“Monsters” was by far the best episode of a young Season 8. The apt plurality of the title did a good job of representing the episode's exploration of the characters we view as the “heroes” and “villains.” The discussion between Morales and Rick set it up, and the battle between Morgan and Jesus knock it down.
While we're still missing Negan, Carl, Father Gabriel, Eugene, Dwight, and other major players in this war, this episode seemed to move the plotline forward rather than simply spray bullets for 40 minutes. Also, we were happy to have some zombies again in a, ya know, zombie show.
And while “Monsters” definitely had some questionable scenes (see: several minutes of Gregory's petulant groveling and generally bad acting) and odd artistic direction (why did all of Ezekiel's scenes seem to have a weird tint and strangely timed fade cuts?), the episode felt like a success, all things considered.
From displays of dominance to faction elimination, a look at which characters saw their prospects rise this week.
Adam Wagner: Matrix Jesus
I couldn’t make 6th-Commandment Jesus my riser again, but how could I not make Matrix Jesus my top for this episode. Did you see those moves!? Who needs to be The One when you could be The Holy Trinity? Last I checked 3 > 1.
Also, our Savior (but not a Savior) seems to be the only moral voice in this war. In an episode titled “Monsters” that did its best to explore the moral gray areas of war and illuminate the violent similarities between the “good” guys and “bad” guys, Geneva Convention Jesus is doing his best to draw the line at execution.
Pritpaul Bains: Ezekiel
“We will lose not one of our ranks.” Hell yeah, Ezekiel. Even Carol's starting to trust the King. He's so goddamned inspirational that I don't even care if he walked headfirst into a Savior trap at the end of the episode.
With that said, his people probably do care, and this will end up being the first true test of his reign over the Kingdom. Will his army be able to overcome the odds and snatch victory from the jaws of certain defeat in the form of a Savior ambush clearly cribbed from the ending of The Last Samurai?
Who knows? At least the King is one of the few characters remaining on the show whom I'm actively invested in.
Joe Brosnan: Baby Gracie
This might be the biggest, most unexpected rise in Walking Dead history. In one day, Baby Gracie goes from hideaway baby to orphaned baby to Aaron’s baby, and boy has her status never been higher. She went from growing up under Negan’s regime to being the sole source of happiness for a newly widowed Aaron. They’ll need each other. And then, when Baby Gracie grows up, she can play with Baby Glenn and Toddler Judith. And they can all be babysat by Cousin Carl—because the showrunners will do anything it takes to keep Carl off the screen.
From poor decisions to lost lives, a look at which characters lost ground this week.
Aaron had a rough go of it this episode. Not only did he lose the man he loves, but he also picks up a baby en route. That's a net swing of -2 in The Walking Dead universe. Thankfully, if Judith's infant years are any indication, there's a secret fulltime daycare somewhere in Alexandria where Aaron can drop off baby Gracie and pretty much forget about her in perpetuity.
After claiming he doesn’t die and walking around like a total badass last week, Morgan thought no one could block his shtoyle. But he was unaware that Bruce Lee Jesus had perfected the “Art of Fighting Without Fighting.”
Morgan’s forgotten the teachings of his Aikido, and his mental state is fading fast. He looks more like the Morgan from Season 3 than Eastman’s peaceful protégé. Is anyone going to have the power and patience to rein Morgan in from the cliff in which he’s dangling, or will we get to see his final form?*
*Honestly, I’d be more excited about the future of this show if they just made it a Kung Fu-type story with Morgan as the villain and Kickpuncher Jesus as the protagonist.
Here’s to Morales. Some might say he was gone too soon, but don’t cry for the scenes we’ll never have. Instead, celebrate the two scenes we were lucky enough to share.
A tribute to the late, great Hershel Greene, this section searches for the best displays of humanity amidst chaos this week.
Rick doesn’t find himself in this spot often, as his shoot first, ask questions second mentality is very much un-Hershel-like. But Morales—the alternate ending to Rick’s choose-your-own-adventure storyline—held up a not so flattering mirror.
We’ve known all along that Rick is no angel, and he’s proof that everyone is the hero in their own story. So it was refreshing to see Rick come to terms with the notion that maybe Negan’s followers aren’t all so terrible. Morales certainly wasn’t—and we’ve seen proof from Dwight that there’s more than meets the eye with some of these people.
And yes, I know that Morales was killed shortly after Rick’s epiphany, but he didn’t pull the trigger and was visibly shaken, at least a little bit, by his death. I doubt Rick’s going to go soft like Greenpeace Jesus, but perhaps he’ll think twice next time he has some lowly, somehow-still-alive goon staring down the barrel of his gun.
PB: Cock Block Jesus
Goddammit, Jesus. Morgan was just about to give the viewers what they wanted and cathartically massacre the line of shithead Saviors. (The other line seemed to at least consist of sensible Saviors.) I loved Ninja Jesus last season, but soon-to-be Hoisted on His Own Petard Jesus is really getting on my nerves.
HM: Rick, who almost remembered he had a conscience thanks to some rando. Thankfully, unlike some, he doesn't let it distract from what needs to be done.
It’s still unclear what Maggie will do with Gregory and the prisoners, but she’s not turning them away. She’s got a lot on her plate currently, but it seems she’ll have even more decisions to make once this war is over. Maggie might mimic her late, great father—initially wanting to turn them away to keep her people safe but ultimately allowing her humanity to shine through. Stay tuned.
- We’re going to bring back a character all the way from Season 1! (AW)
- “Either way, we're gonna settle your shit … peaches.” Am I crying about Morales's imminent demise or TWD's shit dialogue? You be the judge. (PB)
- Speaking of settling shit: Father Gabriel is still sittin’ in shittin’ pants. #LaundryWatch (AW)
- I know Ezekiel is one of the good guys, but I can’t say I’m upset at seeing his fauxristocratic ass under fire. We’re getting to the point where I’d rather hear what Judith has to say. (JB)
- OK. I laughed when Daryl shot Morales. I'm a terrible human being. (PB)
- “I'm so sorry.” “Were you the one that shot me?” You showed up incredibly infrequently and at the most random times, Eric. But I'm glad they sent you out strong. (PB)
- Poor Aaron. (AW)
- How the hell can Morales presume to know Rick's mind? They BARELY EFFING KNOW EACH OTHER. This show, man. (PB)
- I wonder if the showrunners wish they killed Morgan as soon as he got back rather than have to put up with writing his groveling character for four years. (JB)
- Seriously, Jesus (and Maggie, probably)—what the hell are you gonna do with all those goddamn saviors? Not like you can trust 'em. (PB)
- Can't they at least take out dirty hippy kid-killing Savior to send a message? C'monnnnnn. (PB)
Zombie Kill of the Week
Morgan's GoldenEye zombie kill.