Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers…
If the last few episodes following the dramatic premiere saw the show back in wheel-spinning mode, The Key had something happen. And sure, some of it was yet another verbal clash between Rick and Negan that went over the same old beats (including the newer material about how Grimes has failed his son), but at least it was wrapped in an impressive sequence where Rick at last seemed to be getting the better of his enemy. There was even what passes for a car chase in The Walking Dead, ending with Negan’s vehicle flipped.
Still, the cat and mouse game between the two characters at least felt like it was doing something different from just Negan mouthing a speech and then being cruel. And that final shot, of him coming to in a car with Jadis pointing a gun at his head? Real promise. Even if we just want her to lodge a bullet in Negan’s noggin and put him out of our misery.
With the big man missing, Simon stepped up to lead the Saviors, though he’s got very different ideas about how to deal with the Hilltop. And now that Negan knows what he did to the Scavengers, he might not be long for this world, assuming Negan survives his encounter with Jadis (he is, as the man himself pointed out, “a cat”). The scenes between Dwight and Simon were fun, and you’ve got to enjoy Dwight casually torching Negan’s car. Simon taking the boss’s place was less effective, especially as he’s so much like Negan anyway. And his decisions largely exist to set up the battle that was already on the horizon.
Back at Hilltop, the show dwelt on a couple of quiet moments, one between Rick and Daryl, a manly-heart-to heart that largely serves to reset their friendship back to its usual level. We also had Enid sharing her guilt about surviving while Carl has died with Michonne which was… fine, but mostly appeared to have been snipped from another episode to squat in this one.
By far the most interesting strand was one that appeared to break with comic book canon in the most significant way yet (see the big question below), and provided some much needed levity in a series that has all but abandoned it. House Of Cards Jayne Atkinson plays Georgie, a mysterious new character who agrees to trade food and supplies for records with Maggie and the Hilltop crowd. Even Maggie can’t quite believe that Georgie (plus sidekicks Hilda and Midge) are for real, and her gift to the Hilltop gang really is something useful. Could things be looking up? Don’t bet on it.
The Key was a much more enjoyable episode of the show this week, despite suffering from some of the usual Walking Dead issues. Georgie and her team offer a proper new ray of hope, and director Greg Nicotero provided some beautiful shots here and there, he, cinematographer Duane Manwiller and the camera team working with painterly grace. They also kept the action kinetic and more interesting than the show has been for a while. Four episodes are left in the season; can it continue to improve?
Highlight: Negan’s fall.
Lowlight: Simon, taking over speech chore duties and sounding so much like his boss it was hard to tell the difference. They really are all Negan.
Kill of the week: Negan’s poor car and several flaming walkers.
Quote of the week: “I’m gonna be okay.” Rick Grimes, the most self-delusional character on TV.
Zombie of the week: The basement gang.
MVP: Sarcastic Dwight is the best Dwight.
The big question: So who exactly are Georgie and co? Current speculation is that she is based on Pamela Milton, leader of an advanced group called The Commonwealth. The storyline has only recently been introduced in the comics, and the TV characters shouldn’t be meeting them for a while yet, but it appears the story, which often breaks with comic continuity, could be headed their way sooner than later.
Read this season’s previous reviews below…
[The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 2: The Damned
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC in the States and Mondays at 9pm on Fox.