Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 7 Review: ‘Time for After’

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Walking Dead 
Season 8, Episode 7 

Season eight of The Walking Dead started with a loud, confusing bang, as the writers tried to deliver the kind of excitement that’s typically associated with a show’s 100th episode, but failed by making the premiere bizarrely hard to follow, ruining what could have otherwise been a pretty compelling storyline, in the process. With just one week until the midseason finale, I think season 8A’s penultimate episode does a pretty good job of avoiding this same pitfall, by keeping the buildup for next Sunday’s episode relatively simple. A good chunk of “Time for After” feels slow in comparison to some of season eight’s more action-heavy episodes. Most of the screentime is dedicated to character development for Eugene, which isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it does feel like a less vital storyline than Daryl’s plan to attack the Sanctuary, which should have a pretty tangible effect on next week’s midseason finale.

As frustrating as it is to see Eugene turn his back on his friends, I appreciate the complexity this betrayal adds to his character. It’s interesting to see a member of the group defect, especially when he’s aligning himself with the show’s main antagonist. Unsurprisingly, our heroes have obediently thrown themselves behind Rickeven when the odds of usurping Negan seem low. Daryl was captured and taken to the Sanctuary, just like Eugene was, but even after suffering days of constant physical and mental torture, his loyalty to Rick remained. Neighboring communities, who knew everything of Negan’s sadistic and violent ways, but knew nothing of Rick, also blindly put their faith in him. So far, Eugene has been the only protagonist to break rank and choose to join the Saviors, and I think that adds a fresh dynamic to a predictable group of characters.
(Photo Credit: AMC)
And, it’s definitely not as if Eugene is acting totally out of character. He’s always leveraged the utility of his ingenuity into a nice, safe and cozy spot next to a physically strong protector. Cowardly? Yes. But, it’s arguably quite realistic. We haven’t really seen a character jump ship like this since Andrea way back in season three, but unlike Andrea, Eugene is clearly aware of just how wicked and dangerous Negan is- he just doesn’t care enough to risk his own safety and do something about it. Eugene does seem to be guided by some sort of logic, though. The past couple of episodes have built Negan up to be much more of a beloved ruler than we’ve been led to believe.

Up until this season, Negan and the Saviors have been characterized as unequivocally bad. And, not just bad, bad. But, truly sadistic and evil. However, with season eight, we’re starting to see some slight deviations from this. Two weeks ago, we learned that in actuality, Negan is rather beloved by his followers. They, “thanked God” for him, after he returned to the Sanctuary, and without question, believed that he would save them from the encroaching hoard. In turn, we also learned that Negan takes his leadership role quite seriously, and cares about helping his people, and keeping them safe.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
Eugene has quietly been indoctrinated into seeing Negan as this magnanimous ruler, seduced by the mutual respect Negan genuinely seems to share with him. As a member of Rick’s group, Eugene was seen as much more of a burden, and certainly wasn’t valued by Rick or Abraham, in the same way that he is by Negan. But, I do think that the rest of the group, and especially Abe and Rosita, saw Eugene as an actual friend, despite all of their baggage. Which is something you probably can’t say about Negan, with his “people are a resource” mantra.

The bulk of this episode’s action is drawn from Daryl and Tara’s attack on the Sanctuary. Unlike Rick’s plan, (which was never outright explained, and only made sense after piecing together bits of it from several different episodes), Daryl’s plan is simple- ram a giant truck into the Sanctuary, and let the hoard of walkers outside, flood in. It’s a short, but exciting sequence, and I appreciate the increased use of vehicles in this season’s action scenes. What’s even more interesting, though, is the group debate that centers around the validity of this plan.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The ragtag group of Daryl, Tara, Michonne, and Rosita all seem to be struggling to come to terms with the past choices they've made in dealing with the Saviors. Tara regrets not telling Rick sooner about the Oceanside community and its gun cache, and sees Daryl’s plan as an opportunity to set things right, by taking action now against the Saviors, rather than waiting. Rosita feels the opposite. She went the “shoot first, ask questions later” route last season, and it ended up costing the group Sasha. It’s strange, and quite frankly a little hilarious, to see Rosita acting as the voice of reason. Daryl should know that your plan is probably too reckless if Rosita is being the sensible one.

The one character who seems to be stuck in his old ways, though, is Daryl. Despite his stoic, monosyllabic nature, Daryl has always based his actions ohis emotions, rather than choosing the logical best move that will most benefit the rest of the group. In season six, he left Alexandria, in response to Denise's death, to pursue Dwight, causing Glenn, Michonne, and Rosita to chase after him, which lead to their eventual capture by the Saviors. While kneeling during the lineup scene, in the season seven premiere, Daryl's emotionally-driven punch to Negan, is what triggered the latter to kill Glenn as penance. Once again, when given the choice between calculated, rational inaction (waiting for Rick to arrive at the Sanctuary with reinforcements), Daryl chooses to act emotionally, attacking the Sanctuary out of a thirst for vengeance, and much earlier than Rick's plan originally called for. 

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