Character Development Seems to Take Two Steps Back in ‘The Walking Dead’s “The Damned”

The Walking Dead continues to deliver tension, action and emotional struggles with characters in this season’s second episode titled “The Damned.”

At the end of “Mercy” Ezekiel, Carol, and their group had to take cover when a smoke bomb was detonated by one of the Saviors. As they come to, surrounded by smoke and walkers, Jerry calls out, “Protect the King,” to which the King responds, “Protect yourselves,” and honestly I laughed. but not only was it funny, but this brief exchange summarizes these two characters perfectly. Jerry has fully embraced his position as Ezekiel’s right-hand man and personal bodyguard and Ezekiel who has grown into a leader worthy of following for his people. Not only does he motivate them, but Ezekiel, like Jerry, will do all he can to protect them even if that means putting his own life in danger.

While Rick and Daryl run point on a mission to find the Savior’s ammunition cache, Morgan, Tara, and Jesus lead a small group into entering a hideout. As they make their way through the building, they methodically take out every Savior they see, with a single shot to the head — I’ll explain why this is important to note in a bit.

Tara and Jesus find one of the Saviors hiding in a closet, after begging them not to shoot him, he says his name is Negan. Just as Tara is about to pull the trigger Jesus stops her and I immediately knew some ish was going to happen. Jesus calls ‘Negan’ out of the closet and for a second time Jesus stops Tara from killing him. At this point, I started to get peeved because I knew this guy was playing Jesus. Jesus tells Tara that he knows she lost her girlfriend and what they’re doing “isn’t about revenge.” Really, my guy, what do you know about Tara? They get distracted by gunfire coming from outside and ‘Negan’ uses that to his advantage, throws a shelf on top of Jesus, and puts a gun to his head. Eventually, Jesus gets the upper hand, knocks out ‘Negan,’ and hogties him.

Now I’m going discuss why the above scene really bothered me:

1) Despite agreeing to Rick’s plan to leave no Savior alive, Jesus takes it upon himself to spare the Saviors and convinces others to go along with him, causing them to go against not only Rick but also Ezekiel and Maggie. This turn made no sense when in previous scenes we saw Jesus taking out people with literally no hesitation whatsoever. There was absolutely no sign in the previous episode that gave us a hint that Jesus was having second thoughts. Heck, it was Jesus who introduced Rick to Ezekiel for the SOLE purpose of forming an alliance to go up against Negan. It was Jesus who volunteered to stay with Maggie and help her and Sasha train the Hilltop residents how to fight. It was Jesus who gave information on how to find the Saviors in the first place, so this change in him is completely out of left field.

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2) Jesus telling Tara that Maggie will listen to him when she hears about what he’s done sounded absolutely ridiculous to me because he knows nothing about Maggie. Jesus doesn’t know what she went through with Tara and how deep her love and respect for Rick goes. Jesus making this claim has completely turned me off from this character, and frankly, causes me to be suspicious of his real motives regarding his apparent support of Maggie.

As Rick and Daryl continue to look for the hidden guns, Daryl finds a small room with a sandwich on the floor and handcuffs attached to pipes. Seeing this clearly triggers Daryl, as it’s an obvious reminder of his time he was held captive by Negan. Rick finds himself in trouble when he’s attacked by a man and they become embroiled in a brutal fight. Eventually, Rick manages to throw the man against a broken shelf bracket instantly killing him. Rick enters the room the man was protecting and finds a baby sleeping in a crib with the name Gracie stenciled on the wall above her, and immediately Rick seems to ‘check-out.’

Morgan walks out of the building to find his team — with Jesus standing in front — facing off against captured the Saviors. Before he can start shooting, Jesus stops Morgan — who questions this because they came there to kill them — and Jesus says it’s not what they do. Morgan ask him then what is it they do? The episode ends with Rick being held at gunpoint by a man he recognizes as Morales, who he met in Atlanta. Morales warns him that the Saviors have been alerted.

We’re two episodes into season eight and I can’t quite get a grasp on exactly what the tone of this season is, beyond shooting bullets and weird character decisions. I feel like we’re going back to seasons 3, 5 and 7 where Rick and Morgan have been written into a frame of mind where they lose themselves. We’ve seen them locked into the deepest states of depression and I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen again this season. Seeing Rick and Morgan broken and walking around in a haze of uncertainty were some of the most difficult parts for me as a viewer and someone who loves those characters. I am tired of seeing Morgan and Rick walking around like ghosts. They’ve accepted this life and what it takes to survive in this apocalypse, the writers need to let them live it.

Stuff & Thangs

  1. Every time Ezekiel gave one of his motivational speeches, Carol was left with a hilarious look of bemusement on her face — and I cracked up every single time.
  2. We finally got to see Shiva in action taking out a man and I cheered like I was watching a sports event (Should I be worried?).
  3. I can’t express how relieved I was that Negan was nowhere to be seen or heard in this episode, that dude really annoys me.

The Walking Dead airs every Sunday on AMC at 9/8c. Here’s a sneak peak for next week’s episode “Monsters“.

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