'The King, The Widow, and Rick' is an over-stuffed, boring episode that doesn't include nearly enough engaging material to make it a memorable entry.
[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 8, episode 6.]
The next time teaser for this episode of The Walking Dead featured Rick again seeking out Jadis and her Scavengers, filling audiences with dread that they would have to endure another hour with these garbage people. As it turns out, the garbage pail kids were the least of our worries, as this episode finds plenty of other ways to waste time and fill an hour before Negan makes his next move.
Besides its very cool-sounding title, 'The King, The Widow, and Rick' is an episode of little consequence. It'd be unfair to say that nothing happens in this episode (though it certainly feels that way) because we do have a slight development at The Hilltop and Rick manages to get himself in more trouble, but all in all, this episode meanders from one story line to another with no sense of urgency. Aren't they at war? Why is no one sticking to the plan? Whatever that is, because since attacking The Sanctuary and raiding the outposts, there's been nary a mention of Rick's strategy in weeks.
Last week's (almost) excellent episode featured mainly two plots - Negan and Gabriel in the trailer; everyone else at The Sanctuary - and it allowed for the episode to keep its focus centered on The Saviors and their problems. This week, though, The Walking Dead flits from one character to another in an episode that can never find its center; checking in with characters simply because we haven't seen them in a while, not because what they're doing is especially noteworthy. To start, Rick meets with The Scavengers and, unsurprisingly, it doesn't go well as he winds up locked in a trailer by the episode's end, presumably intended as a gift for Negan from Jadis. We can only hope this is somehow just a piece of his grand plan, because right now, it makes Rick look like a total idiot.
Elsewhere, Michonne and Rosita are compelled to seek out The Sanctuary, needing to see the walkers scraping at its walls for themselves. Without considering the people of Alexandria they promised to help protect, their own safety, or sticking around for next phase of Rick's plan, they leave and almost immediately find trouble. Hearing strange music, they follow it to another weapons cache where two Saviors are hoping to use the music - blaring from speakers on a flatbed truck - to lure the dead away from The Sanctuary. Michonne and Rosita intervene, failing spectacularly, and are very fortunate to be saved by Daryl and Tara who also just happen to be off on their own dumb mission. The whole scenario does include an embarrassingly bad bit of CGI when Rosita blows up one Savior with an RPG, and it's fun and stupid but also such an unexpected and bold move that it winds up being a high point of the episode.
Daryl and Tara's goal seems to be killing Dwight, who they both have beef with - Daryl for that whole imprisonment and torture thing, Tara because Dwight shot Denise (a move that really worked in Merrit Wever's favor since she wound up on Godless). It's a dumb plan in an episode full of dumb plans and it's sure to lead to more conflict with Rick if he ever gets free of that trailer. Still, Carl probably wins for most foolish with his decision to wander the woods and hope he can find that mysterious stranger again. He does and it turns out Siddiq is a pretty chill guy, but that doesn't excuse Carl's poor decision-making. Doesn't he know what happens to kids when they go wandering in the woods?
Speaking of Carol, her time in this episode isn't entirely fruitless, resulting in some sweet and heartfelt scenes with both Jerry and Ezekiel. She may not want to admit it, but she's now very much a part of The Kingdom, lifting their king's spirits and watching over stupid kids who wander in the woods. Carol sure has her work cut out for her.
By far, it's The Widow who comes out best in 'The King, The Widow, and Rick', with the episode dipping again into the moral debate simmering throughout this whole season - to show mercy or not. Again there's Jesus, who doesn't think they should kill their prisoners, and Gregory who wants them all dead. There's a compelling argument to made for each, but in the end, there's only one obvious choice if our good guys are to remain good and not sink to the level of their enemies. Maggie winds up making the right call (for now anyway), choosing to house The Saviors inside a makeshift prison, but even she is unsure of just how easily they can stand by their ideals in a world where good deeds are always punished. Like jailing Gregory - a move that is so clearly the right one but will inevitably cause trouble down the road - keeping The Saviors around could endanger The Hilltop, making the desire to be merciful and civilized society a moot point.
'The King, The Widow, and Rick' is an over-stuffed, boring episode that doesn't include nearly enough engaging material to make it a memorable entry. There are only two episodes left in this first half of season 8, meaning there's still time for The Walking Dead to pull all these threads together in a satisfying mid-season finale. But produce another aimless and dull episode like this and there won't be anyone left watching.
The Walking Dead season 8 continues next Sunday with 'Time for After' at 9pm/10c on AMC.