Jeffrey Kopp

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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.

Retroactive: The Pop Culture that Shaped Us

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Jeffrey Kopp (A&E Editor)

Movie: “Tarzan” (1999) – This is a film that hits me in the feels every single time that I watch it. The soundtrack by Phil Collins adds so much emotional depth to the movie; “Two Worlds” and “You’ll Be in My Heart” are the definite standouts. This is by far my favorite Disney movie of all time; just thinking about it makes me want to find my copy of the VHS tape and take a trip back to the jungle.

Song: “Hey Ya!” (2003) by OutKast– The lyric, “shake it like a Polaroid picture” has been repeating on a loop in my head since 2003. The catchy beat immediately transports me back to the simpler times of elementary school; the deeper meaning behind the song flew over my head as a child, but I’ve been able to appreciate it more as an adult. This is a song that has stood the test of time and is definitely one of my all time favorites.

TV Show: “SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-Present) –  Every generation has something that culturally defines them. In the case of millennials, that is Nickelodeon’s most iconic cartoon. I have so many fond memories of watching “SpongeBob” with my parents and friends, laughing at the absurd scenarios and jokes that have evolved into memes in recent years. Without any doubt, “Pizza Delivery” and “Band Geeks” are two of the greatest episodes in television history.

“Breakaway” album cover courtesy of Walt Disney/RCA

Stephanie Trefzger (Assistant A&E Editor)

Movie: “Twister” (1996) – Granted, I only saw this movie once as a child, but it probably had the biggest impact on my life.  It scared the absolute hell out of me, and I had nightmares about tornadoes ripping through my house. In an attempt to assuage my fears, my mother encouraged me to learn more about tornadoes, and suddenly I was obsessed with weather.  Despite the science in the movie being outdated, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton inspire a love and fascination for storm chasing in me to this day, and it has been my dream job for the better part of my life. If only my mother would let me.

Song: “Breakaway” (2004) by Kelly Clarkson – I love drama, and this song, as well as the album by the same name is full of it.  When I was in the car and I heard the opening notes, I would immediately stare out the window like Clarkson describes and acted like I was in a music video.  This album is also part of the reason I have trust issues; upon its release in 2004, it was the only Christmas gift I asked for from my parents. My dad, however, bought 2003’s “Thankful.”  While this is an excellent album, I felt disappointed and betrayed.

TV Show: “Shark Week” (1988-Present) – Ok, so this is more an annual event than an actual TV show, but I got super hyped for it every year (and still do).  Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but I have always loved the ocean, and after my disillusionment with dolphins, I became enamored with sharks instead. Due to my obsessive nature, I learned and accumulated enough knowledge about them over the last few years that I am able to take the fun out of any shark movie fairly quickly.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.

Hunter Heilman (Editor-in-Chief)

Movie: “She’s the Man” (2006) – At the time, “She’s the Man” was basically the funniest film I had ever seen in my entire life. This 2006 teen adaption of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” was Amanda Bynes at her most charming, the 2000s at their most iconic, and teen comedies at their most genuine. Everything about this movie is peak nostalgia and perfect memories of a much simpler time.

Song: “The ABBA Generation” (1999) by A*Teens– There is no album I have listened to and loved more in my life than Swedish pop group the A*Teens’ 1999 debut album, The ABBA Generation. Comprised of nothing but ABBA covers, I was exposed to the magic of both teen pop and disco music all in one go. Personal favorites of the album are “Mamma Mia,” “Voulez Vous” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” the latter of which still remains my favorite music video of all time. I love this album so much I can get emotional over it.

TV Show: “What I Like About You” (2002-2006)– I had a bit of a thing for Amanda Bynes when I was younger, as I simply found her to be the funniest person working in media targeted to people my age. I didn’t discover “What I Like About You” until shortly after it was canceled in 2006, but like “She’s the Man,” it showcased Bynes’ talents as more than just a child star. The chemistry in the hilarious cast and absolute lunacy of much of the show’s plot only cemented it more as my favorite sitcom ever.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Kathleen Cook (Sports Editor)

Movie: “The Lion King” (1994)– I loved the songs and the characters – Timon was my favorite. I’ve actually never watched the scene where the dad dies though.

Song: “Come in Eileen” (1982) by Dexys Midnight Runners– I thought it was actually “Come on Kathleen,” because my mom would always sing “Kathleen.” I was heartbroken when I first heard the song without my mom singing it and realized it was Eileen and not Kathleen.

TV Show: “Dragon Tales” (1999-2005)– I had the stuffed animals for all of the characters and had a dance routine I would do to their song.

Album art courtesy of Universal Records.

Alex Sands (News Editor)

Movie: “Beethoven” (1992)– I had three St. Bernards growing up and they all were as crazy as Beethoven in this film. They’re big slobbery messes with really big hearts and lots of love. The film is not only a nostalgic early 90s film, but it hits home.

Song: “Leave (Get Out)” (2004) by JoJo– I recently rediscovered this banger song. The only problem is the real version is not on Spotify. So whenever I want to listen to it in the car, I force myself to listen to D-Money’s remix. You may ask “Who is D-Money?” I don’t know, but he should stop rapping.

TV Show: “Lizzie McGuire” (2001-2004)– I would like to give a shout out to Bitmoji for fulfilling my childhood dream of having my own animated version of myself like Lizzie McGuire. I was a die-hard Hilary Duff fan when I was kiddo and watched the episodes over and over. To this day, I still ship her and Gordo.

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

Josh Worley (Video Editor)

Movie: “Gone With The Wind” (1940)– Growing up, I first remember watching this movie with my grandma. The movie takes place in a time period that I am most fond of from a historical perspective.

Song: “Africa” (1982) by Toto– Whoever says it’s not, can choke.

TV Show: “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)- The greatest cartoon to ever grace this universe. There were deep moments that, when you were a kid you didn’t really think about, but they hit home now.

Photo courtesy of Jive Records.

Hailey Turpin (Lifestyle Editor)

Movie: “Peter Pan” (1953)– I wanted to be apart of Peter’s Lost Boys and I would jump off the couch to try to fly like him. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Song: “Oh Aaron” (2001) and “Not Too Young, Not Too Old” (2001) by Aaron Carter– My sister and I religiously listened to Aaron Carter back in the 2000’s. I have no other words besides talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique.

TV Show: “The Fairly Odd Parents” (2001-Present) and “My Life As A Teenage Robot” (2003-2009)– As an elementary school kid I was very particular about the shows I watched, and those two were the most interesting to me! The graphics and storylines were so good, and still are. I will always love Chip Skylark.

Photo courtesy of Cartoon Network.

Pooja Pasupula (Photo Editor)

Movie: “Toy Story” (1995)– While Toy Story is not my number one favorite Pixar movie, it’s the movie that always reminds me of my childhood and brings me the most nostalgia. This movie was always playing on every TV when I was a child and there are so many iconic characters and scenes encased in it. It made childhood seem like the best thing ever to be apart of. The whole series is centered around the inescapable circumstance of growing up, and being hit with that inevitability as a child was always hard for me. The whole series brings back memories of clinging to childhood and not wanting things to change.

Song: “… Baby One More Time” (1998) by Britney Spears– A timeless classic that never fails to make me smile or sing along. I was never exposed to music as a child and when my aunt found out she started to play Spears’ album around the tiny townhome she shared with my family. It’s the first song I have any memory of. At the age of four, I had no concept of what dancing was, so I would skip around our townhome to the beat of this song as my way to jam along to it. Hearing this song throws me back to that memory and the nostalgia of what the 90’s/early 2000’s era felt like.

TV Show: “Teen Titans” (2003-2006)– I’ve always been enamored with superheroes and watching this show as a child was what sparked my adoration for them. While Wonder Woman and Batman have been my core favorites for most of my life, the Teen Titans were my first love. I used to feel very vulnerable and helpless as a child, but watching teen superheroes kick ass gave me hope to one day be as strong and brave as they are. They were who I looked up to and idolized.

Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema/Warner Home Video.

Leysha Caraballo (Photo Editor)

Movie: “Elf” (2003)– Watching “Elf” every Christmas season with my family was one of my favorite traditions growing up. Will Ferrell is so over the top ridiculous, as usual, but in a heartwarming way in this movie.

Song: “Numb” (2003) by Linkin Park– Linkin Park’s “Numb” showed me that music didn’t have to fit the pop music mold. I may have been a bit melodramatic, but I connected to the sound and message of the music. They were my absolute favorite band throughout my adolescence.

TV Show: “That’s So Raven” (2003-2007)– This show never got old for me, to the point where I watched multiple all-day marathons. Raven had sass, attitude and confidence – all of my favorite things!

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

Mia Shelton (Opinion Editor)

Movie: Seventeen Again” (2000)– Not the one with Zac Efron, but the one with Tia and Tamera Mowry. I loved this movie because it was a unique and fun concept; grandparents using soap that their grandson accidently spilled his science experiment on that makes them seventeen again was fun to watch. I also love Tia and Tamera and seeing them on television and acting started my passion for acting. Also the grandfather is very cute when he turns seventeen.

Song: Circle of Life” (2004) by the Disney Channel Circle of Stars– I loved it because it had all of my favorite actors and actresses sing in the song like Raven Symone, Christy Carlson Romano, Hilary Duff, Tahj Mowrey and many more. Hearing their unique voices combined on one of Disney’s greatest song from its most notorious movie was very moving and fun to sing along to.

TV Show: Kenan and Kel” (1996-2000)– I loved this show, because they always made laugh. Kel’s obsession with orange soda and Kenan’s elaborate plans to make money made my stomach hurt from laughing.

Photo courtesy of Reprise Records.

Emily Hickey (Managing Editor)

Movie: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)– When I was four, I watched it every day for a year and insisted that my mom dress me up in my Dorothy dress and put my hair in the two braids. Every time I watch it now I am reminded of my childhood love for the movie and for the amazing soundtrack (that I still know by heart).

Song: “Landslide” (1975) by Fleetwood Mac– My aunt used to burn her favorite songs onto CD’s and give them to my mom, and as soon as my sisters and I listened to “Landslide,” it was immediately our favorite song and has been throughout our lives. When I was three, I put on a performance of the song in front of all of my extended family.

TV Show: “Ghost Whisperer” (2005-2010)– Starting in elementary school, every Friday my dad and I would watch the new episode aired at 8 p.m. Despite after a few years it scared me too much to continue watching it, it’s still my favorite because of the time spent with my dad.

Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox.

Daniel Head (Technical Director)

Movie: “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977)– Duh! I watched this movie and fell in love with the “Star Wars” universe. I was obsessed with the idea of intergalactic travel and warfare, and loved the characters. Everything about the movie was great to me, and I’m still obsessed with “Star Wars.”

Song: “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” (2005) by Panic! At the Disco– I loved the sound song, and pretty much all of my friends did too. Just singing along with all my friends makes it memorable.

TV Show: “Stargate SG-1” (1997-2007)– I grew up with it and, again, I was obsessed with science fiction and the characters. I think that just the depth of the characters and the universe was enough to make me look forward to next week’s episode; to see some awesome new world, new alien race, or new piece of technology. A good plot was just the cherry on top for me back then.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Angie Baquedano (Assistant Lifestyle Editor)

Movie: “Hercules” (1997)– I love Disney and I practically grew up on it, and when they introduced the movie they brought in my love for Greek mythology. The music was exceptional and I had the BIGGEST crush on Hercules (or should I say HUNK-ules).

Song: “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) by Elvis– I’ve had this really weird obsession with him since I was a kid. I can’t explain why or how this happened, but it did and I’m actually his wife, so…surprise.

TV Show: “Rocket Power,” (1999-2004) “Cat Dog” (1998-2005) and “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)– It might be impossible for me to choose just one for this. Apart from being a Disney kid, I was definitely a Nickelodeon child.

Album art courtesy of RCA Records/Columbia Records.

Madison Dobrzenski (Assistant Opinion Editor)

Movie: “The Ultimate Christmas Present” (2000)– I loved this movie so much as a kid, and to this day I can’t really explain why. I think it’s just because I also didn’t experience a lot of snow, so I empathized with them? I also loved anything Brenda Song was in when I was a kid, so that might have had something to do with it.

Song: “Girlfriend” (2007) by Avril Lavigne– I used to blare this song with my friends when I was in elementary school, despite being absolutely no one’s love interest, because we were like 12. I can still throw down to it to this day.

TV Show: “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” (2005-2008)– I loved this show for a lot of reasons. One, there was a smart character with the same name as me. Secondly, I always felt “different” because the show paints Zack out to be the cute and cool twin, but I had a crush on Cody.

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘Another Day in the Diamond’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, Episode 2 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark and Jenna Elfman as Naomi. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

All that is old has not been thrown away for the new as the second episode of “Fear the Walking Dead’s” fourth season proves that it still has a strong connection to its roots. By picking up with the original band of characters and establishing a separate timeline, the story connects with Season 3 and sets its course for the future. With a aura of mystery and intrigue, as well as a plethora of even more fascinating new players, the series seems to be charting a path for its best season yet.

BEFORE

All is peaceful in the world of “Fear the Walking Dead” as Alicia, Luciana, Nick and Strand wake up and prepare for their day of work at “The Diamond,” a baseball field that has been built up into a community. There’s a brilliant connection to the first season as Madison speaks with a young girl named Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), who recently arrived at the community and is struggling to fit in; Madison’s guidance counselor persona comes out as she speaks with Charlie in a calm and comforting demeanor, attempting to make the child feel at home and like she can open up. It’s worth noting that Madison actually looks happy and content, even as it is hinted that she is experiencing some form of mental trauma; when Alicia checks in on her mother, Madison mistakenly calls her “Nick.” It’s also revealed that Madison is getting very little sleep and is working overtime to assure that Charlie has a adequate place to be a child. At the dining area, Strand surprises Alicia, Nick and Luciana with syrup, a rare commodity in the apocalypse, as a celebration of them being at the Diamond for one full year. Viewers are also given their first look at a possible new love interest for Strand in the form of Cole (Sebastian Sozzi), who seems to be quite flirtatious; typical Strand is playing hard to get, but his reasoning is given plenty of explanation throughout the episode.

Danay García as Luciana Galves and Colman Domingo as Victor Strand. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The main timeline of this episode is obviously set prior to the events of “What’s Your Story?,” as the characters are far less rugged and savage at the Diamond then when they cross paths with Morgan, Althea and John. Madison and the others have built something special with this community and it is clear that they intend on making it their permanent residence. Nick is responsible for growing and maintaining the crops, something that he believes will be the prime factor in their long-term survival. In the conversation Madison has with Charlie, it is revealed that she was separated from her parents and eventually found her way to the Diamond. Madison puts together a team to go out and search for the family, but some of the Diamond residents are worried seeing as how they would be venturing outside of a pre-established perimeter. It is decided that the search team will include Madison, Strand, Luciana and Alicia; there’s more flirtation and love game-playing between Strand and Cole, who offers to tag along. Nick says goodbye to Luciana and asks her to promise to come back, poking fun at her decision to leave the Broke Jaw Ranch in Season 3’s “Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame.” Nick is noticeably hesitant to leave the community, something that Luciana brings up to Madison in the car; his time in the apocalypse has definitely left him with some major PTSD, a factor that is further explored in the episode.

Whilst driving to the location that Charlie pointed out, the family dynamic of the group of survivors comes out as Madison urges Strand to have a drink with Cole; he shuts this down, stating that she is his only drinking buddy. Nick radios into Luciana to let the group know that the Diamond’s garden has been infested with weevils and that the crops must be burned to prevent it from spreading; this may just be a minor plot point, but it is worth noting that the Kingdom’s royal garden in “The Walking Dead” was also infested with weevils. The foursome arrives in a town and decide to split up to cover more ground with Madison and Alicia driving around while Strand and Luciana explore a store. There seems to be a rather unexpected friendship that has formed between Strand and Luciana; they discuss Strand’s bewilderment that Madison would come to trust him again after he betrayed everyone at the Gonzalez Dam, a point that Luciana encourages them to talk about with each other. Something easy to miss is the fact that Strand now carries a piece of the Dam’s rubble as a constant reminder of what he did and the consequences it had. Victor is a character that has come such a long way since the start of the series and it looks as though Season 4 will finally peel back his layers and show his human side in a way that has never been explored.

Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark – (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

This episode serves to introduce a new character as Madison and Alicia scout the area looking for signs of Charlie’s family. They discover oil tanks that seemed to have partially exploded, along with a large white flag with a number on it, similar to the one found by Althea last episode. The whole location appears to be completely devoid of people and Infected, but Madison finds a can of food and realizes they aren’t alone. Suddenly, a gun is pulled on Madison by a woman, later named Naomi (Jenna Elfman), who orders her to hand over her keys. Madison cleverly sends a warning signal via her radio, alerting Alicia, Strand and Luciana that she is in danger. The trio arrive and attempt to talk Naomi down, but she tries to flee up to the top of one of the oil tanks; Madison and Alicia follow closely behind, offering her a place at the Diamond and questioning if she is Charlie’s mother. The roof of the tank collapses, dropping Naomi into a oily mess of Infected, but Madison jumps in to to help her fight them off; it is slightly unexpected to see Madison risk her life like this to help a stranger, but she really seems to have changed during the time jump. The two make a great team as they fight off the horrifying Infected while Alicia and Strand work to open the hatch of the tank, sending oil and Infected spilling out. This results in a great action sequence as everyone kills Infected, getting themselves covered in the sticky and slimy mess. Once again, “Fear the Walking Dead” proves, like its big sister, that there are millions of ways to have thrilling zombie action.

Night falls as the scouting group collects themselves and figures out what to do next. Luciana finds the book “The Little Prince,” which she keeps to bring back for Charlie. Naomi officially introduces herself to the group and provides a small tidbit of backstory, hinting that she has been floating around from place to place for the duration of the apocalypse. Alicia questions how exactly the Infected got into the tank, deducing that someone must have put them in there. The sound of Infected nearby prompts Luciana to fearfully rally the crew to head back home. At the Diamond, Nick becomes a bit worried as his family has yet to return. After burning some of the crops, he begins hearing music being played nearby and enlists the help of Charlie to investigate. Nick takes a car and nervously drives out of the Diamond, but he begins to have traumatic flashbacks to the explosion of the Dam, with footage from “Sleigh Ride” playing to remind viewers of what went down. He ends up panicking at the sight of Infected and crashes the car into a post, becoming surrounded; fortunately, Cole snipes some of the Infected and clears a path. Madison also arrives with her team to assist in getting Nick back inside. The circumstances of Nick’s survival after the Dam explosion seem to be a mystery that will be explored, possibly explaining the absence of Daniel; is it possible that Daniel sacrificed himself to save Nick, leaving him with survivor’s guilt?

Frank Dillane as Nick Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

This episode really serves to set up Charlie as a player in the season’s story. Madison returns and checks in on her and questions what exactly happened at her old camp. She really doesn’t open up at all, but the reason becomes apparent later in the episode. More backstory is provided for Naomi as the characters learn that she is a nurse, having worked in an ER before the apocalypse. Madison speaks with Naomi about the community, revealing that after her arrival, there are now 48 survivors living at the Diamond. There’s a great moment that showcases how hard of time Naomi has had when she is stunned by the fact that the community has hot running water for showers. Outside of the stadium, Strand and Cole retrieve the car that Nick crashed; Luciana speaks with Cole via radio from her lookout post and lets him know that Strand definitely has the hots for him. The mood dramatically shifts as Luciana spots a caravan of vehicles pulling into the parking lot in ominous fashion; she calls Strand and Cole back into the community as Alicia secures the gate and orders the residents to empty the armory and prepare to defend the Diamond. The survivors look on at an eccentric man riding a bicycle around and drawing the nearby Infected into a trailer before spray painting the number “12” on a flag. Another man, later named Mel (Kevin Zegers), plants himself in a lawn chair as his people settle themselves in the parking lot. This is an eerie and disconcerting scene to watch play out, especially because the new band of characters seem to be extremely organized and calculated.

Madison proves herself to be an exceptional leader as she exits the safety of the Diamond and walks up to Mel alone, yet fully confident. Madison speaks with Mel about what went down at the oil tanks prior to her finding them, but Mel rejects that he did anything wrong. Things get somewhat predictable as Mel begins talking about the problems inside the community, even mentioning Nick by name; it is revealed that Charlie was a spy that planted herself inside the stadium to relay information back to Mel’s group. Charlie reunites with Mel, much to the dismay of Nick, who has always had a strong paternal instinct when it comes to children. Mel tells Madison that his group found Charlie some time back and has been using her ever since. An ultimatum is presented to Madison by Mel: either she hand over the supplies that the community possesses, allowing them to join the larger group, or slowly die and have what’s left be picked over by his group. The two have a discussion about what it takes to survive in the new world and Mel points out that Madison just doesn’t have it, stating that she hasn’t been tested enough. Viewers know most of what she’s been through (minus the missing year or so) and have seen her be tested time and time again. Still, it is more than apparent that Mel’s group is here to stay and they may just be the first major villain group in “Fear the Walking Dead.”

Alexa Nisenson as Charlie and Kevin Zegers as Mel. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

The next bit of the episode serves to transition between the two established timelines and provide hints of how they will eventually merge. The survivors seem to grow weary as day comes and Mel’s group is still camped in the parking lot, seeming to have established their next home at the Diamond. Luciana decides to exit the community and offer the copy of “The Little Prince” to Charlie, showcasing her good nature and kindness; this is somewhat of a juxtaposition to her character in Season 2 when Luciana’s primary mission was protecting La Colonia from threats, leading her to lambaste Nick for retrieving a candy bar for a young resident. At the garden, Nick realizes that the weevil problem is worsening, symbolizing the slowly deteriorating state of affairs at the community following the arrival of Mel’s group. The various residents notice that Madison has continued work on the room for Charlie in the dugout and decide to assist, hinting that the young girl may have a place in the community if they can get her away from Mel. There is an excellent transition between timelines as Madison swings her hammer, cutting to a shot of Nick doing the same in the “present day” story.

NOW

Following their capture, Morgan, John and Althea are zip-tied and held by Nick, Alicia, Luciana and Strand. Althea jumps up after Nick begins rifling through her belongings and discovers her video camera. After rummaging through the SWAT van, Luciana finds one of the numbered flags and questions if Althea has ties to “them,” which viewers are now aware is Mel’s group, aptly named “The Vultures” by Strand. Althea tries to get the group to lower their guns and have a civil conversation, to which Alicia tells her to take them to where they found the flag. Everyone piles into the truck and heads off down the road. Two episodes in and the mystery surrounding the past/present timelines has been given some context, but there is a lot of questions to be answered still; where is Madison and the rest of the community? Did something happen at the Diamond to cause everyone else to die or be taken over by the Vultures? Just how much time has passed between the two points?

“Another Day in the Diamond” is an excellent follow up to the Season Premiere, and certainly makes up for the under-utilization of the original characters. Catching up with Madison, Nick, Alicia, Strand and Luciana in the community that they created is rewarding and allows for some brilliant development and interactions. Season 4 has really emphasized the mystery and intrigue element, something that looks to be a recurring storytelling technique moving forward. It will be interesting to see if the series fills in the missing pieces of what happened between the third and fourth seasons, specifically in how the characters survived, reunited and ended up in Texas. This episode serves to establish a multitude of fascinating arcs that will play out over the course of the season, while also introducing more characters; Jenna Elfman brings a lot to the table with Naomi, as does Kevin Zegers with Mel. Hopefully, these two characters are given time to develop and share their backstory as both seem to be multi-layered and filled with depth. If the rest of the season is anywhere near the level of these first two episodes, fans are in for a thrilling and frightening new era of “Fear the Walking Dead.

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

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘What’s Your Story?’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 4 Premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Maggie Grace as Althea, Lennie James as Morgan Jones – (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

Worlds have officially collided as “The Walking Dead” crosses over with “Fear the Walking Dead” in a historical event that will redefine the franchise forever. After two decent seasons and one brilliant season, AMC’s zombie spinoff series has reinvented itself with a new batch of characters and a fresh location. There are a handful of issues, mostly in regards to the underutilization of original characters in this premiere. Still, this episode serves as a transition to the show’s new era, one that looks to be extremely promising.

In order to recap the events of the episode in coherent fashion, events will be discussed in chronological order. This episode is mostly centered around the character of Morgan Jones (Lennie James), a staple in “The Walking Dead” since the Pilot. Following the success of Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom in All Out War, Morgan relocates to the Heaps to spend his time alone as seen in the Season 8 Finale. A significant amount of time has passed since the end of the war, as noted by the growth of crops. Jesus (Tom Payne) pays a visit to Morgan to try to convince him to return to the rest of the communities, noting that the reason Morgan fought in the war was because he cares about people. Sometime later, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) stops by and asks Morgan to rejoin her at the Kingdom, letting him know that he belongs with people that care about him; there is a lot of shared history between these two characters, so it makes perfect sense that Carol would try to convince him to come back. Lastly, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) arrives at the Heaps and there is a sentimental conversation about their past, tracing back to the very start of the apocalypse; had Morgan not saved Rick, it’s very likely that many of the key characters of “The Walking Dead” would have never found one another. In a bit of dialogue that will send chills down your spine, Rick tells Morgan that he will wind up with people, one way or another. It is entirely possible that this will be the final conversation between these two long-time friends as Morgan heads out on a new journey.

Garret Dillahunt as John – (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

Morgan is no stranger to traversing long distances; between Seasons 3 and 5 of “The Walking Dead,” he traveled from Atlanta to Alexandria to meet back up with Rick. In this premiere, Morgan departs from the Heaps and travels west, stopping from time to time and hitching a ride in the occasional vehicle. The iconic musical score that fans might recognize from Season 6’s “Here’s Not Here” plays during Morgan’s departure. After walking and driving for thousands of miles, Morgan ends up crossing into Texas. The opening scene shows a man named John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt), spelled differently than “the fish” as he puts it (this is confirmation that Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” exists in the “TWD” Universe); John sits at a campfire next to his truck, but is startled when he hears rustling in the forest. He speaks to the noise and explains that he hasn’t talked to anyone in nearly a year, but that he is also searching for a woman named Laura who has a pistol that is identical to his. An infected emerges from the woods, prompting John to fire his own pistol, revealing Morgan behind it. John invites Morgan to join him next to the campfire, but there is some hesitation; Morgan has just traveled a huge distance and he ultimately decides to take John’s offer of shelter in his truck for the night. There is a lot of humor that the character of John exudes and he immediately establishes himself as an interesting addition to the series.

In the middle of the night, while John is sleeping, Morgan sneaks away from the truck and discovers a seemingly abandoned campsite nearby. While inspecting it, he is knocked out by a man later revealed to be named Leland (Clint James), who leads a group of bandits. Leland holds Morgan at gunpoint, but John arrives and shoots the gun out of his hand; bandits surround John and force him to give up his weapon as he apologizes for firing a shot. Suddenly, a massive SWAT truck rolls up and a woman named Althea (Maggie Grace) speaks with Leland about his prisoners, offering to trade supplies for them; Leland shoots it down, but she pulls a lever, revealing machine guns on the side of her truck. She ultimately rescues Morgan and John, driving them away from the scene and letting them know that there is something they can do to repay her for getting them out of that sticky situation. Althea pulls her truck over and shows off a video camera, revealing herself to be a journalist working on a story; she tells John and Morgan that she will interview them both. This is quite reminiscent of Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh) when she interviewed Rick’s group after their arrival in Alexandria. In the morning, Althea records John’s story and learns that he is searching for Laura. Morgan is not looking to share any of his personal history and disregards Althea’s claim that he owes her. If you’ve been following Morgan’s journey in the original series, you will understand exactly why he has no interest in talking about what he went through.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Garret Dillahunt as John (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

An old-west showdown of sorts erupts as Leland’s group catches up to the trio, but Morgan and John fight back immediately using their signature weapons. Leland demands that Althea hand over the keys to her truck, but she also fights back and flings her keys into a nearby bush. With a sniper on the roof of a trailer, John takes cover behind the door of another trailer, unleashing a collection of gnarly infected. It’s chaos as Morgan makes his way onto the roofs of the trailers to take down the sniper while Leland searches for the keys, getting bit on the hand by a rattlesnake in the process. Morgan is shot in the leg by the sniper, but still manages to put up a fight against him; they end up crashing through the roof of the trailer into a trapped group of infected. The sniper is devoured as Morgan searches for an exit, running into a turned soldier equipped with grenades; he uses the grenade to blow up the trailer while he takes cover in a bathtub. Outside, Althea tries to enter her truck, but is knocked to the ground by Leland, who is shot by John and flung into the hands of infected. In quite possibly the most badass moment of the episode, Althea uses her SWAT machine gun rig to mow down all of the infected as Morgan and John take cover by hiding under the bodies; it’s a bit of a clunky moment within an overall excellent action sequence. The SWAT truck is probably the best vehicle to travel in; who on Earth would want to go up against that type of an arsenal?

This Season Premiere really allows Morgan to open up about his past in a way that viewers can connect with. While driving, the trio discuss what they call infected: John calls them the “passed,” Althea calls them the “dead” and Morgan refers to them as “walkers,” a term he coined at the very beginning of the original series. Morgan decides to allow Althea to interview him and they stop on the side of the road. Althea asks where Morgan comes from, to which he responds by explaining how he started off in Atlanta and ended up in Virginia. She asks if he comes from a settlement in Virginia, allowing him namedrop Alexandria and the Kingdom, even mentioning a king and his pet tiger; Althea is amused by this minor, but rewarding link between the two series. Morgan isn’t exactly keen on answering a question about why he left and decides to leave Althea and John behind; he chillingly states “I lose people and then I lose myself,” a single line of dialogue that encapsulates Morgan Jones as a character. While walking down the road, Morgan is startled by two walkers that manage to knock him to the ground; while he is injured, it is rather odd to see Morgan struggle so much against a couple of walkers. To his surprise, John steps in and saves him, even assisting Morgan in taking down a walker further down the road; it is revealed that this particular walker is a man that Morgan tried to help earlier in the episode. One of the most significant takeaways of this episode is that John is an incredibly loyal friend and is definitely someone that can be trusted.

Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Maggie Grace as Althea, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Danay Garcia as Luciana, Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie. (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

The episode wraps up as Morgan rejoins John and Althea in the SWAT truck; Morgan states that he is only going to tag along with them until his injury heals, but it seems like Morgan doesn’t even believe that himself. The trio decide to search the Texas landscape for Laura, something that John knows is crazy, but he can’t give up on her. Althea notices a young girl in the middle of the road and tells John and Morgan to arm up, but they both state that they do not kill; this is a rather quick turnaround for Morgan, but he did having a pretty compelling discussion about peace with Jesus before departing. Althea exits the truck with John and asks Morgan to get their first aid kit after the young woman collapses to the ground. The young woman fearfully tells Althea that bad people are in the area before revealing herself to be Alicia Clark. Suddenly, Victor Strand, Luciana Galvez and Nick Clark emerge from bushes and order the trio to drop their weapons as Alicia holds a metal weapon on Althea’s throat. The original characters that viewers have been following since the beginning of the series now seem to be the enemy; they are raggedy and look like they haven’t eaten or slept in weeks. The “Fear” story has undergone a massive time jump of roughly a year and a half; the Season 3 Finale ended with the fates of these characters being left unknown after the destruction of the Gonzalez Dam. How did they survive? How did they end up in Texas? What has happened to them since we last saw them? How did Luciana rejoin the group? Where is Madison? Where is Daniel? These are just a few of the many questions that will hopefully be answered this season.

“What’s Your Story?” is an excellent jumping point for the character of Morgan into the “Fear the Walking Dead” narrative. His evolution on the original series has made him one of the most fascinating characters so it will be interesting to see how he interacts with this crew. Obviously, this episode needed to bridge the gap between the two shows, but it would have been far more rewarding to see the original characters more than just in the final few seconds. Still, their reveal is definitely a shocker and serves to set up the mystery of how they wound up in such poor shape. The introductions of John and Althea immediately establish them as refreshing and bold characters in the franchise and both Garret Dillahunt and Maggie Grace prove themselves to be perfect fits in the show’s universe. The tone and atmosphere of this premiere makes the series feel totally different than ever before; it’s hard to think that this is the same show as the first three seasons, especially the Pilot when Alicia was just a regular high school student trying to get through the struggles of a teenager. Next week’s episode looks to show the original characters in a different light, possibly before they ended up as highway robbers. “Fear the Walking Dead” is changing, but the roots of the series are still there as the series breaks new ground and makes “TWD” history.

Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC. Check back to the Niner Times for continuing coverage of “The Walking Dead” franchise, including reviews of new episodes each week. 

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Wrath’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 8 Finale (Season 8, Episode 16) of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed. Minor spoilers from “Fear the Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Cooper Andrews as Jerry, Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa. (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

All Out War is officially over. The final battle has been fought. After two and a half seasons of fighting, the conflict with the Saviors has finally come to an end. The Season 8 Finale of “The Walking Dead” is a mixed bag of emotions and resolution that closes the chapter of the longest arc of the series. While not perfect, this is an excellent conclusion to a bumpy season; a season that began with mercy concludes with wrath…but also…mercy. This is the end of an era for the series, but it also sets up “a new beginning” for the story. Peace is finally here…and it’s about damn time.

There’s something truly beautiful about seeing all of the principal characters together; this is what the series was built on and it’s a shame that the most recent seasons seem to have forgotten that. The finale opens up with the characters preparing for their final battle, all together and united likee in the good ‘ole days. Inside Barrington House, Rick checks on baby Gracie and glances at himself in a mirror, symbolizing that he is at a good place both mentally and morally (note that in “Still Gotta Mean Something,” he glances at a broken mirror after killing Saviors, representing his fractured morality and mentality). Siddiq enters the room to feed Gracie and is slightly caught off guard when Rick asks to hear how Carl got bit. Siddiq explains exactly how it happened, even touching upon the fact that Carl was helping to honor Siddiq’s mother, someone he had never met before. Rick seems completely satisfied by what Siddiq tells him and thanks him for sharing; this is a conversation that has been a long time coming and it hopefully sets these two characters onto a path of friendship. Carl made the ultimate sacrifice to help and save Siddiq, so would only make sense for his character to be given a larger role moving forward, one that develops a strong connection with Rick.

Outside, Carol speaks with Henry about the fact that the war is almost over. Henry asks Carol to return to the Kingdom after its all done, promising to not run off ever again. There’s a humorous moment between Jerry and Ezekiel as the king states that not all will be lost if people die on this day; in typical Jerry fashion, he states that no one will die and that everything will be fine in the end. Rick, Maggie, Michonne, Carol, Daryl and Rosita discuss their plans for the battle, using the notes that Dwight sent via Gregory. They are obviously hesitant to trust what the plans say and decide to scout ahead. There’s a tense moment as Morgan rushes to the main gate, showing signs of mental instability as the Savior prisoners reenter the community after drawing away walkers. Morgan tells Carol that they need to be dealt with and swings his staff, knocking Henry to the ground in his confusion. Rick pulls Morgan aside and tells him that he should stay behind at the Hilltop, but Morgan is dead set on finishing the fight. Alden steps forward and expresses that he and the other Saviors wish to join the battle also, but Maggie shuts this down, still weary to trust them. The theme music begins to play as soldiers from Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom walk out of the gate on a mission to end the war once and for all.

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

It isn’t just Team Family preparing for the final battle as the Saviors also gear up to head out at the Sanctuary. Negan taunts Dwight and tells him that he will be coming along, as will Eugene and Father Gabriel. Eugene hands Negan a gun that he uses to shoot at a target labeled “Rick,” laughing in the process. Negan then sends a team of Saviors to a point in the road where they are to set up a blockade with walkers, something that is later revealed to be part of a ploy to trap Rick’s group. Laura drives Eugene, Gabriel and Negan toward their actual meet point as the tyrant “confesses” that he is sacrificing some of his men to put an end to the fighting. Gabriel sees a moment of distraction and jumps out of the moving car before running into the forest, still partially blinded; he comes across a walker, which is killed by Laura before he is held at gunpoint by Eugene. Negan seems to be proud of Eugene and disappointed in Gabriel, the latter of which receives a punch in the gut by Lucille. They load back into the car as Gabriel cries out, pleading for Eugene to let him warn their group of the Saviors’ misdirect. At the roadblock, Rick’s group unloads on the Saviors, killing everyone before finding a decoy note that lists the location of where Negan will be. Morgan hallucinates Jared, who urges him to “try” death, but Jesus ultimately brings him back to reality. There is a ton of tension present as the forces move into their positions for the final battle, feeling reminiscent to “Too Far Gone” and other major battle episodes.

While walking to where they believe Negan to be, Jesus speaks with Morgan about his belief that not all Saviors need to be killed. This has been his central ideology all season and this conversation shows that he has still managed to hold onto it, even after everything they have been through. Jesus explains that Morgan should save the sharpened end of the staff for the dead and use the normal end on people; Carol pokes a little bit of fun at Jesus for this idea, stating that she was just starting to like him. The militia stops abruptly when they spot a massive herd on the horizon, with Rick stating that he has never seen one so large. In an open field, Rick and the others are shocked when they hear the eerie Savior whistle, accompanied by the voice of Negan telling them that they have just wandered into a trap. Via a loudspeaker, Negan announces that everyone in Rick’s group will be killed, along with Dwight and Gabriel; he shares the fact that Eugene is responsible for everything that is happening to the united forces. Dwight is shown to be wearing the same prisoner uniform that Daryl wore during his time as a hostage at the Sanctuary; there have always been parallels to these two characters, but this is the most disturbing, especially considering Dwight has been developed into such a likable character this season. Everything looks hopeless for our survivors, but the series once again proves that hope always prevails and that the characters will always have each other’s backs.

Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler – (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Negan begins a countdown and orders his men to move toward a lined position on the ridge to fire on Rick’s group. In a dramatic turn of events, Negan gives the order to shoot and the bullets from all of the Savior guns immediately explode; the force of the explosions injure all of the Saviors, even brutally killing many in the process. Negan’s hand is blown to bits and the rest of the force is distracted, allowing Rick and the others to fight back, making their way to the ridge and killing Saviors along the way. Negan quickly realizes that Eugene has sabotaged the bullets, betraying the Saviors; however, before he can do anything, Gabriel steps forward and punches Negan to the ground, leading to an altercation that gives Dwight the opportunity to take a few licks at his oppressor. Maggie screams out that Negan is running away, making it clear that it is her singular mission to make sure that he dies on this day. Regina and her crew set their sights on Eugene, also angry at his betrayal, but Rosita manages to subdue them before they bring harm to her “former traveling companion;” it isn’t exactly clear if Regina is killed or if she is simply injured here. Elsewhere on the battlefield, Morgan saves Jesus from a Savior, but stops short from killing him; it’s a bit odd that Jesus is holding onto this belief system right in the middle of an active battle, but it is consistent with his arc this season. Maggie, Michonne, Siddiq and others make their way to where the surviving Saviors have surrendered; Laura demands that her colleagues throw their hands up and asks that the militia spare them. The battle, while exhilarating to watch, is far less action-packed and epic than one would expect from the end of All Out War.

The standoff in the field isn’t the only front of the war’s final battle. At the Hilltop, Kal and Eduardo alert the residents that the Saviors are nearing the community. Tara leads an evacuation through the tunnel that Sasha crafted last season; she leads the Hilltoppers, including Enid, Gracie, Alden, the prisoners and others, into the forest as the Saviors surround the community. Tara tells Enid that she is going to stay behind and hold the Saviors off to allow the rest of the survivors the chance to get away. Alden refuses to leave Tara alone and orders his fellow Saviors to help in defending the Hilltop residents; he is so adamant about it that he tells Tara that he will even help her without a gun. The attacking Saviors start making their way to the treeline, but a series of explosions put an end to them, leaving Tara completely stunned. She steps out from the bushes to see Cyndie, Aaron and the Oceanside forces hurling explosives at the attackers. Sure, it is incredibly cliche that they would arrive just in the knick of time to save the day, but at least they are finally involved in the All Out War arc…plus it’s just damn thrilling to see them fighting. There’s a look of joy and content on Tara’s face as she sees the badass army assisting in the take down of the Saviors; she has been trying to recruit them since she first stumbled upon the hidden community in “Swear,” so it is totally rewarding that they have finally come out of the shadows and now longer have to be afraid.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The climax of the episode comes as Negan and Rick finally face off against each other one-on-one. Their final duel takes place beneath the tree with stained glass panels that was first shown in the Season Premiere. Rick takes a single shot at Negan, but misses (of course) and breaks the glass of a panel; Negan takes a few swings at him with Lucille, but the fight ultimately ends up being purely based on physical strength as their weapons are thrown to the side. Negan stands looking down on Rick and opens up about his “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” routine, which he explains was bullshit; he selected Abraham and Glenn as the victims because he didn’t want to kill a father in front of his son. In hindsight, Negan states that he probably should have just killed Rick back during their first meeting as it possibly would have indirectly saved Carl’s life. Rick gets back onto his feet and tells Negan that they can build a future with them both alive, just as Carl wished; Rick pleads with Negan to think about it for just a few seconds as he lays out the vision that Carl dreamed. This seems to be effecting Negan as tears fill his eyes, making it seem as though he will surrender and agree to a ceasefire; in yet another plot twist, Rick slits Negan’s throat with the broken piece of stained glass. As blood pours out of Negan’s throat, he lets out a hoarse jab at Carl’s naive belief. This showdown is eerily reminiscent to the standoff between Rick and Shane in “Better Angels,” especially considering Rick used similar tactics to regain power, as well as the fact that both took place in a field. This duel also has shades of the fight between Rick and The Governor in “Too Far Gone.” This conflict has a totally different ending than those previously mentioned, however.

The real emotional punch of the finale comes as the camera pulls back to reveal Maggie, Michonne and the rest of the militia force standing behind Rick in the field. Rick turns to his group and tearfully tells Siddiq to “save him.” This sets Maggie off and she begins to run toward Negan, screaming and crying as Michonne holds her back; “he killed Glenn” she screams at the top of her lungs, furious and devastated that Negan will be saved while her beloved husband lay mutilated and beaten under a mound of dirt. “It’s not over until he’s dead,” she continues as Michonne does her best to comfort a distraught Maggie. Rick gives a rousing speech to his people about how they need to be better than Negan in order to build the future that comes after. He orders the captured Saviors to lower their hands before repeating the line in his speech from the Premiere about those that wish to switch sides and help being allowed to do so. He points to the herd on the horizon and emphasizes that the dead are the real threat and that the fighting among each other must stop if they wish to survive. It’s a powerful speech that really encapsulates what Carl died for and the message he left behind. There’s a moment of reunification as Rosita asks Eugene if he is responsible for the bullet sabotage, to which he explains that he was inspired by Gabriel’s ineptitude. Rosita punches him right in the face, signifying that their rocky relationship might be on the path to recovery; a punch in the face can sometimes be the best “let’s move on” you’ll get in the apocalypse. The full scene of red-eyed Rick sitting under the tree is shown as he triumphantly proclaims “my mercy prevails over my wrath,” bringing the entire season to a complete circle.

Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, Danai Gurira as Michonne and Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The last stretch of the finale serves to conclude many of the arcs of this season and sets up the “A New Beginning” story for next season. Maggie returns to the Hilltop and speaks with Alden, who expresses his upmost gratitude for her giving him and the other Saviors a second chance; he explains that he will be heading back to the Sanctuary, but offers to assist in bringing some of the plans from Georgie’s “A Key to the Future” book to fruition. Tara, Rosita and Eduardo pay a visit to the Sanctuary with a bus full of survivors to assist in repairing the shattered windows of the Sanctuary. Frankie and Tanya, now dressed in normal clothes, are free from their enslaved lives as Negan’s wives; they thank Tara for helping in refurbishing their home. Surprisingly, Laura gives a nod of approval to Rosita; it seemed as though Laura was totally loyal to Negan, but she appears to have seen the value in peace. Out in the forest, Daryl has driven Dwight to a secluded spot and it seems as though an execution is about to take place. Dwight once again vehemently apologizes and expresses his remorse for all the bad things he has done, specifically killing Denise. Daryl straight up demands that Dwight leave and never return, lest he wishes to be killed; he hands him car keys and tells him to go find Sherry. Later, Dwight is shown returning to the safe house that he and Sherry established and that he last visited in “Hostiles and Calamities.” He finds a note that has a simple infinity symbol, along with pretzels and beer, letting Dwight know that Sherry is still alive and well; maybe this is a hint that she will return in Season 9. This is a fantastic emotional conclusion to Dwight’s story of the past two and a half seasons and serves as excellent set up for his future.

This finale serves as a jumping point for Morgan’s future in the “TWD” franchise, particularly placing him on a course for his crossover to “Fear the Walking Dead.” He arrives at the Heaps, much to the surprise of Jadis, to let the trash queen know that Rick has offered her a place in the community. There is a beautiful sense of peace between these two characters as Morgan points out that Jadis doesn’t want to be alone and that she needs people; “everything is about people. Everything in this life that’s worth a damn,” he tells her, repeating exactly what Eastman told him while encouraging Morgan to find others to survive with in “Here’s Not Here.” There has been such a remarkable shift in the character of Jadis this season, and her layers are peeled back even further as she reveals her real name to be “Anne.” She agrees to join the rest of Rick’s group, but Morgan lets her know that he will be staying at the Heaps, unable to be with people at the moment. When you think about it, Jadis and Morgan actually have a lot in common and the fact that they are given this simple scene together showcases the fact that “The Walking Dead” is a story about human beings and our similarities; the zombies are merely an aspect of the environment, but the real draw of the story is the humanity that comes out in scenes such as this.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, and Danai Gurira as Michonne. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The final bit of the episode is downright chilling. Maggie holds a meeting with Jesus in her office, discussing the fact that keeping the prisoners alive at the beginning and end of the war was the right call. Her tone changes when she tells Jesus that Rick was wrong for sparing Negan and that Michonne was unjustified in holding her back. Maggie states that they will build up the Hilltop, bide their time and wait for a moment to strike; Daryl steps out from darkness in agreement. Obviously they aren’t talking about killing Rick and Michonne, but it is a bit odd and slightly out of character that they would sneak behind his back like this; it is especially strange that Jesus is part of this considering he has been an advocate for peace all season, although a case could be made that he only wants Negan dead. One should also question why Maggie wasn’t consulted on Negan’s fate as she has more stakes in his survival/death than anyone; it would have been far more rewarding to have Maggie be the one to make the decision to keep him alive, reflecting back onto what Glenn, Hershel, Beth and Carl would have done in the situation. The narrative flips to Alexandria where Rick, Michonne and Siddiq have Negan tied to a bed with a bandage on his neck wound. After two and a half seasons of living under Negan’s boot, the tables have turned and Rick and Michonne lay out their plans for the tyrant; he will live in a cell, rotting until he dies, but still watching the people that he oppressed as they flourish without him.

The season comes to a conclusion in the most perfect way as Father Gabriel visits his blown out church, taking a moment to pray as the sunlight illuminates the darkness; he thanks God for giving him the strength and courage to survive. A voice-over from Rick is set against a flashback to many years before the apocalypse as he walks with a young Carl on the farm that was mentioned in the letter; Rick reads his own message to Carl, one of hope and prosperity about the world that Carl led everyone to. “You showed me the new world. You made it real,” Rick tells Carl as past versions of themselves walk into the sunset. While the decision for Carl to die is still hard to swallow, it is absolutely heartwarming that he is at least being honored properly in the finale. Rick mentions in his own letter that the day on the farm that Carl mentions was the first time that Rick figured out who he was as a person and as a father. That summarizes the effect Carl had on the other characters; he helped keep Rick, Michonne, Shane, Lori and everyone else grounded in who they are as people. He brought them back from darkness and showed them the light when they were lost; he represents pure good in a world of evil. It’s the characters that survive that carry his legacy and his message, ushering the series into a new era of peace, tranquility and unity. Of course, this is still “The Walking Dead,” so that won’t last long.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

“Wrath” is an imperfect capstone to the All Out War story arc. While it does deliver a multitude of intense and emotional moments, the final battle is lacking and some of the character moments feel forced and unnatural. That being said, this finale is a satisfying conclusion to many of the individual arcs. The episode hits all of the emotional cues and delivers several gut-punches as Season 9 and the extended future of the series is set up. The best moments of the episode include Rick’s conversation with Siddiq, Eugene’s betrayal, Rick and Negan’s duel, Rosita and Eugene’s reunion and Morgan’s advice to Jadis, among others. Adapting several iconic moments from the comics, including Negan’s throat being slit and his prisoner status, show that the story still pays homage to its origins even if the overall narrative is quite different. The direction of Greg Nicotero deserves praise, as does the musical score of Bear McCreary, who never fails to compliment the story with his powerful music. The performances across the board are spectacular, but Lauren Cohan, Andrew Lincoln, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lennie James, Austin Amelio, Josh McDermitt and Seth Gilliam are the standouts. The countdown to Season 9 begins now and there are a lot of questions in the air: will Dwight find Sherry? Will a civil war arise between the characters? What is up with the helicopter? Will peace between the communities last? WHERE IS HEATH? The Season 8 Finale marks Scott M. Gimple’s final episode as showrunner after first stepping into the role in Season 4; Angela Kang is taking over in Season 9. What vision will she have for the series?

“The Walking Dead” will return for Season 9 in October 2018. Season 4 of “Fear the Walking Dead” premiered immediately following the “TWD” Finale as part of “Survival Sunday” to celebrate Morgan’s crossover. A full review of the Premiere is forthcoming. Be sure to stay tuned to the Niner Times for continuing coverage of “The Walking Dead” franchise. 

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Worth’

Spoiler Warning for Season 8, Episode 15 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan and Steven Ogg as Simon. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The conflict among the Saviors hits a climax as betrayals are shattered and secrets come to the surface in a somewhat lackluster penultimate episode. Coming off of several strong chapters of the All Out War story arc, this episode is oddly balanced and paced, spending a significant amount of time at the Sanctuary while also bouncing around to other storylines. Issues aside, there are several incredible moments of plot progression, excellent emotions and moving performances that help to set the stage for the Season 8 Finale.

The opening scene is quite possibly the best part of the episode, mostly because it is precisely what it needs to be. Ever since “How It’s Gotta Be,” viewers have been filled with emotion waiting for the letters that Carl wrote to be read. Following his talk with Michonne last episode, Rick decides that it is finally time for him to read his letter…and it sure is emotional. Via voice-over from Chandler Riggs as Carl, the memories of his childhood are shared, and mentions of Rick being shot at the very start of the series are made as the final words from a son to his father are read; Carl makes it clear that peace with the Saviors and Negan won’t be easy, but that it is the only way to assure that they survive in the end, both physically and mentally. Carl explains the safety he felt when he was with father, and expresses his desire for Rick to feel that same safety. There’s also a mention made about the innocent people that are part of the Saviors, most of which are just trying to survive themselves and don’t necessarily believe in Negan’s style of leadership.

Much like the vision that was shown in “Honor,” Carl paints a picture of the “larger world” that Jesus introduced them to, one where all of the communities are working together for a better future. Carl truly believed that life can return to some sense of normalcy if they can lay down their weapons and stop fighting. While the letter is being read, shots of life around the Hilltop are shown; Jerry carries baby Gracie around, Michonne plays with Judith, Eduardo relieves Kal at a lookout post and the prisoners work on a shelter. If all types of people from Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom can come together, what’s stopping the “good” Saviors from coming around and being part of the future they’re all building? Michonne gives Rick a smile, showing that she is relieved that he finally decided to read the letter; it’s worth noting that contents of Michonne’s letter, nor Enid’s, are currently known, but hopefully they will also be read at some point in the future. Negan’s letter comes back into play this episode as Michonne decides to take it from the drawer that Rick stashed it in. Since Carl’s death, Michonne has been fully committed to following through on his wishes and this is just another way she is paying tribute to his sacrifice.

Xander Berkeley as Gregory. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

One of the most underrated duos of the past two seasons has been Gregory and Simon, both of whom have this engrossing back-and-forth that makes for a unique and hilarious dynamic. Following his escape from the prisoner pen at the Hilltop, Gregory returns to the Sanctuary and once again tries to make himself useful. Simon expresses his anger at Gregory’s failure to knock his people back in line prior to the initial battle of All Out War in “Mercy.” It’s also revealed to Gregory that Negan is missing and presumed dead, leaving Simon in charge of the Saviors; this seems to be good news to Gregory, but Simon has other plans and threatens to kill the former Hilltop leader for his flippant nature. In a rather surprising turn, Gregory actually stands up for himself and refuses to go down without a figh, claiming that he has been through too much just for it all to end without a point. Instead of just killing him, Simon decides to give Gregory another chance to prove himself and help in the transition of leadership at the Sanctuary. The problem is…Negan has returned to throw a wrench in things. Outside of the Sanctuary, Dwight takes a smoke break and is stunned to find Negan alive and well. The two have a talk and it is clear that something is being planned between the two in secrecy. In midst of a war, the inner turmoil of the villain group makes for some seriously tense television, especially considering the viewer is aware of many of the secrets at play.

Simon’s plans are turned upside down when he is called into a meeting with Negan, along with the other Savior lieutenants. There is a clear look of shock and disappointment on Simon’s face as Negan menacingly cleans off Lucille (who is looking remarkably well after everything she went through the past few episodes) and brings the events of “The Key” and after into question; Negan is especially angry over the fact that the Hilltop attack wasn’t a complete success and that Simon fled from the scene before making sure the job was done. There is also a wild revelation made as Negan mentions the days before he took charge of the Saviors, specifically when Simon gunned down all of the men and boys of a “settlement.” While it isn’t explicitly stated, this is essentially direct confirmation that Simon is the one who killed the men of the Oceanside community before they relocated to their current location. This is an excellent way to bind the storylines together and provides an explanation for why the survivors of Oceanside are so weary to become involved. The killing of the Scavengers provides Negan with enough proof that Simon has been “backsliding” and that he needs to be dealt with. Negan orders Simon to get on his knees and it seems as though he will be the next victim of a Lucille beating. This turns out to be a test and Negan “forgives” Simon before letting him in on a plan to surround the Hilltop and end the conflict once and for all. Dwight is also present for the meeting and pays close attention to the plans. This entire scene is insanely intense and really plays up the theme of betrayal that has been especially prevalent this season among the Saviors.

Ross Marquand as Aaron – (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

A problematic aspect of this season has been the under-utilization of Oceanside, especially following the death of Natania. This episode finds Cyndie, Rachel, Beatrice and Kathy heading out to go fishing whilst discussing the fact that Aaron has been creeping around their community. A walker crosses their path and Aaron dispatches it before collapsing to the ground, clearly exhausted, dehydrated and starved. Triggerfinger Rachel once again proposes that they just kill him, but Cyndie stone-coldly states that he made his decision to stick around, so he can die on his own. A rainstorm creates a harsh environment for Aaron to face off against a handful of walkers. He’s struggles to kill the walkers, but manages to successfully defend himself from the undead; he kills the last walker by bashing its head in with a stick, looking similar to Negan and Lucille. After falling asleep, Aaron wakes up to find himself surrounded by the Oceanside women. He gives an impassioned speech to them about the fact that his people aren’t responsible for Natania’s death, but rather it is the Saviors to blame. He places the blame of everything that Oceanside has gone through on the Saviors, stating that there is no moving forward until they are dead. It’s not exactly clear what effect this will have on the women, but Aaron deserves to be praised for be so determined and selfless. The camera does focus in on Cyndie’s face, hinting that she may be on the verge of changing her mind and leading her people into battle.

A major player of this episode is none other than Eugene, who really shifts to his darkest side yet as he continues to manage his bullet factory outpost. He concocts a recipe with Frankie and Tanya before giving orders to the workers that have been transported to his outpost and are now assisting in the sorting and manufacturing of the bullets. Father Gabriel is still on the line, but a coughing fit sends Eugene into a power trip as he lambastes the sickly priest for possibly spreading the infection that he caught earlier this season. He also points out that one of the bullets Gabriel was in charge of turned out to be defective; Eugene accuses Gabriel of intentionally sabotaging the Savior operation, but it’s clear that there is no ill-will on Gabriel’s part. He flat out says that he doesn’t want his people to die, but that he also doesn’t want to die himself. There is a really powerful moment wherein Gabriel mentions that he might not be any better now than when he locked his parishioners out of his church; the fact that he is so torn up about the possibility of him contributing to deaths of his own people now shows that he has grown exponentially since the days of his darker past. Father Gabriel is a prime example of the excellent character development in “The Walking Dead,” showing that even people with muddied history can still find a way forward to redemption.

Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa – (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Eugene really hasn’t been part of much of the story involving his “former traveling companions” lately, but this episode finds him back with two of them. Eugene heads outside to test some of the bullets when suddenly his two Saviors guards are killed by Rosita and Daryl. They drag him away from the outpost with plans on bringing him to the Hilltop. While walking, Eugene expresses his belief that they are only keeping him alive because of their shared history; this causes Daryl to snap and threaten to cut out his tongue, but Rosita ultimately stops him. He also brings up the fact that he saved Rosita’s life back in “Hearts Still Beating,” when she shot at Negan leading Eugene to confess to making the bullet. She doesn’t want to listen to Eugene’s bullshit either, and she later pulls a gun on him after he boasts about how well the Saviors have been treating him and that Rick is the one responsible for the conflict. While holding him at gunpoint, Rosita unleashes a torrent of insults at Eugene, claiming that he destroyed the only friendships that he ever had; she also tells him that they are only keeping him alive because of his knowledge and that they will lock him away so that he can work for them. There is a lot of pain in Rosita’s eyes and the hurt and betrayal that she feels is totally visceral, especially considering the viewer can relate to this; the audience trusted Eugene and he has repeatedly destroyed all of the empathy he has gained. It’s a vicious cycle and it is weighing heavily on Rosita.

The award for the most overly dramatic character of the episode definitely goes to Eugene. While transporting him back to the Hilltop, Daryl and Rosita stop to take down some walkers. Eugene sees this as a moment to escape and sticks his fingers down his throat, forcing him to projectile vomit all over Rosita. While she is distracted, he flees from the area and ends up hiding under a mound of what appears to be cremated human remains. While searching, Rosita flat out tells Daryl to shoot him if they find him, showing that she views Eugene as being beyond redemption. Eugene may be a coward, but he is also resourceful and knows how to get himself out of a sticky situation; for further proof of this, think back to “Twice As Far” when he bit Dwight’s dick to free himself and his friends. Eugene returns to the outpost and speaks with Regina, who relays the plans that Negan has for finishing the war. The Saviors will need a large amount of bullets, so Eugene pushes his workers to finish their order by the next morning. Gabriel is brought back onto the assembly line, but is given an ultimatum: help or cry and die. Eugene has more confidence than ever in this scene as he gives commands and leads with an iron fist; he has stakes in this war, being a crucial asset that Negan needs to finish the battle. The question remains, has Eugene fully turned his back on his friends? Is he playing an angle and secretly working to sabotage the operation? What would Abraham think of were Eugene is right now?

Steven Ogg as Simon and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The tide turns at the Sanctuary as Simon holds a secret meeting to discuss plans to kill Negan (for some reason he holds this “secret” meeting completely out in the open). Savior Gary, Gregory and others are present as Simon explains that Negan deserves to die in a respectful and quiet way, even offering to allow Dwight to be the one to kill him. An eerie whistle breaks up the meeting as Negan steps forward and gives a signal, leading to everyone except Simon, Gregory and Dwight to be gunned down. Negan thanks Dwight for being a whistle-blower, prompting Simon to pounce at his former companion. For whatever reason, Negan offers Simon a final chance to prove himself in the most Savior way possible: a one-on-one fight in the middle of the Sanctuary. With all of the Sanctuary residents surrounding them, Simon and Negan throw punches at one another, showing that they are both incredibly capable fighters. As Negan gets the upper-hand, Dwight pulls Gregory away, realizing that he might not be safe among the Saviors anymore; Dwight hands Gregory the plans that Negan has for the final strike against the Hilltop, urging him to get them to Rick. Negan stands above Simon and delivers a final fatal blow, strangling him to death and putting an end to his right-hand man. The fight choreography isn’t exactly the best, looking like a rather generic television brawl. Still, this scene is incredibly reminiscent to the final showdown between Rick and Shane in Season 2’s “Better Angels,” as well as the duel between The Governor and Merle in Season 3’s “This Sorrowful Life”; each of these are examples of leaders being forced to take down their second-in-command after realizing that they are just too far gone.

The twists and turns at the Sanctuary aren’t quite over. While walking through the halls, Negan talks to Dwight about how shitty the situation with Simon turned out to be. He expresses his gratitude toward Dwight and even offers him a promotion, which Dwight gladly accepts and states that he will help end Rick and the others. Negan motions for Dwight to enter his room, which he complies and is shocked to find Laura waiting for him. Dwight panics as he realizes what is happening: he has been exposed. The cover is blown as Laura angrily explains what happened the night of the attack on Alexandria, including Dwight killing the Saviors and her own escape. Negan picked her up last episode and has been aware of the betrayal ever since, but was playing along to gain an advantage; the plans that Dwight sent to the Hilltop are revealed to be a trap that Rick’s group are going to walk into. Dwight facing the consequences of his betrayal is chilling to watch, especially when Negan pokes the bear even further by figuring out that he also likely lied about killing Sherry.

The final stage of All Out War is put into motion as Gregory arrives at the Hilltop with the plans that Dwight sent. While Gregory is thrown back into the prisoner pen, the plans are handed over to Maggie, who speaks with Rick and Michonne. Negan stands outside of the Sanctuary as Walker Simon is chained to the fence; Michonne radios Negan and reads the letter that Carl left for him, urging him to accept the peace that Rick hopefully offers him. There is so much maturity in what Carl says to Negan, showing that the fighting is ultimately pointless and is basically mutually assured destruction. Negan isn’t standing down though; he’s ready to finish things, killing everyone he has to in the process. While it makes perfect sense that some of his beliefs may have changed, isn’t Negan’s outlook that “people are a resource”? Is he really planning on killing everyone at the Hilltop? If so, is this not exactly what Simon had previously proposed? Regardless, it is worth noting that there seems to be a bit of emotion as Negan hears Carl’s words. He is somewhat affected by Carl’s death, even if he won’t fully admit that to everyone.

“Worth” isn’t the best or the worst episode of Season 8. It mostly serves as a wrapping up of storylines and a bridge to the Season Finale. Some aspects of the episode, including the death of Simon and Oceanside, are slightly underwhelming. Simon’s death does shake things up, but it would have been far more rewarding to have a member of Rick’s group kill him or for it to at least be on screen more prominently. Certain points of this episode do feel as though the wheels are spinning until the season reaches the finale, but that is an issue that has always been present in the series. The positives of this episode do include the interactions between Eugene, Rosita and Daryl, the reading of Carl’s letters and the secrets and lies at the Sanctuary. This episode features some stellar performances from Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Ross Marquand and Austin Amelio. The standout of the episode is Steven Ogg, who gives his final performance in the series as Simon, a menacing and lovable villain since his introduction in the terrifying Season 6 Finale “Last Day on Earth.” With just one episode remaining, how will All Out War conclude? Will Negan be kept alive or will the conflict spill over into Season 9? What will become of Dwight? Will Oceanside and Aaron arrive to help finish the war? Will there be any more casualties before it’s all said and done?

Be sure to tune into the Season 8 Finale of “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m., immediately followed by the Season 4 Premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead” at 10:10 p.m. on AMC.

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Still Gotta Mean Something’

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.

A World of Talent: Sanskrit Gallery


Photos by Chimena Ihebuzor

Those that visit the Popp Martin Student Union can stop by the Art Gallery to peruse the walls that are outfitted with the works of students and non-students alike. The exhibition coincides with the release of the physical Sanskrit literary arts magazine that publishes a collection of artwork and literature each year. Every piece tells a unique story and conveys a multitude of thoughts, feelings and experiences, bringing them directly to the UNC Charlotte campus.

One thing that will stand out to those that visit the gallery is the contrasting of color with black-and-white. There’s also a lack of sculpture-based art, which were especially prevalent last year. This year, the gallery itself has a more open feel to it, encouraging visitors to flow from one piece to next as the natural sunlight lights up the room. Something that also really stands out about this year’s gallery is the focus on portraiture, specifically in the form of paintings, drawings and photographs.

One of the standout artworks of the exhibition is “New Page, New Me” by Aba Hutchinson, featuring a portrait of a young woman drawn with pen and marker on an opened sketch book. Split across two pages, the woman seems to have undergone great change, becoming her true self; this is especially relevant to college students, representing the growth and evolution that young people experience in their academic, personal and social lives. The “old self” is monochromatic, but the “new self” is vibrant, colorful and full of life.

Another highlight of the gallery is “Mini” by Rachel Russell, a photograph of a woman and a black cat. The entire portrait utilizes black, drawing the viewer’s attention the woman’s face and then the seemingly-hidden cat. One could say that the woman is caught in between light and darkness; it’s worth noting that the black cat is placed directly in front of the woman, something that typically symbolizes bad luck and evil.

Positioned next to “Mini” are two works by Jessica Miller; these portraits are prismacolor on paper and seem to capture life on the UNC Charlotte campus. The first, “BA Portrait of Tommy Dortman,” showcases a young man with an impressive jawline and a slightly-tilted head. The other, “Rent-A-Puppy,” looks like a scene from the CHHS/COED quad area, where one will sometimes find stressed college students taking a break from classes to play with four-legged friends. These two drawings are quite simple, but serve as excellent snapshots of what someone might see while wandering around campus.

The Sanskrit gallery always provides a unique look at the diverse talent and craftsmanship of the UNC Charlotte study body, as well as those from all around the world. While the Student Union Art Gallery itself may be small, there is plenty to see when one enters. Stories are told and new perspectives are seen through the stunning paintings and awe-inspiring portraits. This article only serves as a tease of what you will find when you pay a visit to the gallery (running until May 31) and spend a few minutes taking in all of the talent that hangs on the walls. Be sure to also pick up a copy of the Sanskrit literary arts magazine to see even more works, including collections of short stories and poems curated by the Sanskrit staff. Not only will the works inspire you, but the magazine will serve as an excellent keepsake.

More information about the Sanskrit literary arts magazine can be found at SanskritMagazine.com.

NOTE: Both the Niner Times and Sanskrit are departments of Student Niner Media. 

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Do Not Send Us Astray’

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.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier and Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

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.

Jayson Warner Smith as Gavin and Lennie James as Morgan Jones. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

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.

Avi Nash as Siddiq and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

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.

Kerry Cahill as Dianne, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Callan McAuliffe as Alden and James Chen as Kal. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

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.

Jason Douglas as Tobin. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

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?

“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.

TV REVIEW: ‘Alone Together’ – Season 1

ALONE TOGETHER – (Photo courtesy- Freeform/Byron Cohen)
ESTHER POVITSKY, BENJI AFLALO

When one thinks about millennial culture, humor is one of the first things that comes to mind. Whether it be self-depreciating or absurdist, millennials love to make light of the darkness that seems to overtake the world. Freeform’s newest comedy is the perfect example of this, taking two twenty-somethings and telling a coming-of-age story for the modern era. While it may not take itself too seriously, “Alone Together” is a genuine treat when it comes to delivering laughs and connecting with its audience.

Starting with the title, “Alone Together” symbolizes what many members of the younger generations feel; we are more connected than ever as a society through social media, yet people still feel alone in the world. The characters of Esther (Esther Povitsky) and Benji (Benji Afalo) are representations of this concept, but they are also meant to showcase the uncertainty and worry that many feel toward the future. Benji belongs to a wealthy family and doesn’t have to worry about money, but he is still figuring out exactly what he wants from life. He doesn’t try too hard at anything and takes a more nonchalant approach to the struggles and peaks of his life. Esther on the other hand is less-well off and tries too hard to accomplish the goals she sets; she has a lot that she wants to do, but most of the time she ruins things for herself by being overly eager. In many senses, both Benji and Esther act like children who are hesitant to grow up and face adult life; this is a fear that most young people have, especially in regards to giving up the perks of being a child.

Many comedies (and dramas) such as this force the two protagonists together into a romantic relationship whether they fit together or not. Benji and Esther do not fit together at all and they know it; they aren’t soulmates and even their pairing as friends makes you scratch your head a bit, but they does ultimately work well together. They are totally platonic and the series does an excellent job at making this clear while highlighting their differences and similarities. When they aren’t making jokes about their own physical and intellectual shortfalls, they are poking fun at each other. Whether it’s Benji pointing out Esther’s bizarre obsession with teen culture or Esther laughing at Benji’s lackluster love life, the two are shown to be the most unexpected match as friends. Both characters are quite awkward and the writing plays this up and makes both Esther and Benji incredible relatable and endearing. It’s easy to see oneself in them as they use humor to cope with their struggles; going back to millennial culture, many recognize that humor is one of the most common ways that the younger generations cope with their own imperfections, as well as the difficulties of the world.

“Alone Together” works so well because of its two leads in Esther and Benji. Both Povitsky and Afalo (who also serve as co-creators, writers and executive producers) bring their characters to life and encapsulate exactly what it means to be a millennial in today’s society. Esther’s over-the-top personality is the perfect foil to Benji’s calm and cool demeanor; they contrast each other, but they are also so similar that it makes perfect sense that they are best friends. Both actors hit the comedic beats and allow the writing to really shine; this is a series with genuine laugh-out-loud dialogue that still feels grounded in reality. The style and tone of comedy can definitely be traced back to the show’s producers, The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer). Tackling issues of vanity, growing up, uncertainty and even death, “Alone Together” goes above and beyond the expectations one might have from the initial synopsis. It’s a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t follow a serialized format, making it a perfect choice for a show to watch casually or to binge through in one sitting…because that’s the millennial thing to do. However you chose to watch it, this is one show that you will want to get caught up on.

“Alone Together” has been renewed for a second season with the air date to be announced. The first season is currently streaming on Hulu and the Freeform app. 

TV REVIEW: ‘This Is Us’ – Season 2

Spoiler Warning for Season 2 of “This Is Us.”

Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson and Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson. (Photo by NBC/Ron Batzdorff)

When one thinks about the power of television, NBC’s “This Is Us” should be a series that comes to mind due to its ability to connect with audiences in a way that feels personal and real. This was apparent when the show first premiered back in 2016, but the recently-wrapped Season 2 only builds upon that and becomes one of the most relatable and emotional stories to air on television recently. Not only does this season deliver in terms of story, it stands as one of the strongest acting ensembles to hit the small-screen.

Family dramas are nothing new to television, but “This Is Us” feels fresh and unlike anything else. A huge reason for this is the dynamic between the characters, something that viewers can relate to and feel connected to. Sure, this is still a fictional story, but their problems and highpoints are what ordinary people go through on a daily basis; Randall’s anxiety, Kevin’s alcoholism and Kate’s body image issues are all real life struggles that when portrayed like they are in “This Is Us,” make people feel less alone. And then there’s the death of Jack (which is finally explained in Season 2), which that adds even more brutal realism to the series as grief, trauma and guilt are put on full display and shown through the eyes of the Pearson family.

Justin Hartley as Kevin Pearson. (Photo by NBC/Ron Batzdorff)

Speaking of Jack’s death, it does open up a bit of an issue with the series in that the build up to it and the general mystery surrounding it feels somewhat gimmicky. By the time the moment finally rolls around mid-season, viewers have been aware of his demise for some time and have basically mourned him several times over. The series has done big mysteries and this season introduces even more, which do take away some of the simplicity and charm of the story itself. Hopefully “This Is Us” sticks to its roots and strays away from becoming a “gotcha!” show where viewers tune in to see nothing but plot twists. That being said, the quality of storytelling make it clear that this is likely to not happen anytime soon as the focus still seems to be on the characters.

What Season 2 of “This Is Us” does it add additional layers to each of the characters. Kevin is a perfect example of this in that the reasoning for his selfish persona is explained and given context via flashbacks to his childhood and teen years; this also helps to explain his current alcoholism and spiraling mental state. Kate’s difficulty talking about her father is also explored through the events leading up to his death, showing why she feels so much grief and responsibility for what happened. Randall also has significant developments as he and Beth take in a young foster child named Deja, who has her own issues that the show also explores. The reason this series connects with people so much is that it has this ability to tell the stories of the characters in a way that feels extremely personal and realistic; life isn’t easy to get through or understand, and “This Is Us” makes that clear with the stories that it presents.

Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth Pearson, Lyric Ross as Deja and Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson. (Photo credit: Photo by NBC/Ron Batzdorff)

Quite possibly the best aspect of “This Is Us” is the incredible performances from what is likely the best ensemble on television at the moment. Literally every member of the cast is consistently great, and the series gives everyone their own individual moment to shine. Sterling K. Brown is a masterclass in his portrayal of Randall, perfectly blending his dad humor with the seriousness and emotions of his struggle with anxiety and being a foster parent. Susan Kelechi Watson is an underrated gem, pulling a ton of punches in her performance as Beth and hitting so many hilarious humor notes. Justin Hartley really proves himself to be a remarkable performer as Kevin this season, specifically in the heartbreaking episode “Number One.”Milo Ventimiglia also deserves praise for making viewers so attached to his character of Jack before ripping him away. However, the absolute standout of this season is Mandy Moore, who gives quite possibly the best depiction of shock and grief in recent memory; all of her material in “Super Bowl Sunday” showcases her absolute raw talent as Rebecca.

Jack, Rebecca, Kate, Randall, Kevin, etc. feel real because they are us and we are them. Season 1 of “This Is Us” introduced us to the characters and Season 2 makes us fall in love with them even more. The interwoven relationships make the stories feel richer and more tangible than many other stories that are similar to this. Each episode feels full of life and serves to teach viewers more about the fascinating life of the Pearson family and its members, but also one’s own life. This is the type of series that can go on for many years, because of the growth and expansion of the story, as demonstrated this season with the introduction of the future timeline. In terms of acting and writing, “This Is Us” is the very definition of what television should be. It’s a carefully crafted drama that takes its time and doesn’t stray away from tough subjects; that’s more of what we need on television right now.

“This Is Us” is currently available to stream on Hulu. 

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘The Key’

Spoiler Warning for Season 8, Episode 12 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. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

When “The Walking Dead” gets crazy, it gets insane. While the “All Out War” story arc may be dragging a bit, this episode proves that the show is at its best when it mixes strong character development and interactions with intense action. This is the best episode of Season 8 and is a prime example of “The Walking Dead” done right. Rick and Negan finally come face-to-face as Maggie explores a new mystery that presents itself, all the while Simon plots to take over control of the Saviors. With a battle raging on, the seeds are planted for an expansive future that will carry the story forward for years to come.

The cliffhanger of the previous episode teased Negan’s new element of eliminating his enemies: biological warfare. “The Key” begins with a sequence showing the Saviors at the Sanctuary preparing their weapons by dipping them in walker guts and blood. Dwight is welcomed home by Negan in an awkward conversation that showcases the slight uneasiness that Dwight clearly feels about his place among the Saviors. With the weapons armed and ready, Simon and Dwight lead the forces out…but Negan decides to tag along in his own car with Lucille, who has been bloodied up herself. While the specifics of just how exactly the “walker-infected” weapons will work, it’s clear that Negan is totally excited at the prospect of Rick’s group being caught off guard by this new tactic. The question remains of whether it will work or not as characters have previously been shown to get walker blood into wounds with no consequences. Will a plot hole be opened up if this method winds up being successful?

Steven Ogg as Simon and Austin Amelio as Dwight. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Rick and Michonne arrive at the Hilltop and once again, the rest of the group’s reactions are mostly glossed over. There’s really no scenes of Maggie, Carol, or anyone else coming to their comfort or paying their respects, a recurring issue wherein several of the main character just don’t interact; this was a huge missed opportunity to have an amazing conversation about the shared losses between Maggie and Rick. Nonetheless, there is a touching reunion between Rick and Judith that allows the viewers and characters to breathe for a moment. At the Hilltop cemetery, Rick takes a moment to spend time with Glenn and Abraham before Daryl arrives and opens up his regret for going rogue at the Sanctuary. This is one of the best moments in the episode as the bond between Rick and Daryl is shown fully with both checking in on each other’s well-being and planning to move forward together; Rick acknowledges the fact that Daryl is responsible for getting Judith and the rest of the Alexandrians to the Hilltop safely. They also decide to head out and search for any signs of Negan and the Saviors, along with the scouts that Maggie has placed nearby. The dynamic between these two characters is never tiresome to watch as they both understand and care for each other in a way that transcends friendship; they are brothers, through and through.

While traveling, Simon picks Dwight’s brain about Negan’s current leadership style in the war. Viewers are fully aware that the trust between Negan and his right hand man is dwindling fast, but Dwight isn’t yet privy to that information. Simon mentions that Negan isn’t hard enough on the communities, noting that Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel adapt and fight back. While driving through a town, Simon spots a vehicle speeding through an alleyway on a collision course with the Savior caravan; he doesn’t mention it and the driver is revealed to be Rick, who slams into Negan’s car, going rogue from his own mission with Daryl. Both Dwight and Simon pretend to be worried as Rick chases after Negan in a “Fast and the Furious”-style high speed pursuit. Without his fearless leader present, Simon decides to barricade the Saviors in an area while he and Dwight go after Negan, leaving Arat in charge while he’s gone. The scene cuts to the aftermath of the car crash, where both Negan and Rick seem to have collided and lost control of their vehicles. However, the chase is only just beginning as Rick exits his car and fires several rounds from his rifle at Negan, forcing him into a building. While it is a bit odd that the actual crash wasn’t shown, the intensity of the moment is enough to forgive this minor quip. Rick and Negan facing each other in a multi-stage battle is just too epic to fully convey.

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

The showdown between Rick and Negan in the Mid-Season Finale was somewhat of a letdown due to the fact that it felt slightly rushed, but this episode allows the fight between the two leaders to be a major event within the story. After a few near-hits between the two men, Negan ends up at the top of a staircase and Rick ends up out of ammo…but he still has his hatchet, which he throws and misses. Negan falls from the top of the staircase to the ground floor of the building as walkers flood the entrance, losing Lucille in the process. In the darkness, Rick and Negan taunt each other, bringing up the other’s failures in leadership as they hunt one another; this scene is reminiscent to the scenes between Andrea and The Governor at the warehouse in Season 3’s “Prey.” Rick ultimately locates Lucille and uses Glenn’s lighter to set her on fire, letting Negan know that he will allow him to say a final goodbye to her with a kiss. The two physically brawl as Rick slams several walkers with inflamed Lucille, creating an additional threat as the undead burn. Negan ultimately escapes and Rick chases after him, but the tyrant is nowhere to be found. Fast-forward to the shocking final scene where it is revealed that Jadis has captured Negan and is now driving him somewhere (this is a “TWD” cliffhanger done right). This long-awaited battle is definitely a thrill that also progresses the plot forward as Rick drops the bombshell that Simon killed all of the Scavengers, something that Negan is disappointed to learn. Andrew Lincoln and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are always fantastic on their own, but they are a powerhouse of a duo when together.

This episode really dives deep in the mindsets of Simon and Dwight. As mentioned previously, Simon begins dropping hints to Dwight about his distaste for Negan recently, but he really pushes things further as he questions whether or not there is any sense of rebellion in Dwight. Obviously, Dwight has to maintain his cover, but he does let Simon know that he has felt burned (pun intended) by some of Negan’s choices, particularly those relating to Sherry. They eventually come across the crash site and Simon proposes that they end their search and tell everyone that Negan is dead, something that Dwight decides to go along with, not fully aware of the situation playing out with Rick. In a sequence that is just damn beautiful and aesthetically-pleasing, Dwight tosses a lit cigarette onto the spilled gasoline of the crash, setting off an explosion and symbolically solidifying his acceptance of Simon’s plan. These two characters have such a fascinating dynamic and it is only furthered when you realize that they are basically fighting for the same thing at this point, even if their overall goals are different. Just as a side-note, this scene features a walker that is fully nude, a first for the series and a fun display of Greg Nicotero and his team’s creativity; this was something that was announced prior and wasn’t focused on much in the actual episode, but it’s always exciting when fresh ideas are brought to life in the show.

Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee and Jayne Atkinson as Georgie. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

“The Key” opens up a plethora of new story avenues with a single introduction. At the Hilltop, Rosita and Maggie have a conversation about moving forward after loss (a rewarding scene considering these two characters have rarely ever interacted before), but spot a recently-placed stake of crates just near the tree ridge. They bring them in and read a note that is attached, offering up a trade if they place food and vinyl records in the crates and meet at coordinates they have marked. Both Maggie and Enid express their concern that this is a trap, but Michonne offers up a different take and links it to her gut feeling to trust Aaron back in Season 5 when he offered to bring them to Alexandria. They ultimately decide to seek out the mystery, but Maggie makes it clear that they will be prepared in case it goes wrong. Trust is a tricky thing in the apocalypse and this dilemma is one that is present almost constantly, but this offer feels different right off the bat. Maggie, Michonne and Enid drive to the meet point, where a van is parked and two women stand guard. A feeling of uncertainty, much like the arrival at Alexandria, is present as a woman dressed cleanly and professionally steps out of the van and introduces herself as Georgie (Jayne Atkinson). Evoking a look and demeanor similar to that of Deanna, the mysterious leader explains that she has an offer for Maggie and the Hilltop. While Deanna turned out to be a saving grace, viewers know that just because someone seems kind, it doesn’t mean they actually are; Dawn, Gareth and Mary are just a few examples.

The character of Georgie is jarring and slightly off-putting initially as she announces that she has knowledge to trade, that of which she has shared with many others. Rosita appears and holds the trio at gunpoint as she and Enid pat down the women and search for weapons. Maggie and Enid both shut down all of Georgie’s offers to trade this knowledge for the records and food, but Michonne steps in and tries to change their mind. Maggie announces that the group will be brought back to the Hilltop as hostages until they can figure out what to do. In her office, Maggie talks with Michonne about the offer and Enid arrives to share her take; she’s wrought with emotion as she goes up against Michonne, who mentions Carl and his wish to work with others, noting the fact that Siddiq was brought into the fold and is now a valuable member of the community. Michonne manages to convince Maggie to take the deal and they meet with Georgie, who decides to only take the records and instead give the Hilltop a significant amount of food; she also hands over the knowledge, which is a large book of instructions for constructing windmills, aqueducts and other useful infrastructure. Georgie tells Maggie that she can see that they are good people and that the Hilltop will be a large and vibrant community one day; she will return at some point, not necessarily soon, to further their relationship and provide more information about where she comes from. Obviously, viewers have been conditioned into being distrustful of new faces, but it is hard to not be curious as to what exactly Georgie is all about.

“The Key” is exactly what “The Walking Dead” should be. There is whirlwind action that balances perfectly with rich character development and interactions between major players. By utilizing the majority of the main cast, this episode feels full and accomplishes a ton. It’s also just plain refreshing to have certain characters talk to one another like Rick/Daryl, Maggie/Michonne, and Rick/Negan, especially since many of them are regularly separated. Greg Nicotero’s directing and the writing of Corey Reed and Channing Powell deserves absolute praise; this episode features a significant amount of realistic dialogue, something that has been taken over at times by overly-poetic monologues that don’t always fit. The performances from Andrew Lincoln, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Steven Ogg and Katelyn Nacon also help to make this episode stand out. The further expansion of “The Walking Dead” Universe is thrilling and opens up a world of possibilities for the future of the show and the franchise as a whole. Fans are already speculating that Georgie belongs to a community called the Commonwealth, which is part of the “New World Order” arc of the comics, beginning in Issue 175; if this is the case, this introduction may serve as a tease and Georgie may not be seen again for quite some time. Could she and her guards be who Rick saw flying in the helicopter earlier this season? What does Jadis have planned for Negan? Will the Saviors launch their attack on the Hilltop?

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

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Dead or Alive Or’

Spoiler Warning for Season 8, Episode 11 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed.

Austin Amelio as Dwight and Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

After two of the best episodes of the season, “The Walking Dead” hits a bit of a speed bump that is filled with some out-of-character moments and rushed sequences. That being said, there is plenty of remarkable character development, shocking twists, grand story expansions and intense action that do help to make this episode worthy of praise. As the Alexandrians head to the Hilltop and Father Gabriel clings to life, the last stand of All Out War becomes more complicated and dangerous.

Following the destruction of Alexandria, everyone is on high alert as the Saviors search for those that escaped, knowing full well that their likely only place of refuge is the Hilltop. Daryl leads the refugees through the forests of Virginia to the Hilltop, but there are plenty of obstacles that prevent it from being a simple journey. Rosita and Daryl overhear a squad of Saviors discussing the fact that Father Gabriel and Dr. Carson escaped from the Sanctuary, and they deduce that they are also likely headed for the Hilltop. There is an abundance of tension among the Alexandrians as Dwight’s presence angers some, particularly Tara, who is unable to control her anger and repeatedly lashes out at him; she even goes so far as to throw a gnarly burnt walker at him, joking at the fact that he can handle himself, even though he is clearly injured. This is quite possibly the most significant issue of the episode as Tara’s actions and attitudes toward Dwight feel wholly out of character and contrived for the sake of immediate conflict. Obviously, Tara has every right to be angry at Dwight, but she has been shown to be smarter than to jeopardize her fellow survivors by attempting to carry out a revenge plot in a time of crisis. Over the course of the episode, she voices her distrust toward Dwight, infusing her personal humor, which feels entirely out of place and is downright irritating to watch.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Avi Nash as Siddiq, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Jason Douglas as Tobin, Kenric Green as Scott and Austin Amelio as Dwight (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

After a while of traveling, Rosita alerts Daryl to the fact that the Alexandrians need a break to rest. This is an important factor as many of the residents have never been out of the community and have very little survival experience; there’s also the fact that they just spent the night escaping their burning home via a sewer tunnel. While taking a moment to regroup, Daryl examines a map with Tara and Rosita, trying to figure out the best route. Dwight steps in and proposes that they cross through a swamp area due to the fact that Negan has told the Saviors to steer clear of it because of the dangers it holds. Once again, Tara voices her distrust, but Daryl and Rosita decide that it is their only option and that they will go ahead and clear a path for everyone to cross. Daryl, Rosita, Siddiq, Scott and some others enter the swamp and search for walkers to kill, having a few close calls that are reminiscent to the flooded food bank where Bob was bit in Season 5. Tara hangs back and vows to watch over her people, but immediately leaves her post when a walker stumbles around nearby. This is yet another case of her being written in a way that makes her look incredibly stupid, when viewers are fully aware that she is smart and knows to keep her eyes on the mission.

With a chip on her shoulder, Tara throws a knife on the ground for Dwight and volunteers him to help her take down the walker; there is a complete lack of gun safety as Tara repeatedly points her gun at Dwight while searching for the walker, something that may be intentional, but comes across as reckless and unnecessary. As they walk through the forest, Dwight apologizes for killing Denise and explains that he doesn’t expect her to forgive him, but that he just wishes for her to know that he feels sorrow and regret for what he did; there is genuine emotion and remorse from Dwight and it’s clear that killing Denise is something that haunts him. Earlier in the episode, Dwight tells Daryl that everything he did prior to turning on the Saviors was to protect Sherry; it seems as though part of the reason Daryl is tolerating Dwight is because he feels as though he owes Sherry for freeing him from the Sanctuary. Tara pulls her gun on Dwight and tells him that can’t just switch sides, even though that is exactly what she did when she joined Rick’s group after being with The Governor during his attack on the Prison. She states that killing him will make her feel better and she fires a shot, but misses, prompting a chase between Dwight and Tara that ends with them hiding from a group of Saviors. Dwight ultimately reveals himself to the Saviors, effectively putting the heat off of Team Alexandria and allowing them to continue on their current path; Tara sees this and it seems as though she starts to have a change of heart.

Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee. (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

A major highlight of the episode is the story taking place at the Hilltop. Following the dramatic altercation with Maggie and Simon on the road in “How It’s Gotta Be” and her execution of Savior Dean, she is tasked with a serious dilemma as supplies are running low. Dianne alerts Maggie to the fact that rations must be cut if the community is going to survive; the prisoners are dragging everyone down and there is simply not enough food to be given to them. Maggie is called to the prisoner pen by Gregory, who pleads to be let out and allowed to rejoin everyone, but she immediately shuts this down. Alden steps forward and proposes that the Saviors be allowed to have a few minutes outside of the pen each day, one at a time under armed guards, but Maggie also shuts this down claiming that they don’t have the resources to waste on enemies. Meanwhile, Morgan and Carol sit with Henry after arriving at the Hilltop with the Kingdom residents; Savior Jared pokes fun at Henry for being creepy to which he responds by questioning who killed Benjamin, something that Carol wants to keep a secret from him to maintain some semblance of his innocence. There’s a moment where Carol flat out tells Morgan that he isn’t okay and neither is Henry, and that they both need time to catch their breath. The relationship between Morgan and Carol has always been gripping to watch and this scene furthers this by showcasing the care they have for one another.

Back with the Alexandria group, Daryl lashes out at Tara for allowing Dwight to get away and return to the Saviors, fearing that he may tell them where the group is headed. Once again, this is rather odd for Daryl considering he seemed to be at least somewhat trusting of Dwight after the events of the Mid-Season Finale. Even Tara vouches for Dwight and explains that he may have just saved their lives. There is a touching beat as Daryl calms himself down after noticing Tobin covering Judith’s ears; now isn’t the time to let anger and fear take over and Daryl quickly realizes this. Shortly after this, Daryl’s group arrives at the Hilltop and reunites with everyone in a slow-motion montage set to musical score that shows characters like Carol, Maggie and Enid learning of Carl’s death. Enid drops to her knees in a fit of tears as Maggie comforts her; this is essentially the only strong reaction we see to the death as the moment is mostly skipped over for everyone else. Rather than playing up the moment and showing the full shock and devastation of the characters reacting to the biggest death ever, there is a watered-down missed opportunity for what could have been some truly emotional performances. This is a recurring issue that the series has, wherein reactions to death are glossed over and relegated to a brief scene(s) that lack the full depth and range of emotions that they should. You would think that they would finally get it right for Carl, but you would be totally wrong. It falls flat and disrespects Carl and his impact on the show.

R. Keith Harris as Dr. Harlan Carson, Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes – (Gene Page/AMC)

Later, Carol discusses what happened to Carl with Henry and Morgan decides to lie and say that Gavin was the one who killed Benjamin, giving peace to the young boy. There’s also a brilliant moment where Maggie meets Siddiq, who graciously thanks her for the Hilltop’s hospitality and offers his medical service. Maggie sees her people united and decides to offer the prisoners some time outside the pen, under armed guard and specifically for labor purposes. She also shuts down Gregory’s proposal that they all evacuate the Hilltop, proclaiming that they are stronger now that they are all together. It’s been the belief of many that the Hilltop will be the place that All Out War comes to an end and this scene serves as a moving note of confidence that our survivors will be victorious in the end. Kal announces to everyone that Rick has arrived at the community, but the episode cuts away, leaving his and Michonne’s arrival for next week; this is obviously due to the fact that had they shown Rick and Michonne, they would have had to pay the actors (I see your budget-saving techniques, AMC).

This episode also follows Father Gabriel and Dr. Carson after their escape from the Sanctuary in the Mid-Season Finale. They stole a car that Eugene told them about and hit the road, but quickly become lost as Gabriel’s health rapidly deteriorates. Aside from the fact that he is battling a fever and an infection, he is also losing his eyesight, yet his spirit is higher than ever. Dr. Carson wonders how he is in such a positive mood, which Gabriel responds by explaining his faith in God leading them. A “man of science/man of faith” conflict is present here as the two disagree about their miraculous luck since escaping. A slamming sound draws the two to a cabin, which they investigate and find a full radio unit that was apparently used to attempt to find other survivors; comic-readers might notice that this appears to be a bit of foreshadowing to a major arc in the future. Dr. Carson finds the body of the cabin owner, who seemingly committed suicide and left behind a collection of antibiotics, a huge find that will greatly help Gabriel. After a bit of rest, Dr. Carson inspects Gabriel’s eyes and comes to the conclusion that he is likely facing permanent damage, a terrifying situation in the zombie apocalypse, yet there is still optimism from Gabriel. This is a case of brilliant development for the once cowardly priest who has struggled with his faith, something that has now turned into a primary driving force for him.

Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter, Elyse Dufour as Frankie (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The faith of Gabriel is tested after he knocks over a piggy bank and finds car keys and a map, another apparent act of divine intervention. Things take a dark turn while the two walk to the car as Gabriel spots a sign that warns of traps in the yard, but before he can say anything, Dr. Carson steps right on a bear trap. He screams out in agony as the trap pierces his leg, drawing in walkers, some of which also step on traps. Gabriel scrambles to rescue him as Dr. Carson uses his gun to kill a few of the walkers on his own; the fact that he is nearly blind, doesn’t stop Gabriel from arming himself with his gun and firing a round at a walker on Dr. Carson, yet another act of divine intervention, at least in Gabriel’s eyes. The two limp to the garage and prepare to drive to the Hilltop, but are startled when Saviors surround them and drag them to a nearby pickup truck. Gabriel expresses some doubt in God, but Dr. Carson seems to have a plan and takes advantage of a Saviors’ lack of attention by grabbing his gun; another Savior fires a shot into Dr. Carson’s chest, killing him instantly, as the others yell at the shooter for killing a doctor. Father Gabriel cries out as the Saviors roll Dr. Carson’s body onto the ground and drive away. After all that they went through, Gabriel ends up right where he was in the first half of the season: trapped. It should have been a warning sign that Dr. Carson would meet his end when he spoke more than a few words; this was his biggest episode to date and it is unfortunately his last.

The last major story arc that this episode contains revolves around Eugene and Negan, specifically their tricky relationship and its future. After discovering that Gabriel and Dr. Carson escaped, Negan questions whether or not Eugene had any involvement, which viewers obviously know that he did. There’s clearly a level of distrust that Negan has toward Eugene that is only amplified when he asks what went down in Alexandria, obviously worried for his “former traveling companions.” Negan then tells Eugene that he will be in charge of his own outpost, stationed at the machinery shop to make bullets. After arriving and getting settled in, Eugene really starts to fit into his position of power and begins to come across as a bit of an asshole, ordering Frankie to get him food and “wipe his brow.” Negan pays a visit and delivers Gabriel, who is relegated to sorting bullets for Eugene, a job that may position him to sabotage the operation and save his friends. Eugene provides Negan with an update on the manufacturing and springs a new idea in the leader’s head. At the Sanctuary, the viewers and the Saviors learn of this idea in a demonstration with walkers. Negan bashes a walker with Lucille and smears the blood and guts all over her before announcing that they can now turn ordinary weapons into elements of biological warfare, utilizing the walker infection to their advantage. The game has been CHANGED.

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

While the second half of Season 8 may have started off strong with the first two episodes, this third chapter is a bit lackluster and is riddled with a handful of issues that prevent it from being on the same level as its predecessors. The actions and attitude of Tara are probably the most pressing issue, specifically when reflecting back on her character and the development she has received these past five seasons; it just doesn’t make much sense that she would be on a personal revenge path during a time of such turmoil and crisis, effectively putting everyone at risk. The reactions to Carl’s death and the meandering of Father Gabriel’s story are also major criticisms, although these are recurring problems within the series that have been around for quite some time. There are plenty of positives about this episode that do serve to progress the plot forward in some interesting ways, specifically the developments with Maggie and the prisoners, Morgan with Carol and Henry, Negan’s new weapon and Father Gabriel’s role in the operation. Special praise should be given to Michael Satrazemis for directing, as well as Greg Nicotero and his team for once again coming up with some truly unique walkers that really stand out. The performances from Seth Gilliam, Katelyn Nacon, Josh McDermitt, Lauren Cohan, Norman Reedus and Austin Amelio as Gabriel, Enid, Eugene, Maggie, Daryl and Dwight also help to add plenty of emotional depth to this episode. With the Savior forces pointed toward the Hilltop and all three communities gathered there, All Out War is heading into its dangerous final push.

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

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘The Lost and the Plunderers’

Spoiler Warning for Season 8, Episode 10 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed.

Coming off of the most emotionally traumatic episode of “The Walking Dead’s” entire run, this episode is a necessary installment that is less dreary and depressing, but still chock full of development and story progression. This episode is significant in the sense that it is far different from predecessors, utilizing a “chapter” style form of storytelling that explores the narrative through the point-of-view of six main characters; this is slightly reminiscent to the Season 4 episode titled “Inmates,” which had a similar structure and focused on small groups of characters following the destruction of the Prison. There are a handful of issues present, most notably some odd editing choices and a few instances of inconsistent writing. That being said, the character development, action and performances make this one of the strongest episodes of the season.

*Due to the narrative structure, events will be discussed in the order they are shown in the episode, rather than in chronological order. For each “chapter,” the name of the featured character appears in white text to make the audience aware that the events are being shown through that character’s point-of-view.

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

Michonne

All that Michonne wanted after arriving at Alexandria was for her family to be safe and for the community to work out for them. Seasons later, Carl is dead and Alexandria is destroyed. This first chapter picks up on the morning of Carl’s death as Rick and Michonne stand at his grave; walkers flood in and Michonne steps away to dispatch them as Rick has a final moment with his son. While Carl may be dead, his famed gun with the silencer will apparently live on as Rick decides to take it with him. Part of the wall has opened up and Michonne uses her katana to block the opening with some dead walkers, allowing for some truly gnarly kills, including one that seems to be a homage to the split-faced Quarry walker from “First Time Again.” Michonne makes her way to the Grimes household, which seems to be undamaged after the bombings; she becomes emotional after spotting the hand prints that Carl and Judith made on the porch the day before. As more walkers begin to overtake the community, Michonne heads inside and alerts Rick that they need to leave. While loading the truck, Michonne notices that the gazebo is burning and she notes that Carl used to sit atop it, another reference to “First Time Again.” She and Rick try to put out the fire using extinguishers, but to no avail. The burning gazebo represents what life has become for the Grimes family; everything, including Carl, has been burned away.

This episode really seems to mark the end of the Alexandria Safe-Zone, as noted in the scenes of Rick and Michonne driving out of the fallen community that is now overrun with walkers; it’s worth noting that the characters do return after the War in the comics, but it remains to be seen if that will happen in the show. Regardless, for the characters, this is a final goodbye to their home and Michonne takes one last look at the sign that still stands at the main gate to welcome newcommers; “Mercy for the Lost, Vengeance for the Plunderers,” the source of the episode title. While driving Rick wonders what Carl meant in his final words, a strange thing to say considering he literally told Rick that the fighting will have to stop at some point and that he will have to do what he needs to in order to hold onto his humanity. Michonne proposes that they read the letters that Carl wrote, but Rick just isn’t ready to do that yet…and can you blame him? While flipping through the stack, Michonne is stunned to discover a note to Negan. Rick decides to drive to the Junkyard to meet with Jadis and try to recruit them one last time, but when they arrive, there is an eerie emptiness, which is interrupted moments later by the sounds of walker growls; Rick steps in a puddle of blue paint that was recently spilled, a marker for another chapter. Suddenly, the two find themselves being trapped by dozens of turned Scavengers. While the decision for Rick and Michonne to come back to the Junkyard AGAIN feels repetitious initially, it does set up a fantastic moment later in the episode.

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

Negan

This episode catches up with Negan following his attack on Alexandria in “How It’s Gotta Be.” He speaks with Simon in the Sanctuary meeting room about the fact that Rick and others seemed to have an escape plan, something that is very much disappointing to him. Simon is feeling a bit restless about not having anywhere to be, wanting to teach the rebels a lesson by wiping out a community or possibly all of them and searching for new people to take control of in their place. There’s also talk about the fact that no one has heard from Gavin’s group at the Kingdom, which viewers obviously know were wiped out by Carol and Morgan last episode; it’s later mentioned that Negan has sent a team to check in on them, so there will likely be some drama that arises once word gets back about what happened. Negan is angered by the fact that Simon would bring up his plan to eliminate a community again, reiterating his belief that people are a resource and that killing should only be a last resort. Some Saviors enter the room with the coffin containing the prisoner named Dean that Maggie executed; Dean has turned and Negan puts him down with a nail gun in rather dramatic fashion. Simon is enraged after reading the message on the coffin that states that she is holding 38 more prisoners, deducing that they are his own people from the Satellite Outpost. Negan straight up puts Simon in his place by demanding that he fall back into line and do his job, screaming at his “right hand man” and putting the fear of Lucille into him. These two have had a touchy relationship this season, but this episode really shows that things are only getting worse between them as Simon becomes increasingly rebellious.

Briana Venskus as Beatrice, Katelyn Nacon as Enid, Ross Marquand as Aaron, Nicole Barré as Kathy and Syndey Park as Cyndie. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Enid

The show makes a return to Oceanside this episode following the shocking turn of events in the Mid-Season Finale when Enid shot Natania. Cyndie, Beatrice, Kathy and Rachel bring Enid and Aaron into the same house that Tara was held in “Swear.” They chain them to a radiator as they decide what to do next; being that Natania was Cyndie’s grandma, it is up to her to decide what is done. The Oceansiders leave to discuss, allowing Enid to open up to Aaron about killing Natania, something that she doesn’t regret and feels was justified. Cyndie and the others return and let their prisoners know that they will be taking them to the beach, presumably to execute them. Enid looks Cyndie in the eyes and sternly tells her that killing them will be a huge mistake considering the fact that Maggie and the others will likely come looking for them and will wipe out Oceanside completely. Enid really stands up for herself and her people in this episode, showing that she is learning from Maggie and the others, and is no longer going to stand in the background; she is taking charge and will be responsible for making important plays in the story.

Cyndie decides to allow them to live and leads them out of the community as Aaron and Enid once again try to convince her to bring her people into battle; she shoots this down and warns them to never return. Enid gets in Cyndie’s face again and basically tells her to stop being a coward, but there seems to be no convincing her. Aaron tells Enid to return to the car and to drive back to the Hilltop to update Maggie, explaining that he will stay and try to find a way to make Oceanside fight. The two hug and promise each other that they’ll see one another again; this is a touching moment between two of the last OG Alexandrians. Aaron once again proves himself to be such an impressive and likable person as he gives up the opportunity to return home and rest, putting his life at risk to forge an alliance. It is somewhat irritating that the Oceanside story still hasn’t progressed much since the community was introduced over a season ago. This is now the third time that our characters have visited the women, yet it feels like they aren’t any closer to joining up with the others survivors; this is a case of odd pacing this season that makes it seem as though certain arcs aren’t progressing like they should. Still, the community and its characters have a wealth of potential, so hopefully they become major players soon.

Steven Ogg as Simon and Pollyanna McIntosh. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Simon

What transpires during this particular chapter is some of the best of the episode. Under orders of Negan, an irritated Simon leads a crew of his men to the Junkyard to make Jadis aware that the Saviors know that she realigned with Rick. They arrive to find Jadis painting, seemingly catching the community off guard and prompting the Scavengers to arm themselves and prepare for a shootout. Simon demands that Jadis apologize for working with Rick, but she comes up with a flimsy explanation which is immediately called out as “BULL…SHIT.” The situation tenses up when Simon announces that they will be collecting all of the guns, something that is met with anger, but Jadis ultimately orders her people to turn over their weapons. There’s a little bit of backstory for the strange group as Simon questions Jadis about the helipad and solar panels in the Junkyard, a possible connection to the helicopter that was seen by Rick in “The Big Scary U.” While Jadis doesn’t really open up here about anything, she does later in the episode. It’s clear that Jadis really doesn’t like Simon or the Saviors as a whole and that her alliance with them was more out of common interests than anything else.

Simon continues to demand that she apologize and when she refuses to, he pulls out a gun and shoots Brion, and then Tamiel. There is a switch that flips in Jadis’ head and she absolutely snaps, punching Simon and knocking him to the ground as she screams at him; the blue paint marker comes back around as it is spilled all over Simon’s boots. This is where shit really hits the fan as Simon orders his people to kill all of the Scavengers; bloodcurdling shrieks can be heard as Jadis turns to see her people being gunned down right in front of her. The scene cuts back to Simon as he is returning to the Sanctuary, reuniting with Negan, who is curious as to how the meeting went. Simon bends the truth and states that the message has been received, but doesn’t mention the fact that he just slaughtered dozens of people; obviously, Negan would be angry if he found out what really happened (going back to people being a resource), so it makes sense that Simon would lie to protect his own ass. Their conversation is interrupted by a Savior who alerts Negan to the fact that Rick has reached out to them via walkie-talkie and wishes to speak. Simon looks down at his paint-covered boot and the reality of what he just did begins to set in; Simon isn’t right in the head and Negan just may be forced to put an end to his second-in-command if the truth ever comes out.

Pollyanna McIntosh as Jadis. (Photo courtesy of Gene Page/AMC)

Jadis

Picking up almost immediately where Michonne’s chapter left off, she and Rick find themselves trapped in the Junkyard and realize that they must climb the Heaps to escape the walkers. They reach a point that is far enough away from the herd and are surprised when Jadis calls out for them from atop a pile of trash; she’s wearing a white gown, a striking image when juxtaposed against the messy Junkyard. Jadis looks completely defeated as she explains that the home that she and her followers built in the Heaps was their own little world away from everyone and everything. This is a rather surprising scene as Jadis is more vulnerable than ever before, even dropping her broken-English and speaking in complete sentences for the first time ever in the series. Rick decides that he and Michonne will use some of the garbage to fight their way out and Jadis pleads for them to allow her to come with them; Rick shuts this down, claiming that she is of no use to them anymore. Using a car door as a shield, Rick and Michonne make their way through the walkers before finding the exit; Jadis arrives in the center of the Heaps and begs for them to spare her, but Rick pulls out his gun and shoots above her head, leaving her to the walkers. Looking back to “Mercy,” this is exactly what Rick did to Siddiq when Carl first encountered him at the gas station; this was his way of sending someone he couldn’t trust away, while not flat out killing them.

At the start of the season, Jadis was pretty much enemy number one for fans, but this episode tries to flip that idea and make the strange character out to be a bit more human. Left alone in a world of trash, Jadis sits at the end of a long path, using a metal stick to make noise and draw her walker-followers to her. It’s revealed that she has positioned herself on a trash compactor, which she turns on and leads the walkers right into; Jadis watches as her friends and family fall into the blades and are ripped apart, all the while reaching for her. There’s genuine emotion present as nearly 90 freshly-turned walkers are eviscerated in mere minutes, with the camera focusing in on Jadis’ face. It’s truly heartbreaking, specifically when Brion and Tamiel fall into the compactor, putting an end to what is assumed to be Jadis’ two closest friends. After it’s all said and done, the compactor has pushed out a disgusting walker goop of blood and guts that is smeared over the painting that was shown earlier; this will go down as one of the gnarliest moment in the show’s entire history. This is a real end to the community, but Jadis isn’t down for the count, although she does take a moment to process what just happened before opening a supply cache and snacking on applesauce. This is the first real instance of major character development for Jadis since she was introduced a full season ago and it comes at the perfect time; while no one will likely be able to trust her anytime soon, it looks as though she is on track for a redemption arc moving forward.

Danai Gurira as Michonne and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Rick

The final chapter of the episode picks up just after the escape from the Junkyard as Rick explains to Michonne that he saw Jadis get away and that he didn’t want to kill her. Michonne points out that that may be what Carl was referring to in his final moments in the sense that they don’t need to kill everyone. Overcome with emotion, Rick pulls over and tells Michonne that he needs a moment, collecting the letters and walking into the forest. Michonne knows exactly what he is going through and gives him the space that he needs to deal with the loss. Rick ends up in a field and decides to open and read the letter that Carl wrote to Negan, leaving a confused and surprised look on his face. This is where the timelines sync up as Rick calls out for Negan on his walkie-talkie, connecting to the end of Simon’s chapter. Rick flat out tells Negan that Carl died, leaving the tyrant speechless and taken aback; earlier in the episode, Negan mentions that Carl was built for the world, so this news comes as a major shock to him. There seems to be some actual compassion and heartbreak from Negan, who expresses his condolences; although, this is thrown away as Negan begins pointing fingers and blaming Rick for what happened to Carl, stating that he failed as a leader and as a father. There is some inconsistent writing here as Negan once again claims that Carl was the future, even though he literally was about to bash Carl’s head in with Lucille just days ago in the show’s timeline. It’s moments like this where it’s a bit difficult to side with Negan at all; Rick is not responsible for Carl’s death in anyway. Still, it’s clear from this conversation, the battle between the two leaders is coming to a head and blood will be shed.

“The Lost and the Plunderers” is rich with character development for many key players that have been regularly pushed to the side. By focusing on a select six characters, the story is able to progress in a way that feels natural and serves to payoff many of the vignettes that were set up throughout the season. The elimination of the Scavengers has been a long time coming and opens up a world of potential for Jadis, possibly setting her up to be more likable than ever before; the Junkyard gang was mostly disliked by fans prior to this episode, but this marks a turning point for the sole survivor and could be a jumping point for establishing her as a long-lasting character. The developments for Simon and Enid are also noteworthy, giving them their best material to date as they become more nuanced and multi-dimensional. While there are a few instances of odd editing, including cheap zoom-ins and choppy flashbacks, the structure of this episode definitely deserves praise for being unique and allowing the story to be told in a way that places priority on the characters. The performances across the board are great with Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Katelyn Nacon really delivering some powerful and emotional punches as Rick, Michonne, Negan and Enid. Without a doubt, the standouts are Steven Ogg and Pollyanna McIntosh as they showcase their talent in their best episode to date as Simon and Jadis. This tenth chapter of “All Out War” answers a few questions and raises others, setting the final arcs of the season into motion.

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

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Honor’

MAJOR Spoiler Warning for the Mid-Season Premiere (Season 8, Episode 9) 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, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes and Danai Gurira as Michonne. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The most heartbreaking and controversial episode in “The Walking Dead’s” eight-year run has finally aired. Following the shocking turn of events at the end of December’s Mid-Season Finale, closure is presented to the viewers after an extended hiatus. When one looks back on the series, there are several episodes that stand out as turning points due to major character deaths; Shane’s demise in “Better Angels,” Lori’s farewell in “Killer Within,” Hershel’s brutal end in “Too Far Gone” and the Glenn/Abraham slaughter in “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” serve as these turning points, ushering the series into a new era. “Honor” throws a wrench into all preconceived thoughts about the show’s future by killing off the biggest character to date and establishing itself as the most jarring turn of events in over 100 episodes. On all levels, this episode is a testament to the show’s ability to tell a compelling story, even this many years in. Some issues do persist, mostly in regards to structure, but this is an episode that will stand the test of time.

There’s plenty of good to be discussed about this episode, but its better to get the issues out of the way. This is the final episode featuring Carl Grimes, yet a significant chunk is spent with Morgan, Carol, Ezekiel and the Saviors at the Kingdom. While these scenes do a wonderful job at serving as both a parallel and juxtaposition to what Carl says in his final moments, the constant switching back and forth takes away from the rich emotional tone that is present during the Alexandria scenes; this problematic structure is incredibly reminiscent to that of the aforementioned episode “Killer Within.” That being said, there is something to be said about the show’s use of parallelism to hint at what is to come.

This episode jumps back in time a bit to show the lead up to Gavin’s takeover of the Kingdom. At the Sanctuary, Morgan is caught off guard when he sees that the Saviors inside have found a way to escape by mowing down the walkers that had previously trapped them; it was revealed in the previous episode that Eugene was responsible for coming up with this escape plot. Saviors shoot at Morgan in his sniper position and force him to retreat outside where he uses walkers to escape before making his way to the Kingdom. Following the escape of the Kingdom residents and King Ezekiel’s capture, Morgan plots outside of the walls, looking for an opportunity to strike. He can’t do it alone though. A few miles down the road, Carol orders Nabila to lead the Kingdom refugees to the cottage that she spent much of Season 7 in; Nabila expresses her confidence in Carol to take down the Saviors and rescue the King. There’s also a brief moment in which Henry boldly proclaims that he wants to go with Carol to avenge his brother’s death, but she shuts him down. It’s refreshing to see that at least a few Kingdom members have survived and will continue to be recurring characters in the series; Nabila, in particular, is an entertaining minor character who evokes joy and hope, similarly to Jerry. Carol doesn’t have much time to rest as she sets off to be a one-woman army.

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

In the center of the Kingdom, Gavin lambastes Ezekiel for rebelling against Negan and the Saviors. Ezekiel stands strong, unashamed of what he did, even turning the table on Gavin and offering a way out of the tyrannical Savior group. This is a fascinating moral quandary that is presented to the characters, wherein they are forced to ponder their actions and decide what they should do with their future, a common theme in the series. Gavin has always been a Savior that is less-enthusiastic about how harsh the Saviors are, but he wants to save his own skin. He does show humanity when loading Ezekiel up in a truck to take him to the Sanctuary to face Negan, ordering his men to make the King comfortable for his final journey. At the perimeter of the Kingdom, Morgan has snuck in and spots Henry running into the community alone; Morgan reunites with Carol and the two come up with a game plan to rescue Ezekiel, plotting to go slow and not attract attention. Together, they kill off several Saviors, but it’s clear that Morgan is dangling in a dangerous mental state; he isn’t quite in full-blown “clear” mode, but he is certainly close. After killing Saviors with his spear, he justifies his actions to Carol, who seems to notice that Morgan isn’t doing well. It’s difficult to see Morgan so fractured and conflicted, but it fits his character and serves as a necessary marker for where he has been, where he is now and where he is going.

As Team Carol and Morgan slaughter Saviors, Gavin realizes something is up and orders his men to relocate Ezekiel to the theater to better defend themselves. Gavin slaps Ezekiel, angry that nothing is ever able to run smoothly; there’s also a heavy feeling of worry present with Gavin as he mentions that the threat of Lucille hangs over him. Suddenly, an explosion at the theater entrance sends the Saviors into fight mode with Gavin demanding that the attackers surrender. Carol and Morgan burst out from backstage into the theater and begin shooting at the Saviors, giving Ezekiel the opportunity to get free and arm himself. A single Savior attacks Morgan, but savagery comes out as the aikido-master uses his bare hands to rip the Savior’s intestines out through a bullet hole; just when it seems as though the series has turned down the gore, a scene like this reminds viewers that this isn’t a show for those with weak stomachs.

Gavin is horrified by what Morgan did to the Savior and exits the theater in a hurry, limping after being shot in the leg. Morgan isn’t going to let him get away though and a tense chase begins that ends with Gavin being held with the spear to his throat; to say Morgan is a terrifying figure is an understatement, he may just be scarier than Negan at this point. Gavin pleads for Morgan to spare him, but also states that they will never defeat Negan; Carol and Ezekiel dissuade him from carrying out the execution, but Morgan wants to finish the job. In a shocking turn of events, a spear rips through Gavin’s throat, revealing Henry to be the executioner; he finally avenged Benjamin’s death, but Carol and Ezekiel are stunned and disturbed by his actions. This scene perfectly parallels an event in the series that Carl mentions in this episode and plays into his overall message that not all people should be killed. It’s worth noting that this is the first major case of development for Henry after the murder of Benjamin; it will be interesting to see if he is developed into a more significant character, possibly fulfilling some of Carl’s post-war arcs from the comics. The scenes at the Kingdom demonstrate Carol and Morgan’s individual skills as fighters, but also their badassery as a team.

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Macsen Lintz as Henry and Khary Payton as King Ezekiel. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The time has come to discuss the elephant in the room. It’s the loss that no one wanted to happen, the one that has been in the headlines for months now: Carl’s death. Fans have known that Carl would die since he revealed that he was bitten in “How It’s Gotta Be.” This episode takes viewers on the journey of Carl’s last day on Earth, beginning with the moment that he was bitten by a walker, shown from a different angle than was originally aired in “The King, The Widow, and Rick.” Carl fights off walkers with Siddiq, but is caught off guard when one of the undead take a bite out of his abdomen; there’s a look of pain and shock on his face, but there’s no time to be sad. He returns to Alexandria with Siddiq, who he sends into the sewer tunnels, before proceeding to his house where he removes his shirt and examines the bite. A song called “At The Bottom of Everything” (by Bright Eyes) is played over a montage of Carl’s final day; he spends time with Judith, putting paint hand prints on their porch and snapping Polaroid pictures. He also writes letters to Rick, Michonne and Enid, clearly aware that he might not be able to say goodbye in person. The song that plays is oddly upbeat and cheery, but also bleak and dark with lyrics that are symbolic of Carl’s life: “while my mother waters plants, my father loads his gun”/”he says death will give us back to God, just like the setting sun is returned to the lonesome ocean.”

The narrative catches up to where it left off as Rick and Michonne discover that Carl was bitten. They’re both shocked and very slowly realize what this means: their son will die. Carl explains that it happened when he was bringing Siddiq back, not as a result of the Saviors or the ongoing war. Siddiq offers medicine to help with Carl’s fever and it is revealed that he was a resident before the apocalypse; this is crucial as characters with medical experience are a rarity. Explosions continue to ring out as the Saviors bomb what remains of Alexandria; the tunnel rattles and it becomes clear that they can’t stay there. Michonne charges for Dwight and demands that he put a stop to the bombing, but he explains that he cannot do that; Rosita steps forward and comforts Michonne, while proposing that they evacuate to the Hilltop. Michonne leaves it up to the others to decide what is next; she has more pressing matters to deal with. Carl is clearly at the end stages of the infection, but he still has time to impart some wisdom on the group as they do their best to make him comfortable in his final hours. The scenes with Carl are absolutely gut-wrenching; everyone knows that he is dying, but there is a sense of calmness as Carl seems to have accepted his fate…he’s almost at peace with it all.

Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes and Chloe/Sophia Garcia-Frizzi as Judith Grimes (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

With the sound of the bombings having subsided, Daryl leads Tobin, Scott and a few of the Alexandrians out of the sewers to investigate. They return and report back that the Saviors have left, allowing them to leave Alexandria. This is when the episode goes from being sad to flat out heartbreaking; Rick tells Michonne to take Judith to the Hilltop, choking up as he considers the possibility of her also dying. Michonne vows to stay with Rick and Carl, prompting Daryl to step forward and take Judith; Carl obviously wants to say goodbye though and they place the toddler in front of her big brother. Carl removes his hat and passes it to Judith, telling her the story of when Rick gave it to him after he was shot in Season 2; he states that the hat always made him feel closer to Rick, making him feel strong like him as well. He also mentions Lori and recites her final words to him; “before mom died, she told me that I would beat this world. I didn’t…but you will.” Judith begins crying and Daryl collects her before saying his final words to Carl, his friend since Season 1; “these people, you saved them all. That’s all you, man,” he tells Carl, who smiles at Daryl’s gratitude to him. While emotional, it would have been even more rewarding to have a longer goodbye between Carl and Daryl, but the hunter is a man of few words, so we’re lucky we got what we got.

In fact, Siddiq got a a longer goodbye to Carl, which is a bit unusual, but definitely serves to set up his character moving forward. The two discuss the fact that working together on the day Carl got bit was to honor both of their mothers. Siddiq basically tells Carl that he will work to honor his life and make sure that his sacrifice wasn’t in vain. Carl is clearly comforted by this and welcomes Siddiq into the group; “congratulations, you’re stuck with us.” The rest of Carl’s life is spent with Rick and Michonne…and it is heavy. He flat out tells Michonne that she can’t break down after he is gone and that she needs to be strong for Rick and Judith; Michonne has been through this before and something tells me that she will be the one to keep the group going, using the pain from losing her two sons as a catalyst to build a better future so that no one will have to experience this type of loss again. Quite possibly the most powerful moment in the episode comes as Carl calls Michonne his best friend, to which she responds by calling him the same. Since they first met in Season 3, there has been a unique bond that has developed between the two, one that balances on this fine line between parent/child and a friendship; their relationship is by far some of the best material ever covered in the series due to its simplicity and humanity in such a dark and depressing world.

Danai Gurira as Michonne, Andrew Lincoln as Rick and Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

A sewer is not the place for Carl Grimes to take his final breath. Rick wants to get his son to a better place before he passes, so he and Michonne decide to carry him out of the tunnels and up into Alexandria. The community is in flames with homes burning all around them; the theme of religion is present once again as they discover that the church is not on fire, even after being exploded during the bombings. They make their way inside and settle Carl on the ground and the reality of it all sets in; in an eerie way, the church is peaceful and beautiful, symbolizing the fact that even after all of the destruction they have experienced, there is still solace to be found. Carl takes a moment to thank Rick for getting him to this point, making it so he could have a life worth living. He also tells the story of the time that the Prison was attacked by The Governor and Woodbury during the Season 3 finale; a young fighter came across him in the woods and began to surrender, but Carl shot him in the head. This was a massive turning point for him and set him down a dark path until Rick decided to ease them back, put away his gun and focus on peace rather than war. It wasn’t easy for them, but it brought both Rick and Carl back from absolute darkness; they could have just as easily ended up becoming evil people, but they let their humanity lead the way. Carl tells Rick that he needs to do that again, not for Carl, but for himself, for Michonne, but most importantly, for Judith.

With their time running out, Rick tells Carl that he is sorry that he couldn’t keep him safe; this is something that both Shane and Lori eerily predicted back in Season 2. Carl comforts his father by stating that it isn’t the job of a father to keep his son safe, it’s just to love him; this plays into Carl’s entire purpose in the story in that he actively worked to be a strong and independent person that could survive on his own, not just be protected by others like one would expect for a child. Carl opens up and shares his vision of a future that he has, revealing the context of the “old-man Rick” flashforwards. Carl’s vision has Rick older and grayer, Judith and Michonne happier, Alexandria grown and expanded; Jerry and Siddiq work together, Eugene is back home and most surprisingly, Negan is part of the community. Rick tells Carl that everything they have been through was for him and Judith, but he will now work to make that future that he envisioned, hearkening back to what Rick told Carl in “No Way Out.” Carl realizes that his time is up and pulls out his gun to the dismay of Michonne, who offers to put him down, referring back to the pact they made with each other in “The Next World; “it should be someone you love.” He has to do it himself though, because he can still do it himself, releasing his parents from the burden of putting their son down. Morning comes and Rick and Michonne sit outside as the sound of a silenced gunshot rings out…Carl Grimes is dead. Rick and Michonne bury him in the Alexandria cemetery, allowing him to remain at his home, a home that will hopefully be rebuilt one day.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Kinsley Isla Dillon as Judith Grimes. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The time has come to pay tribute to Carl Grimes, the fallen hero. He was first introduced in the Pilot episode, which aired all the way back in 2010. From the start, it was clear that “The Walking Dead” would be presenting the story through a variety of viewpoints, but Carl’s was always unique due to his age and innocence. He was robbed of his childhood and forced to live in a world where death is everywhere; he had to grow up fast to keep up with the world and quickly lost the innocence that he had. Carl always wanted to prove himself to the group and be seen as an equal rather than just a child; because of this, he regularly took some risky moves that endangered himself, but also gave him a wealth of survival skills. In Season 2, he lost his friend Sophia, caused the death of Dale and was forced to shoot walker Shane, all in the course of a few days; the next season, his most game-changing moment came when he stepped forward to kill his mother and prevent her from reanimating. All these years later, he finds himself in a similarly hopeless situation, yet hope always prevails.

Throughout the series, he always danced a fine line between being a possible serial killer and being a caring human being; in the end, he found that holding onto his humanity was the most important thing, because even though it cost him his own life, he was able to save countless others. Carl’s story is one that will forever resonate with viewers due to the fact that he is the type of person that one should strive to be not just in an apocalyptic setting, but also in the real world; he shows that helping others is important and benefits everyone, as does being kind and compassionate. He loved his family more than anything and he took great comfort in knowing that they would be okay without him. Even after constantly being beaten down and seeing his friends and family ripped apart, Carl held onto the idea that things can always get better, because they can always make things better. It’s never easy, but with a little hard work, the future can be bright. Carl’s legacy will be carried by Rick, Michonne, Judith, Siddiq and every single character that he crossed paths with, but also the viewers, who will hold him memory dearly; we are part of his legacy. Over the course of eight seasons, Chandler Riggs portrayed the character in such an eloquent and moving way, helping to grow the boy up into the man he is at the end; this episode is without a doubt his finest performance to date, a brilliant end to his time on the series.

“Honor” is such a fitting farewell to the character of Carl Grimes. While the decision to kill him off in the first place is still very strange and may never be fully justifiable, it’s at least comforting that his exit is a satisfying conclusion to his story. The episode itself, while suffering from a few minor issues, proves that while the show’s quality and popularity may have decreased over the past two seasons, “The Walking Dead” is still able to deliver emotionally powerful episodes that keep viewers on their toes. The acting from every single cast member is hard to put into words with Lennie James, Melissa McBride, Khary Payton and Jayson Warner Smith bringing their A-game in the Kingdom siege; Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln also deliver some of their best performances to date as they dig deep and pull out all of their emotions to say goodbye to Carl. The real shining star of this episode is Chandler Riggs, who possibly has the most impactful performance in the entire series, showing his character succumb to the infection while still hitting all of the feelings. The cinematography and direction by Greg Nicotero also deserve praise, specifically in the use of hints of light to break up the darkness in the final scenes with Carl. While this may be the end of the road for Carl, the second half of the season is only just beginning as “The Last Stand” of All Out War is now in play. Where do we go from here? How will everyone react to what just went down? Stay tuned.

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