By Skyler Lawton (@sky_guy127)
Since the beginning of this season The Walking Dead has come out swinging in each episode thus far, and 8x03 "Monsters" is no different. Although the episode isn’t as action oriented as its predecessors it still carried enough weight to keep us interested. The assault on The Saviors continues as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Darryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride) and King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), and Jesus (Tom Payne), Morgan (Lennie James), and Tara (Alanna Masterson) continue on their designated missions. To begin, Carol and Ezekiel make quick work of the Saviors who had discovered they were on their way by simply outsmarting them. Seeing the two of them set up an ambush to manage their would-be assailants without a hitch is satisfying as a viewer because Rick and the gang have been taking so many L’s for what seems like ages. Although minimal, it’s nice to see Carol and Ezekiel working together because, personally, I've been rooting for this relationship to grow more since last season. Every King needs his Queen, right?!
After last week’s reveal that Morales (Juan Pareja) is still alive, and is now a Savior, the anticipation to see how the scene between him and Rick was going to unfold was extremely high. The tension carried over from the previous week but what followed left me questioning the purpose of Morales return. Without giving away too much, it felt anti-climactic and not really what was desired from the reunion. Before the scenes “abrupt” end we learn that since his departure all the way back in season 1 he has (like everyone else) gone through some rough times and lost his family before he fell in with the Saviors…and that’s about it. The scene didn’t last long enough for viewers to get emotional over Morales’ situation and hope that Rick would talk some sense into him again. Instead his appearance was lack luster and he essentially served as a placeholder for someone to call in more Saviors to deal with Rick.
What really kept this episode alive was another group, that of Jesus, Morgan, and Tara. Tara doesn’t play as big of a role as she did last week but Jesus and Morgan certainly pick up the slack and carry the episode. If we recall, the group had captured a small group of Saviors at Jesus’ request even though the plan was to eliminate all of them. Tara objects for the most part but we see that Morgan’s crazy side is starting to surface again and he feels obligated to eliminate the Saviors as well (apparently, Jesus didn’t get the same mission briefing). Previously, Morgan’s “crazy” bothered me with his refusal to kill anyone but now he has done a near 180 and understands what needs to get done to ensure their groups survival. This episode has them escorting the small group of Saviors back to the Hilltop, but because it’s The Walking Dead, nothing ever goes as it should. The group is suddenly attacked by walkers and a scramble ensues, during which time a pack of Saviors that have been strung together tries to escape. Morgan pursues and, without hesitation, caps the first one he sees. Jesus then manages to catch up and prevents Morgan from finishing off the rest of them. Words are exchanged between the two of them until, finally, Morgan completely snaps and attacks Jesus. The choreography here is superb and I wouldn’t expect anything less from the production team even if it is short and minor (for now). But, this new conflict between Jesus and Morgan makes me believe that it’s going to be an ongoing concern throughout the rest of the season. I understand Jesus’ point but this isn’t the time, the place, or the people to show mercy on. This time I am siding with Morgan and Tara because we’ve seen what The Saviors do and we know what they are fully capable of and I would trust them about as far as I could throw them…which isn’t very far…maybe a foot, if that.
Aside from these points, we discover that Aaron (Ross Marquand) may have lost his boyfriend Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) for good as he was shot during one of the firefights. We are made to believe that he “turned” from what I will assume is blood loss and joined another group of walkers, however, I won’t say that he’s gone for a fact until we see some sign of his ambling corpse because you can never really tell in this show without definitive proof. If he is in fact gone this is going to have a huge impact on Aaron and how he will act going forward. (Update: actor Jordan Woods-Robinson (Eric) appeared on The Talking Dead after-show immediately following the episode which makes me believe he is, truly, dead.)
Gregory (that [expletive] snake) also reappears at the Hilltop where Maggie sure isn’t happy to see him with Gabriel’s car without him. Regardless, she lets him back in at which point you can hear every fan utter a collective sigh of disappointment and question her (idiotic) decision. The show concludes with another cliffhanger as we see that Ezekiel’s group finally takes some casualties as they approach the station they were to clear out. This is quite obviously setting up for another tense episode next week.
Review: The Walking Dead 8x3 “Monsters”: Very good
The slightly slower pace was a nice little break this week after the events of the prior two weeks, but the show kept me glued to my TV in anticipation for whatever was next. This season has been holding steady well so far and up until now I’ve been skeptical if this show can keep audience’s attention for much longer. Even after last week’s action packed episode I was reserved at saying that the show is finally hitting its stride again after what felt like a duller 7th season. With viewership slipping nearly every week after the season 7 premier, this season needed to deliver, and so far, they have. If the rest of this season is anything like these first three episodes we are in for an exciting rollercoaster of action and emotion that the show commanded during it’s first few seasons.