The action finally picked up in this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” as everyone’s favorite survivalists continued their war against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors. What may be more surprising than the long-awaited action finally gracing the screen was the return of a character from the first season—even though you probably don’t remember who it is.
Instead of converging on the Saviors all at once, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his allies were divided into four main groups: an armored car attack led by Aaron (Ross Marquand), an urgent care center with Carol (Melissa McBride) and King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), a satellite station assault led by Morgan (Lennie James), Jesus (Tom Payne) and Tara (Alana Masterson), and a raid on an armory by Rick and Daryl (Norman Reedus).
Similar to the premiere, this episode began with a series of bizarre close-ups of the protagonists. However, it is short-lived once again and almost immediately cuts to Saviors completing their own war preparations—until Aaron and a group of others ambush them in their metal clad cars. The Saviors seriously underestimate Aaron’s strategy—shooting at them until the dead Saviors turn and kill the survivors. The decision to make Aaron the leader for this gunfight is interesting because the show has never prioritized him, despite the fact that Rick’s group wouldn’t have ended up in Alexandria without him. Even though the attack on this outpost appears to be successful, there are a few casualties from Rick’s group, including Aaron’s boyfriend Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson), who suffers a seemingly fatal gunshot wound.
Things don’t start as smoothly for Ezekiel, Carol and the rest of the members of the Kingdom as they’re attacked by walkers after recovering from an apparent explosion. They quickly gain the upper-hand against their undead attackers and press on. After following a trail of blood, Shiva makes another appearance in this episode and finishes off an injured Savior that Ezekiel and his group were tracking. Following this, Ezekiel gives a speech to his soldiers to inspire them to keep fighting for victory. Ezekiel’s optimism towards the whole situation is refreshing and hilarious, especially because of his passé vocabulary.
Jesus, Morgan and Tara tackle what was undoubtedly the hardest battle in this episode, both physically and philosophically. After making their way into the station, Morgan leads his own team while Tara and Jesus find a hidden Savior named Dean who initially appears to be innocent, but reveals his true colors after he takes Jesus hostage as he was attempting to convince Tara to show mercy. After escaping from his grasp, Jesus ties up Negan’s minion, to the dismay of Tara, instead of killing him.
Morgan doesn’t have much luck in the station either, as he and his team are gunned down by a group of Saviors almost immediately after Morgan exclaims, “I don’t die.” Although he takes a gunshot to the chest and appears to be dead for several scenes, he eventually rises and takes down nearly every remaining person in the station. Perhaps the biggest moral dilemma of the episode occurs when he rejoins Tara and Jesus outside and comes face-to-face with the Savior that killed Benjamin (Logan Miller) last season. Even though he’s completely abandoned his pacifism, Jesus convinces Morgan to spare the Savior’s life.
Unsurprisingly, the most action occurs for everyone’s favorite duo, Rick and Daryl. After splitting up in their search for weapons, Daryl finds a room that appears to have recently held another of the Savior’s hostages—causing him to have flashbacks to his time as one of Negan’s prisoners. It’s a somber reminder that Daryl is still suffering from his torment despite his tough-guy demeanor. Meanwhile, Rick is attacked by another one of Negan’s men but is able to fight him off—ultimately brutally impaling him on a post. Instead of finding the weapons he was looking for, Rick finds an infant in a crib and suffers an apparent existential crisis as he is unable to look at himself in the mirror as he contemplates his next move.
The biggest twist of the episode arrives at the end when Rick comes face-to-face with Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja), a Savior who was in the original group of survivors in Atlanta in season one. Instead of reminiscing about old times and catching up, Rick’s former friend puts a gun to his head and informs him that he’s radioed the Saviors. In what may be the most random cameo in the show thus far, the return of Morales may just be one of the most important because it exemplifies how much has changed since the group left Atlanta seven seasons ago.
Frank Darabont’s “The Walking Dead” premieres on Sunday at 9p.m. on AMC. The current eighth season is slated for 16 episodes, working its way well into the new year. The next episode is “Monters” which airs on Nov. 5 which details the conflict with the Saviors that leads to unintended consequences for the Hilltop, the Kingdom and Alexandria.