The Walking Dead – The Damned
By: Kelly Kearney
It’s all-out war! While Negan is occupied with the aftermath of Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) ambush, the episode The Damned hops around four different locations with various characters on a mission to take out the Saviors and eventually corner their leader. It was an action-packed hour, proving that when it comes to war there is strength in unity and numbers.
The Shoot Out
We begin with an intense montage of character close ups that sets the mood for what’s to come. Set to heart pounding music, one by one we see the faces of our favorite characters in various states of distress. The scene segues to where we left off last week, when Carol (Melissa McBride) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) hit the deck after that grenade went off at the Sanctuary. Now that the walkers are parading in through Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) gate, the two wake up to the sounds of incoming gun fire from their fellow Kingdomites. Quickly, Carol starts taking out walkers in the blinding dust with her pistol and the scene is a chaotic mess of bullets, zombies and heart pounding action.
On another war front, Aaron (Ross Marquand), Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson), Tobin (Jason Douglas) and some others from the group pull up in their armored cars and start blasting away at the Savior’s outpost. The showdown is intense and the amount of ammo used in a post-apocalyptic hunter- gatherer society is amazing. Bullets are ricocheting everywhere and it’s something akin to a storm trooper/rebel alliance fight with even less accuracy in marksmanship. Leading the Saviors in this fight is Mara (Lindsey Garrett), a mid-level Negan thug that vastly underestimated Rick’s abilities with the sneak attack. Mara, who has no idea she’s in over her head, assumes Aaron and the boys won’t charge forward and take them all out. She’s right, Aaron has an entirely different strategy to handling this group. He orders his team to stay back and keep shooting, which is a good tactic considering the Saviors they don’t kill will be attacked by their own people the minute they turn into zombies. Mara winds up paying the price for her naivety when one these Saviors turned walker rips her throat out. The fight isn’t all good news for Rick’s group when Tobin gets clipped in the wing by a stray bullet and Eric, who really proved he is warrior at heart, takes a shot to the stomach and it looks lethal. Aaron jumps in one of the vehicles and uses it as a weapon by running down a few Saviors and walkers. When he’s able to get to his boyfriend, the wound looks bad and in the middle of a shootout there’s not much Aaron can do but look horrified.
A Moat of Saviors
While Aaron is taking down the Saviors in a hail of bullets and fury, Morgan (Lennie James), Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Jesus (Tom Payne) lead a group at the satellite station where they face a manmade moat filled with walkers. It’s a two-fence system that corrals the zombies and works as sort of ring of fire keeping the Saviors safe from any intruders. What seems like an impossibility becomes a cake walk for Morgan whose traded in his pacifism for beast mode. Morgan has always been extreme on both sides of the war and peace spectrum and now he’s gone full on killing machine. He cuts through the walkers with ease, snubbing the idea of back up because he says, “I don’t die.” In the world of “The Walking Dead,” that’s usually a bad omen – meaning death is inevitable. But when Morgan and two others face three armed Saviors, beast mode pays off and he’s the only one left standing. Like Aaron’s scene was fast and furious, Morgan’s scene is fueled by quiet intensity that leaves you wondering if Morgan truly is invincible.
While the immortal man is slicing and dicing his way through the station, Tara and Jesus get into an argument about what to do with Dean (Adam Fristoe), a Savior they found hiding in a closet who was so sacred he peed his pants. Tara immediately wants to kill him since those were her orders and these Saviors killed her girlfriend. So, she’s not really feeling generous. Jesus, on the other hand, is living up to his name by believing Dean’s story that he was captured by Negan and held there against his will. Tara and Jesus go back and forth about whether to kill him or free him and that’s when Dean shows his true colors. He grabs Jesus and the two start wrestling, with Dean eventually getting Jesus’ gun and putting it to his head. Dean scammed them and even forcibly peed himself to sell his story and Jesus fell for it. I’m not sure how many times Rick’s group can get stabbed in the back by those they grant mercy to, but this is another example of kill or be killed. Dean proceeds to brag about the Saviors and even threatens to hurt Maggie and her unborn child while stomping on a bottle of pre-natal vitamins they stole from Hilltop. As he’s bragging about the Saviors killing all of Rick’s group Jesus gets the upper hand, taking Dean down and tying him up as their prisoner. Tara and Jesus take Dean outside and a garage door opens where a group of Saviors raise their hands in surrender. Only inside Morgan is blasting his way through the complex, killing people one head shot at a time until he finally wanders outside and sees Tara and Jesus lining up their captives. Morgan is in full kill mode when he sees the man who murdered his staff wielding protégé Benjamin. He races towards the man with his gun to his chest ready to take him out, but Jesus stops him and says this is not what we do as they’re surrendering. Shaking with rage, Morgan turns to Jesus saying they’re supposed to kill them all and if that’s not what they do, then what is?
Onward to victory!
Now that Carol and the Kingdomites blasted their way out of the zombie horde, they’re on a hunt for one of the men that got away. Carol and Ezekiel fear that the man will alert the other Saviors and their mission would be compromised. The group is tracking the escapee through the woods when they come across a zombie whose body looks like a chewed-up wad of bubblegum. Jerry (Cooper Andrews) takes his axe and finishes off the walker, but Ezekiel wonders what befell the former man. Always the pragmatic one, Carol says they have no time to figure it out and need to keep moving. Ezekiel gives his Shakespearean pep talk and Carol, whose impressed by his leadership qualities, seems to eye roll through his dramatic monologue: “Onward! To our foe, then to his compound, then to victory!” I’m with you Carol, does anyone take this guy’s sonnet sing song style seriously? Apparently they do, but he lets Carol in on a little secret. In his normal tone he admits that its often not what you say but how you say it that inspires people. It seems, just like Daryl and Morgan, there’s something about Carol that Ezekiel feels he can drop his macho act and trust her with his true self. Ezekiel’s optimism doesn’t rub off on Carol and she thinks they might be facing a dangerous situation, but the King reassures. “There will be no failures of fantasies this day,” which in Ezekiel talk means they won’t lose anyone in this fight. Luckily for them, the missing Savior was right in their strike zone until out of nowhere Shiva leaps in to save the day by eating the man’s face clean off! How can this cat tell the difference between Savior snacks and Kingdomites? Who knows, but she’s impressive and gets the job done quite gruesomely.
Whats a war without weapons?
With his group fighting on three different fronts, Rick and Daryl (Norman Reedus) take the most risk when they plan to raid an amory thanks to some clues from Dwight (Austin Amelio). The armory holds .50 caliber rifles, something that would blast a Negan size hole in any number of charging Saviors. Daryl doesn’t fully trust the guy who shot him then force fed him Purina sandwiches, but Rick lays down his simple plan – steal the guns, take out that moat of walkers and create a new exit for his remaining members, Gabriel and any saviors who would like to surrender. The plan seems simple enough so the two brothers in arms split up for the search.
While Daryl is moving from room to room he stumbles upon the Sanctuary’s prison cells. He opens one of the cells and sees the infamous dog food sandwiches and is immediately triggered by his awful memories of being their captive. As Daryl’s getting dragged through his PTSD triggers, Rick gets jumped by a much larger Savior and the fight is brutal. Like all fights pertaining to Grimes, he gets pummeled hard until he gets the upper hand and impales the man on a spike jutting out from the wall. Rick notices his religious tattoo and it’s a reminder of how this new world changed the very moral fiber of humanity. If there is a God, they abandoned this world and now only the strong will survive. After the fight Rick wanders into another room when he gets the ultimate kick to the gut – a crib with a sleeping baby and above her head is written the name Gracie. It obvious the man who he just impaled was fighting to the death to protect this child and Rick is bowled over by the decision of what to do. He looks away and painfully says “no,” something that could be interpreted two ways. No, Rick can’t kill an innocent baby or no, not another man’s baby I have to raise. The reaction is both valid and heartbreaking and Rick is at a loss with how to proceed. He doesn’t get much time to sort it out when a man comes from behind and pulls a gun on him. Rick turns around and recognizes him as Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja) from the Atlanta CDC! Morales says it’s over, he called the Saviors and they’re coming yet he does not elaborate on how he got from Georgia to Virginia. Instead, he pulls back the hammer and aims his gun at Rick’s head.
Cut to that tense close-up montage from earlier where each character is now haggard and feeling the effects of the fight. One by one their stories are told in their silent stares and emotionless faces. This war will have many causalities but the thing that will take the most damage? Their humanity.