Spoiler Warning for Season 8, Episode 13 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed.
All Out War hits the most thrilling battle yet in the best episode of “The Walking Dead” Season 8. While this particular arc has been rather lackluster in terms of featuring warfare among all of the main characters, this episode makes up for the shortfalls in a balanced thrill ride. With nearly every single character at play and a mix of human and undead threats, this is yet another showcase of the series at its best.
With all of the forces situated at the Hilltop, the community is on high alert and that is apparent right off the bat as Morgan and several other fighters stand positioned to signal when the Saviors are on their way. There’s a brief and haunting moment wherein Morgan is distracted by a hallucination of Gavin, complete with the hole in his throat; the “ghost” appears several times throughout the episode at crucial moments for Morgan, something that is reminiscent to the hallucinations that Tyreese saw as he was dying in “What Happened and What’s Going On.” At the community, everyone is well aware that they are about to be attacked and they prepare for it. Henry tells Carol and Ezekiel that he will be out fighting along with everyone else, but this is immediately shut down and he is ordered to guard Barrington House from the inside. There’s also a moment that provides some backstory for Siddiq as he meets with Dana (Peggy Sheffield), the Kingdom doctor, who is both brash and critical of Siddiq’s ability to treat people; Siddiq actually stands up for himself and lets Dana know that he is here to help and will prove himself to everyone.
As night falls, there is an eeriness that sets in and the Savior caravan rolls up to the Hilltop walls. Simon and Dwight exit their vehicle and receive a radio call from none other than Maggie…Maggie Rhee: the Widow. She wants to speak to Negan, but he’s obviously MIA and instead warns Simon that any action against the Hilltop Colony will result in the 38 surviving Savior prisoners being executed. We know Maggie is teetering on the edge of a dark place and this is seen even more in her threat, which she voices right in front of Alden, Jared and several other prisoners. Simon flat out tells her that he doesn’t care about the prisoners and that they got themselves into the mess they are in; Gregory panics a bit and shares his concerns with Maggie, who lets him know that Simon is playing into her bigger plan. The stage has been set and Simon tells his people to get ready to kill everyone inside the community, but Dwight tries to warn him against this, noting that Negan will not be happy to learn that he went against direct orders. The past few episodes have shown that Simon is no longer afraid of Negan and that the dream of being leader is just within reach for him.
In typical Daryl Dixon fashion, he arrives on motorcycle with a rifle and takes out several of the Saviors before entering the Hilltop through the gate. Simon tails him in a truck, but is cut off right inside the community by a school bus that causes him to crash. Maggie gives the order and the militia begins firing on the Saviors from strategic points around the Hilltop; Jerry, Tobin, Eduardo and Kal fire from the lookout points while Carol, Ezekiel and Michonne take a ground approach. Dwight is caught in the gunfire with Simon, who gives the order for his own people to launch a counter-attack, shooting arrows soaked in guts at the Barrington House balcony from which Maggie is standing with several of the prisoners. In all of the chaos, Tobin is attacked by a Savior, who stabs him with an infected knife; Carol kills the Savior and comes to Tobin’s rescue alongside Siddiq, who vows to protect the injured Alexandrian. Elsewhere, Simon has his sights set on Tara, who is preoccupied with the ensuing gun battle; he creeps up behind her with an ax, but Dwight gets ahead of him and shoots Tara in the shoulder with an arrow, all the while Daryl watches and desperately tries to warn his friend. One slight complaint of this battle and the episode in general is the extreme darkness in which the action takes place, making it difficult to see some of what is happening; this is a recurring issue that is present during many of the action heavy-sequences.
This particular battle is split into two parts: the initial attack and the chase. The lights are knocked out at the community and Simon leads the Saviors right up to the front of Barrington House to finish what was started. He theorizes that those inside may have fled, but also lets out a creepy Savior whistle to let everyone know who’s in charge. Maggie’s strategy comes into play as lights turn on and gunfire erupts from the windows of the mansion, killing several Saviors and forcing the others to flee. The cavalry arrives with Rick, Morgan, Jesus, Scott, Bertie and others to assist in finishing off Simon’s team, but the surviving Saviors manage to escape in all of the chaos; Rick and Maggie chase them out of the Hilltop in a tense side-by-side shooting that ends in a touching conversation between the two leaders about their desire to kill Negan. It’s more than apparent from their talk that Rick isn’t trying to kill Negan just out of anger about Carl; he has in no way forgotten about what Negan did to Glenn and Abraham, and he wants to end the tyrant to bring peace to Maggie. While their interactions have been few and far between lately, the dynamic between Rick and Maggie is always fascinating to watch due to the mutual love and shared history between one another.
The full extent of the crisis isn’t apparent until the next morning when the damage is assessed. Bodies are collected and taken to the cemetery and the injured are treated. Tara is up and moving, something that Daryl criticizes, and uses the moment to express his anger toward Dwight; it seems as though Tara has learned from all that she has been through the past few episodes, with her telling Daryl that what Dwight did may have been warranted. This opens up a brilliant conversation between the two about their history, with Tara mentioning the fact that she was aligned with The Governor, as was Merle; Tara explains that had she and him not met Rick and the others, they could have ended up with the Saviors, something that Daryl shoots down, claiming that he would have seen the evil and jumped ship. There’s also a touching scene between Rick and Michonne inside the mansion that hints at the emotional struggle that they are going through after the death of Carl; Michonne knows to give Rick his space, but they do have a moment of unity. Later, Siddiq checks in on Rick and offers to treat his wounds while also sharing a prayer that brings him comfort. Rick shuts down the conversation and leaves, showcasing the fact that he hasn’t come to terms with Siddiq’s place among the group, especially following Carl’s recent death.
The events of the previous night really weigh heavily on everyone, but specifically Maggie. She pays a visit to the Hilltop cemetery where the fallen soldiers of the battle are laid to rest. She meets with Alden, who is being allowed to bury the deceased Saviors outside of the walls, under armed guard; Alden appreciates the fact that Maggie is treating the dead Saviors like people, something that Negan, Simon and the others likely don’t do. Dianne takes a moment to let Maggie know that she thinks that she is a great leader. Looking at the graves of the recently deceased, Maggie begins to wonder if she made the right call in sending the walker-gram to Negan and Simon, effectively poking the bear and leading them to attack the Hilltop. All Maggie wanted was to kill Negan, letting the last thing he see be Glenn’s grave (in her words); it’s even hinted in her dialogue that she would have risked dying herself to assure that Negan met his end. In the medical trailer, Carol speaks with Tobin about his injury, as well as their brief romantic fling that began in Season 6’s “Not Tomorrow Yet” and ended when Carol left Alexandria. Tobin wonders if there was anything real between them, to which Carol explains that she was just trying to fit into life at Alexandria; she wanted to settle, but quickly learned that nothing would ever be normal again. It’s great that the series referred back to this relationship as it seemed for the longest time that it had been forgotten, either intentionally or accidentally.
As night falls, there is a sense of calm in the air as it seems as though the battle is over. In reality, it is only just beginning. Maggie strolls through Barrington House, observing all of her people and the refugees that have crowded the mansion; there’s obviously not enough room for everyone to have a bed, so most people are forced to sleep on the floors. Inside the medical trailer, a chain of events kicks off as Tobin stops breathing and eventually reanimates, attacking a Hilltop resident as other injured survivors also awaken and get to their feet. Dana visits the infirmary and is stunned by the sight of blood just before she is bitten on the neck by walker Tobin. Inside Barrington House, Wesley, a long-lasting member of the community, resurrects and tumbles down the stairs as Tobin, Dana and several others enter the mansion; there are three issues here: (1) not a single person is immediately awaken by the loud noises the walkers are making, (2) there are apparently no guards on duty to alert anyone, even though they are still in the middle of a war and were just attacked, (3) the door to Barrington House is left wide open right after they were previously attacked, leaving those inside vulnerable to anything that happens to stroll in. These irritating problems aside, the slow attack of walkers is unsettling and downright terrifying to watch; these scenes in particular are reminiscent to Season 4’s “Internment” in which a similar incident happened to victims of the virus outbreak at the Prison.
As chaos breaks out inside, trouble arises outside as Henry pays a visit to the prisoner pen, armed with a rifle and ready to avenge Benjamin’s death. He clearly saw past the lie Morgan told him in “Dead or Alive Or” about Gavin being the one to kill his brother. Henry speaks to Gregory and questions why he is in with the prisoners if he didn’t do anything wrong; Gregory will do whatever it takes to save his own skin, but there is a sense of care here as it actually seems like he is trying to prevent Henry from doing something he can’t come back from. Screams can be heard from inside the mansion, but Henry doesn’t care and he enters the pen to scare the prisoners into telling him who killed Benjamin. Alden tries to talk him down, but Henry threatens to start shooting if no one steps forward. Suddenly, one of the injured Saviors turns and attacks, opening up the opportunity for Jared to knock Henry to the ground and lead an escape. Gregory looks down on Henry and leaves with the rest of the Saviors; he abandons a child in a dangerous place that is filled with walkers, so that stuff about him showing care was apparently mute. It’s a bit irritating that Henry is the one to screw up the situation with the prisoners, but can you really blame him? Much like Carl, Henry is being forced to grow up in a ruthless world where he can’t be a child anymore. He’s messed up and it would make sense that he would act like this. The real question is, where are the guards?
Inside the mansion, there is even more terror as the characters fend off the walkers and try to figure out exactly what the hell is even happening. It’s a terrifying scene as nearly every main, supporting and background character is at immediate risk with the darkness only adding to the confusion and panic. Inside a room, Tobin attacks Bertie, who is rescued by Carol in a tense standoff that ends the “romantic” fling once and for all. Rick, Carol, Maggie and Daryl stand over the body of Tobin, shocked and confused, but the realization of what is happening hits them. Maggie sums up the tactic in a single sentence, “we’re still working for Negan.” Bruce, an original Alexandrian, tearfully asks for someone to put him down, aware that he has been injured by an infected weapon and will also die; Maggie steps forward to do the deed, comforting Bruce in his final moments. Rick and Daryl go to check in on some of the other survivors that have hunkered down in a room, but also break the news to Tara; she was shot by an arrow that may or may not be infected, but she doesn’t seem concerned, she has accepted it. Outside, there is a bit of a turning point as Siddiq fends off walkers, but is rescued by Alden; he lets Maggie know about the escaped prisoners, but points out that he and others have chosen to stay and protect the community. As morning falls, Enid alerts Carol and Ezekiel to the fact that Henry has gone missing, something that sends them into a panic. Where did he go? Will he end up like Sophia?
— The Walking Dead World (@TWalkingDWorld) March 26, 2018
“Do Not Send Us Astray” is exactly what many have been asking for from the “All Out War” story arc. There is tons of action mixed in with the excellent group dynamic that the series is build upon. Having nearly every character engaged in a full-blown battle is simply epic and adds a layer of tension as it feels like anyone can be killed or injured at anytime. The humans aren’t the only threat as the walkers also wreck havoc, showing that they are still major players in the series eight seasons in. The human moments, particularly Maggie’s scenes at the cemetery, help to convey the cost of this war and the effect it is having on the characters. The interactions between the characters also showcase this and further the bonds the have been built over the years. Special praise must be given to Lauren Cohan, Melissa McBride, Lennie James and Andrew Lincoln for their performances this episode. The second half of Season 8 has been a massive step up from the first eight episodes and it seems as though the stakes will only continue to raise as the war reaches its end. Will there be more battles to come? Will there be more deaths? Will Negan get what’s coming to him? Will Tara’s time coming to an end?
Be sure to tune into “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.