Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 12 Review: ‘The Key’

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Walking Dead
Season 8, Episode 12

With five weeks to go until the season eight finale, we’re entering a stretch of episodes that tends to stagnate whenever The Walking Dead reaches the back-half of its seasons. However, it’s possible that season eight could buck this trend, as the start of 8B has been surprisingly strong in terms of episodic quality. “The Key,” while still relatively enjoyable, is classic Walking Dead filler, with about 5 minutes of action on either side of forty minutes of very little forward plot movement. However, the actual content of this episode does a decent job in masking this, as we get an entertaining (albeit, somewhat contrived) showdown between Rick and Negan, as well as a compelling introduction to a mysterious new group of characters. It’s not a great episode, but it does enough to hold your attention, which is saying a lot for where we are at this point in the season.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The main storyline this week is the face-off between Rick and Negan. It’s a fun pairing for the show to further explore, and Andrew Lincoln and Jeffrey Dean Morgan have a solid level of chemistry that deserves to be displayed more than it has been this season. There’s a bit more complexity to Rick’s relationship with Negan, than we’ve seen with other antagonists. It’s more than just, “you’re clearly the bad guy, I’m clearly the good guy, so let’s fight.” Instead, there’s a prism of respect through which Negan’s hatred of Rick filters, and the two share a tangible, though strange, personal connection through Carl. With all that said, the Negan and Rick dialogue, in this episode, never really escalates past monologue-y banter, and the real strength of their scenes comes from the interspersed action sequences. The majority of their car chase scene could be seen in clips and previews from last week, and we don’t even get to see the most exciting part of this chase, as it takes place off camera. But, all of the closing action that we get is great, and the use of walkers, as well as Negan’s signature weapon, Lucille, is quite unique.

Since his menacing introduction in the infamous season six finale, Simon has been built up as one of the Saviors’ top dogs, as well as Negan’s most trusted lieutenant. However, we’ve seen friction develop between Simon and Negan, in recent episodes, and things are starting to come to a head much faster than most plot points, in The Walking Dead, tend to develop. It’s a relief that we’re getting to see this conflict play out swiftly, yet methodically. It’d be easy to imagine a scenario where the writers quickly introduce, and then completely drop, the Simon v. Negan plotline, only to revisit it later by condensing their entire feud into the B-plot of the penultimate episode of the season. But this way, there’s a natural feeling of escalation in Simon’s eventual betrayal of Negan. And, while it’s fairly obvious how things will end, I’m interested to see exactly how things play out between Negan and his former right-hand man.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The most memorable development from this episode, and the one with the most long-term narrative impact, is the introduction of a brand-new character, Georgie. Georgie’s fresh and clean-cut demeanor is certainly unique compared to the typical revolving door of grimy, apocalypse-hardened chuckleheads that The Walking Dead usually presents us with. However, her mysterious form of initial contact with the group, is largely reminiscent of Aaron back in season five. In both instances, fans were kept on their toes, as they tried to suss out the true intentions of these two seemingly well-meaning, yet slightly “off” newcomers. In Aaron’s case, it didn’t help that his appearance was coming off the back of the group’s run-in with the initially friendly, later cannibalistic, folks of Terminus. Plus, even though he’s been dead since season three, Merle Dixon’s age-old adage of: “The stranger with his mitts in his pockets is the son of a bitch you’d really want to be scared of,” still rings true within The Walking Dead to this day.

It seems like a lot of fans are convinced of Georgie’s intentions (warning: MAJOR SPOILERS) based on her similarities to a future comic book character. I’m not entirely convinced, though, that that’s where this character is heading. It would be awfully early to introduce this particular storyline, and for the most part, the writers have stuck relatively close to the comics, in terms of unfolding new characters and plots. Regardless, Georgie, along with her traveling companions, Hilda and Midge, represent a nice tonal change to the show, and I think their introduction is very well done. For the past several seasons, we’ve met a variety of different communities, ranging from the regal Kingdom to the downright bizarre Scavengers. And, while it’s always interesting to get a first look at these sprawling communities, I really enjoy the more intimate introduction we get to see, this week, between Maggie and Georgie’s groups.

(Photo Credit: AMC)

Overall, “The Key” is a solid episode that manages to be entertaining, despite its filler-y nature. If the writers can manage to strike this balance with more of The Walking Dead’s filler episodes, it will mean a lot for the show’s future prospects, because as of right now, the middle stretches of these eight-episode half-seasons have a tendency to drag. It’s certainly possible, though, that things start to languish next week, and even if the episode itself is decent, it would be hard to forgive the lead-up to the Saviors’ counterattack against the Hilltop getting stretched out by another week. However, from what I can tell based off of the preview (which, granted isn’t always reliable), it looks like we will get an actual firefight next week, rather than just Simon and Maggie threatening each other through walkie-talkies.

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