Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 15 Review: ‘Worth’

(Photo Credit: AMC)

The Walking Dead
Season 8, Episode 15

Season 8B started off with a bang, bringing Carl Grimes’ chapter to an emotionally poignant close, despite having already revealed his death in the midseason finale, two and a half months prior. Unlike past seasons of The Walking Dead, the rest of 8B was able to keep the momentum going, churning out a string of five quality episodes, with episode eleven as the only arguable blemish (61% on Rotten TomatoesI thought it was fine). Things take a bit of a turn this week, as the season’s penultimate episode, “Worth,” feels a little underwhelming outside of the final fifteen minutes or so. But, those fifteen minutes are quite the ride, and provide an intriguing lead-in to next week’s season finale.

Rick finally gets around to reading his letter from Carl, and while it’s certainly touching to hear the voice of Chandler Riggs recount fond memories of a pre-apocalypse childhood gone by, the whole “let’s all be best pals” message doesn’t fit in very well with the show’s overall tone. Throughout its eight-season run, The Walking Deadhas constantly flirted with the idea that maybe Rick and Co. shouldn'tsolve all of their problems by just shooting them in the face. However, this has never really been made into a compelling case because every time a character does have a stroke of pacifism, they either a) almost immediately get killed off (Tyreese, Carl, etc.), or b) eventually revert back to their murder-y ways (Morgan, Carol, etc.). No matter how close a character comes to embracing non-violent means, the show never fails to hurl the group, guns blazing, into the next skirmish- a constant reminder of the dystopian need for calculated, violent measures.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for complicated moral questions, but the key to these kinds of questions is nuance, and it feels like characters in The Walking Deadonly ever swing between two beats. They're either hellbent on kicking ass and taking names, or they can't even bring themselves to touch a flyswatter. There's very rarely any middle ground. Plus, when characters switch between these two paradigms, it's often done with little rhyme or reason- characters abruptly change course because the story calls for it, rather than cohesive character development. Building up to one expectation, and then just switching to the exact opposite, isn’t dramatic, it’s just sloppy writing. This type of characterization is too simplistic, and inherently unsatisfying for a show, like The Walking Dead,that sets itself up so perfectly to explore these kinds of complex moral issues.

The last time we saw Aaron, he had chosen to stay behind at the Oceanside camp, to attempt to convince their women to join the fight against the Saviors. Fast forward five episodes, and not only has he failed at enlisting Oceanside’s help, but he’s also perilously close to dying alone in the middle of the woods. The soft spot in me that loves naturally kind-hearted characters, who aren’t afraid to fight when necessary, hurts to see Aaron relegated to such a benchwarmer role. While it does make sense for Aaron, as the OG Alexandria recruiter, to be the one who finally reaches out to the Oceanside women, it would be much more rewarding to see him do so through determined persuasion, rather than some weird demonstration of reckless stupidity

(Photo Credit: AMC)
As the first, and really only, Alexandrian to become a dependable member of the group, Aaron is an interesting character, blending the more ruthless and pragmatic values of Rick’s leadership style, with the idyllic hopes of early Alexandria. Unfortunately, in his three and a half seasons on the show, Aaron has never been given that one signature storyline that you can really build his character development around. Probably the closest we’ve gotten to this is his partner, Eric’s, death at the beginning of the season. I have a feeling we won’t get to see Aaron finally get his moment in the finale, as it’s likely that his impact will come in the form of Oceanside playing some type of role in the upcoming showdown, rather than him being shown actually doing anything major.

Finally, let’s pour one out for Mr. “Like-Minded Individuals” himself, Simon, who is dramatically expunged at the hands of Negan, this week. Since his introduction at the end of season six, Simon has grown into a fan favorite villain, due in large part to his brilliant portrayal by Steven Ogg. Even with Negan occupying most of the bad guy spotlight, Simon managed to carve out a niche as the Saviors’ murderous second-in-command, with a sadistic streak that could rival even Negan’s. Things have been leading towards this showdown for a while now, and despite the predictability of its outcome, it’s still an exciting fight, and arguably the highlight of the episode. I enjoyed getting to see The Walking Deadtry its hand at its own version of a trial by combat, which is made even more interesting, given the fact that the two participants are both antagonists. I do think a knockout blow at the hands of Lucille could have been cool, although it would have deprived us of the awesome Simon walker seen towards the end of the episode. And, overall, seeing Negan actually duke it out with his opponent, rather than achieving victory through a sheer, overwhelming advantage in numbers and resources, will help in dialing up his menacing factor for next week’s season finale.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
It’s been a long road, but the stage is finally set for next Sunday’s showdown between Alexandria, The Hilltop, The Kingdom, and The Saviors. And, after Negan symbolically destroys his walkie talkie in the closing minutes of this week’s episode, it’s clear that the time for talk is over. It feels like there’s potentially a lot to cram into the season finale, but given that it has a scheduled runtime of seventy minutes, I think most of the loose ends from this episode will at least end up being addressed, in some way. For the most part, season 8B has been strong, and unless we get a real dud of a finale (which I’m not expecting), we should get a satisfying end to what’s been The Walking Dead’slongest running arc, so far.

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