Undoubtedly, the second episode in the latest season of The Walking Dead kept up the themes of all out action, increased undead presence and poignant tension which were prevalent in the season’s first episode. It’s becoming clear now that this season will detail the war between Negan’s Saviors and Ricks allies intensely. In the first episode, Rick believes the war can be won in a day. Judging by the fact the events in ‘The Damned’ take place directly after those seen in ‘Mercy’ this could hold some truth. Although I don’t believe this war will span over a mere 24 hours, I do suspect it will be a deeply concentrated and tense affair from the flow of these first two episodes.
While last week’s episode ‘Mercy’ had me feeling cautiously optimistic, ‘The Damned’ left me more cautious than optimistic. On one hand, ‘The Damned’ was a pleasing visual experience. The cinematography used within this episode was fantastic, particularly the close-ups used to enhance moments of silence. Similarly, some of the zombies seen in ‘The Damned’ were truly superb.
If In Doubt, Add More Bullets
However, on the other hand the episode’s plot was confusing and left viewers trying to cryptically decipher what was going on. It only dawned on me as the episode progressed that the sole reason I knew what was going on was because I had read the comics. Much like the season’s first episode, the excessive use of gun warfare also took away from some of the episodes merit. The sudden emergence of a seemingly unending stash of bullets has become comical, and often adds a sour, comical note to events.
Overall, the fractured structure of the episode meant that no one character claimed the lime light for themselves in ‘The Damned’. This worked really well, and allowed some characters to truly shine. However it also made the episode somewhat chaotic, with some scenes feeling pointless.
For example, watching Aaron, Eric and company engage with one of Negan’s outposts is a largely un-rewarding experience. It’s a waste of screen time, and probably one of the most ridiculous gun fights the show has seen. Both sides seem to shot with the accuracy of someone who has had one too many. This leads to frustration and takes away from any excitement the scene could offer.
The only gripping elements of these scenes were the possible death of Eric, and watching the outpost’s leader being eaten by her own troop, who has freshly turned into a walker. Despite these scenes being tiresome, they did develop the concept of walkers being used as weapons in this post-apocalyptic warfare, which was interesting.
The King And The Soldier
Plot-wise, Carol and Ezekiel leading a handful of troops in pursuit of a Savior who lobbed a grenade at them is equally as pointless. However, I think these scenes offer entertainment and purpose. Carol and Ezekiel are a wonderful dynamic that work extremely well together. While Carol is a no-nonsense figure, everything about Ezekiel is nonsensical. Ezekiel’s Shakespearean speech clashing brilliantly with Carol’s to the point way of speaking, resulting in a unique yet touching chemistry forming between the two.
I also think these scenes were important in solidifying Ezekiel’s role as a leader. While his speeches may be over the top and almost comical, they are important. Ezekiel’s confidence and positivity are extremely infectious, and their effect cannot be underestimated. Despite admitting he’s faking it until he makes it, Ezekiel’s ability to inspire could be crucial in future successes.
An Issue Of Morality
The scenes with Rick and Daryl searching for the Savior’s weapon stash aren’t much more significant. It took me a long time to realise what the duo were doing, and why. It’s evident from the last few episodes that Rick’s troops have an everlasting supply of bullets and guns. Why is getting their hands on more a priority?
However, I think these scenes were crucial in maintaining the tension and anticipation cultivated in ‘Mercy’. Watching Daryl and Rick searching this abandoned house in near complete silence is genuinely compelling. You sense something is coming, and consequently are left on edge.
When Rick is eventually attacked and subsequently kills his attacker, the scenes take on a deeper meaning. Rick discovers his attacker’s baby girl, and suddenly the issue of morality is thrown to the forefront. Watching Rick become visibly distraught as he sees himself in the mirror hanging above the baby’s crib is poignant.
This moral struggle is further developed as Daryl discovers a room where the Saviors held a prisoner. Naturally, this prompts Daryl to evaluate his own time spent in captivity as one of the Saviors captive. The line between what is right and wrong becomes thoroughly blurred just before Rick is cornered by Morales – a familiar face from season one, and now a Savior.
Revenge, Compassion and Division
This concept of morality also transcribes over to scenes of Jesus, Tara, Morgan and co attacking a separate outpost. When Jesus and Tara find a supposed innocent prisoner of the Saviors in a closet, both have very different reactions. Tara immediately distrusts the man, and wants to kill him, driven by revenge ever since the Saviors murdered her girlfriend Denise. Jesus, however, wants to give the man the benefit of the doubt and act out of compassion.
I don’t think the whole revenge thing works well for Tara, seeing as she has been primarily used as a comic relief up until now. However, I think the way in which Jesus acts is important. It shows a level of morality that hasn’t been seen in a while. It suggests that there could be a way of winning the war and maintaining a sense of humanity. Also, the fact that Tara stands with Rick and Jesus with Maggie is also interesting. Could there be a division in the future?
‘The Damned’ was a confusing episode overall. It was fast paced and often hard to follow. However, I think it was important due to a lot of important character moments. We were given glimpses about how certain attitudes adopted by characters could have an effect in future. Will Ezekiel’s feigned confidence lead to unprecedented success? Has Rick lost all sight of humanity? Will there be a division between those who want to win the war humanely and those who want to leave no survivors? Hopefully these questions will unravel as the season progresses.