by Evan Fischer
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of The Walking Dead.
“Monsters” shines in all the worst ways. Terrible acting, awful decisions, and out-of-place scenes run rampant throughout it in the most entertaining way possible. “Monsters” mainly follows four different groups throughout the episode. Rick and Daryl, Carol and Ezekiel, Morgan and Jesus, and Maggie at the Hilltop. While none of these stories progress the plot much, they are some of the most entertaining stories told yet this season.
The episode begins with yet another cheesy Ezekiel speech where he continually drives home the idea that the group will “lose not one of their ranks.” What follows is a scene where the group successfully takes out a group of The Saviors without losing a member which leads Ezekiel to yell “not one!”. Unfortunately, anyone who has ever seen an episode of The Walking Dead (or literally any other mediocre show) will recognize this as a ham-fisted attempt to set up a moment in which they ultimately lose many of their ranks.
The return of a fan favorite character and the prospect of a new plotline get cut shorter than the budget for season 2. As Rick sits face to face with Morales at gun point, they begin to reminisce about the past and an interesting character surfaces. How did Morales get here? Why does he hate Rick so much now? What happened to his family? By showing rather than telling, The Walking Dead successfully created a three-dimensional character with real motivations and an interesting story. Yet apparently all good things that come to the series must come to an abrupt end as Daryl comes in to save the day. With the prospect of an interesting story gone, The Walking Dead returns to telling the same braindead stories it has been telling for years.
Gunfights continue for the third episode in a row and the aiming is about as bad as ever (with the exception of Eric who takes a stomach shot). It seems the zombies have forgotten gunshots attract them and have almost entirely stopped showing up to any of these scenes which, although inconsistent, makes the fights feel new. The scene between Aaron and Eric is fairly generic and horribly bland but it does have a saving grace. As often happens in the series, a character has to deal with both the death of a loved character and then the aftermath of the newly reanimated version of said character. Rather than opening the large book of Walking Dead clichés, this death happens offscreen and the idea of having to deal with Walker Eric is only hinted at. By breaking away from this cliché and once again showing rather than telling, an actual meaningful death took place this episode (but knowing the series he is most likely just under a dumpster somewhere).
Morgan has had arguably one of the roughest character arcs throughout the series and it is catching up with him. From not being able to deal with his zombie wife to going insane and from killing to not killing and so on, Morgan’s ethical center has collapsed on itself again and again in hilarious fashion. Now in killing mode, Morgan takes issue with Jesus’s approach to hostages. With Morgan’s old tormentor (Jared) now in chains and still taunting him, Morgan attempts to kill him before being deus ex machina’d by some tumbling zombies. In a show where a man shouts Shakespeare quotes with a large CG tiger by his side, the prospect of zombies rolling down a hill (and somehow getting back up) like a group kids at play shouldn’t seem as goofy as it is, yet it is a spectacle to witness.
“What could possibly follow tumbling zombies and a tiger?” asks The Walking Dead. Luckily the next scene in the episode has that question covered as a BMX armor-clad Morgan fights Jesus with his Death Stick (that description probably shouldn’t exist in a drama about the end of the world). While the battle is rooted in an interesting conflict of ethics, a Jedi battle was arguably not the best way to portray this struggle.
Finally, Gregory is back to his old antics. As he lies and begs to be let back into the Hilltop, he continues to be one of the most entertaining characters on the show. As if straight out of a cartoon, he begs to be let back in and, when he finally enters, he denies others access to the Hilltop. Maggie seems to be doing a good job as one of the newly anointed leaders of the series and is an interesting voice of ethics at this point. This is definitely a correct step for the series as she counteracts Rick’s craziness with a more reasonable point of view.
Overall, “Monsters” is a blast, for better or worse. While not a technically good episode (a terrible one as a matter of fact), it embraces it’s own dumbness. This episode was the perfect trainwreck that you didn’t need to feel bad about watching. “Monsters” did manage to pull off some good ideas that may ultimately be ruined by future episodes, but in the meantime they are effective. What hurts the most this episode has to be the poor payoff of Morales’ storyline. Unless Morales managed to crawl under the table after being shot, his inclusion at this point was a fun (if short-lived) throwback to the earlier episodes.
Featured image from AMC
The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 3: "Monsters"
"Monsters" embraces the goofy comic book feel the show has been headed towards for a while at the cost of drama and horror. By far one of the most entertaining watches of the season (or series for that matter), "Monsters" continues the Walking Dead’s tradition of taking two steps backward for every step forward it makes with fantastic consequences.