“I’m a goddamn cat.”
This week on The Walking Dead we were introduced to a weird new group (led by Secretary of State Cathy Durant), the hilltop people actually got their asses into gear, and we got an out of nowhere Rick/Negan showdown that will go down as one of the show’s best ever scenes. Season 8 is really shaping up to be a classic run of episodes for the show, hopefully they’ll carry this on right up until the finale.
The main bulk of the episode is spent on the exciting cat and mouse game between Rick and Negan. No one really expected either of them to die, but with the outcome being that Negan is presumed dead (and has actually been captured by Jadis) it’d be unfair to say the fight didn’t lead to some new developments. The fight itself was of the shows best choreographed, matching the awesome Rick/Shane showdown of season 2 episode ’18 Miles Out’ and possibly even beating out the Rick/Claimers throwdown in terms of sheer Rick-craziness. I mean, Rick lights Lucille on fire and nearly beats Negan to death with it/her. The sight of Rick with a flaming baseball bat will almost certainly delight those who have said he’s recently felt like he’s lost his mojo, as will much of the fight. In fact, the fight really illustrates the difference between Negan and Rick. Whilst Negan is calculated with his violence; killing 1 to ‘save’ many, Rick is just downright insane. Whether it’s chasing after The Saviour’s armed convoy single-handedly, or unleashing a horde of walkers upon himself just to piss off Negan, it’s clear in any other show Rick could very well be the bad guy.
The success of the Rick vs Negan storyline is predominantly down to the brilliant performances by Andrew Lincoln and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Sure, there’s a collection of viewers out there who still haven’t taken to Negan but with the new humanising angle the show’s taking, I’m sure they’ll come around. Morgan’s performance perfectly captures the funny and sinister character from the comics. And Andrew Lincoln as Rick needs no explanation; he’s the backbone of the entire show. When the show falters you can always count on Lincoln’s engrossing performance as Rick. Where the show will take Negan’s character next is a mystery. Jadis being the one to apprehend him at the end was a surprise, and I usually see these things coming. His men, including the turncoats Dwight and Simon, think he’s pretty much dead too. They’re planning to assault the Hilltop still, only now with the much more volatile Simon (Steven Ogg) leading them. I’m glad they’ve bumped up Simon’s screen time as it not only allows Ogg to chew some more scenery (seriously, the man is incredibly watchable) but it also allows for Negan to have a foil – and suggest that maybe Negan leading wasn’t the worst thing. Simon’s scenes with Dwight (Austin Amelio) were a highlight of the episode. The dialogue was eccentric, funny, and very well written. It reminded me of the sort of writing that made the show so great in the first place.
I’m not sure what next week will have in store but after the high watermark high jinks of this episode, I’m certainly intrigued. I doubt we’ll see the new group again for a little while but I didn’t enjoy them.
Cathy Durant Jayne Atkinson was awesome as the leader and her two weird sidekicks were interesting enough. But I wouldn’t expect to see them again until probably next season. As for next week, I reckon we’ll see that much-promised attack on the hilltop. Will another fan favourite character bit the bullet? Will this be the Rick and the infected arrow scene from the comics? I’d put money on it…