8.6 The King, The Widow, And Rick
The eighth season of The Walking Deadseems to have an obsession with surprises. It seems that every two episodes, some Savior is about to get away from whoever of the Ricktatorship is chasing him/her, and then another member of the Ricktatorship comes out of nowhere in some kind of vehicle to either give chase or just flat-out stop the escaping person via car crash. Rick and Daryl chased escaping Saviors trying to flee with a machine gun previously, and this week Daryl and Tara come out of nowhere in a garbage truck to smash down a Savior scout attempting to get away from their cache in a pickup truck loaded down with speakers.
In some situations, it makes sense. Carol told Henry not to follow on her trip out into trouble, so when Henry is in the woods trying to stick-fight away two walkers, Carol is going to show up and save his bacon because she’s aware she’s being followed. She might not like it, but kids never listen in this universe (Carl has never stayed in any house) and he wants to follow Mama Rambo on her hunt for Savior scalps. And, if you want to push it, Rick and Daryl showing up to bail out Carol and the King makes sense, because they’ve got a master list of targets that they’re hunting down, and they were given the location where the guns had been moved to.
But showing up in a garbage truck? Without any explanation other than “we still have work to do”? It seems to be a reach. Unless this cache was marked on the list—and it seems to be unrelated to Daryl’s mission so I doubt that it is—or they were drawn by the sound of the explosion, I honestly don’t know why Daryl and Tara showed up in time to save Michonne and Rosita from the repercussions of their escaping Savior. It doesn’t seem to really be a point, except to move Michonne and Rosita to the edge of the Savior compound to watch zombies paw at doors.
The title giving it away, The King, The Widow, And Rick is split between the three leaders of Rick’s anti-Negan alliance. It opens in a very clever way; you get the three leaders picking up notes left in various drop-off spots or carried by intermediaries. Rick, Carol, and Maggie, each giving updates regarding the current situation of combat. Rick and Maggie have mostly successes, and Carol has to give the bad news of the Kingdom’s slaughter at the hands of the Saviors. Sure, they won, but they’re weakened.
After that, the best moment of the episode again involves Carol (Melissa McBride is The Walking Dead‘s not-so-secret MVP) and Ezekiel. We’ve seen a lot of these scenes before; someone goes to someone else who has a crisis of confidence and tries to instill something in them to get them back to what they’re needed to do. An earlier scene in the episode between Aaron and Maggie is a mirror to this, but not as effective. Carol essentially goes to Ezekiel and tells him that he’s needed by his people—specifically, she needs him to be king—and they have a wonderful little exchange that both actors do a wonderful job of putting across. Carol and the Kingdom need Ezekiel; Ezekiel needs Carol because she made him believe in his own tall tales.
Jesus seems to be believe that his nickname is a description of who he really is, much to Maggie’s chagrin. One of the better moments of that little side journey from writers Angela Kang and Corey Reed is the entire moment in which Gregory tells Maggie that he’s the guy who is there to tell her to give into her baser nature, only for Maggie to take Gregory’s warning to heart by throwing the snivelling politician into the barbed-wire pen with the rest of the Saviors. She might have learned from that particular lesson, but the fact that one of the Saviors (Jared as played by Joshua Mikel) goes for a guard’s gun and isn’t immediately executed seems false. There’s giving these guys a second chance, and being plainly stupid, and this is on the stupid side of things. Giving Gregory an army he can weasel his way into control of is an even worse idea in a whole episode full of mostly bad decisions made by characters who should know better.
That’s one of the big problems of the episode. Structurally, it’s split up between half a dozen different things happening at once, and more of it doesn’t fit together than does fit together. Perhaps this is a problem caused by the show itself; it’s been focused on single events and single groups for much longer than it usually does. Unfortunately, this week’s episode takes a huge step back and rather than focusing on something, focuses on nothing—Carl meeting Siddiq, Michonne and Rosita, Daryl and Tara, Rick and the Garbage Pail Kids, Maggie and Hilltop, Carol and Ezekiel, and little side-pairings like Maggie and Gregory and Jesus and the Saviors—without anything really standing out aside from the few things mentioned previously.
It’s a disappointment. Director John Polson does a good job with the actors and there are a couple of fun moments (Rosita blowing up someone with an RPG), but all in all it’s not terribly entertaining. Carl makes a friend, Carol takes a kid out into the woods, and a lot of people get caught up in grief. None of it is very interesting, as we’ve seen it all before repeatedly at this point, and it can be slightly difficult to follow along with just because there are a dozen things of varying quality happening at once.
The promise was all-out war, and none of this is actually war. As Rick reminds them all, there’s a ticking clock, and the longer it takes his group to get their business accomplished, the more likely it is that Negan will break free of his confinement and get back on the warpath. From the way this episode plays out, that won’t be until after The Walking Dead winter break, but we probably will get Rick versus the Junkyard Gang.