Following last week’s character-driven episode, we’ve finally taken a hiatus from seeing things from just the “good guys’” point of view. Mostly. This week, we spent most of the episode with the Saviors at the Sanctuary, along with Gregory, a small amount of time with Rick and Daryl, and we FINALLY get to see what exactly is going on with Gabriel and Negan inside of that trailer we last saw them in during Season 8’s premiere episode. “The Big Scary U” shows us a few different sides of Negan we haven’t been able to witness before, as well as finally giving some much-needed purpose to Father Gabriel.
*Episode Spoilers Ahead*
“The Big Scary U” kicks off with some dialogue from Gabriel during a prayer. Father Gabriel is speaking with God, mentioning that he is, in fact, not afraid to die. What he is actually afraid of is a “fruitless death,” dying without a purpose. A short bit later, we finally get to see Negan and Gabriel inside of that trailer from the season premiere that followed Rick and the gang’s assault on the Sanctuary. There’s a lot of speaking between the two of them, mostly Negan being his typical cocky, asshole-ish self. Negan makes it a point to let Gabriel know that his friend Rick is an asshole, and is going to get people kill. Gabriel lets Negan know that he is just as much of an asshole himself and that everything Negan is saying about Rick is just as true for Negan, if not, more so. Negan disagrees, saying there is a big difference between someone who kills and someone who GETS people killed. It’s at this time that Father Gabriel believes his purpose may be to take Negan’s confession. While this is all going on, walkers have the trailer surrounded, and Negan is making Gabriel aware that they will have to work together to get out of there alive. Negan finally allows himself to open up a bit to Gabriel, giving his “confession.” Here is where we learn a bit of Negan’s back story. It was mentioned that he worked with kids and also had a sick wife before the apocalypse, and Negan simply didn’t have it in him to put her out of her misery before she would turn. Negan swore to himself he would never show that weakness again, and would always do what was necessary, even if it meant being the bad guy. These scenes between Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Seth Gilliam are some of the best material we have seen from them on The Walking Dead, and both should be praised. Granted, Seth Gilliam hasn’t been given a whole lot to do in terms of character development, so there isn’t much to compare his work in this episode to, but it was a great performance either way. Also, with so much focus on Gabriel, it can make one wonder if Gabriel’s time on the show is running out, especially considering what we see at the end of the episode.
Before Gabriel and Negan’s story played out, we were shown the meeting between Negan, Simon, Gregory, Dwight, Eugene, and a few of Negan’s outpost heads from before the initial assault on the Sanctuary. This was more of Gregory being a weasel, basically trying to play both sides of the situation, and Negan was sniffing that out from a mile away. During this scene, we see yet another side of Negan we never really have before: true anger. Being an instrument of death and destruction is one thing, but Negan was never really mad in those situations. Irritated or annoyed, perhaps, but never downright angry, and his patience with Gregory here was wearing thin. “People are a resource,” Negan says at one point when Simon suggests simply killing off everyone at the Hillside if Gregory can’t whip them into shape. His whole speech regarding just that, and his whole demeanor during the scene was downright scary and has finally made Negan feel like the true villain he should be. Don’t get me wrong, I love Negan, and his presence on the show has been great, but it was amazing to see this side of the character, and again, Jeffrey Dean Morgan delivers this performance with absolute excellence.
We also spend a fair amount of time with Eugene, Dwight, and the rest of the Saviors’ gang post-season premiere attack, taking place at the same time as Father Gabriel and Negan’s cozy getaway inside of the trailer. Simon is starting to smell a rat, realizing that someone on the inside would have to be leaking information out to Rick’s gang. No one seems to suspect Dwight, but it is implied and even mentioned by Eugene himself, that he assumes everyone suspects him. Also at the Sanctuary, civil unrest is happening, as the workers suspect that Negan is dead, and because of water and power being cut off to conserve while the building is surrounded by walkers, the workers aren’t confident in Simon and company’s ability to keep them fed and safe. Negan and Gabriel walk back into the Sanctuary at this time, after using the ol’ cover-yourself-in-walker-guts trick, and the workers are immediately relieved, thanking Negan for all he does for them. This only reinforces things Negan was saying to Gabriel earlier in the show, as his skill in making people “strong” is what he is good at. Following this, Gabriel is taken off to a cell, and later, Eugene brings him a pillow and blanket, only to discover Father Gabriel is not doing too well. He seems to be coming down with a fever, similar to what one goes through before turning after being bit, which may have taken place during his and Negan’s trip from the trailer. At this point, Gabriel realizes that his purpose is to unify with Eugene and get the doctor, the one who Maggie needs due to her pregnancy, free from the Saviors.
Aside from the major Saviors/Negan/Father Gabriel stories, we spent just a small amount of time with Rick and Daryl after their Fast and the Furious style car chase scene last week. Tensions are clearly rising between the two after what we have seen in previous weeks, and Daryl has no qualms about letting Rick knows he wants to blow a hole in the Sanctuary to let walkers in with some newly found explosives. Rick simply isn’t having it, as plenty of innocent people could be hurt. This disagreement gets heated and leads to a fist fight between the two. Ultimately, Rick threw the explosives into the now aflame truck from the chase last week, and the explosives are gone. In and of itself, the scene was fine, and it was hard to watch BFFs Rick and Daryl scrap, but the intended effect didn’t really land perfectly. It’s strange to see, as we just had a fight break out over almost the exact same thing a few weeks back between Jesus and Morgan, and that fight was executed much better. Rick and Daryl fighting just seems like an unnecessary rehash in telling us “not everyone thinks the same way,” and while that may be a recurring theme in the season, it just felt too familiar.
Post-fisticuffs Rick and Daryl then parted ways on separate duties. As Rick is walking along to his destination, he hears something in the sky. As he looks up, it’s revealed that a helicopter is flying overhead. We’re not quite sure where this chopper is coming from or headed to, as we were only given this small scene, but it is intriguing, and I am curious to see where this will go. Also, we discover Rick’s destination he has been trying to reach is Jadis and the Trash People. Upon finding this out, we see no more of this storyline. We will have to stay tuned to find out why Rick is headed to them, especially considering they are enemies aligned with the Saviors.
“The Big Scary U” (which stands for Unknown, as pointed out by Gregory), was a pretty damn good episode. While the side stories of Simon, Dwight, and the other Saviors, and Rick and Daryl weren’t the greatest, it is in the moments between Father Gabriel and Negan that this entry in season 8 truly shined. Jeffrey Dean Morgan showed us sides of Negan we haven’t seen before, and Seth Gilliam was finally given an opportunity to showcase his acting skills, even if it means he may not be with us much longer. After last week’s excellent and up-close look and eventual breaking down of King Ezekiel, another character centered episode was great, but ultimately, the story still isn’t progressing much.