The Walking Dead aired the eleventh episode of its eighth season on Sunday night, steering clear of Rick Grimes in favor of the rest of its characters on the way to a conclusion of the All Out War story.
Episode 8x11 is titled, "Dead or Alive Or." The official synopsis for Dead or Alive Or reads, "Daryl finds himself in bad company as his group heads to the Hilltop; Gabriel's faith gets tested." Daryl was hardly the only character to have a prominent role in Episode 8x11, as it appeared to be centered around Father Gabriel's newly revived faith.
Furthermore, Negan spawned an important plan which will largely change the upcoming events of his war against Rick Grimes.
Despite all of the characters involved in Episode 8x11, Dead or Alive Or lacked in pacing as the war was prolonged and characters were brought together but still felt spread out. Let's take a look at the good and the bad of The Walking Dead's latest episode...
Daryl finally had some dialogue in Episode 8x11 as he lead the Alexandrians to the Hilltop in the wake of Negan's grenade attack.
To start the episode, Daryl had a great interest in keeping Dwight alive through the war. He appeared to be going as far as showing interest in the character's struggles, wonderfully echoing the rivalry between Rick and Shane as they had some real conversation walking through the woods. Daryl went as far as asking about Dwight's missing wife Sherry during the episode.
Then, there was Tara, who wanted Dwight dead for killing Denise. Revenge is one thing and fair to seek in this post-apocalyptic world. However, Tara's irrational hunt of the character fans are finally coming around to was a bit frustrating, especially considering she was once on the Governor's side. No, she didn't kill any of Rick's group directly, but ask Hershel if that kept his head on.
When Dwight ditches the group as a means to cover for and protect them, Tara is convinced he is helping them, but Daryl is suddenly infuriated and wants him dead. So, what's actually going on here?
And then, to top it all off, the dialogue was silenced by Bear McCreary's score (albeit, a strong musical number) when the news of Carl's death was relayed to Carol, Maggie, Enid, and others.
The Walking Dead went into uncharted territories in Episode 8x11 while developing Gabriel's faith.
Whether it was a series of coincidences or a higher power truly leading the way, Gabriel's near-invincible journey with Doctor Carson was one of the most intriguing and entertaining bits Season Eight has had to offer. Maybe it's just Seth Gilliam and his character because Episode 8x05, The Big Scary U, brought out some of the best this series has to offer in terms of character development, as well. All of that was credit to Gilliam's Gabriel and Angela Kang's writing, as well.
Although Father Gabriel's journey and intense blind rescue of Doctor Carson ultimately lead the character back to square one at Negan's Sanctuary, the journey was worth watching and primes Gabriel for an important role.
Predictably, Doctor Carson was killed after an episode packed with development for the character. He never emerged as anything more than a pessimistic traveling companion but we finally heard him speak several times in one episode.
The writing was on the wall for the character weeks ago, though. Siddiq being introduced and carrying the skills of a doctor meant Doctor Carson's value plummeted. There's no need to have two guys in the Hilltop competing for the job of caring for Maggie through her pregnancy. It gives Siddiq the opportunity to shine and become a central figure going forward, at a time when The Walking Dead needs to develop its ancillary characters to positions which can carry the show forward.
Fans who read The Walking Dead comics saw the concluding moments of Episode 8x11 coming from weeks away.
Negan covered his weapons in walker guts, telling his Savior soldiers that any strike from the weapons and ammunition will guarantee death for their enemies. It's an interesting contradiction from that time Rick cut his hand on a machete lodged in a walker, but that's a story for another time.
Following the comics provides some of the strongest moments for The Walking Dead. Though it makes some story beats more predictable, it reminds fans that the show is being catered to them in some regard, even after characters like Carl are unexpectedly killed off.
Episode 8x11 was the first episode of Season Eight to be completely without Rick Grimes, aside from a call out of, "Open the gate! It's Rick!"
Although the episode followed numerous characters and storylines, it felt slow and lacked in pacing. Mere minutes appeared to pass in the latest installment of The Walking Dead and, in the wake of Carl's death and some more threats to Negan, it ventured away from its central story.
While The Walking Dead does need to build other characters in an effort to mold them into strong enough pillars to carry the show in the future, it needs to keep Rick Grimes front and center while doing so.