The second episode of the eighth season of The Walking Dead is called “The Damned,” (taken from the Ezekiel line, “The damned are upon us!”) but it may as well have been called, “Bullets,” or “Shoots A Lot,” because the majority of the episode involves gunfights. It is the kind of episode I fear the most about the All Out War season: Character and story are abandoned in favor of shootouts. For the most part, it’s the kind of episode that could have been reduced to a three-minute montage. Instead, we end up spending an hour with characters who exchange gunfire, who clear halls and gun down redshirts, who engage in the occasional fistfight, and who — in the case of Ezekiel’s group — walk through the woods for most of the episode before Shiva dispatches with their lone target.
But the episode did, at least, provide two brief but exciting moments involving Morgan and, later, the return of a mostly forgotten character.
Before we get to that, however, can we briefly address the montage of faces that bookended the episode? The Walking Dead occasionally likes to get “artistic,” but it does not suit the show. The montage of close-up faces and dissolves is a bad choice from veteran television director Rosemary Rodriguez. It’s cheesy and ham-fisted, like something out of a Cinemax series created by Stephen J. Cannell in the late 1980s. The best that can be said for it is that, if DVRs cut off the first or last 90 seconds of the episode, viewers won’t miss anything.
Once the montage is dispatched with, the “action” picks up, and by “action” I mean “gunfire.” So much gunfire. Aaron and Eric have a group of Saviors we’ve never seen before pinned against a building, and they spend the length of the episode spraying bullets at them. Their only goal is to keep them pinned down until their casualties reanimate as zombies and take care of the rest. It’s an effective (but boring) strategy. Unfortunately, the good guys lose several of their own, including Carol’s old flame Tobin and several redshirts. Aaron’s boyfriend Eric is also shot, which is telegraphed in their opening scene when Aaron can’t stop glancing fearfully over at Eric, as though Eric can’t take care of himself (turns out, he can’t). The episode ends with Aaron carrying Eric off, but Eric has a bullet hole in his stomach and he’s not likely to survive through the next episode. Aside from losing a few Alexandrians and checking another Savior outpost off of Rick’s list, nothing is otherwise accomplished in this storyline.