‘The Walking Dead’ season 8, episode 14 recap

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Rick and Morgan really need to find more constructive ways to work through their pain.

Pain and suffering are front and center in “Still Gotta Mean Something,” (written by Eddie Guzelian, directed by Michael Satrazemis), tonight’s episode of “The Walking Dead.” The residents of Hilltop are still dealing with the aftermath of the latest Saviors’ attack.

For Maggie, that means recalibrating her defenses. For Tara, it’s trying to understand how she alone of the wounded Hilltoppers didn’t turn. For Daryl, it involves sharpening bolts for his crossbow.

For Rick, Carol, and Morgan, it’s something else entirely. Rick has not come near to being okay with Carl’s death. Carol and Morgan – who also both lost actual offspring since the zombie plague first hit – are dealing with a proxy death, the child Henry who stupidly unlocked the pen gate and let the Savior prisoners escape.

Honestly, this was one of the show’s more forgettable, and in some cases confounding (i.e., the helicopter) episodes. With only two episodes left, this one feels like padding until we can get to whatever dramatic, climatic finale is coming down the pike.

And it’s hard to get too emotionally connected to the plight of Henry, which is basically what this episode revolves around. For some reason, Henry compounded his unforced error, opening the gate, with another error: leaving the Hilltop during the fight.

Why would he have done that? Sure, the Saviors opened the main gates and ran, but why would Henry have followed them? Why wouldn’t he have stayed within the walls? Maybe find some cover, run for Barrington House. But to just wander outside the walls in the middle of the night, in the middle of a fight? It doesn’t make sense. Regardless, it’s done and the people who love Henry want to find him.

Ezekiel wants to go on the search, as does Morgan, sort of. Carol, however, wants to stay and chop wood. Don’t forget, Carol lost a child in all this madness (in an interesting bit of casting, Macsen Lintz, the actor who plays Henry, is the younger brother of Madison Lintz, who played Carol’s daughter Sophia.) She has a hard time letting herself be drawn into mentally sticky things like emotions for other people.

Morgan has the same problem and that is at the core of what drives him insane. Going all the way back to his son Duane and wife, Jenny, Morgan has never been very good about dealing with death. It makes him literally insane. Of course, in his insanity, he’s become an exceedingly effective killer, and he sets off to wipe out all of the escaped Saviors. It’s an extreme coping mechanism, to be sure, but we all gotta do something, right?

Rick is on about the same path. He’s got a letter from his dead son sitting in the top drawer of a dresser, but he can’t bring himself to read it, even with Michonne’s pleading (she did read her letter from Carl). He’d rather go outside the walls and do, well, anything. Forage for supplies. Murder escapees. Anything.

Gene Page/AMC

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, and Danai Gurira as Michonne in ‘The Walking Dead’

Morgan, Rick, and Carol all find themselves out in the wilderness. Carol eventually finds Henry, astoundingly alive. In a nice bit of callback, she finds him in a shallow river fending off walkers. Much like Rick once found Sophia, though that rescue did not end as well as this one. Morgan and Rick catch up to the escapees – or rather, the escapees catch up to Morgan and Rick, sneaking up and capturing the two.

Of course, they will turn the tables and kill every single last one of them, including Jared, the maniac who killed Henry’s older Benjamin and started this entire revenge cycle. Still, the two Alexandrian heroes are suicidally reckless.

The other story is even odder. Jadis captured Negan, and has now brought him back to her garbage castle. She still lives there, and even has an amazingly clean, well-lit modernist one-room apartment in there. Her plan seems to involve packing up her belongings and feeding Negan to a walker, whose back she broke and fused to a hand cart. Not before she burns Lucille (that she somehow managed to find the burning bat in that warehouse is a plot point better left unexplored).

Negan talks his way out of this dire strait, which isn’t that unusual. The guy is good at a few things, and talking is one of them. We also learn he had a wife, whose name was – you guessed it – Lucille. Hey, Negan’s almost a normal guy, really. That’s all plausible enough, but what the s!@#, as Negan colorfully said, is the story with the helicopter?

Jadis has been using a timer on a wristwatch, and eventually we learn why. After several beeps of her timer, a helicopter appears over the garbage castle. For some reason. It looks like an army copter, but why it’s there and has been coming there regularly at that specific time, we have no idea. Did Jadis and the Scavengers have some kind of deal with whoever is piloting that thing? What are they looking for?

What the s!@#? This is left completely unexplained, and it doesn’t make sense that Negan so quickly drops the subject. It’s a helicopter…

But Jadis lets the Savior leader go. While Rick is back at Hilltop finally reading his letter, Negan makes his way back to Sanctuary in a beat-up old BMW – picking up an unseen passenger along the way. As he sneaks back into his own compound, we are that much closer to the resolution of the all-out war.