Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 10 Review: ‘The Lost and the Plunderers’

(Photo Credit: AMC)

The Walking Dead
Season 8, Episode 10

We interrupt your Oscar viewing party to bring you the latest episode of season eight of The Walking Dead, “The Lost and the Plunderers.” And, while it’s hard to turn down a four-hour, black tie tribute to the Hollywood elite; and the slight feeling of personal gratification you’ll get if one of the movies that you’ve actually seen manages to win Best Picture, I can assure you that there’s no shame in sinking into yet another episode of mindless zombie killing, and people shouting into walkie-talkies. Because even if a typical hour of The Walking Dead contains the same number of over-rehearsed, emotionally overwrought speeches as the Academy Awards, at least you won’t have to lie to your film buff friends that you “heard a lot of good things about the foreign film nominees in a podcast last week,” or that you even pretend to know what the difference between sound editing and sound mixing is.

No, The Walking Dead takes you for who you are- that same loyal, possibly Norman Reedus-obsessed fan, who's stood by the show for the past eight years. Every Sunday at 9/8 central, from October-December, and February-April, you've been there to witness The Walking Dead's lowest lows, as well as its brief and sporadic highs. And so, while it may never win an Emmy for Outstanding Drama, there is something kind of charming and unpretentious about sticking with a show because of its unapologetic lack of complexity, or because the (very) faint possibility of it transforming into a show worthy of Oscar-like praise is actually fun to root for. Occasionally, though, The Walking Dead rewards our patience and loyalty with a surprisingly solid hour of television, like this week's "The Lost and the Plunderers."
(Photo Credit: AMC)
A reference to the once prominent sign hanging outside the front gates of Alexandria, "The Lost and the Plunderers" excels in its relative simplicity. There's no poorly executed attempt at the creative use of nonlinear storytelling, or the extravagant, drawn out death of a well-liked main character. Instead, this week's episode provides neatly focused storylines on major characters, like Rick and Michonne, as well as seldom explored supporting characters, like Simon and Jadis. It's in the exploration of these secondary characters that "The Lost and the Plunderers" shines.

The main question that this episode raises, is whether or not Negan's fear-based leadership actually works. In the short-term, the looming threat of a barbwire-covered baseball bat is definitely one of the more effective ways to persuade people into doing what you want. But, as history has shown (both in real life, and within The Walking Dead) people rarely take kindly to iron-fisted rule. In the early going of the zombie apocalypse, Negan's promises of protection were probably incredibly valuable to the weaker individuals and smaller groups of survivors, who had trouble fending off walkers, on their own. Based on the Negan-centric episodes from the first half of season eight, it's clear that while he may run a tight (and violent) ship, Negan’s people genuinely appreciate his leadership and continued ability to keep them safe.
(Photo Credit: AMC)
But, cracks are starting to take hold within Negan's formerly well-oiled machine. Rick's vive la résistance is the most obvious threat to his power, but it’s looking like a layer of internal dissension is about to settle in amongst the Saviors’ upper echelon, starting with Negan’s right-hand man, Simon. I love that we’re getting to see more of Simon, particularly his disagreement with Negan over how they should handle the Hilltop. Out of the two, Simon is the one, who somewhat surprisingly, takes the low road, arguing that they should completely wipe out the Hilltop for killing and capturing his men from the satellite outpost. Negan, meanwhile, stands by his “people are a resource” mantra, and wants to bring the Hilltop back into the fold, believing that once they kill Rick, everything else is “aces.”

This unyielding loyalty that Simon shows to his captured men, even when it means disagreeing with a direct order from Negan, adds an interesting human element to the character that’s been missing from the characterization of the rest of the Savior lieutenants. Will Simon actually turn on Negan, though? My guess is probably not since the show has already built up Dwight as the double agent, and Simon defecting would detract from this character development a little bit. But, if Simon were to Rise Upä against Negan, it would certainly be a lot more explosive, and arguably more exciting, than Dwight’s covert betrayal. While Dwight is just one person, Simon has, what appears to be, the healthy loyalty of the group he took to clear out the Scavengers, as well as his men being held at the Hilltop. If Simon were to defect, and bring all of his troops with him, that would certainly make the rest of this season more interesting, especially if his group ends up as a de facto third faction, creating chaos for both Negan and Rick. Simon doesn’t have a comic book counterpart, so his fate isn’t written in stone. And, while you could say that this makes him expendable, it’s not uncommon for seemingly minor, show-only characters to gain steam and take on a life of their own, like Daryl and Sasha.
(Photo Credit: AMC)
At long last, the ridiculous garbage pail kids subplot can be brought to a merciful close. It truly feels like this episode is setting up Jadis and co. with yet another opportunity to be recruited and trusted by Rick or Negan, despite looking like, quite literally, the shadiest characters that have ever been on The Walking Dead. It's pretty baffling that Rick and Negan continue to insist on going back to the Scavengers, even after Jadis reneged on deals with both of them. Rick, especially, has no reason to trust them after they turned tail during the attack on the Sanctuary, in the midseason finale. Besides, the Scavengers live in a literal trash dump. If that's not the clearest sign that they should probably just be left alone, I don't know what is.

For all their shortcomings as fully fleshed out characters, the Scavengers had the potential to be a pretty interesting player in the All Out War story arc. An oddball community of survivors, who in their isolation, reverted back to a more primitive, tribal state, are the type of unique characters that The Walking Dead should be exploring. However, the writers fumbled in their execution, instead giving us a silly, uninspiring group of characters, whose strangeness borders on outright parody. Alas, the Scavengers have seemingly come to an unceremonious, though enjoyable to watch, end. There were “whispers” of a larger role in store for Jadis, though, it seems like those (warning: major spoiler alert!) rumors have been officially debunked. However, even if she isn’t destined for a grander role, Jadis is clearly still going to have some effect on the rest of the season. And, considering she’s the best thing to come out of the whole Scavengers subplot, I have some hope that what remains of her storyline will be, at the very least, entertaining.

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