With now one episode to go before Season 8’s mid-season finale, things are starting to ramp up a bit. Keyword there is “starting,” as “Time for After” steps up the pace just a tiny bit ahead of the winter hiatus. At least this episode spends time advancing the plot instead of walking in place, but it feels almost “too little, too late,” as “Time for After’s” plot ultimately could have played out across other previous episodes this season and might have been more effective if it had. The episode itself is fine, but given how this current season is going, it makes most of the other episodes thus far feel like filler.
*Episode Spoilers Ahead*
“Time for After” spends the majority of its time split between two stories. First, Eugene’s moral quandary pertaining to turning in the Saviors’ mole, Dwight, and helping the sickly Father Gabriel concoct a plan to get Maggie’s baby doctor out of the Sanctuary. Also, while not as much time is spent here, the other “big” development this week is the execution of Daryl’s plan to launch a strike against the Sanctuary, despite Rick’s already concocted plan. Besides those two stories, we get to see the Rick/Jadis and the Trash People angle play out.
Last week, we saw Daryl squad up with Tara, Rosita, and Michonne to put into motion his plan of putting a hole in the side of the Sanctuary, and this week we finally see it happen. The idea here is to drive a garbage truck right through the wall and let the walkers surrounding the building enter, taking out whoever they can. Morgan showed up as well with a few others, this being the first time we’ve seen him since his and Jesus’ showdown a few weeks back, and he shared the same state of mind as Daryl, offering to help execute the plan as a sniper. Though Daryl might have gained Morgan, he lost both Michonne and Rosita, as they just couldn’t bring themselves to do things this way; Rosita believing they needed to trust Rick and his plan, and Michonne not feeling like Daryl’s plan was the right way to handle things. Rosita declining this attack was a great move, as she lost Abraham to Negan last year, and has learned from that mistake. While Daryl spent most of last season groveling over his causing Glenn’s death, he hasn’t really learned anything from the experience. It’s nice to see that somebody on this show has some common sense, even if Rick’s plan isn’t entirely smart or well thought out either. Regardless of losing two, the addition of Morgan and his few people made the plan go down almost flawlessly. Daryl drove the truck through the wall, while Morgan and his squad kept lookout and provided covering fire, and walkers entered the Sanctuary. Though things worked out in favor of Team Daryl at first, workers ultimately ended up becoming zombie food, and the important Saviors were safe and sound. So, naturally, Daryl f***** things up by being impatient and angry when he should have stuck to Rick’s plan.
Rick’s plan, however sketchy, ultimately worked – at least his end of it. After some creepy picture taking by Jadis at the front of “Time for After,” Rick was eventually brought out and put on his knees so yet another metal-headed gladiator walker (this time on a stick!) could try its luck. No dice, though, as Rick somehow managed to subdue the walker and a few of the trash folk, all while his hands were bound. After his display of maximum Rick power, Jadis finally caved and agreed to help take out the Saviors in a moment that felt extremely similar to Rick’s initial meeting with her last season, bargaining and all. Towards the end of the episode, we saw Rick, Jadis, and some of her squad head towards the Sanctuary, post-Daryl screw up, aghast to find the building no longer surrounded by walkers. It’s not quite clear if this plan was exactly how Rick expected things with Jadis to go. Surely, he anticipated some resistance, no doubt about it, but it seems like the whole thing relied on a bunch of hopes and “ifs.” Granted, much of what happens in The Walking Dead relies on risk taking; this just seemed like a dumb risk that couldn’t possibly have gone in Rick’s favor. Alas, it is television, and this is The Walking Dead, so things worked out. It will be interesting to see how things play out in next week’s mid-season finale, as I’m sure some kind of divide or confrontation will happen between Rick and those who launched the pre-emptive strike.
Finally, Eugene was given the most screen time this week in what was yet another take on morality and deciding what the right thing to do is. Eugene informed Dwight that he was aware of his status as a mole, and offered to keep it from Negan as long as Dwight stopped his actions immediately. Dwight declined, and the majority of this story’s screen time was dedicated to Eugene pondering right and wrong. On top of the situation regarding Dwight, Father Gabriel also plead with Eugene to help get the doctor back to the Hilltop. We still aren’t clear on what exactly happened to Gabriel, but it appears as if he wasn’t bitten, as there was no mention of the bite and it wasn’t shown. Eugene hinted at Gabriel being sick due to the covering of himself in walker guts, thus leading to infections, but we’ve never witnessed this sickness before when other characters have done so. Either way, things aren’t looking to good for Gabriel, and even in his weakened state, he still believes Eugene will do the right thing.
At one point in the episode, Eugene constructs a music-playing flying drone to attempt to lure the walkers away from the Sanctuary (pre-Daryl screw up), but Dwight shoots it out of the sky after having a gun pointed to Eugene’s head. I’m under the impression that Eugene may have taped his encounter with Dwight, thus incriminating him and holding proof of his treason to show Negan. Eugene was recording his thoughts on the drone experiment before he was interrupted by Dwight, and given the fact that Eugene was *this close* to telling Negan, I’m thinking there has to be some kind of proof, and Negan was only not informed because of the interruption of Dwight and a few other Saviors. This story line is interesting, but it feels like this should have been a situation played out across multiple earlier episodes instead of dumping it all into one.
While “Time for After” wasn’t an inherently “bad” episode, it suffers from the sins of previous episodes in the season. Pacing and weak character decisions are the Kryptonite of The Walking Dead this year, and I’m hoping this dragged-out first half of season 8 is redeemed come next week for the mid-season finale, and even further ahead in the back half of the season, but I’m not holding my breath.