“The Big Scary U” was The Walking Dead’s finest outing so far into Season 8, revisiting the premier’s cliffhanger and further exploring The Sanctuary as Negan was presumed dead by his lieutenants. Time is again splintered so the episode can jump between various happenings as All Out War is slowly pieced together, which means some solid time spent with Father Gabriel as he is trapped in a trailer with Negan.
It’s no secret that Negan has been divisive character ever since he was introduced, and more of than not that issue has been due to his cartoonish, one-note aesthetic. “The Big Scary U” (“U” meaning “Unknown”) was the first time we really got to explore Negan in a quieter, relatively calmer (as calm as being surrounded by a horde of walkers can be) setting while he played off of Gabriel.
Gabriel’s arc, which seems to be nearing an end, is all about redemption and avoiding a “fruitless death” so sticking him in with the character furthest from what a priest stands for was an excellent idea for the show, and it teased out some brilliant moments for both characters. Father G thinks he has been placed in the trailer to hear Negan’s confession before they are both torn apart by walkers, leading to the mental dance-off and in some ways mutual understanding that’s both incredibly dark and endearingly light. It takes some time, but Negan holding back tears as he tells Gabriel of his wife is a breakthrough for the character and, coupled with his rationalisation for the things he has done, should serve as great context for Negan moving forward.
The weakest, though most surprising, part of the episode was the fight between Rick and Daryl. It felt somewhat forced, but it also threaded the idea of mercy further into this season’s fabric by juxtaposing the two. Daryl has grown colder and more vengeful since Glenn’s death, for which he feels – and should feel – responsible. At the same time, Rick has been in two minds as he tries to approach the war against The Saviours with a level head, thinking of the likely hundreds of people who are working for the bad guys against their will. He made it clear that Daryl’s kill-them-all approach was unacceptable, mirroring what this season has tried to remind us of, which is that The Saviours are people too.
Then you had the happenings inside of a compromised Sanctuary, giving ample space for Simon (the fantastic Steven Ogg) to try and assume leadership with Negan being presumed dead. That doesn’t work of course, and the upper-rank Saviours are left bickering amongst each other for most of the episode, providing a fascinating insight into how lost they all are without their dominant leader. Though Negan does return towards the end of the episode – with Father Gabriel now a prisoner, who may or may not have been bitten (it would be pointless if he was) – this was a good way to explore the class structure of The Saviours and how self-aware they are that a worker revolt could destroy everything.
It’s made obvious that Negan and his crew know that a rat is the reason Rick has gained the upper-hand, and Eugene has obviously already figured out that the leak is Dwight. Negan said he will kill Eugene if he didn’t figure it out correctly, so it’s going to be interesting watching how it this all plays out moving forward. In fact, I’m not much more interested in what’s going on inside The Sanctuary than anything else.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
- Father Gabriel gets a confession out of Negan
- The Saviours can’t get along
- Eugene finally given something to do
- Rick and Daryl fight felt forced
The Walking Dead Season 8 screens in Australia on FX/Foxtel every Monday at 1:30pm and again at 7:30pm.
Image: Gene Page/AMC.