Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
The first two episodes of the latest season of The Walking Dead have been considerably intense. The series began with an unprecedented amount of post-apocalyptic warfare and a seemingly unending flurry of bullets. Tension has been a paramount factor and up until now the plot of the series has been purposely misleading in order to augment this tension. However, this unending stream of gunfire and consistent confusion hasn’t worked to the best of the show’s abilities so far.
Therefore, this week’s episode was somewhat of a welcomed respite from the season’s rapid and perplexing pace. Taking a step back from the focus on physical warfare, ‘Monsters’ instead centres on humanity’s place in this post-apocalyptic world. Naturally, this is a concept with which the show has flirted with many times. However, this week’s episode develops this issue in a new and profound way.
Not only does ‘Monsters’ build on the debate concerning morality introduced in ‘The Damned’ but it also raises questions on what morality will look like after this war has come to a close. This is an important point to consider, as we see a power struggle between efficiency, charity and revenge among the show’s leading characters.
Cause you’re a Monster…
The issue of post-apocalyptic humanity is primarily explored through Rick and Morales in ‘Monsters’. Within a few short minutes of their conversation, the episode’s cryptic title becomes clear as Morales claims Rick is a monster. As an audience, we can understand why Morales sees Rick in this extremely negative light.
Morales hasn’t seen Rick since season one, when he was a man who felt guilt at the idea of murder. The change which Rick underwent as the show progressed was gradual for the viewer. For Morales, it seems sudden and extreme. Much like the change we see in Morales himself. However, we know Rick was forced to change in order to keep those he loved alive. It was for the right reasons. How are we to know the same doesn’t go for Morales? Or are both men to be considered monsters for their changing perception on humanity?
This line between who is right becomes even more blurred as the two discuss their past. Morales reveals how he lost his family and the Saviors saved his life even when he didn’t want saving. Rick too recounts some of his prominent loses – Lorie, Shane, Andrea and Glenn. While Morales is clearly affected by this, he doesn’t lower his gun or change his opinion. Negan saved him, so that’s where his loyalty lies. We cannot fault Morales for this, and therefore we are left torn.
Rick attempts to show that he hasn’t become entirely corrupted, by claiming he wouldn’t kill Morales if their situations were reversed. Just as this conversation unfolds, Daryl enters and kills Morales without hesitation. Daryl’s almost poetic nonchalance quickly reminds us that morality holds no place over survival in this post-apocalyptic world. It also makes us question why we haven’t seen more of Daryl this season.
We Don’t Execute
This issue of humanity transgresses brilliantly into Tara, Morgan and Jesus’ storyline. It was touched upon last week, when Jesus insisted they take the Saviors from the outpost as prisoners rather than kill them. Tara, driven by revenge, wanted to kill all of them and Morgan was more inclined to side with this way of thinking.
However, Jesus’ compassion ultimately won. Consequently, in ‘Monsters’ we see them leading their newfound Savior prisoners, bound together with rope, back to the Hilltop. Morgan’s patience is worn thin as the Savior who killed his student, Benjamin, taunts him. Morgan is nearly driven to use force, but is stopped at the last moment by Jesus. After this, the most comical scenes seen so far in the season occur; a hoard of walkers come tumbling down a hill… literally. While amusing to watch, some of the deaths invoked by this herd are actually quite gruesome.
While distracted by the walkers, a strand of Saviors try to escape with Morgan in pursuit. After catching up to them and killing one of them, Morgan ends up losing his patience completely with Jesus, and engages with him physically. I think the fact the two physically fight is symbolic for the show.
So often in The Walking Dead, conflict is presented as good guy vs. bad guy. Or good guy vs. walker. However, giving Morgan and Jesus the opportunity to fight it out ninja style shows that things are not as simplistic as may seem. There are varying levels of good, and not everything is easily distinguished as right or wrong. We don’t know who deserves to win this fight, as both are right in a sense.
This is made all the more clear when Morgan admits he was both right and wrong at the end of the fight. We know that Morgan is right to want to kill the Saviors. They pose a direct threat to all of his allies, and are essentially an unnecessary risk. But, he is also wrong when it comes to the bigger picture. Jesus knows that humanity needs to be restored for the future to be truly bright.
The fact that Morgan abandons Jesus and the rest after this fight highlights just how difficult it is to find a balance between humanity and survival.
It’ll be interesting to see whether charity or efficiency will be presented as the definitive right path. Especially after Maggie has just allowed Gregory back into the Hilltop after begging like a child. This could potential backfire on her, and remove all doubt that Jesus’ way of compassion is too risky in this new world.
Personally, I think this was a good episode overall and dealt with many compelling themes. The ending in particular was well done. Seeing Daryl shoot the seemingly innocent Savior after Rick had given him his word was poignant. I cannot wait to see more of Reedus and Lincoln in the future as I think they are the show’s most valuable duo. Their ability to communicate with limited dialogue is captivating.
Similarly, the fact that Aaron has now taken the baby, Gracie, found in the last episode is also interesting. He just lost Eric earlier in the episode, so could he refocus his love and attention into this child? This story line has a lot of potential for someone like Aaron, and I hope it’s dealt with well.
More pressingly is how Ezekiel, Carol and their troops will fair after the attack they underwent in the last seconds of the episode. It seems like the crew is in fatal danger, which is almost ironic due to the overwhelming confidence Ezekiel has feigned this season. I think he went over the top with this self-belief, instilling a sense of immortality into his troops, thus inviting danger.
I’m excited to see how the events in ‘Monsters’ pan out but, most of all, I just want to know what happened to Gabriel in that room with Negan.
Did you watch the episode? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!