AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 8, Episode 5: “The Big Scary U”
Directed by Michael E. Strazemis
Written by David Leslie Johnson & Angela Kang
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Some Guy” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The King, the Widow, and Rick” – click here
In the dark of that trailer where we last left him, Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam) is living out who knows what sort of terror. We skip back to a time before, when he prayed at his church for God to show him the way.
“What I fear is a fruitless death. And what I ask for, after you have given me so much, is purpose.”
Back at the compound, Simon (Steven Ogg) treats Gregory (Xander Berkeley) to a decent breakfast. He’s always poking, though. He worries about the problems at Hilltop, Alexandria, the Kingdom. He presses the weaker man, the former leader at Hilltop, who’s so easily manipulated.
A little while later Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors sit at their table, listening to Gregory ramble on about “the big scary U,” as in “the unknown.” He does what he can to stay in the favour of the man holding Lucille. They talk about killing; Negan digs killing, long as it’s the right people. This is before Gregory went back to Hilltop, trying to “exile people” if they don’t agree to work with Negan and the Saviors. But the leader believes he’s a “thin dicked politician” offering nothing but lip service. And he doesn’t take too kindly to Simon trying to stick up for his cowardly buddy.
Therefore, he says they need to get the widow – Maggie (Lauren Cohan) – King “Assface” Ezekiel (Khary Payton), and Rick (Andrew Lincoln). Kill them in a horrible way for all to see. Make an example. Yikes.
And now we’re back to a different perspective of what occurred after Rick and the rest of them came crashing down.
Skip ahead to Negan and Gabriel in that trailer. The latter’s rushed by the former, though there isn’t a lot of fight. They’re stuck in there together, so I guess at least until they’re out of the predicament the horde of zombies is posing right outside, Negan might do well to keep an extra pair of hands around. Very compelling to see a sort of ‘big evil’ stuck in close quarters with a devout, righteous sort of character like Father Gabriel.
Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Rick interrogate the Savior they’ve run down on the road, who tells them it was a massacre, everyone is dead. This leads them to believe their friends have been killed, as well. Meanwhile, Simon and the gang are inside the compound wondering whether their leader’s been killed. This leads us to wonder, as Negan suggests to Gabriel, if the leader is, in a sick sense, a safeguard against even worse atrocities? If he wasn’t around, would they devolve into utter chaotic violence? Well the Saviors are also starting to suspect a rat in their midst helped the assault from Rick and his friends. This puts Dwight (Austin Amelio) on the offensive, suggesting he’ll lead their people out of there; he’s not suspected, of course, it’s mostly Eugene (Josh McDermitt). Mr. Smarty Pants stops by later with a thank you for Dwight, for getting the heat off him. What an odd little situation.
In that trailer, Negan rants about his strengths, his leadership qualities. This prompts Gabriel to reveal he was at the satellite station when Saviors were murdered. The priest pushes more, wanting the man to confess and beg forgiveness of God, of his fellow man. He pleads to whatever humanity’s left in him. “I haven‘t killed anyone who didn‘t need it,” Negan says. He’s a microcosm of the leaders people let rule them out of fear, fear of the unknown, fear of something else, fear of the other; he saves people by using them, bending them to his will, by force yet pretending it isn’t by force at all. Soon we end up with Gabriel attacking Negan from behind, slipping away into the back of the trailer with a gun.
On the road Daryl and Rick search the truck run off the road, finding dynamite. Daryl wants to blow a whole in the compound, let walkers do the job. But Rick is afraid it’ll cause families to die, people stuck under the thumb of the Saviors and their leader. He doesn’t want to risk.
We see more of the divide between Daryl and Rick, the former not willing to let people die anymore, he wants to kill first. The two friends get into a fight of their own. Now THAT is a goddamn fist fight right there, two tough bastards. They nearly blow each other up after Rick tosses the dynamite and the truck explodes. All that for, essentially, nothing. Plus now they’re both pissed off.
Most intense is that trailer, where Negan tries coaxing the priest out of that room. Gabriel confesses about what he did at his church, locking people out during the beginning of the zombie epidemic. He knows redemption is possible, he’s living it every single day. I don’t think there’s any redemption for Negan. Although he talks about his first “real wife.” She got sick, before the fall of society. And when she died he couldn’t put her out of her misery. This gets Gabriel out of the room. Two men against a horde of zombies. They’re doing the old cover-yourself-in-guts-routine; when in doubt!
They get outside and the dead are everywhere. The place is covered, completely. Like a rock concert, bodies mashed together. Things get dicey, then they’re forced to start swinging and firing to make it out alive, each protecting the other as much as possible.
Inside, the Saviors are still arguing about what’s gone on. They’ve got bigger problems, all the workers are gathering and near rebellion. Without Negan around, who’s to stop them? Things are shit. Nobody has any answers, and it’s starting to make the class division amongst this little society more clear than ever.
It all changes once the leader himself arrives, his signature whistle putting everyone on their knees bowing. He’s arrived. Negan and Gabriel together. The whole situation with how things got like this is going to be a lot scarier, too. I know Eugene’s pissing his pants pretty right about now. What’s worse is Gabriel is looking very sick; is he bitten, or just ill? Shit, I didn’t expect that.
“Well, here‘s a little refresher on who the hell I am: I wear a leather jacket, I have Lucille, and my nutsack is made of steel. I am not dyin‘ until I‘m damn good and ready.”
Out in the woods, Rick thinks he sees a helicopter in the air. Does he? Or is it him hallucinating? Hard to tell. He’s heading to speak with Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and her trash people in the nihilist garbage dump.
MAAAAN, this was a lowkey episode, yet it was incredible. Loved seeing a different side of Negan, even if only for a brief few moments. He showed a tiny bit of vulnerability, and somehow that makes him really unsettling, knowing there WAS a human down in there somewhere, at some point.
“The King, the Widow, and Rick” is next week. Bring it on.