AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 8, Episode 14: “Still Gotta Mean Something”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Eddie Guzelian
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Do Not Send Us Astray” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Worth” – click here
Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) plays dead in order to escape being murdered alongside everyone else. After that, she shed the skin of that society she built, and became just Jadis again by herself. Like being lost, without identity.
Now, she’s got Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in her grasp. And he – like the viewer – can only wonder: “What the shit?”
Back at Hilltop, everybody continues their daily work, and others prepare active missions to get different things done. Tara (Alanna Masterson) isn’t sick, meaning Dwight (Austin Amelio) shot her with a “clean arrow.” She wants to believe that’s a good sign, whereas Daryl (Norman Reedus) isn’t so sure. This is one of the best parts about The Walking Dead, how the series explores a shifting sense of morality, which happens so often in the post-zombie apocalypse world. One minute, doing something perceived as good is good, the next minute it might not be; there are, more than ever, gradations of right and wrong.
Both Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) have a conversation about grief, in relation to Carl’s death, as well as the letters the kid wrote to everybody. She doesn’t want Rick to turn away from it, neither does she want him to ignore the final wishes and hopes of his boy. It’s not easy, for anybody. Particularly difficult seeing as how former Sheriff Grimes has lost everybody in his life, except for his baby daughter. He can’t afford to not face it, yet it’s the hardest type of death to face: that of one’s own child.
At the garbage heap, Jadis listens to Negan ramble about “resources” and his “right path” nonsense. Even if he didn’t kill her people – it was Simon (Steven Ogg) who chose that route) it was part of him, anyway. Negan owns up to the mistake, no matter if his way of doing so is crude. He offers an apology to Jadis. Then she almost smashes his head into bits. Holy. Shit.
Another lost soul is Morgan (Lennie James), whose constant struggle with morality is a source of internal struggle, not just outward. He’s got Carol (Melissa McBride) always there, trying to help him along or at least offering to help. I’m usually worried about Morgan. He’s gone into some dark places before. Might only get worse. He wants to go find Henry, so Carol joins him. They stumble onto the boy. Well, Morgan does while hallucinating.
Meanwhile, Rick is getting ready to go hunting. One of the Saviors at Hilltop pleads with him not to kill any more of his former buddies than is necessary, hoping that his own reform will speak to the hopeful attitude that might allow more Saviors to come over from the darker side of human nature and live right again. It’s all a question of what kind of man Rick will turn into after losing his son.
At the garbage dump, Negan gets hold of a flare and a gun, just as Jadis is wheeling in a hideous zombie she’s strapped onto a cart. The leader of the Saviors wants to start a healing process. And y’know, for some reason I feel like he’s genuine. Am I an idiot? Yeah, maybe.
On the road Carol recognises a stick belonging to Henry, stuck in the gut of a walker. More signs suggesting the boy died out there on his own. Carol wants to go further and find the kid, regardless of the state he’s in. But Morgan can’t bring himself to do it, not anymore. He’s being brought down by the relentlessness of death, and more so the fact that standing by and doing nothing only ensures more, often worse death.
Negan tells Jadis that his wife’s “name was Lucille,” and that she was his support in life, back before the fall of humankind. So, he named the bat Lucille because the bat got him through everything after the zombie apocalypse began. However, soon enough they’re wrestling, and then a helicopter appears flying overhead. Jadis isn’t able to grab another flare in time to signal them. The big question = who’s got that chopper?
Rick runs into Morgan, who’s now by himself. Not long after that they’re taken by surprise and knocked out. They wake up to a bunch of sick people, plus still alive and angry Saviors. The men plan on delivering “Rick the Prick” to their boss. That’s when Rick starts dividing the remaining Saviors by offering a supposed deal, warning of a walker horde nearby. Morgan goes for the scorched earth technique instead, and threatens all their lives, screaming to try drawing the walkers closer; it works, too.
It’s up to those few Saviors to fight off the zombies, or die. Lucky Rick and Morgan are set free to aid in fighting back the undead, followed by turning on the Saviors and killing the last of them. Although that one greaser, Jared (Joshua Mikel), sneaks away and gets the jump on Morgan. The two fight brutally before Morgan locks him in with a bunch of hungry zombies, letting him be eaten alive. That’s one of the nastier scenes we’ve watched in a while, in my opinion. Dig the viciousness. It goes along with the idea that Rick in particular is finding a new way of doing things. Not necessarily better, in terms of ethics. Just a new way that’s better for survival.
The juxtaposition of Rick and Morgan is devastating, because the former sees the latter and views a mirror of himself, in a way. Fitting that we see Rick standing next to a shattered mirror after talking to Morgan about why things were different for him before. What we see most vividly now are the differences between people and why they end up in the various places where they’ve ended up on their paths. Rick could go one way now, Morgan could keep on going on his nihilistic path. Then there’s Negan and Jadis, each of whom have totally different outlooks on how to survive in this new world; both are dangerous in their own ways, as well.
And then there’s Carol, who refuses to give up when she finally finds Henry stuck in the woods, attacked by zombies. Yet the boy’s alive and he’s unharmed. So, even with all the horrors and the terror of this post-zombie lifestyle, there are glimmers of hope. Morgan gave up, Carol didn’t, and the difference between the two made a world of difference. A microcosm of the hope that there’s still a purpose in trying. Carol was recently slipping into nihilism right alongside Morgan, now here she is, a hero again.
Because that’s the central struggle after the zombies overrun the world as we know it, and that’s the struggle of life in general: where do we find meaning? It’s even tougher when everyone is dying, plus everyone will die and turn into a walker. Hard to find anything worth hanging onto aside from bare survival. Perhaps listening to Carl, through it all, might allow Rick to find something close to a meaning.
On the road, free again, Negan’s found a hitchhiker. He gets back to the Sanctuary, surprising his men at the gate, and intending to surprise the rest of his people. I don’t like when this guy says he’s got a surprise. It’s never going to be anything good, for anybody.
This is one of my favourite episodes in a while, for various reasons. The Jadis-Negan stuff was a great payoff, I was hoping to see something different than the expected type of situation. And then Rick+Morgan is always compelling, not solely because of their prior relationship, but also because there’s an intense dynamic and a dichotomy in terms of parenthood/fatherhood that’s present between them. Great writing here.
“Worth” is next. Only two episodes left. OH, LAWD!