"Walking Dead" grumble thread: Achilles' last stand

How much screen time did the zombies get last night in this show that’s ostensibly about a zombie apocalypse? We had 20 seconds of Carol laying waste to a few and then maybe 20 seconds near the end of Morgan doing the same. Did I miss anything? Who wants reanimated cannibal corpses when you could have 45 more minutes of warlord politics?

A few weeks ago I compared Carol’s inevitable return to the battlefield once she finds out about Glenn and Abraham (which she now has) to Achilles and Patroclus. The Morgan/Benjamin relationship is an even closer parallel, which is too bad as Morgan was the one character on the show who made a real go at resisting the irresistible logic of “kill or be killed.” Negan also offered a third option — appeasement — but that was never going to last for the heroic nucleus of Rick, Michonne, Carol, and Daryl. The Grimes gang chose subservience only because the writers knew fans would enjoy watching them rise up later. Ironically, though, I think that’s why so many have been annoyed with this season: Ever since Negan brained Glenn, we’ve been on a very slow boat to Revengeville. There’s no mystery where we’re headed, only how long it’ll take to get there. (One reason why the episode that focused on Eugene and Dwight was so well received was that it was completely unexpected, a rarity on TWD.) The loose thread in the years-long tapestry of “kill or be killed,” though, was Morgan, a man driven to the brink of madness by death and then pulled back by a philosophy that embraced life. It was always odd watching him try to neutralize ruthless opponents without killing them, like hearing someone make the case that Bin Laden should be captured and tried, not killed. But it gave his character depth — another rarity. Alone among all the regulars, he tried to handle the zompocalypse in a different way. And Lennie James is a strong enough actor to have made it believable.

And now, in a fit of grief, he’s abandoned Aikido and reverted to half-crazed Rambo, a Jedi gone over to the dark side. That was inevitable, I guess, as the show has invested so heavily in showcasing Negan’s evil that a good man like Morgan must necessarily break under the weight of it. But that means one of the few remaining unpredictable characters on the show has taken a predictable turn. It sure feels like he’s on an arc now where he’s going to savagely liquidate boatloads of Saviors and then die dramatically, as there’s no way to steer him back to the Aikido way after this transformation. From here on out it’ll be a supernova of rage, the spectacular death throes of a star. I’d say there’s a 10 percent chance that he ends up with a shot at killing Negan in the final battle and hesitates because of the vestigial pull of his Aikido training, whereupon Negan or some other Savior seizes the opportunity to wound him mortally. (Rick or Daryl will have the honor of finishing off Negan, needless to say.) But maybe not. Maybe he’ll just go nuts in blind anger and get cut down that way. There’s no way he survives the season finale, I think. Too bad. He’s arguably the most compelling character left.

Speaking of the season finale, doesn’t it seem as though there are a lot of loose ends still to be tied up before the big showdown with Negan? There are three episodes left, yet Rick’s still looking for guns for the junkyard people; the Grimes gang hasn’t made contact with the Oceanside group yet; and no one’s offered anything like a coherent plan of attack for the Alexandria/Hilltop/Kingdom troops. Hell, we don’t even know where Heath is or what happened to Sherri. Somehow all of that has to come together plus the Sasha/Rosita assassination plot has to unfurl plus we need some further evolution of Eugene’s and Dwight’s loyalty to the Saviors. Even with a two-hour finale, I’m starting to worry that they’re not actually going to resolve this interminable Saviors plotline this season but will leave us with a cliffhanger mid-way through the battle — or even before the battle begins, which is probably where I quit watching the show.

Exit question: Why haven’t they done more to develop the character of Gavin, the sad-looking Savior leader who conducts the tribute exchanges with the Kingdom? His discomfort with persecuting Ezekiel makes him intriguing. I think the Times is right that he’s supposed to illustrate the banality of evil even more than Dwight is. Maybe Ezekiel’s going to recruit him to turn on Negan?