SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the November 5 episode of The Walking Dead: Season 8, "Monsters."
Well, after two episodes spent turning the tables on the Saviors, Team Rick just got dealt what could be their first major setback in tonight's episode, "Monsters." Spoiler alert: we kind of saw this coming.
Things have gone pretty well for Team Rick the last two weeks. A little too well, frankly. The Saviors suffered what appear to be major losses at the hands of the opposition, and their garbage people allies, the Scavengers, were still nowhere to be found. The Sanctuary was overrun with Walkers, and the united forces of the Alexandrians, the Hilltop and the Kingdom were all holding their own at various outposts. Up until Rick killed baby Gracie's dad and came face-to-face with Morales who immediately tattled to the Saviors, things were going pretty well.
The longer this "winning streak" went on , the more danger the good guys were in, from a narrative standpoint. And the Saviors are a formidable enemy -- Rick got a very effective jump on them, but we always knew they'd regroup or at the very least not go down so easily. It wasn't a question of when the other shoe would drop -- it was a question of when and on whom. Team Ezekiel got stomped, but good, and honestly, it's really not that shocking. Here's why.
When it comes to The Walking Dead, there are two very dangerous things that generally get people killed: overconfidence and compassion. Those things are also pretty fatal in any kind of war. Remember Mara? Leader of the Saviors at the outpost under attack by Aaron and other Alexandrians? Remember when she was all, "They're too chicken-sh*t to move-in on us." Classic overconfidence -- the Alexandrians didn't need to move in. They just needed to wait for all the dead Saviors to turn and take care of the rest of the problem. Mara realized this much too late for someone who'd been around the apocalypse block as long as she had, and she got bit almost immediately.
As for compassion, the minute Jesus didn't want to shoot someone with their hands up, that special someone took Tara hostage. Later, after he convinces her and Morgan to take bunch of Savior prisoners to the Hilltop, when the group is attacked by Walkers, those prisoners don't try and defend the group as a whole. Instead, they just start running in a last-ditch attempt to save themselves. Jesus' compassion and humanity has done more harm than good, so far, especially when you consider the division it's causing within his own ranks (though that fight between him and Morgan was DOPE).
If we're going by these metrics, Teams Jesus and Ezekiel were in the most dangerous positions. Jesus convinced Tara to take a whole mess of Saviors prisoner despite the fact that he LITERALLY just saw what a terrible idea that was. That said, Jesus, Tara and their team did have a firepower advantage that not only allowed them to fend off Walkers, but reclaim a few prisoners that tried to escape. Ezekiel, on the other hand, was in far more immediate physical danger.
Ezekiel, Carol and the other members of the Kingdom managed to eviscerate the escaped Savior that grenaded them at the end of "Mercy," but he managed to tip off the Saviors anyway, so the element of surprise, she was lost. When Carol questioned the wisdom of pursuing their course of action, Ezekiel launched into one of his delightful, pseudo-Shakespearean speeches about sticking to the mission regardless. If she wants to know why he still smiles in the face of danger, "Do I feel the supreme confidence, or is my lot, my job, to simply project such certainty? No and yes, yes and no, and then, finally, yes to both." I.E. "Fake it till you make it, Baby." And they go to storm the outpost anyway, with no knowledge of what awaits them when they get there.
Call this faith, call it leadership, call it commitment -- it can be all those things. Obviously Ezekiel can't been seen doubting himself. But it looks, feels and smells a lot like overconfidence in the face of real danger -- you don't want to show your people you're in doubt of the mission, but when conditions change, you should reevaluate, even if it's just to yourself. Jesus might have captured himself a nest of vipers that could bite him in the future, but Ezekiel walked into a hornet's nest that knew he was coming and just got took possession of some very, very large guns.
Tonight, watching him lead his people onto an open field, openly tempting fate by exclaiming out loud that he hadn't lost a single person, all we could think was, "5, 4, 3, 2, 1..."
Sure enough, he was almost immediately punished for his lack of foresight. It looks like he'll probably make it to the next episode to regret his actions considering about three of his people sacrificed themselves to save his braggadocios ass, but we imagine his leadership will be called into serious question from here on out.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.