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Review: The Walking Dead 8×13, “Do Not Send Us Astray”

Aaron Neuwirth reviews The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 13, "Do Not Send Us Astray," where the battle for the Hilltop begins.

So we all remembered Tobin, right? This week’s episode of The Walking Dead decided to bring back Carol’s sorta-ex-boyfriend in a big way. “Do Not Send Us Astray” has fun with its big battle segment, but things then quiet down enough for some words to be shared between a major character and a random side character we know little about. It was enough to tell me that this guy was going to die, but I wasn’t aware it would be in such a way that had me questioning the intelligence put into a creatively-directed sequence. That’s the thing with this series. For all the good it can do to deliver on the zombie-based action, its resolve to be a character-focused drama first means applying more thought to how the stage is set.

I’m all for seeing a well-made zombie sequence, where people are scattered and disoriented, while the undead dig into some flesh. But it’s a bit harder to take when logic is thrown out the window. That’s ultimately what makes it tough to have fonder thoughts of an episode that starts out strong. I liked all the work that went into the setup but was frustrated with some basic feelings about having a house full of people with no guards on a night where I don’t believe that many people would be all that sleepy.

There’s a line of thinking when it comes to the internal logic of high concepts that suggests people should be able to question how the rules of a supernatural world work. As a massive zombie movie fan from way back, I’m less inclined to honestly worry about the nature of walker blood and why it affects people in some ways but not in others. I don’t really think The Walking Dead is going out of its way to break its own rules in a manner that damages what I can accept about the show. It’s another thing to see how the series treats strategic planning.

As things get started this week, there’s a clear plan in play. Maggie knows the Saviors are coming to the Hilltop. She basically sent an open letter to Negan by way of a Savior in a coffin. We see all of this effort working towards an elaborate strategy to trap the Saviors and kill as many of them as they can. Maggie doesn’t know that Simon is currently in command, which may create a new issue, but things still work the way they need to initially.

The joy of having Simon leading the Saviors is the wild card factor. Simon is impulsive and less-inclined to worry about the safety of his crew (and the Savior prisoners) as long as he can come out ahead. That means he’s willing to take risks, giving this Hilltop battle some natural tension. It’s a clear sign of smart leaders doing what they know how to accomplish, even if one side is going to be the victor. Once the battle begins, it’s thrilling to watch. Different characters we know are involved. Random red shirts take hits. Our heroes get some good kills, including Terminator-mode Rick Grimes. It’s fun.

Everyone cools down after this and the levels of intelligence cool down with it. Well, actually, first we get to see Rick have minimal conversations with people to indicate he’s still pretty pissed. Carol gets a chance to talk about how we’re all going to die eventually, filling the quota for the show’s weekly reminder of its nihilism. Maggie gets complimented on her leadership abilities. Siddiq continues to prove that he’s a good dude, even if chatting to Rick about prayers for the dead may not have been the best decision.

As for where things get a bit dimmer, let’s start with Tara and Daryl. First off, I do not doubt Dwight used a non-tainted arrow to wound Tara, sparing her from Simon’s wrath. I guess it will be interesting to see if Tara manages not to kill herself before everyone else realizes she’s not infected and Dwight is still on their side, but this just feels like information that’s lacking a bit more punch.

Regardless, the crazier thing is seeing Daryl and Tara now on opposing sides about Dwight. I get why this is happening, but I can’t say The Walking Dead’s done enough to make this feel like an organic development. It’s a micro-version of a constant issue of this series, as characters are just willfully pushed into new directions for the sake of drama that has a likely conclusion.

I can imagine some are also thinking bad things about Henry. Yes, he made some dumb moves that we knew would get him into trouble. However, he’s a kid. We all knew it would go wrong for him the second he grabbed the gun, but I can understand the logic of a dumb action by a naive and blood-thirsty kid thinking he can get revenge for his brother in the way that he attempts. It also doesn’t hurt that the main “good Savior,” Alden, gets a chance to develop. I would imagine he’ll eventually get his Rick and the Gang induction ceremony at some point (if he isn’t killed first), so the work done to strengthen him slowly is nice enough.

The real meat of my complaint about this episode comes from the whole bedtime walkers scenario. It’s mainly because a few tweaks would have made this a non-issue. You have wounded characters dying and coming back to life as walkers because of the tainted weapons they were hit with. This leads to them stalking the house full of sleeping Hilltoppers. Why are there no lookouts? How is sleep possible, given the panicked state many of these folks should be in? A few insert shots of patrols taking place and having them just miss the sight of these walkers would be nice. Seeing at least one person wake up to the sounds of a screaming doctor being bitten or a walker rolling down the stairs would help too.

It’s not nitpicking, as this isn’t about the small details. I’m focusing on what I’ve come to know about how efficient Rick’s groups are when they work together. All the time spent going back and forth with how smart the Saviors are and how wildly insane Rick’s plans can be means I need some consistency. In the same episode where the Hilltoppers stage a blackout and then ambush the Saviors with headlights and machine guns, I get a scenario where no one sees or hears anything during a time when vulnerability should be a concern. It’s asinine.

There’s good action this week, in an episode with a solid front half, but the back end was not as stable. I’m glad there’s already a deduction of why bad things happened, so here’s hoping the regrouping next week leads to some smarter plays when it comes to dealing with potential deadly drama.

Dead Bits:

  • Zombie Kill of the Week: Jesus/Michonne combo move. Jesus holds a walker with his leg, and Michonne gives it a stab through the skull.
  • “You know what it is!” – Morgan is having a tough time reckoning with all the death he’s causing lately.
  • It looks like Siddiq is now the No. 1 doctor in Hilltop
  • The DarylCycle was a fun idea.
  • RIP Tobin, you were never on Carol’s bad side and still got stabbed in the head by her.
  • Gregory has escaped his prison and didn’t stay behind. I’m always wondering what this slippery worm is going to do next.
  • Henry disappeared. Any thoughts?
  • Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.

Written by
Aaron is a movie fanatic and loves talking about such things…a lot. He is from Orange County, California, but earned a degree or two at UC Santa Barbara. He describes himself as a film reviewer, writer, podcaster, video game player, comic book reader, disc golfer, and a lefty. His mind is full of film knowledge and random trivia, but he is always open to learning more, whether it’s through box office stats, reviewing Blu-rays from The Criterion Collection or simply hearing first hand from filmmakers and others about various productions and behind-the-scenes tidbits.

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