It was bound to happen. After four solid weeks of exciting war-torn battles across multiple fronts that all took place within the same day (maybe even the same hour), we finally had to return to Sanctuary to check on the Saviors.
We opened with a flashback – that Savior meeting Negan had claimed to be a part of when our heroes attacked in the first episode. All the Savior leaders are there, including Simon, Eugene, Dwight, and Gregory.
The meeting is framed around Gregory trying to appeal to Negan and the rest of the Saviors that yes, he’s still in charge of the Hilltop (he’s not) and that yes, he can get them to stand down (he can’t). Some of the Saviors suggest they give the Hilltop an ultimatum, but Negan is not having that.
Negan has grown into a richly complex character, wrapped up in goofy bravado. He has no qualms about executing people to make a point, but he doesn’t want to kill indiscriminately. He truly sees he and his group as the saviors of the apocalypse. “People are a resource,” he reminds his subordinates. Negan is the personification of Lawful Evil: he believes in a system of rules, law and order, provided he’s the one at the top.
Our heroes attack Sanctuary and the scene shifts to the aftermath, as the Savior captains deliberate on what to do with Negan himself missing in action.
Negan’s trapped out in a portable with Father Gabriel, as teased at the end of the first episode. This played out exactly as I expected, with the two sharing terse comments about faith, regret, and strength. We learned a little more about Negan’s backstory (he had a wife) and at one point Father Gabe gets the jump on him and steals his gun, fleeing into a side room.
None of this really matters as the dead gradually claw their way through the boards. Negan dusts off the old walker guts tactic – a trick we’ve seen seen since season one. I’m surprised it’s not standard issue armor by now.
“Hey hon I’m going out.”
“Okay, don’t forget your walker guts jacket.”
They don’t do a very good job of it. About halfway through weaving through the horde, the dead get restless and Negan and Gabe have to fight their way out. Thankfully they have extreme plot armor as no one should have made it out of that mess alive, punctuated by a silly falling zombie at the end.
Inside the Negan-less Savior HQ tensions are mounting. They correctly presume they have a traitor in the midst, and all eyes point to their newest addition – Eugene.
We know from last season that it’s actually Dwight. Eugene figures it out when he goes to visit him in his room, discovering wet ink at the bottom of a chess set. He keeps his mouth shut, however. Oh Eugene, are you finally growing some balls and willing to play both sides? Do you want out of your supposed paradise now?
The power goes out and the workers begin to revolt by storming upstairs. Savior leader Regina pulls a gun, ready to kill them all if needed (I believe she does end up shooting one of them).
Just then Negan returns with his trademark whistling, prompting everyone in the standoff to kneel down. That’s real power, and Negan wields it gloriously. He glances at Father Gabe as if to say, “see – this is why I’m important. I keep everyone here alive.” He’s not entirely wrong, but he rules out of fear instead of respect.
Father Gabe didn’t quite make it out unscathed. When Eugene goes to check on him he’s a shivering, huddled mess, though he seems more sick than bitten. Eugene offers to take him to the doctor and Gabe has an epiphany: maybe that’s the reason Father Gabe was put in this situation, to liberate Maggie’s doctor. That would also follow a future comic book subplot and give Eugene something far more exciting to do.
We had too many entire episodes focus exclusively on our villains last year, one of season seven’s many problems. This episode was one of the better Savior-focused ones we’ve seen. I enjoyed the further character development of Negan, and the in-fighting between the Saviors. That being said, let’s not make these kind of episodes a habit for season eight, okay?
Negan: Season seven had way too much Negan, but three weeks without him in season eight and I was ready for some wry Jeffery Dean Morgan to melt my heart with that irresistible charm. Negan proved himself a capable leader and resourceful survivor.
Eugene: It’s easy to hate on Eugene (and I certainly did last season) but he proved capable of holding his own at the board meeting, with or without Negan. He’s clever enough to quickly figure out Dwight and to keep his mouth shut about it, which should lead to a fun subplot where he can finally become a hero.
Rick & Daryl: The Rick & Daryl show took a bad turn this week. As our only non-Savior storyline in the episode, the two fight over using the guns (specifically the RPG/rocket launcher) on the Saviors, blowing a hole in the wall and letting the zombies pour inside. Daryl is all for it, Rick is not, citing the families and innocents that live within. The two get into a dumb fist-fight that reminded me of Jesus v Morgan. It’s ended by the truck of guns blowing up, rendering the whole thing moot. I get the theme of mercy v wrath and that causing some drama, but Daryl literally punching and attacking Rick? C’mon man, same team.
Episode Titles: The Walking Dead has never exactly had profound episode titles, but season eight’s are especially bad, with “The Big Scary U” being peak stupid.