“I’m not right but that does not make me wrong.”
The Walking Dead continues on its one show mission to reward its loyal viewers by nose-diving straight into the action yet again this week. It begs the question: how long will this battle-focused run continue? Regardless, for now let’s enjoy it whilst it last.
We begin with an inspired speech by the ever-more-lovable King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). His rallying cry claiming that none of his men shall die is quite a bold statement in this universe…
We then follow Ezekiel, his men and Carol (Melissa McBride) as they continue on with their mission from the last episode. With their stealth mission compromised they must use some smart tactics to takeover The Savior’s compounds they come across. These tactics are demonstrated nicely when Ezekiel and a group of his soldiers are seemingly captured by a sneaky band of Savior’s only for it to be revealed that Ezekiel’s party is the bait to lure the Savior’s out, who are immediately gunned down by a flanking group lead by Carol.
Back with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja), we learn that Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has put out orders for Rick, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) – or “The Widow,” as she is known by The Saviors – and Ezekiel to be taken alive. We also learn that since we last saw him, Morales has lost his whole family and was pushed to the brink of insanity before The Saviors gave him a life and a reason to live again. Rick sympathises with the man and insists that if it was him with the gun he’d like to think he’d let Morales live. Which makes it even more heartbreaking when Daryl (Norman Reedus) arrives and without hesitation, and with the knowledge that it is Morales with the gun, kills him.
Outside, The Saviors retreat inside under orders to take Rick, giving Aaron (Ross Marquand) time to get Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) to safety. Reluctantly, Aaron must leave to return to the battle, a decision which takes a great emotional toll on him as Eric continues to bleed heavily from his wound.
We then cut to the group lead by Tara (Alanna Masterson), Morgan (Lennie James) and Jesus (Tom Payne) as they escort a parade of POWs back to The Hilltop. These scenes neatly highlight a growing concern that some of the members of the allied forces, because of the trauma The Saviors have put them through, are close to crossing the moral line that makes them different to The Saviors. Jesus explains, in an attempt to prevent this, “I kill, I’ve killed. You do, you have. But we don’t execute.”
A walker ambush (a group of walkers plank-rolling down a grassy hill like playful children) leads to some of the captive Savior’s escaping. Morgan manages to track them down and is about to execute each and every one of them only for Jesus to stop him. The two then begin to fight each other, in what is one of the more impressive fight scenes the show has ever given us as Morgan’s stick-fu faces off against Jesus’ passive form of martial arts. Ultimately, Jesus wins leading to Morgan departing with the group. This moral battle presents some of the more interesting philosophical engagement by the show. Both men make good points, whilst Jesus fights for ethics and a peaceful future, Morgan acts on his experience believing The Saviors to be like walkers: once turned they will never be human again. And we can’t help but think he has a point.
Elsewhere, we watch as Ezekiel and Carol continue to take one base after another using their military-style tactics and Rick and Daryl attempt to escape the weapons base (which apparently is empty of any weapons, has Dwight (Austin Amelio) betrayed them?). After they are pinned to a corridor, Rick neatly shoots a fire extinguisher to create cover as he and Daryl stealthily take out their attackers.
At The Hilltop, Gregory (Xander Berkeley) returns and is reluctantly allowed in to the compound by Maggie, who scorns him for his actions. Tara and Jesus arrive with the prisoners, much to the anger of Gregory. Maggie, again reluctantly, agrees to keep them imprisoned in some spare quarters at the back of the compound.
Back with Rick, Daryl and Aaron, we witness Aaron mourn over a now walker Eric before agreeing to take the baby that Rick found back to The Hilltop. Then as Rick and Daryl prepare to move on to the next location they come across a lone survivor of The Savior’s (One Tree Hill’s Mouth McFadden CW fans!) who has them pinned down. Rick bargains that if he gives them information they won’t kill him, giving the man his word, something he believes is all anyone has left in this world.Considering he is outnumbered an facing a now infamous Rick, the Savior agrees and gives them some intel (the location of where the guns have been moved to) only for Daryl to immediately kill him much to Rick’s shock. This is the second time in the episode Daryl has killed someone that Rick wanted to spare and continues the shows focus on the growing cracks in the allied communities. Perhaps his time as a captive for Negan has pushed Daryl too far and his humanity is waning. It appears to be a thread the show will continue to pull at and one that proves an exciting moral conundrum for the writers to explore. As civilisation begins to reform itself, when the war is over will there be any room for people like Morgan, Tara and Daryl… time will tell.
Finally, we end the episode on an explosive note as Ezekiel and his men celebrate their victorious day (Carol in the meantime is off to scout the next base) only to be gunned down by some Saviors who had been hiding in a nearby building. Bullets fly and blood splatters in a thrilling end to another brilliant episode. We end on the rather impressive image of Ezekiel’s men, without hesitation or a care for their own lives, bundle on top of their king taking an onslaught of bullets aimed for him. It’s a sad sight to see after he had promised no lives would be lost and came so close to it being true. We also can’t help but think Ezekiel would have happily sacrificed his life for his men and will be surely heartbroken when he emerges to find them all dead.
“Monsters” serves not only as an example of the greatness the show is capable of, it also hints at what the season has to offer, and from what we can tell it has great potential. It is one of the best episodes the show has given us so far and continues the momentum of last week’s episode perfectly. We still can’t quite believe how brilliant this season has been so far. Here’s hoping the winning streak continues!