that this is who she is now.

When a shot distracts them all, Dean pounces and holds a gun to Jesus’ head. He thought that Tara would be the soft touch, not Jesus. He grinds Maggie’s medicine under his boot and complains about how hard it is to piss yourself on purpose. Jesus manages to disarm Dean, who insists that neither of them are actually going to shoot him. Tara says it’s not about revenge – it’s just about getting it done. Jesus knocks him out and ties him up.

Jesus tells Tara that it’s not about Dean. Tara wants to know why Dean should get to live when Glenn, Abraham, and Denise didn’t. She tells him that he’s not Rick or Maggie – this isn’t his decision to make. Jesus insists that Maggie will listen to him – and I believe him. Maggie will want to be better than Negan and his followers – and she’ll want to show mercy because that is what Glenn and Hershel would have wanted.

Morgan wakes up and sees Freddie drawing his last breaths. Instead of making sure he and Andy won’t turn, he simple leaves them and goes on a killing spree. It’s an amazing sequence as he kills everyone he comes across, even as Jesus sets his own plan in motion – to take the others captive. Neither Dianne nor Tara are really on board with the plan, but the first Savior out gets the others to surrender. Tara says, fine. They’ll do it the hard way. Even if Maggie listens to Jesus, Rick will listen to her.

Tobin is winged by a bullet. Mara realizes finally why they didn’t move in – right before one of her own people rips her throat out. She doesn’t even really try to stop him – she knows they’ve lost. Francine is hit, and Aaron does some nice driving to get to Eric – who has also been pretty seriously wounded.

In the forest, Ezekiel continues to be the most amusing part of the episode – I just loved Payton in this episode – I love the way he can make most of his speeches sound like Shakespeare – even when they aren’t – to keep up those regal appearances. And then we get those little touches of humor. When Jerry takes out a walker, and Ezekiel wonders what befell it – before Jerry. And there’s definitely something weird with it.

Carol is worried that Ezekiel isn’t taking their situation seriously enough. He asks her if she thinks he really feels the extreme confidence he’s exuding –and then he reveals that maybe he’s not but “fake it til you make it!” Everyone else needs to believe in it, and eventually, Ezekiel also believes his own narrative. He tells her that he’s King because he’s provided a light to lead his people through the darkness – he’s not wrong. People need hope – we’ve seen that again and again. Heck, it’s why we keep watching!

Carol insists that they may not all make it. They may actually lose. Ezekiel insists that there will be no fantasies of failure – it’s classic power of positive thinking. And it’s at just that moment that they pick up a blood trail. They did manage to hit the lookout and he’s moving slow! Carol is still shaking her head – but Ezekiel almost gets a smile out of her as he intones that they move forward as they move the very world forward!

Daryl finds a closet with food and a handcuff on the wall that clearly reminds him of his own time in the cell in Negan’s compound. He’s almost overcome. Meanwhile, there’s a beautiful long shot of Rick – how the show loves to do those with him. It really underscores the theme of light into darkness as Rick is framed by the light as he moves down the darkened corridor. He’s about to have his world turned upside down.

He finds a room and goes in with his gun up and at the ready, but he’s jumped by a gigantic savior (Joshua Lamboy). Rick manages to kill him before he kills Rick. Rick sees a tattoo on the Savior: Grace Be God. Before walking into another room – which has a mural of animals, which reminded me of the ark. The flood, like this purging, reset the world on a better path. Rick finds baby Gracie. It's clearly no accident the baby is named Grace as one reaches a state of Grace when they are the opposite of damned. And sees himself in a mirror. He’s clearly killed her father and created an orphan – and as a father, that’s a huge burden.

There’s another beautiful shot as Morgan moves through the dark hallways killing all in his path and suddenly emerges into the light – which momentarily blinds him – as his rage and despair have been. He’s about to keep killing, especially when he sees Jared (Joshua Mikel). And a huge part of me really, really wanted Jared to die – I can’t deny it. But Jesus stops Morgan. They surrendered – and it’s not what they do. They don’t kill people in cold blood. But Morgan is still not sure what it is that they do do.

Just as Ezekiel and Carol catch up with the lookout, the others from the Kingdom arrive, and Shiva takes care of the problem – and has a nice light snack too! The radio lets them know that the Saviors know they’re coming. Jerry thinks the jig is up, but Ezekiel isn’t turning back now – and he finally gets an all out smile from Carol.

Rick finds a picture – which is difficult for us to make out, but he seems to recognize the person. Morales comes up behind Rick with his gun drawn and tells Rick to keep his hands down. He recognizes Morales from Atlanta, but Morales tells him that was a long time ago. Morales tells him it’s over – he called and the Saviors are coming.

I wouldn’t call this episode a loss or a win for our side. I loved the theme that ran through the episode and that are clearly going to continue throughout the season. We don’t know what Maggie has been up to or what is happening back in Alexandria. Is Negan still trapped with Gabriel (Seth Gilliam)? And where is Jadis (Pollyana McIntosh) and her junkyard dogs. Again, this was a beautifully shot episode with the themes being picked up in the lighting and cinematography. Brilliant performances from Payton, Lincoln, and James in particular. While Reedus only had a few scenes, his finding that cell was particularly intense. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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