The Walking Dead: Wrath Review
AMC‘s The Walking Dead, season 8, episodes 16, ‘Wrath,’ may have sent fans & casual viewers into a collective chorus from ‘Circle,’ by the New Bohemians; but, to be fair, the episode suffered more from a season-long slide, than from its own merits. Admittedly, I approached this season with more hope than a critical eye – overlooking systemic failures, in anticipation of mitigating payoffs – and it would take forever-and-a-day to go over everything that went wrong with this season’s All Out War.
Luckily (for the purposes of this review, anyway), most of those gripes were re-visited, with this cumulative effort of an ep; so ‘Wrath’ will just have to bear the brunt of… well, this jilted critic’s wrath.
I’ll try to keep it (relatively) short & simple.
The Hovering Hat
Spoiler: Carl ‘The Hat’ dies – but that’s not the bad news. The bad news, is that the All Out War pretty much died with him.
From that point on, the All Out War (which had already fallen short of being anything such) became about Rick (Andrew Lincoln) realizing Carl’s vision – maybe with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), instead of over his dead body. Since it could still be argued that TWD is about post-apocalyptic hope, I suppose room could be left for that sort of thing. The problem is that Carl’s vision then goes on to become evident in too many aspects of both plot & characterizations.
The most noticeable effect is the sudden shift back to deliberation & debate. What started as black & white us-or-them, got bogged down in shades of grey talk, Hawks & Doves playing musical chairs, and redemption never too far away from anybody.
Most anybody, anyway. Another side-effect was that some truly righteous kills took forever (or never), because of Better Angel considerations. Not all that uncommon, with this show; but this is supposed to be All Out War, man.
Breaking the Band
Somewhere along the way, the All Out War became a pissing match between Rick & Negan. I’d be fine with this, had it not come at the expense of everyone else, however.
Every contribution made by the rest, was in service of some distant development. Daryl (Norman Reedus), for instance, went from being a member of Rick’s inner circle – having a say on all major matters – to just being hung up on Dwight (Austin Amelio). This pretty much demoted him to Tara’s (Alanna Masterson) level.
Both Maggie (Lauren Cohan) & Rosita (Christian Serratos) were left in a vengeful state of mourning, which should’ve left them on the same page as Rick; but really left them with target fixation, while Rick took on the extra role of becoming the Hat’s Herald (in clear defiance of his Beard). Rosita would join Daryl & Tara, to become the Revengers, while Michonne (Danai Gurira) fell into a support role, at Rick’s side. I’d mention the fall of King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), but he was never a part of Rick’s old road crew.
Carol (Melissa McBride) & Morgan (Lennie James) were, however; and while they weren’t sidelined, to any similar degree, their roles were left confined to their experiences at the Kingdom. Even more confining: both found themselves tied to another sacrificial lamb.
Well, at least that last detail allowed Morgan some regression room, which passed for character development.
Morgan Jones was introduced (in passing) as Omega Man & Son – giving Rick his first lessons in Walker World wayfaring. When next we saw him, he was one son lite – and heavy on crazy, for it. To fans’ delight, he later became a cast regular; but a series of character tweaks began to foster some concerns.
Since Mad Morgan, we’ve seen Morgan Monk, and Murder Machine Morgan; so I suppose it was only a matter of time before his polarization (between Rick & Carol) resulted in a reckoning.
The bad news, is that the Showrunners settled on Mad Morgan. The good news, is that he’s had enough backstory to warrant it. It also helped that there remains something that needs saying, about the evolution of Rick’s circle, that maybe required Morgan being crazy, again.
Well, at least crazy enough to recognize their collective de-evolution into Savior parallel, anyway. I haven’t decided whether it was sad, or fitting, that Mad Morgan had to provide the counterweight to the Hovering Hat’s ongoing Utopian calling – but providing a counterweight was appreciated
There was also the Jesus (Tom Payne) saves aspect; but he didn’t get any screen-time, this second half – so any contribution of his was a bone-toss I’ll let him have.
So Morgan’s character was left in sort of a full-circle bow-out; only they felt fit to default him back to Mad Morgan. Personally, I think it was Omega Man Morgan that made the lasting fan impression; but, for now, I can make do with him being left out of “what comes after,” on account of just being crazy.
Well, at least crazy enough to know when to jump ship, anyway. I hear Fear the Walking Dead is nice, this time of year – I mean, the American Southwest.
This brings us to the subject of the replacements.
The Puppy-dog Eyes Parade
There was kind of an underground joke that certain new faces spell doom for older ones. Well, season 8 went blatant with it when Siddiq (Avi Nash) showed up. I never had a problem with the changing of the guard thing; but the New Kids have been so damned eager to please, this time around.
At least Siddiq has been given the right amount of time to be useful, yet not get into a speechifying groove. We haven’t been so lucky with a certain Savior POW (I have yet to develop a care to learn his name). He’s been so annoyingly earnest, that he’s been practically begging Maggie to adopt him. Yes, he’s been the voice of the Good Germans, on the other side; but the idea is to evoke sympathy, not inflict diabetes.
I’d consider the prospects of Jadis/ Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) an uptick; but without Jadis’ refreshingly terse tendencies, Anne risks being just another speech caster (with plenty of backstory to go on about).
I won’t even get into Carol’s latest pet Padawan – I’m not prepared to publicly state what he deserved, for a previous prison break….
Too many Bat bluffs
Man, what a long way Negan had come, since that first swing at some fan favorites. Too bad it’s been in the wrong direction.
Those swings were supposed to establish him as the Sword of Damocles, hovering over anyone who wanted to play hero. Only, hovering is mostly all he did. From then on, the season placed the emphasis on his charm & charisma, while floating the idea that he really just means well, in stern fashion.
I would’ve been fine with an exploration of how Negan was under a sword of his own; but watching him use the threat of Lucille, time & again – without following through – just boxed him into Hovering Hat’s vision of reconciliation.
A redeemable Negan just made a blood-feud with Rick seem hollow; and this became clear when their clashes kept breaking for righteous rationalizations.
Like every Boss Fight they’ve had, the final showdown broke into a sermon; but this time, however, it was on Negan. He was on top, but decided to listen – giving Rick the chance to have it both ways, as the Beard & the Hat Herald.
Yeah, Negan’s going to serve as an example, alright. The next Heavy should just stick to swinging for the fences.
Come to think of it, where did Lucille wind up?
The Telegraphed Road
Well, Gabrielle (Seth Gilliam) already had one abortive break for it, a few eps back; so no surprises, here. His character hasn’t really been given much to do, since Alexandria settled; so I can’t really say how far/ short he’s wound up, either. Revengers Rosita & Daryl, on the other hand, did give Eugene (Josh McDermitt) a taste of their regard (for his Rule in Hell life decision), and left him more than just a little stung about it. I think we were supposed to see him dig-in, as a result, since – bottom line – Eugene is a petulant man-child. Ah, but how would he respond to Rosita hurting his feelings? Given just how stacked the deck was, against the Rick Alliance, there was only one way, really. The Bat bluffs just made it all the more convenient.
Warmed-over plot twist
Ah, but what would plot convenience be, without laying out a clear role for another telegraphed surprise to fill. I mean, convoluted conflict can’t turn on just one slow pony’s mood swing; so ‘Wrath’ was kind enough to pull a familiar double-whammy on our heroes. The kind that only reluctant heroes, sick of being talked into getting involved, get involved in.
Yes, you heard me. Or would you prefer Shewoks? No, you’d rather I just explain that one.
Let’s just say that particular warmed-over telegraphing involved a whole bunch of sea-side Stellas, getting their collective Groove Back. With fire. Like a bunch of hidden forest folk, with a low-tech solution to an Empire sized problem, saving the day at a crucial moment.
Take a tiger, guns, and penises out of the equation, and this was pretty much how the first half of the season ended.
Unlike the Ewoks, however, these late entries didn’t prominently feature in the post-war celebration. You’d think someone was maybe embarrassed about a blatant rehash, and maybe downplayed it, a little.
Well, if a certain Emperor couldn’t foresee Endor Mogwais turning the tide, then the Hovering Hat can be forgiven for keeping spoilers out of his vision.
The Hat Trick
In case you missed it (’cause hammer blows just glance off you), Rick’s red-eye time, at the tree, was a replay off the Old Man Rick series – which, itself, was earlier revealed to be a dying vision of Carl.
Only, we weren’t just seeing Carl’s dying vision – Red-eye Rick was an actual flash forward, suggesting that the Hovering Hat had been right, all along. If that’s the case, then odds are good that Utopia may be closer than anyone thinks. I don’t have to tell you, that sounds… awful.
Consider all those saved Saviors – like ‘running on revenge’ Laura (Lindsley Register) – instantly transformed into Shining Happy People, and try not to shudder at the prospect.
Odds & endings
I could start with why Rick & Co. didn’t just spread out & hit the ground, to make for harder targets; but I gave up on this show, from a tactical perspective, a long time ago. Let’s go with a crowd of friendlies & scared crows just watching Rick & Negan go at it (and neither combatant noticing them coming over); Rick carrying on like he won a righteous victory, when he was completely owned by Negan & saved by a Savior betrayal; and – oh, yeah – that Whisky Tango Foxtrot helicopter (wasn’t in the ep, but had to be mentioned). I could go on, but I said I’d keep this (relatively) short. That, and just I don’t want to.
After pretty much welching on the promise of All Out War, season 8 of The Walking Dead pretty much hollowed out any interest in a “New World” that comes “after.”
The bright side? There’s always a bright side, right? Arite, if I had to really think about it (and I did), I’d say there was a sense of foreshadow irony, to Rick’s closing sermonizing. Nevermind Maggie keeping a new chapter of the Revengers open & in waiting – I’m thinking of surviving hardcases (on both sides) doing the “I told you so” headshake, for the sake of the series’ continued existence, as a survivalist drama.
Let’s just say, I’ve been hearing whispers….
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