Spoiler Warning for Season 8, Episode 14 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Lennie James as Morgan Jones. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

In “The Walking Dead,” the characters are forced to reflect on their pasts, their present and their futures. The latest episode focuses on this aspect of the story by having several of the most important players work together and discuss who they are as people. Everyone has shared trauma, but it is how the characters deal with that trauma that makes the story so fascinating. Much like the previous two episodes, this is yet another example of “The Walking Dead” at its best.

Jumping right into things, the episode flashes back to the Scavengers slaughter at the Heaps, featured in “The Lost and the Plunderers.” It is revealed that Jadis slipped away from the massacre and managed to play dead to avoid being executed; Savior Gary comes up on her “corpse” and spits on her, clearly disgusted at her betrayal. Some time passes and Jadis gets up and strips out of her signature clothing and into her white dress. Time jumps ahead to after she captured Negan and she enters her apartment, which looks like it belongs in an IKEA catalog; the clean and minimalist style is a jarring juxtaposition to the rank and unorganized mess of the Junkyard. For a moment, Jadis breaks down and cries as the gravity of her return to her empty home hits her. She equips herself with Lucille and opens a shipping container to collect Negan, who has been strapped to a makeshift wagon. “What the shit?” Negan hilariously asks as the Garbage Queen pulls him into the center of her Junkyard palace. This is the first time since she was introduced that Jadis looks “normal,” wearing a flannel jacket and tying her hair back; this seems to represent a new side of her character, moving past the cult-leader persona of before and moving toward a independent woman on her own future.

Pollyanna McIntosh as Jadis. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

There’s a unique and unexpected bond that forms between Jadis and Negan during the events of this episode. Jadis has Negan tied to the wagon as she prepares some sort of fire with salt, all the while checking her watch, seemingly waiting for something. Negan vehemently apologizes to Jadis for what Simon did…and he actually seems totally genuine. He reiterates his value that “people are a resource” and that he doesn’t just kill to kill; Jadis swings Lucille at Negan’s head in response, stopping just centimeters from murdering him Glenn-style. Moments later, Jadis leaves the area and Negan takes advantage of the situation by scooting himself over to a bag she had laid out. He removes a flare, a gun and a stack of Polaroid pictures as Jadis rolls out a dilapidated walker that is attached to a dolly, similar to Winslow from “New Best Friends.” Negan threatens to light the pictures on fire unless Jadis sets him free. She pleads for him not to go through with it, making it clear that the photos are the only thing she has left of her “old world.” Jadis is really worried about what Negan might do and her dialogue tells that she still places the blame of what happened to her people and to her on him. Simon may have given the order, but Negan created the environment in which it was allowed to happen.

An unexpected development comes from this as Negan opens up about his wife, named Lucille, who got him through life before the apocalypse; he explains that the bat is what has got him through life since his wife died, therefore Lucille the bat is the only thing he has left of her. While Negan did reveal a significant amount of backstory in “The Big Scary U” while talking to Father Gabriel, this is the first time that he mentions his wife by name. This serves as a fascinating comparison of these two characters as both of them have experienced loss and have their own ways of dealing with it; this is the show’s way of humanizing antagonists and providing some insight into why they are the way they are now. In a panic, Jadis tries to overpower Negan and retake the photos and flare as a helicopter rises from behind the trash heaps. The flare falls into a puddle and Jadis quickly leaves to retrieve another one as the helicopter hovers nearby before turning and flying off; Jadis yells and waves for the unknown pilot to see her, but to no luck. Broken down, Jadis threatens to set Lucille on fire, but ultimately drops to the ground before freeing Negan. Before he leaves, he extends an olive branch and offers her a place at the Sanctuary, to which she declines whilst looking at the photos; this is an open offer and Negan notes that he will return in the future to see if she changes her mind. Jadis returns to her apartment with her packed suitcase and collapses in the bed; whatever trip she just had was cancelled.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

After being freed from the Junkyard, Negan hightails it back home, but is shocked by someone he finds wandering on the side of the road. He lets the unknown person into his car and drives to the Sanctuary, shocking the Saviors on guard, who very much believed him to by dead after the car chase with Rick. From his dialogue, it is more apparent that Negan has some business to deal with once inside. The identity of Negan’s pickup is just one of the major mysteries of this episode. There are three prime suspects that immediately come to mind: Laura, Sherry and Gregory. Laura makes the most sense seeing as how she has been missing since Dwight gunned down his fellow Saviors, but missed her; Sherry is also a possibility seeing as how she hasn’t been seen since Season 7 after freeing Daryl from the Sanctuary. It could be Gregory, but this wouldn’t necessarily move the plot forward like Sherry and Laura, as they would both blow Dwight’s cover wide open. The other mystery of the episode is the enigmatic helicopter that appears over the Junkyard; while this helicopter was first seen in “The King, the Widow, and Rick,” it becomes a clear plot point here as Jadis seems to be fully aware of it and may have had some sort of arrangement to be on board. The only theory that holds weight at the moment is that the helicopter belongs to Georgie’s group and that she and her people are returning to their home; this plays into the larger theory that Georgie belongs to the Commonwealth, a massive community in Ohio that is featured in the comic books. Is it possible that Georgie’s group flew to Virginia to recruit and are now headed back? Or is this a completely different group that has yet to be introduced?

The other bulk of this episode follows the characters at the Hilltop following the battle. Carol chops woods before speaking with Ezekiel about the escape of the prisoners and the disappearance of Henry. The King is terrified for Henry and points out that Carol believes him to be dead, but a divide forms when Ezekiel claims that she is being “stopped by cowardice.” Nearby, Tara meets with Daryl and lets him know that a day has passed and that she seems to be in the clear when it comes to the infection; Daryl calls Tara a “tough son-of-a-bitch,” a title he gave to Glenn and Hershel in Season 4. Tara deduces that Dwight shot her with a clean arrow, but Daryl isn’t buying it and explains that he still doesn’t trust him at all; there’s a rapid turnaround in Tara’s character as she credits Dwight for saving her life, showing that she has learned from her past mistakes and now knows not to act solely out of revenge. The story checks in with Michonne, who has decided to read Carl’s letter to her, causing her to tear up and seek comfort in Rick. She questions if he has read the letter Carl wrote to him, something that Rick hasn’t been able to do yet. Michonne tells him that he needs to read the letter immediately, citing the fact that writing it was one of the last things that Carl did in his life. She also brings up her deceased son Andre (for the first time since Season 4) and explains that Andrea stopped her from going further down her dark path after he died. In an episode filled with callbacks to the show’s past, this is one of the best because it highlights the fact that Michonne was able to move forward after the worst trauma.

Danai Gurira as Michonne (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

At the Hilltop, there’s a heavy feeling of sadness as Rick sits with Judith, but stares at Carl’s hat. He’s going through a lot and decides to leave the community to get away from it all for a bit. He speaks with Alden about where the Saviors may have escaped to and there’s a bit of trust present as Rick accepts the information that he is given; Alden points Rick to a dive bar nearby, but also asks that he try not to kill all of the prisoners, rather offer them a choice to return to the Hilltop. Alden is a unique character in the sense that he clearly has humanity, unlike many of the Saviors, and really just wants to help out Rick’s group, even though they are hesitant to trust him fully. Meanwhile, Maggie meets with Dianne, Rosita and Daryl to discuss the ammo shortage at the Hilltop. Daryl theorizes that the Saviors must be low on ammo following their escape from the Sanctuary, but Rosita reminds everyone that Eugene is well-equipped to produce bullets at the factory he found. Later in the episode, Rosita and Daryl have positioned themselves outside of the factory with a clear line of sight on Eugene; Rosita tells Daryl that destroying the machines is not the objective here, it is to take out Eugene. Would Rosita really kill her “former traveling companion”? She did give the order to blow him up in the Season 7 Finale, so this is something that she is definitely capable of doing. These are two characters that have a deep shared history, so it will be interesting to see how this plan progresses over the course of these next two episodes. After all that they have been through, it would be utterly devastating for Rosita to have to kill Eugene, but maybe she will be able to turn him back to the side of Team Family.

One of the best aspects of “The Walking Dead” is the all-star team ups and this episode is filled with them. One of the best is Carol and Morgan, an amazing unit since the start of Season 6. Carol questions why Morgan is planning on leaving to hunt down the prisoners to which he rambles about it being what he’s supposed to do; she agrees to tag along with him and the two head out. While on the trail of the escapees, Carol finds a turnip from the Hilltop, but Morgan has his eyes on something else; he spots Henry running through the forest and chases after him. Carol follows closely behind as Morgan comes up behind Henry, only to find out that it is only a hallucination that screams out the same line that Ghost Gavin did in the previous episode. They make their way onto a road, but are stopped by a passing herd of walkers ahead. A lone walker appears, causing immense worry when Carol spots Henry’s staff stuck through it. Tears fill Carol’s eyes as she asks Morgan to help her look for Henry, but he flat out tells her that he is dead and that there is no point in looking for him. Carol and Morgan have a moving conversation about them not being able to save the dead; this plays into a larger theme wherein Carol “saves people” and Morgan “watches people die.” It’s here that Carol points out that Morgan did in fact save her life after she left Alexandria in Season 6. Nothing can stop Morgan though; he believes he’s cursed to a life of seeing people die and clearing those that get in his way.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones and Joshua Mikel as Jared. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Something that has been lacking lately is the Rick and Morgan dynamic, but this episode makes up for its absence by sending the two on a mission to hunt down the prisoners together. They cross paths in the forest and Morgan is in such a bad place mentally that he doesn’t even recognize Rick; “you know me,” Rick tells Morgan to try to bring him back, a chilling callback to their first interaction in Season 3’s masterpiece “Clear.” They stay on the Savior trail and eventually come across an amputated arm and leg before being knocked out by an unseen force in a lame commercial cliffhanger. The next scene shows that Rick and Morgan have been captured and taken to the dive bar by the POW group, led by Jared; there are several injured members of the group, including those that were bit and amputated during the Hilltop attack. Jared tries to come up with a plan to get Rick back to the Sanctuary, but Rick tries to sway the others into releasing him and coming back to the Hilltop to join the community and leave the Saviors behind. Jared doesn’t buy what Rick is selling and even Morgan calls this out, reiterating his desire to kill all of the prisoners and put an end to it. There is a fantastic back-and-forth between Jared and Morgan as the “rat-faced prick” mentions the events of “Bury Me Here,” when Morgan strangled Richard to death in front of everyone. A herd is drawn into the bar and chaos is unleashed, forcing everyone to make difficult snap-decision choices about their futures; where do loyalties lie and can enemies be given second chances?

Rick has always been an admirable man who does whatever it takes to protect his family while still holding onto his humanity. This episode shows him give his word to the Saviors that they will be protected if they switch sides; he even repeats his line from “Monsters” about “a man’s word.” As the walkers pile in, a few of the Saviors make the decision to not only help Rick and Morgan, but to save their lives and fight beside them. Just as it seems as though a bridge has been built and new allies have been created, Rick gives Morgan the signal to “clear” and the two slaughter the Saviors that just helped them. It’s horrific to see the sudden turn, and while it makes perfect sense for him to be ruthless like this during a time of uncertainty and mourning (especially considering he is wearing his iconic “murder jacket”), one has to bring up the fact that this is not what Carl would have wanted. Morgan chases Jared into a billiards room, where he hallucinates Henry once again before being attacked by Jared. There is a tense standoff that ends in Jared being cornered and pinned down to a fence by Morgan as he is devoured by walkers. When its all said and done, the bar is a disturbing sight as bodies, blood and guts lay scattered all over the floor. Rick tries to speak with Morgan, asking him why he saved him all the way at the start of the series; Morgan hesitates to respond at first, overcome with emotion, but then states “because my son was there.” This heartbreaking conversation mirrors what Carol said to Morgan earlier; Morgan isn’t cursed like he said, because he saved Rick’s life…right at the start of it all.

Macsen Lintz as Henry and Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The remainder of this episode is a fitting conclusion to the arcs featured here. As Carol is traveling back to the Hilltop, she finds a bloody piece of armor and hears the screams of Henry from nearby. She rushes to a creek area and finds him pinned behind tree roots as walkers claw and grab for him. Carol manages to save him and the two embrace in a hug as they both apologize for the mistakes they made. If this area looks familiar, it is because this scene was intentionally filmed to mirror the scene in the Season 2 Premiere when Rick hides Sophia behind tree roots in a creek (the exact same filming spot was used 6 seasons apart). Sophia was lost and ended up dead; Henry was lost and ended up found. While nothing will ever fill the void of her daughter, the survival of Henry proves that Carol is not cursed like the deaths of Sophia, Sam, Mika and Lizzie might have you believe. Carol and Henry return to the Hilltop, much to the surprise and joy of Jerry and Ezekiel. Just a small note, Jerry is pretty much the best person ever as he maintains his sense of humor and happiness during the bleakness of the war. There’s also a touching scene wherein Ezekiel apologizes to Carol for guilting her into searching for Henry (why didn’t he go out and look for him?), before she opens up to him about Sophia; she mentions that she was nothing after the death of her daughter, but that her new family got her through it and helped make her into the person she is today. This may just be a huge turning point for Carol as she finally realizes that she can live and be part of the group without the constant worry and fear that everyone she loves may die; if that does happen, she can and will come back from it and be stronger than ever.

There’s another reunion of sorts as Rick returns with Morgan, who tells Henry that he killed the man responsible for his brother’s death; Henry is actually somewhat disturbed by this and expresses his sadness that Morgan had to kill. Regardless, Benjamin has finally been avenged and those close to him may finally have some closure. Inside their room, Michonne checks in on Rick and the two have a beautiful moment where they confess their love for one another; they embrace and Rick apologizes for going behind her back. There haven’t been many cheery moments between these two in a while, mostly because Carl literally just died, but its always great when they are able to connect. They are simply perfect for each other and this episode shows that while they may not always be on the same page, their connection is unbreakable. Rick then opens Carl’s letter to him and begins to read as the camera focuses in on his face in the mirror, hinting that Carl’s words to him may have a resounding effect that “brings him back” from the dark place he’s in now. If Rick would have read the letter before going after the prisoners, would he have acted differently? Would he have as much blood on his hands? Is there a way back from him or his he teetering in “too far gone” territory?

If the past three episodes and this half-season so far have shown anything, it’s that “The Walking Dead” works best when all of the characters are together and interacting with one another. This show is built on the character relationships and dynamics, something that these episodes have really focused on. This episode in particular features some amazing storylines between characters that have shared trauma and history, specifically Rick, Michonne, Carol and Morgan, all of whom have lost children to the same apocalypse. This chapter of All Out War is about the grief that can overcome someone and break them down, but that there is always a way back from it if the person works toward it. There are a plethora of strong performances, particularly from Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Pollyanna McIntosh, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Macsen Lintz and Joshua Mikel. However, the absolute standouts are Melissa McBride and Lennie James, who prove themselves to be among the finest performers on television in this heartbreaking and cathartic hour as they figure out who they are. It’s clear that Morgan is continuing to spiral out of control and is becoming more disturbed by this war; will this be what sends him west to Texas for the crossover with “Fear the Walking Dead”? What will the final two hours of All Out War hold?

Be sure to tune into “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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Jeffrey Kopp is the Editor-in-Chief of the Niner Times. He is a senior double majoring in Communication and Political Science. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead." Reach him at editor@ninertimes.com or @JeffreyKopp97 on Twitter.

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