Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers…
Kicking things off with the Saviors’ assault on Hilltop, Do Not Send Us Astray ups the ante this week, topping even the Rick/Negan clash from the last episode. It’s mostly an effective scene, complete with Maggie proving that she’s got more of a tactical mind than anyone thought and on the other side, Simon making a couple of huge, hard-to-justify blunders in his egotistical need to get his own way. Most of what works about his attack – infecting the injured – was already cooked up by Negan, and we doubt the new wannabe commander won many over to his side with this botched battle.
The fight was staged effectively by director Jeffrey F. January, though there were moments that lurched close to 1980s action TV where lots of bullets are fired and no one is hurt (A-Team represent!). There were casualties this time, and the stakes felt higher than they have in recent weeks.
The aftermath of the attack found the show on a horror footing once again, as one of the best recent sequences found The Walking Dead remembering that the undead are supposed to be a scary threat as opposed to creepy window dressing. The sequence where a variety of friends and foes – including Tobin (Jason Douglas), much to Carol’s chagrin – died and turned really worked, with Hilltop’s mansion and other areas becoming a haunted house of lurking, groaning zombies.
If only everything else this week were as solid as the attack and the zombie rising, but alas, the tone still felt off. Too many other scenes had what we could describe as “motivational speeches” – nothing to do with inspiring anyone, and more people simply explaining their motives for recent actions. Rick, Daryl, even Maggie fell victim to chatter that were all tell and very little show.
It’s a shame, as this could have been a true stand-out episode of the series, reminding us of the inherent terror of the situation while showing some real consequences for the characters’ actions. Some of that good work was undermined by letting young Henry (Macsen Lintz) continue his boneheaded vengeance crusade, which mostly felt like a plot excuse to have the Savior prisoners escape (even as some of their own turned).
Do Not Send Us Astray was another step up as well as forward, and featured at least two set pieces that rank among the best the show has brought to the screen. It’s just regrettable that the connective tissue scenes still sometimes came off feeling as rotten as the flesh in a walker’s face. Credit for one or two affecting interactions, including Carol’s earlier scenes with Tobin or Morgan being haunted by Gavin, the Savior he stabbed through the neck. But even with some fantastic action and horror, the series can’t quite seem to get the quiet moments to match up.
Highlight: The attack. Aside, perhaps from Simon’s big tactical goof. Do you really think people have run after everything that happened just before?
Lowlight: Henry and Gregory, the conversation nobody asked for.
Kill of the week: RIP Dana the doc.
Quote of the week: “Karma’s a bitch”. Ain’t that the truth!
Zombie of the week: Tobin!
MVP: Carol brought the painful regret and the heartbreaking need to kill yet another person she might have let into her life.
The big question: Tara was shot with a Savior arrow during the attack, and appeared worried when they learned that some of the dead and injured were turning. Could this mean she’s in trouble down the line? She’s not showing any symptoms yet, but she could…
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.