After last week’s harrowing attack on Negan and his Saviors, Rick and his faction aren’t out of danger just yet. Episode 2 of Season 8, “The Damned,” saw the plan for the future of the war take shape as a familiar face returned.
[SPOILER ALERT: The remainder of this article will discuss "The Walking Dead" Season 8, episode 2.]
The episode opens by revealing that Rick’s plan didn’t end at unleashing walkers on Negan’s headquarters. As previously-established, he’s got outposts all over the area, and the gang wanted to make sure those wouldn’t be a problem anymore. The very same day as last week’s attack, the good guys split up and execute a plan to hit at least three of them at once. It’s hard to tell, logistically, how many outposts are being targeted, but groups from the Kingdom, Alexandria and The Hilltop all seem to be going after separate areas.
Last week, Carol and members of The Kingdom were stunned by a grenade. There didn’t appear to be any casualties, but their part of the plan was doomed if the Savior who threw it managed to alert others. With some creative leadership and orders from King Ezekiel, the chase was on.
Meanwhile, Aaron led a faction of Alexandirans against a separate compound, hitting it hard from the front. While the plan seemed a little artless at first, it was quickly revealed to be a distraction meant to allow Rick and Daryl to get inside undetected. Their main mission appeared to be a stash of guns.
Finally, Morgan, Tara and Jesus led men on a daring but stealthy campaign inside a third location. They positioned themselves outside every room quietly and all entered at the same time. Unfortunately, Morgan’s room had a surprisingly large amount of fully-weaponed men inside, and he and two others got cut down. Fortunately, this wasn’t the end of the road for the heavily-armored Morgan.
Elsewhere in the same compound, Jesus and Tara were making their way through to their objective when they checked a closet to find a man on his knees begging for his life. Tara is ready to kill him, but Jesus tries to get her to recognize that they’re about to execute an unarmed man that’s begging for his life. He tells her not to let revenge for her dead girlfriend, Abraham or Glenn motivate her. As they argue, the man gets the drop on Jesus and holds him at gunpoint. They talk back and forth for a while before the karate expert manages to turn the tides once again.
“It’s not about revenge,” Tara says. “It’s about getting it done.”
Still, Jesus can’t execute him and opts for the knock-out/tie-up instead. It seems some people aren’t fully sold on the idea of killing humans for survival, despite the declaration of war.
Jesus builds on top of this when he leads his people outside and instructs them to surround the only exit. He orders no one to fire unless fired upon. However, he knows that would mean one of them dies. He gets lucky and manages to take a whole bunch of Saviors hostage without incident. He’s challenged when Morgan arrives, having shot his way out like a real gunslinger. He sees the Savior that killed his young friend and has a hard time not executing him, with the voice of Rick in his head telling him not to leave anyone alive. Still, Jesus prevails and they find themselves with a lot of hostages they don’t know what to do with.
Just when the average indignant viewer began yelling at their TV about the necessity to be ruthless, the episode cuts to Rick, who is doing just that. As he looks for guns, he finds himself in a fight for his life against an unknown Savior. The two battle it out and our hero eventually gets the better of his foe and takes him out on a clothes hook. Once he’s free to go inside the room the man was protecting, he finds no guns, but a baby named Gracie. He has a moment of panic when he looks himself in the mirror and realizes that he killed a father that was just trying to protect his daughter. Not all Saviors are Negan, despite what he makes them say.
Despite the setback, things were clearly going well for the members of Rick’s faction. But things weren’t all good. While Aaron led the charge to create a distraction, his husband took a dangerous position and held the line, but it cost him a nasty-looking shot through the gut to do so.
Elsewhere, The Kingdom managed to find its man and used the tiger, Shiva, to tear him to pieces. Sadly, he still got word out to the outpost ahead, meaning the Saviors know they’re coming. However, that doesn’t stop an undeterred Ezekiel, who challenges his men to go at them full-tilt anyway.
The episode ends with a deep Season 1 callback as Rick makes his way through the outpost looking for guns. He finds a picture and realizes he’s in a familiar face’s room. From behind, he’s held at gunpoint by none other than Morales. Fans may remember this character from Season 1, when he reluctantly hung back in Atlanta rather than tag along with Rick and his family to the CDC. It seems he found his way to the Saviors and no longer goes by Morales… He’s Negan.