Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 14 Review: ‘Still Gotta Mean Something’

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Walking Dead
Season 8, Episode 14

After last week’s more action-driven episode, The Walking Dead slows down a bit, as it examines the fallout from the battle at The Hilltop, as well as ties up some loose ends that have been left dangling over the course of the last couple of episodes. “Still Gotta Mean Something” follows several characters as they all walk down different paths of vengeance. Revenge is a commonly explored theme for The Walking Dead, and this episode does it well, with a nice mix of characters, who end up settling in at different points along the spectrum of vengeance.

Right off the bat, “Still Gotta Mean Something” jumps backwards along the season eight timeline, showing us how Jadis was able to survive the Scavengers massacre in episode ten. It’s a fairly clever scene, and makes Jadis kind of root-able, despite being something of an antagonist for most of her time on the show. After this quick detour into the past, the rest of the episode proceeds with events in real-time, and while I’m usually not a fan of The Walking Dead’s attempts at nonlinear storytelling, I actually wouldn’t mind seeing a flashback-centric Jadis episode that shows major events from seasons seven and eight, from her perspective. Despite how the Scavengers have existed as little more than a MacGuffin for Rick and Negan to fight over, Jadis is still a pretty interesting character, if only because we still don’t know a ton about her.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
That changes this week, though, as we slowly start to peel back the layers of Jadis’s garbage dwelling façade. Before he ordered his men to mow down the Scavengers with reckless abandon, Simon alluded to the fact that there’s more to Jadis and her leather-clad companions, than meets the eye. Keen-eyed viewers caught glimpses of the Scavengers’ helipad and solar panels, scattered throughout The Heaps, in background shots of season seven, episode ten, and this week seems to finally confirm that Jadis is more than just the oddball leader of a bunch of grown up Pig Pens gone horribly wrong. Jadis is organized, and has resources far beyond what anybody could have imagined. And, while her desire for vengeance is strong, she is sharp enough to know when to holster that more immediate, emotional response, in favor for something more practical.

Unfortunately, the whole Jadis-Negan subplot comes off feeling a bit contrived because Jadis’s whole plan of capturing Negan, and then taking him all the way to The Heaps to kill him, (rather than just killing him to begin with), serves more as a way for Jadis to receive more screen time and character development, rather than a believable sequence of events that could reasonably play out. The whole “hold a character captive just long enough for them to escape/talk their way out of it” trope has existed for quite a while, and it’s always frustrating to see, especially in The Walking Dead, which is an especially egregious perpetrator.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
To be fair, we still don’t know a lot about Jadis, or what her motivations are, and based on what we’ve seen, it’s not entirely out of character for her to forego killing Negan, if it means securing a more favorable outcome in the long run. Since Negan’s plot armor is about as thick as Rick’s season five beard, any actual confrontation between Negan and Jadis could only end in the latter’s undoing. So, I’m okay if Negan is unrealistically spared a quick death, if it means we get to spend more time exploring Jadis. Plus, it’s possible that Jadis’s decision to forego vengeance and spare Negan, could eventually be legitimatized through further character development.

Of course, not all tales of vengeance end in reconciliation. Rick and Morgan are both out for blood in this episode, and are far less amenable to the pleas of a Savior than Jadis. Rick is still reeling from the death of Carl, and aims to take his rage out on the Savior prisoners who escaped from The Hilltop, while Morgan, who’s been driven back into his crazed, violent state from season three, is seeking revenge for the presumed death of Henry, who went missing at the end of the last episode. Despite appearing in the pilot together, Rick and Morgan really haven’t spent all that much time together, since Morgan’s return to the show at the end of season five. Regardless, there’s still a tangible feeling of nostalgia when these two long lost companions team up in their mutual quest, and I even let out an audible cheer when Rick gruffly urges to Morgan that the two of them can “end this right now,” the trademark catchphrase for any Walking Dead character who’s about to do something equal parts dangerous and exciting.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
From a moral standpoint, it’s hard to back Rick on this one, as he goes back on his word of bringing the Savior prisoners back to The Hilltop, after they free him and Morgan. Narratively, the show is slowly building up to the idea that Carl’s vision for a peaceful future is possible, and his request that his dad find another way to deal with the Saviors, rather than killing them all, will be a real part of that. However, as nice as that all sounds, it’s definitely way less exciting than the idea of Rick and co. indiscriminately kicking Savior ass and taking Savior names, from here on out. Unfortunately, I highly doubt that’s the version of Rick we’ll continue to see; however, I don’t think the group is ready to entirely abandon their plans to take down the Saviors, just yet.

Despite The Hilltop’s recent victories against the Saviors, all-out war continues, and next week, Daryl and Rosita will look to score a little revenge of their own, when they strike against Eugene and his bullet manufacturing plant. Rosita clearly hasn’t forgiven Eugene for defecting to the Saviors, while Daryl is still skeptical of Dwight’s true allegiances; and this character pairing should be a good one, as Daryl and Rosita are both quick tempered, “shoot first, ask questions later” types who could potentially balance out the show’s eventual lean towards pacifism, at least in the short term.

(Photo Credit: AMC)

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