'The Walking Dead' S08E11 Recap: "Dead or Alive or"

The ripples of Carl’s tragic death have yet to make their way to all of the survivors. It’s been two solid episodes (and about two months) since we’ve spent any real time with the Hilltop, so it was time we got a catch up episode where our time is split between Daryl, Rosita, Tara, Dwight, and their group making their way through the woods to the Hilltop trying to evade the saviors on their way there. Maggie is sitting on a throne of stress in Hilltop, with a pen full of prisoners and not enough food to feed her people. Father Gabriel and Doctor Carson, who have escaped the Sanctuary and are making their way to….you guessed it, Hilltop. They probably should have called the episode “All Roads Lead to Hilltop” Pretty much a standard TWD episode with only Gabriel and the doc’s story really standing out. It was a refreshing bit of good fortune, optimism and hope for the show….which was quickly dashed and brought back to the undead earth.

The Good: 
- As I just mentioned, Gabriel and Doctor Carson story brought an odd feeling of hope to the show. If there is one major complaint people have about TWD, and let’s be honest there’s a good bit more than one, it’s the eternal gloom these folks live in. I mean, would it be so bad to show what a good day during the Zombie Apocalypse looks like? Gabriel and Carson, who were released by Eugene so that Carson could get to Hilltop and deliver Maggie’s baby. Carson, a man of science cannot wrap his head around Gabriel’s faith. The man is close to death from infection, losing his eyesight, and they are lost in the woods yet this man of the cloth still thinks God is lighting his way. As their journey progresses it’s oddly relieving if not a bit cheesy how divine intervention keeps popping its head in on them. A true testament on not being able to enjoy the sun without the rain. Take note writers, we need to WANT these people to survive, we have to see what’s worth surviving for!
- Dwight finally comes clean to Daryl about his motivations for helping them and turning on Negan, as well as his reasons for going to Negan in the first place. It was a great little scene where you could see the empathy rising in Daryl no matter how much he does not want it to.
- Daryl continuing to prove he’s an angel in a leather vest, after losing his temper in front of one of the children in his group he appears immediately contrite, later in the episode we see him carrying the same little girl who he upset into Hilltop. If Daryl does die, it is going to be in defense of the kids, I will put money on that.
- The upcoming Savior plan to launch walker parts into the good guy’s camps is an amazing idea…seriously how has this not been thought of until now? Then again, it doesn’t make too much sense since we’ve seen survivors wipe the guts of walkers all over themselves to blend in. Either way, should bring gore fans a fun-filled episode.

The Bad: 
- The annoying ones. That’s going to be my categorization from now on for the combined skin-curling annoyance that is Eugene and Gregory. God help us if these two end up sharing scenes at some point. With Eugene, they’re doing a great job of copying his character from the comics, but the thing is the quirkiness that makes Eugene memorable and somewhat funny in the comics is just downright annoying on film. It’s too much. I literally shudder when he comes on screen. Meanwhile Gregory’s sniveling spineless impeached mayor of Hilltop is so pathetic it’s uncomfortable to watch. They should have followed the source material and killed him when he tried to kill Maggie.
- Ruining the good vibes. As much as I appreciated Carson and Gabriel’s upbeat storyline I hated the resolution of their story just as much. After all of that positivity the rug is, unsurprisingly, pulled out after the pair are captured by a Savior scouting party. Carson tries to disarm one of the Saviors and is unceremoniously shot, leaving Gabriel crying at the loss of his friend and headed back to a Savior camp where he is going to be working under Eugene sorting bullet casings. Why? We get that this is a depressing landscape but would it have been too much to end the episode on a high note and then just open the next episode with Carson being shot. We are not looking for Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood but you HAVE to show us a world in which there’s even a glimmer of something worth surviving for.

The Dead: 
- Ohhhh boy. They brought the thunder this time around. A section of the episode takes place in and around a swamp so you can imagine the level of “Yuck” surrounding zombies stuck in a nasty Virginia swamp for 8 years. Oddly enough, the most grotesque moment of the episode does not happen until we are back in the saviors’ camp. Negan is discussing a new plan for biological warfare against the opposition; he makes his points by dragging Lucille slowly across the face of a walker. Just nasty dripping bits of gore and rotted flesh. It’s gotten to the point where I honestly can’t tell if these zombies are actors or animatronics.