Previously on The Walking Dead, “Some Guy”
The big, scary U refers to the big, scary unknown. This is explained by everyone’s favorite sniveling turncoat, Gregory. He’s referring to the aftermath of Negan’s attack on Alexandria and how it didn’t go so well. However, the true big, scary unknown is Negan himself. I wonder if non-book readers can firmly say they understand who Negan is and what motivates him. The fact that the character remains compelling at all is mainly due to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal. He manages to lay on the right amount of smarmy charm that keeps you invested, and, sometimes rooting for him. And when he points out that he killed Glenn and Abraham, but Rick is the one who got them killed and that’s a big distinction, you’re like, “He’s got a point.” Articulating that point may not be possible, but you still walk away feeling like what he said made sense… especially to him.
The episode’s cold open was extremely long and really only served to reiterate information we’d already figured out. Still, it was mostly worth it for a few choice moments. Gregory arrived to tell Negan about the other groups teaming up, but they’d already left to deal with Alexandria. Simon gives him one last opportunity to sell his value to Negan and the other lieutenants. Of course, Negan immediately points out that if Gabriel has such control over Hilltop, how come he didn’t know that Maggie was leading them to the Alexandria ambush?
Simon suggests killing everyone in retaliation, but Negan prefers to make an example out of Rick, Ezekiel, and Maggie and reminds Simon that people are a valuable resource. It really is amazing that Negan has maintained control as long as he has considering how often he chooses not to kill people. (He’s spared Rick a few times, Carol, Rosita, Eugene, Daryl, Sasha, and now Gabriel.) Their meeting is cut short by the arrival of Rick and his crew, and then we’re all caught up to the last time we saw Negan and Gabriel.
At first, it feels like most of his time spent with Father Gabriel — trapped inside a trailer with dozens of walkers trying to get in — is meant to provide some insight into Negan. You definitely think that’s what Gabriel is trying to do; either to buy time until he meets Lucille or out of genuine religious concern — isn’t immediately clear. Just when it appears Negan is going to confess his sins to Gabe, the preacher makes his move and tries to recover his gun from Negan’s waistband. He’s not successful, but he does manage to lock himself into another room in the trailer.
And yet, Negan still tries to talk Gabriel into walking out alive and together. His motives could be twofold as well. He claims he wants to make Gabriel his new pet project and teach him how to turn his weaknesses into strengths, or he could want to make sure he has bait to navigate his way out of the trailer. But after Gabriel confesses that he locked his parishioners out of their church, Negan admits that he treated his only real wife (pre-ZA) like crap, cheated on her, and then couldn’t put her down when she turned. Negan had the upper hand here so there’s no reason to think this is false information. What does he gain by Gabriel being lulled into coming out of the room? Especially since it turns out he planned to use the guts of a walker to camouflage his scent and make his way into the Sanctuary. He didn’t need Gabriel, but he wants him. Why?
With Negan presumed dead, his lieutenants point fingers (this latest attack had to be an inside job) and almost lose control of the compound when the workers – forced to stay on the floor working in the heat now that the power is out — threaten to revolt. Once Negan comes swaggering in, covered in guts and all, Gabriel gets his first up close and personal look at the sway he has over his people. Hell, even Gabriel falls to his knees after the Saviors do. Negan restores his people’s faith that this too shall pass, and then swaggers off for a shower, sandwich, and deep tissue massage. And the people thank him for it. Is it possible the leader before Negan was worse than this? Hold that thought.
In the end, Gabe is sick in his cell, pleading with Eugene to help him get Dr. Carter (part 2) to Hilltop for Maggie (when did that become the plan?); Negan puts his lieutenants on the case of finding out who helped Rick and supplied him with guns stolen from their own armory; and Eugene knows the traitor is Dwight and just might snitch now that Negan has made it clear that if Eugene doesn’t solve the mystery, he’ll kill him.
Stuff & Thangs
Holy mole-ly. Listen. I’ve been saying since Jesus first told Rick about the other communities and the Saviors that he couldn’t be trusted. He said the communities were already working together when he said Rick’s world was about to get bigger. That wasn’t true. He said Hilltop gave the Saviors supplies in return for protection. That wasn’t true. And it never made sense how Negan knew that Rick’s people were responsible for the satellite outpost attack (there were no survivors), nor how they knew where the Alexandria community was located — they ambushed Daryl, Denise, Eugene, and Rosita on their way home and the Saviors Carol killed when she was trying to leave said that they’d seen cars rigged like hers outside of Alexandria. We didn’t need this episode to tell us what we knew last season: Gregory couldn’t have been the one who snitched because Negan knew “from a little bird” before Gregory got there that Rick was planning to fight — he told this to Sasha — and that he knew about the Junkyardigans before that, too. My earlier suspicions about Jesus make him my natural choice for the mole now. It does surprise me that folks are still acting like the existence of a mole is some new revelation. I guess they don’t listen to the podcast.
Was Simon the previous leader of the Saviors? Negan grilled him about “backsliding” when Simon mentioned scorching the earth. He also asked Simon if he was forgetting who’s in charge. Is it possible that 1. the leader before Simon was Negan and 2. the leader before Negan (whomever that may be) was actually worse? The workers were very clear about the terms of their condition and they seemed fine with it: Negan and the lieutenants protect and feed them, and they do all the work in return. What kind of chaos was going on before Negan got there?
Is Gabriel sick or bitten? I’m leaning towards the former since Negan made it a point to ask if Rick’s group had ever gotten sick from trying the covered in guts to escape walkers trick. It feels like the heavy-handed kind of thing the show would do.
So now we know that the answer to “Who would win in a fight: Rick or Daryl?” is Daryl. As entertaining as it was, it was still frustrating to see our group fighting, yet again, over shit that should have been agreed upon from the beginning. Though, to be fair, Daryl was trying to call an audible and take the stolen guns back to the Sanctuary to finish them off.
The Savior who was driving the car with the guns dies on the side of the road. Before he does, he tells Rick and Daryl that the only people to make it out of Gavin’s compound alive were him, Carol, Jerry, and Zeke. And I love when he points out that this is all because of his people and Rick’s people. All this death.
What did you think of the episode? Leave your thoughts below or on our Facebook post for this review, and we’ll read them on tonight’s podcast.
The Walking Dead S8E5 Review Score
"The Big Scary U"
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Norman Reedus, Alanna Masterson, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Seth Gilliam, Ross Marquand, Khary Payton