In the week that I wrote that Mr Robot has finally died a death, The Walking Dead has proven it’s kicked the bucket. Unlike an immortal Highlander, the series had been fading away not burning out for an arguable amount of time, but S08E02 was the proof in the undead pudding.
After last week’s season premier’s bizarre and off-putting opening double-flashforward and all round bad writing, direction and amateur editing you’d think that a second episode would find its feet. And yet, I’ve never been more confused by an episode of television in my life.
The Damned opened with Carol and Ezekiel’s group dazed and confused by a grenade which must have also affected the crew because director Rosemary Rodriguez forgot how to direct (apart from this gorgeous shot)
I’ve written endlessly about time and location. It’s the principle job of the director to convey when and where we are to the audience, but even with my years of understanding the geographical laws of TV, I was lost.
Honestly, I’ve rarely seen a more lazy and confused episode of TV. The action was split into four groups over four locations, but at no point in those 40 minutes did I understand where we were – apart from when Carol and Ezekiel were in the woods because then, well… we were in the woods.
Turns out this group were following a man who threw a grenade at them in the last episode but I didn’t know that until I read another review!
At no point did I know where we were, when we were or what we were doing there. I mean, seriously – do we no longer use establishing shots in televisual storytelling? Because I must have missed the memo.
Meanwhile, back at somewhere else I didn’t recognise, Ross Marquand leads a group in trapping some of The Saviors in another compound, one that seemingly had no back door. While it was cool to see the fuzzy-haired impressionist elevated to warrior status, The Walking Dead writer’s only plan is (again) to have Ross’ group engage in an hour-long fire-fight with The Saviors, not… ya know chuck a grenade at them.
Across town in err… oh yeah – The Savior’s satellite station which I did recognise (but have no clue what we were doing there) Tara, Jesus and born-again-killer Morgan’s group spent a quarter of the episode moving through another building, killing redshirts.
Meanwhile, back at a place that I thought was Hilltop but wasn’t, Rick and Daryl go off in search of the only guns on the planet that might save Father Gabriel (who’s trapped with Negan in a portaloo) from the horde.
What was a great chance to keep excitement piqued by telling four concurrent stories was an unitelligable mess. Where writers Matthew Negrete and Channing Powell had a chance to split the groups up in unexpected ways and have characters unfamiliar with each other’s methods spark and bounce and clash and learn, they just wrote:
INT. ANONYMOUS BUILDING. DAY.
Our characters walk around some building or other doing some shooting.
The closest we got to any real emotion or character arc was an almost B-story in which Tara and Jesus clashed over being too forgiving… but it went nowhere.
The worst thing in amongst all this confusion is that there were almost no story beats. The Walking Dead has become nothing more than endless, wall-to-wall fire-fights, meaningless set-pieces about characters you barely even recognise in locations you’ve never ever seen before.
And it has me asking “What’s the fucking point?”
The only interesting reveal was when Rick found the baby of the man he just killed. The message was clear: not all Saviors are monsters, some are husbands and fathers, so Rick FUCKS OFF and leaves the baby to die!
The end of the ep sees Rick confronted by a man he knows from Atlanta called Morales who I just about think I can… barely remember – but not enough for him to be a meaningful villain.
Morales says he’s used his walkie-talkie to tell The Saviors to come back and I thought “Wait a minute – aren’t we in The Saviors compound and if so, why aren’t The Saviors there? Unless, we’re not there or we’re at another point in time… AARRGGGHH.” and then my head exploded like a zombie watermelon.
The Damned ends as it began with overcranked (or slow-mo) big close-ups of our main character’s faces which just came across like 18-year-old film school students’ laughable attempt at art.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday on AMC. I’ll be there as I’ve nothing better to do, and that’s how this show survives!