Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers…
Kicking off with some Walkers (the show continuing to remind us that they still exist and are, from time to time, an actual threat), Warning Signs is once again far more interested in those among the living and how they’re getting along. And while some of the drama works, other sections mostly appear to be servicing the idea that Rick Grimes will be departing the show in the near future.
Whether he’s charging in on a horse to break up a boiling clash between the Saviors and other communities, enjoying a little morning delight with Michonne or spending a few hours with her and Judith, providing the kid with a family fun day, the Rick elements of the episode only really get going towards the end. The show has been laying the groundwork for the mystery of who has been offing people (primarily Saviors) and while there has been an attempt at mystery and subversion, the Oceanside answer feels logical and expected. True, a lot of the other groups have reason to feel aggrieved by them (and Jadis/Anne certainly counts among that number), but the Oceanside squad truly suffered at their hands.
The particular plot line builds to the point where the Oceansiders execute Arat, despite the latter pleading for her life and pointing out how she’s trying to make it work. It’s the most effective moment of the episode, and definitely up there this season, with added resonance given that Rick, who has spent half the episode going on about how they shouldn’t kill each other, just lets it happen.
Otherwise, the plotline about the distrust and anger between the communities is mostly a version of what we’ve seen: the Saviors being annoying and then looking to violence to sort it out and Maggie becoming increasingly annoyed by their actions (or inaction).
Finally, there’s Anne, who becomes one of the prime suspects for the disappearing Saviours. But it turns out that she has her own agenda – not only is she in contact with the people who flew the helicopter near her recently, but it turns out she’s after something – someone – to bring back into that mysterious group. It’s all wrapped up in talk of “A”s and “B”s and when Gabriel goes to confront her, he quickly becomes something she can use.
Warning Signs finds the show initially still unable to draw truly compelling drama out of the idea of the various groups finding it tough to work together When tempers do boil over, the squabbles amount to a few raised voices and one or two people pointing guns or threatening someone. At least until Oceanside goes in for the kill. Even then, we’re treated to Darryl and Maggie deciding that Rick’s way is failing and they’re going to “see” Negan. Translation: kill him. Yeah, that’ll help things.
The show is suffering a real ratings tumble this year, and while the new plotline about community squabbles started out fresh, it’ll need to figure something out before we all get sick of people arguing. And turning Maggie into the angel of vengeance (with Darryl at her side) probably won’t be as easy a fix as thought.
Highlight: Whatever is going on with Anne.
Lowlight: Rick’s day off. Did we really need to see him having a lovely picnic? We know Andrew Lincoln’s leaving, but really?
Kill of the week: Arat suffers the judgement of Oceanside.
Quote of the week: “Killing each other when the world already belongs to the dead, that’s not the way.” – Rick, shortly before events bring a strong feeling of irony to his statement.
Zombie of the week: Justin the undead Savior. Still kind of annoying.
MVP: Carol. When will people learn that trying to capture her is just a bad idea all around?
The big question: Is killing Negan the best way to help matters? It might make Maggie feel better, but that’s about it. Now we have to wait and see the ramifications of an attempt on his life…
Read this season’s reviews
Read last season’s reviews below… The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 1: Mercy
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC in the States and Mondays at 9pm on Fox.