While Season 8 of The Walking Dead has been pretty average since the premiere, Episode 3, “Monsters” asks a lot of important questions on what is to come next for the communities of Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom. After the initial assault on the Saviors and Negan in Episode 1 of the season, things have been moving at a fairly slow pace, but that is per the norm when it comes to The Walking Dead more often than not. Thankfully, “Monsters” ramps things up a bit and sets the stage for what hopefully becomes a faster paced season.
*Episode Spoilers Ahead*
Episode 3 opens up strong with profound words of encouragement from King Ezekiel, tied between moments taken from a strategic attack on a band of Saviors who were zoning in on the team’s position. This particular group wasn’t given a whole lot to do this episode, aside from taking down a few Savior groups, but it is always good to hear from the good king. There were more subtle nuances and nods to his crush on Carol, which is great to see and all, but I think most fans are with me when I say we are ready to see something happen with that soon. It wasn’t until the episode’s final scene that Ezekiel’s trademark cockiness slowed down, as Team Kingdom suffered a few casualties via heavy machine gun – perhaps the exact same one’s Rick and Daryl were searching for.
Rick’s arc this episode picked up where it left off last week, being held at gunpoint by Season 1 returning character Morales. Some may be put off by the fact that Morales was quickly killed off by Daryl, but the reasoning behind his return does seem poignant, especially if the result of this season is what we see in the comics after “All Out War.” Morales was meant to be a mirror of Rick. They both started off the exact same way in the exact same place: wanting to protect their families at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse in Atlanta. Morales’ downfall by the death of his family, then “rebirth” by being found and taken in by the Saviors shows what kind of person Rick could have become. Rick stating he would “find a different way” when Morales mentioned Rick would be ready to kill Morales if positions were reversed reinforces that fact.
After a hallway gunfight with encroaching Saviors, which saw Rick get a bit crafty by shooting a fire extinguisher as a very cool distraction, we see Rick and Daryl ready to part ways on different missions for the time being. A straggling Savior shoots at the pair, which creates a small standoff between the three of them where Rick attempts to lure the savior out. Upon luring the gunman out under the promise of letting him live in exchange for information on where the heavy machine guns they had been searching for are, Daryl promptly shoots the Savior in the head. Again, Rick is taken back by this, as I believe he was fully planning on delivering his promise of letting him walk away with his life. It is revealed that the machine guns had been moved to an outpost the previous day, and after the attack on Ezekiel’s team, I believe we now know exactly where those weapons are.
Morgan and Jesus engaged in a pretty epic hand-to-hand-to-stick fight, due to the differing ideas on how to handle the Saviors who surrendered in the previous episode. Jesus believes they can’t be killed, but Morgan sees their deaths as the only safe thing to do, which is a complete 360 of where Morgan stood on similar matters last season. We’ve watched Morgan’s growth from zen-like peace warrior, into him going full John Wick last week, so it’s not surprising to see him and Jesus butt heads on the situation. Morgan seems to be fully aware that he is having somewhat of a mental breakdown, experiencing almost Jekyll and Hyde-like transformations. He displays this by mentioning “I’m not right [in the head], but that don’t make me wrong [on the matter at hand].” After this well-executed fight, we see Morgan walk off into the woods by himself.
Finally, the Hilltop is visited briefly, with a humorous scene that sees Gregory make his way back to the community he founded. After a brief exchange with Maggie, she decides to let Gregory in the gates, which I, for the life of me, can’t understand from a logical point of view. Maggie weakly defends her actions to Edith by claiming that Gregory “isn’t worth killing… yet.” After Gregory’s actions last season and in this season’s premiere, it’s hard to see why he would be allowed back into the community. Furthermore, once Jesus’ group showed back up to the Hilltop, Gregory started trying to take control until Maggie forced him to back off. It just makes the viewer wonder what his purpose is, which is perhaps what the show is trying to do in the first place.
Speaking of questionable situations, we saw the death of Aaron’s boyfriend, Eric, this week. After being shot last week, Aaron helped Eric to a tree to relax and to get a look at the wound. Eric played the “leave me behind, they need your help” card, and Aaron complied. I’ve personally never felt the connection these two are supposed to have as being genuine, and this further solidifies that notion. Aaron wasn’t shown taking part in anything important this week and surely would not have been missed if he took Eric to the Kingdom, as he mentioned, to be looked at by the doctor. This situation just seemed like a throwaway excuse for some emotion revolving around a death, as we haven’t had any familiar characters bite the dust yet this season.
Overall, this episode was stronger than the previous two this season, but still nothing on the level of Season 7’s best episodes. More questions are raised rather than answered, which is fair considering the season is still ramping up. Aside from a few mind-boggling moments, the episode succeeds in building the tension between the Saviors and the teams of Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom. Now hurry up and show us what happens with Negan and Father Gabriel in that trailer!