The Walking Dead Review by John Keegan

The Walking Dead 8.12: The Key

The Walking Dead 8.12: The Key

Written By:
Corey Reed and Channing Powell
Directed By:
Greg Nicotero

I haven’t had much interest in breaking down thoughts about The Walking Dead since the mid-season premiere.  If anything, it feels like the pacing of the story is so slow again that there is little reason to parse things out episodically until they start getting interesting again.  Which brings me to this installment, which has some very questionable ideas interspersed with some intriguing departures.  Unlike Carl’s death, which still feels out of place and unnecessary, some changes and complications are added to the “All Out War” story that add to the suspense.



Many have noted that Simon makes for a more menacing and terrifying version of Negan than Negan himself, and that sentiment rings true throughout this episode.  Excepting some dodgy line deliveries here or there, Simon is a lot more nuanced and manipulative.  Some of it is his desire to cover for his own indiscriminate violence, but his solution to the problem of Rick’s alliance is what Negan threatened to do time and again, yet never could bring himself to execute.


It's almost as if the writers are trying to portray Negan as more sympathetic, perhaps reminding the audience that Negan was entirely justified in his pointed response to Rick killing dozens of his people as an introduction.  Negan is unhinged, to be sure, but the writers have failed to underscore that his methods would be quite reasonable if fashioned in a less self-serving way.  Negan’s intentions of maximized survival would be logical, in fact, if it wasn’t for his practice of making himself a king.  Take Negan’s offer to Rick in this episode alone: it’s incredibly reasonable given the war taking place, and if Rick could get past his ego and stubbornness, he might recognize that the “tribute system” is not too far removed from something more fair, if they could sit down and actually talk things out.




The writers actually highlight this fact (and the notion that Carl’s desire to have Rick and Negan come to an accord) by having Maggie encounter with the women who simply want to share for the sake of a better future.  Suspicion runs deep and there is much to lose by treating the women as a threat to be eliminated.  Taking a more diplomatic route gains Hilltop a powerful ally who hands them the foundation for a more sustainable future.  In other words, the supposedly grown men are too busy posturing in pettiness to come to a mutually beneficial accord, while Maggie gets a goldmine handed to her through kindness.


What still doesn’t make sense, despite the lengths that the writers have gone to justify it, is Carl’s sacrifice.  His choices this season are being used by Michonne and others as an example of how they ought to be treating each other and strangers, and yet that’s not something that Carl’s death needed to tell anyone.  It’s not even logical to say that his example is a grim reminder of what they should have realized by now.  Literally every decision is an echo of past debates over mercy vs. self-interest, and one can easily imagine the same debate between Maggie, Michonne, and Enid without Carl coming into the picture at all.



But this is laying the groundwork for substantially different paths for the series in the future.  One can actually imagine Rick and Negan coming to terms if Simon is revealed as the true threat in the war going forward.  Negan was stunned to discover that his attempt at a targeted, clinical message was turned into a slaughter, after all.  Depending on what happens with Jadis, he could begin questioning his choices in ways that are completely unexpected and different from the outcome of “All Out War” in the source material.  It wouldn’t shock me if the writers, especially Scott Gimple, couldn’t figure out how to make Rick’s choice in the source material make sense, so they felt they had to split the original version of Negan between this Negan and Simon to deliver a conclusion that left Negan around for his intended future exploits.


All of which serves to balance out the fact that an episode of The Walking Dead featured a lame car chase that felt like something left on the cutting room floor from a genetic made-for-TV action movie from 1975.  The series has done sequences with vehicles before that managed to make sense, but something about the way this was staged made it seem out of place and awkward.  Whether it’s Nicotero’s limited directing skills coming to the fore again, or just another symptom of the current production staff’s tired approach, it just adds to the sense that things just aren’t clicking the way they used to during the series’ heyday.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • Some of the departures from the source material actually work rather well this time
The Bad:
  • Aspects of the production seem poorly staged or executed

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

The Walking Dead by - 3/19/2018 11:44 AM1597 views

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