The Walking Dead, S08E03: “Monsters”

The Walking Dead, S08E03: “Monsters”

“Monsters” Foolishly Indulges the Show’s Worst Impulse: Letting Its Characters Talk, A Lot


This is really saying something, but “Monsters” has gotta be in the Top 5 of The Walking Dead’s worst episodes. It has maybe two moments that manage to be interesting or funny, surrounded by an endless barrage of shit. It is without charm, sense or purpose. God. Damn.

Rating: 1.5/11


“We have strategy.” That’s what Carol tells Ezekiel and his brigade in the lead up to a confrontation with some of the Saviours. Here’s the thing: she’s lying. She doesn’t have a strategy so much as a dumb plan that, regardless of its blistering simplicity, will work. And that is just not the same thing. See, what happens is that – when Ezekiel and several of his followers are “unexpectedly” held up by a group of enemies – Carol’s firing squad (I’m not making this up) pop up out of some bushes and shoot them all. That’s it. Cue theme music.

This, in a nutshell, is the same shit that TWD pulls every week on us, its audience. It has characters all but turn to the camera to try and assure us that there’s some grand narrative, some overarching scheme at work that’s gonna come together. They want us to believe there’s a strategy. But it’s all just a bunch of roller-derby-clad dickheads hiding behind bushes, who jump out to surprise us while we pretend that we couldn’t see them there the whole time.


Honestly, it’s a strange feeling to have to treat a TV show like a slightly dim child in order to continue watching it. More often than not, it’s the other way around, in that a show will proceed to handhold its audience so as to ensure that we don’t get lost. But in this instance, TWD needs us to infantilise it, to carve a patient, waning smile on our faces and nod impassively as it performs for us and implores, “Watch this! Are you watching? Did you see that?!” It’s exhausting and, unlike actual child rearing, contains none of the payoff of actually getting to have a palpable impact on someone or something. Because no action we undertake will make The Walking Dead a better show, so all we can do now is take steps to make it slightly more manageable. And it’s a lot of goddamn work.

But that’s enough of my “The Walking Dead as a lobotomised toddler” analogy. What actually happens this episode? In essence, everyone takes some time to tackle the dual themes of the week: ambiguity and relativism. Hence the title “Monsters”. As in what makes you one? Is it killing? Not killing when it’s the right thing to do? Becoming a zombie? Creating a TV show so bad that I need to sit on a hotplate after watching it just to feel something again? Let’s go with all of the above, just to start with.

Because – much as Big Bird on Sesame Street will continuously remind us of today’s letter – the word “monster” gets tossed around a lot this episode. It’s used to denote what people have become or what they already are, as well as what they might soon be or once have been. There are also plenty of brooding looks and angsty asides that invite you to cast a black and white filter over everything that, conversely, invokes the grey dimensions of this world. People talk about what they must do, followed by what they can and can’t, but no one ever seems to suggest that they all just shut the fuck up. That could’ve solved a lot of problems.


Ok, so Rick is still being held at gunpoint by… Goddammit, I swear I wrote this down. Imma go with Darkest Timeline Shane* (DTS). They talk about how they’ve changed; DTS even mentions watching Rick in the mirror in that godawful scene from last week. It’s very stupid. Then Tara, Jesus and Morgan continue their argument, also from last week, about how to deal with the prisoners. It’s even stupider. In addition, Aiden helps his wounded boyfriend away from the battle and they exchange affectionate platitudes. It’s slightly less stupid, but the fact that they manage to find an idyllic oak tree about twenty feet away from all the carnage ratchets it back up to reeeal stupid.

The dialogue. Christ, the fucking dialogue this episode. Jesus drops lines like “No matter what they’ve done, they’re people”, the sort of clunking, unforgivably weak shit that makes you feel like you’ve aged whole months in the time it takes to leave his mouth and ooze out of your television. Then Morgan one-ups him by yelling “We’re the same!” over and over and you begin to genuinely fear for your life. “I know that I’m not right”, Morgan later says desperately, following it up with an ill-advised, “But that doesn’t make me wrong.” The word AMBIGUOUS flashing on the screen drawn in a fist-brandished crayon might have been subtler.

Meanwhile, the show keeps producing figurative bushes and expecting us to throw up our hands in amazement every time someone jumps out from behind one of them, no matter how improbable the situation. Zombies tumble hilariously down a hill and suddenly are a legitimate threat. Daryl appears behind DTS and pops him in the head. Jesus and Morgan have a hand-to-stick fight that makes about as much sense as Sansa and Arya’s feud on GoT this year (which, in terms of television, is the biggest insult I can muster). A fire extinguisher, once shot, makes an entire hallway look the inside of a cloud’s arsehole.


In another scene, the bushes that hide our heroes are traded in for stacks of wooden pallets. Y’know, the sort with gaping holes that you couldn’t hide a dwarven tadpole behind, let alone a massive cavalcade with a shouty Biblical King leading them. Later, Aiden’s boyfriend becomes a zombie, which has been inevitable since he dared to question Rick earlier this year. Then Aiden inherits a baby, right as Rick and Daryl are settling down to go on a road trip, when “unexpectedly” a bullet hits their car. Rick gives his word that this person won’t be harmed; Dary isn’t so sure. And so on.

Ultimately though, when the show isn’t too busy busting out empty threats to actually do something we don’t see coming a mile off, everyone just continues to speak in the same rigid patterns that kill all momentum. Concepts of good and bad are picked up and turned over with clumsy, fat fingers and then put back down where they started. Nothing is gained but, most precious of all, time and sanity are forfeited in the pursuit. It’s just like DTS says to Rick: “You can talk all you want.” What he never gets that chance to say, though, is that if you keep going for long enough, there’s more than a good chance that everyone’s gonna get pretty fucking sick of listening to you.


Quotes & Random Thoughts


  • *Morales. Not that it matters now.


  • This episode was so bad that Ezekiel is just now starting to wear on me. I’m not quite sick of him yet, but his rambunctiousness is not the salve it once was.


  • Alright, Morales seems genuinely shocked that Rick is the guy who’s been causing all this trouble. But then he also says that he’s been given instructions not to kill him. So, wouldn’t he have been told the guy he’s not meant to kill is called Rick? Then again, he also says he’s not meant to kill “The King” or “The Widow”, so maybe he was just told to look out for “The Leader”? But wait, how the fuck would he know Maggie was “The Widow” if he encountered her? Well, except Rick then stupidly goes the fuck ahead and tells him, which… God, why do I always feel like we’re hearing the first draft of these scripts?


  • Aiden: “I’m so sorry.”
    Aiden’s BF: “Were you the one who shot me?”
    Legitimate moments of humour were so rare this week that even something this lowkey made me smile.


  • “Why would you wear that?”, Ratfaced Prick asks of the child-sized armour Morgan has on. You know you’re in trouble when that dude’s got a point.


  • Hey Daryl, quick tip: try not to yell that you’re out of ammo in the middle of a shootout, you greasey fuckin’ hillbilly. And get a goddamn haircut.


  • “I live here, this is my home. I built this place. You weren’t here for that, but some of us didn’t just show up.” There’s the sassy Gregory I fell in love with last year. Good to have you back, now please team up with Ezekiel so we can have an Odd Couple-ish spinoff.


  • “I did not eat those pancakes!” Seriously, I adore this man.



  • It shows how I feel about TWD‘s continuity integrity that when Rick showed up with a baby, my first thought was, “Oh, so Judith’s a baby again now. Yeah, that seems about right.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *