The Walking Dead S8E06: The King, The Widow, and Rick
To say I’m cooling on this show right now would be fair description. It’s a strange feeling too, because even by my own rankings this season hasn’t been that bad so far. Before tonight I’ve given an A, two B’s, a C, and a D. Not great, but certainly not bad all together so far. Yet these last couple weeks I’ve forgotten the show would even be on until a few hours before, and I haven’t been looking forward to writing much about them at all. Be that as it may, it feels like that’s more of a “me” problem than a show problem. While the episode ratings have been lower than previous seasons, they’re on an uptick. And it’s clear the writers are working on a theme this season (mercy over wrath) that could pay huge dividends if done right. So as they say, the show (and my reviews) must go on!
You may think the title of this episode would be a direct indication on whom the majority of the story would focus, but you would be wrong. We actually spend a fair chunk of time with the hostages at Hilltop and arguments over how to handle them, and with Carl making a new friend in Siddiq. You will remember him as the man Rick ran off in episode one. Very little time is spent with Ezekiel. The time that was spent on him feels entirely wasted as Carol makes little to no headway in convincing him to reclaim his leadership of the Kingdom. And all Rick did was ask the Scavengers for help (again). More on that later.
The extension of the seasonal theme is on display with Maggie and her decision regarding the hostages. Wrath says to kill them, or at the very least leave them outside the walls. Mercy says bring them in, feed them and keep them safe. Maggie chose mercy, but she kept a side of wrath for good measure. Not only does she lump Gregory in with the saviors and imprison him alongside them, she makes it clear that she intends to use them as negotiation pieces in the future. Negotiations only work if you’re serious about your terms, so it appears she still intends to hold the lives of these saviors in her hands for her benefit.
Mercy is also on display with Carl. This may be the first scene in like two seasons where I haven’t been annoyed with Carl. He almost did it with the “sometimes kids have to find their own way, and show their parents the way” garbage. But, in his circumstance, he’s not wrong. Carl extends the hand of friendship to a man he doesn’t know, in the same way his father had been doing at the prison and at Alexandria before Negan. Carl worries that Negan has made his father forget who they’re trying to be. He nearly said as much in the first episode when he told Rick he wasn’t showing enough hope. “That’s not gonna be enough, dad”, he said. To rally people to their cause they need to show the hope in what they’re doing, and not just a less evil reaction to a greater evil. And suddenly I’ve ventured into a miniature critique of the last few election cycles in this country! Truthfully, what Carl is doing makes the most sense in the long run. If Alexandria and its allies are to win they need to be sure they maintain the humanity that makes them better people in the first place. In short, they need to be sure they continue treating people as they would want to be treated (Lk. 6:31). This is what Carl is trying to hang onto.
Before wrapping this up let’s discuss Rick’s move toward the Scavengers… WHY?!?! As I explained in my season 8 preview, this group and the way they were used was one of the weakest parts about last season. If the decision to go back to them wasn’t made until after most of the Kingdom’s army was killed in episode 4, then at least it makes strategical sense. But this was clearly part of the plan from the beginning as evidenced by the notes passing between groups coupled with a voice-over. This frustrates me to no end. Rather than cutting ties with a weak plot line, the writers want to try and make something out of it. We’ll see if they can, but I’m not holding my breath.
My Rating: C
The hills and valleys continue for this show. Two straight episodes that were better than the last are followed by a bit of a dud. We see some good developments in the theme with Carl and Maggie, but it’s surrounded by a lot of wasted screen time. I didn’t even mention Michonne and Rosita’s trip to the Sanctuary “just because”. I’m not even exaggerating, they literally say they “just want to see it”, as though the years and experiences with their friends have taught them not to trust them. It’s just lazy, and when it serves to only be conveniently placed to flush out some saviors trying to draw away the walkers, it’s also bad writing.