Spoiler Alert! If you haven't seen The Walking Dead Episode 802, "The Damned," then turn back now! You have been warned!
This week's episode opens and closes with close-up shots of our characters. I hate when the show does this kind of thing -- it feels very pompous. Luckily it doesn't last long. We follow four different groups in tonight's episode, each fighting their own battle.
At the main (?) Savior's compound, Aaron leads his group in a gunfight against Mara and her group. Mara thinks Aaron's group is too chickenshit to move in and instructs her people to try to push back. Before long, she realizes why Aaron's group doesn't have to push in: Those that they have killed have all been shot in the chest, which means eventually the dead Saviors come back as zombies and turn on their former friends. Mara has her throat torn out.
Rick and Daryl hit what looks like a church, acting on a tip that there is a stash of weapons on the fourth floor. The pair split up and investigate. Daryl finds what appears to have been a prison: a closet with some spoiled food and a handcuff chained to pipes. There is a stain beneath the handcuff -- perhaps this made Daryl think of his brother? On the other side of the building, Rick finds living quarters and is attacked by a man. The two wrestle violently, and Rick gets the upper hand, trying to choke this man out. I think the guy manages to whisper "no guns," but it is unclear. Realizing it is taking too long to kill this guy, Rick impales him on a piece of a bookshelf. He takes the man's keys and opens the locked room, expecting to find an armory. Instead, he finds a nursery. A baby named Gracie is sleeping in a crib. Rick feels terrible -- the guy was just trying to protect his daughter. Rick can't even look at himself in the mirror.
Rick continues on his search and is confronted by another man, but this is one he recognizes. It is Morales, who was (briefly) with Rick's group in Atlanta in Season 1. He decided to head toward Birmingham in Episode 5 and we never saw him again. Morales has joined the Saviors and he is loyal -- he has radioed for the rest of the group to return. Rick is screwed, but he looks like he feels like he deserves it after orphaning that baby.
Carol and Ezekiel wake from their explosion. She worries that one of the Saviors has gotten away and is going to go warn his cohorts. Ezekiel sends much of his team back to get Shiva while he, Carol, and a few others continue looking for this rogue Savior. Ezekiel is persistently upbeat. Carol doubts all his positivity, but secretly I think she wishes she could be as positive. Their team notices some fresh blood. It looks like the Savior they are tracking was injured, so he is moving slowly, and now they have a trail of blood to follow. Just as they are about to catch up with this Savior, Ezekiel's backup arrives -- Shiva jumps out of the woods and destroys the Savior.
Jesus, Tara, Morgan, and Diane form a fourth group, though they splinter off at some point. They are surrounding a large Saviors compound, complete with a moat made of walkers. Jesus and Tara split off, and Morgan creates a noise, luring all the walkers to the gate. This draws the human guards toward it, and Diane takes them out with silent arrows to the head. The team move in and bring with them a number of other fighters. They are well prepared and line the halls, covering all doors, busting in together, and shooting whoever they find. Eventually the team gets split up, and Morgan and the two men he is fighting with are shot. Morgan, somehow, is fine; the other two are dead. Morgan was knocked out and is likely concussed, because when he wakes he is like the Terminator, walking through the halls, shooting everyone who comes into his path without blinking an eye. He is like a machine.
Tara and Jesus find a guy, Deacon, in a closet. He has pissed himself and has his hands up, pleading for them not to shoot. Jesus wants to take him in; Tara wants to kill him. That was the plan. Jesus refuses to shoot an unarmed man, but while they debate it, Deacon disarms Jesus and takes him hostage. Tara is ready to shoot Deacon, even though shooting him would mean almost certain death for Jesus. Jesus finally manages to get the upper hand and gets Deacon on the floor. He still won't kill Deacon, though, which I don't understand. He was fine killing random people waiting behind closed doors (though they were probably all armed), but a guy who tricked Jesus, then held a gun to his head, doesn't deserve to die? I don't get that. Anyway, Jesus ties him up and leaves him when they see a bunch of Saviors running the opposite way. The meet up with Diane and her team and go to meet the Saviors at the alternate entrance.
Jesus and Tara lead at least 30 people, all with their guns trained on one door. The door opens -- and there is a single guy there. Without any prompting, he lays down his gun and puts his hands up. He doesn't want to die today, and he encourages the others to do the same. About a dozen Saviors come out of hiding, each one putting down their weapon and surrendering. Tara doesn't like this. Morgan comes outside, temporarily blinded by the sun. One of the Saviors seems to recognize Morgan, and Morgan puts his gun to his chest. Jesus stops him. "They surrendered. It's not what we do." Morgan lowers his gun but looks genuinely confused. "Then what do we do?"
I really liked that, in tonight's episode, we truly got to see the zombies be weaponized. In the past, zombies have been used as protection and as diversions, but Sasha was the only one who used zombie-ism as a weapon (taking the poison and riding in the coffin so that, when the coffin was opened, she came out as a zombie). Tonight was the first time they were really used as a weapon. Aaron's team didn't need to push into the Saviors they were fighting, they just needed to kill a few of them. Then the zombified Saviors would take care of the rest of them.
Other than the weird close-up shots, this was a great episode. It's hard to suck when you have wall-to-wall fighting, and I feel like this week we got more zombies than we have in a while. Though it does bring one very important thought to mind: Why no flash-forwards this week? I am not a fan of the flash-forwards, but the way they were presented in last week's episode, it made it feel like we would see more of them. Maybe I am being too nitpicky.
What did you think of this week's episode? Do you like the nonstop fighting, or do you miss the character-driven facets?