By Skyler Lawton (@sky_guy127)
The Walking Dead 8x05 "The Big Scary U" finally answers the burning question we’ve had since the season premiere: “What is happening with Negan (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam)? But, before we get to that we must discuss what’s going on within the Savior compound. Prior to Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) attack on Savior HQ we see the meeting that took place just before involving Gregory (Xander Berkeley) and Negan and his closest members. The discussion is fairly mundane and the discussion revolves around Gregory trying to win the trust of Negan by ensuring him that the Hilltop sides with the Saviors (which we all know isn’t the case as they will all soon find out). The scene doesn’t really have any significance other than Negan believing that Gregory is playing both sides because of Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) heroics at the end of last season. Again, it just seemed like filler or at the very least a small transition to the meat of the episode, the confrontation between Negan and Gabriel.
With the two men stuck in a rundown trailer surrounded by walkers the two men decide to sit down and have a nice chat. Gabriel seems to think it of it as fate and I couldn’t help but laugh when he says, “I’m here to take your confession.” The producers made a nice touch using the rundown trailer because the imagery is eerily similar to that of an actual confession booth with the low light just barely trickling in and washing over the priest and confessors face. It was a small but appreciated touch that didn’t get by us. Because Negan hasn’t been a dynamic character up to this point it was surprising to see him refrain from murdering Gabriel on the spot, but I suppose that would have been too obvious.
The conversation is definitely an interesting one between the two of them because of it’s content and the tension that comes with each passing moment. It proves to be a bright spot in what has been a lackluster showing for Gabriel because up until this point he has had more bad moments than good since his introduction. His attempt to cleanse Negan of his past sins was touching but little did we know that he had other plans, which I’ll mention later. The most interesting part is that we get the best glimpse into Negan’s past that we’ve seen. Discovering that he used to work with children was almost shocking considering his villainous demeanor. It (almost) made him seem human for a moment, he would “take the weak and make them stronger” and made it clear that Gabriel was to be his next “project” stating that he would make him stronger.
Weaving in and out of this plot line is Negan’s top members scrambling to determine a course of action without their leader and Rick and Darryl (Norman Reedus) having their own spat about their own plan. Darryl believes that because the Kingdom is no more, they should take the dynamite and blow open the doors to the Sanctuary and flood it with walkers to eliminate all the Saviors. Rick believes that there are still good people in there and the workers can integrate into their group as long as the head of the snake is removed (Negan). And much like Morgan v Jesus, we get Darryl v Rick. It’s short and eventually ends in a stalemate because the dynamite is accidentally lit and blows up. As I mentioned that these two could be one of the best on screen duos ever, I hope that this is just a minor rift and not something that is going to unravel further down the road. Don’t play with my emotions like that!
As far as the Saviors situation, I feel that we can see them beginning to crumble from the inside out without Negan present under the strenuous condition. Essentially a power struggle ensues and none of them can come to an agreement on what the next course of action will be. It shows that, although they are all Negan, the leadership hierarchy is fragile. Allegations are tossed around and they believe there is a mole among them and their obvious first assumption is Eugene (Josh McDermitt), even though we know it’s really Dwight (Austin Amelio).
Returning to Negan and Gabriel, the questions continue until Gabriel seems to hit a soft spot with his confessor when he asks about a first wife he had. In this moment is when Gabriel’s redeeming moment occurs. As Negan is turned around, our Apocalypse Pastor reveals a secret handgun he’d been concealing and tries to eliminate Negan, then and there. Unfortunately for him Negan catches on just in time and fails. Avoiding Negans outburst of violence he then dives into another room. Not too long after that they devise a plan to escape (yes, there was some filler in between but I’m just covering what’s important). Using the ole hidden walker trick (covering themselves with the blood and guts of a walker and trudging right through them) the two men get through to the Sanctuary, later learning that Gabriel has fallen ill (presumably from a walker bite). Their arrival was just in the nick of time as the workers were ready to revolt against Negan’s top management, further showing that the hierarchy is fragile without their fearless leader. Finally, they discover that the guns were stolen from the armory and used against them which, assured them that someone was helping Rick. The real question now is what is Eugene thinking? The man is smart enough to know that all eyes are on him now but will he expose Dwight to the Saviors? Or will he help him in order to return to Rick and the group?
The Walking Dead 8x05 "The Big Scary U": Good
A little slow, but had some moments of its own. Gabriel redeems himself, a minor rift emerges between Rick and Daryl, and we see the fragility of the leadership beneath the "real" Negan. Carrying the excitement through an entire season is difficult but some of the tension and excitement was sacrificed in order to answer some of the burning questions we’ve had since episode one. It certainly wasn’t bad but teetered on the edge of just being "ok." As the mid-season finale approaches quickly it will be interesting to see how the new elements discussed will play out.