The Big Scary U (The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 5 Review)

This episode spotlights Negan and Gabriel and what happened while they’re trapped inside a trailer surrounded by Walkers. We also get a glimpse of Negan’s private life and how the saviors fare without him at the helm.

The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 5
‘The Big Scary U’
Writer: Scott M. Gimple, David Leslie Johnson, Angela Kang
Director: Michael E. Satrazemis
Network: AMC

What you need to know: During the battle between the Saviors and Alexandria, Gabriel and Negan were trapped inside a trailer and surrounded by walkers. During the same battle, Rick and Daryl take off after a cache of guns. All the while, the people of Sanctuary wait to see if Negan has survived the attack.

What you’ll find out: We follow three main stories here: What happened to Negan and Gabriel, what are Daryl and Rick going to do with the weapons they just obtained, and what is the future of Sanctuary if Negan is in fact dead?

Catching up with Negan and Gabriel, we see they’ve both survived the initial attack, but aren’t exactly getting along. Negan is keen to return to Sanctuary and keep things together, while Gabriel believes his mission is to hear Negan’s confession and help him see a better path. Each of these goals is met with mixed results as the two must work together to escape. In the meantime, we learn a bit more about Negan’s backstory, and Gabriel’s search for purpose. In the aftermath of the escape and the close of the episode, this part of the story ends with a big question mark over the immediate fate of one of this unlikely duo.

Meanwhile, Daryl and Rick are resolving their differences in the time-honored tradition of third graders everywhere with a brawl of schoolyard proportions. This part of the story highlights a growing rift between Rick and Daryl, but also their closeness as they bicker like brothers. This part of the story also highlights, at least to me, the toll that Daryl’s imprisonment and his lingering guilt over Glen’s death have taken on him. I expect that this will lead him down a very dark path before the season is out.

Finally, we check in on Sanctuary, where the lieutenants have begun to suspect that Rick has an inside agent that helped him in the attack. Dwight attempts to keep his cover by turning their attention to the growing unrest of the workers, but he may have inadvertently left a clue to his identity that the astute Eugene picks up on. Meanwhile, Sanctuary is being surrounded by Walkers, Simon is cutting power to conserve energy, workers are on the edge of revolt — will Negan return to all-out anarchy, if he returns at all?

What just happened: This episode, like the last, slows down in terms of the fast-paced action of the first couple of episodes. By the end several characters are in uncertain positions, turning up the suspense dial even as the action level is scaled down. There are still plenty of happenings throughout, but this episode relies on tension and interpersonal conflict to drive itself forward and does a pretty good job. We learn something of Negan and the origin of Lucille’s name (maybe, it’s always hard to tell if Negan is earnest or impish in his personal confessions), and we also learn that Gabriel seems in desperate need to give his life purpose. Several things in this episode make me think he’s on a clock of sorts, but how much time he has is unclear. We’re also getting the sense that Daryl has hit his breaking point, how Rick will deal with that, if he deals with it at all, maybe a turning point in the group for good or ill. And we’re going to soon see both Dwight and Eugene tested. This will be an interesting face-off, each of them has switched sides, but we’ve also seen that each can be a wild card under the best of circumstances. It seems unlikely that both of them will make it through this alive. I admit I’m sort of hoping that the show’s affinity for poetic justice will take them both out, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Rating: 8/10

Final Thoughts: This episode wasn’t a ‘thrill-a-minute’ episode, but it held its own. And it brought the story back to the interactions between groups and among each group’s members, and the choices they make, which to me is where the show really shines. Overall it was a balanced episode with plenty of action, development, and suspense without overdoing any of it.

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