Episode eleven of The Walking Dead’s eighth season, entitled, ‘Dead or Alive Or‘, was full of character development, in particular for Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Tara (Alanna Masterson), and for Dwight (Austin Amilio).
The episode shifted its focus between several different groups of Alexandria survivors and their efforts to escape the clutches of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), while trying to make it to the perceived safety of the Hill Top. In particular the focus on Father Gabriel and Dr. Carson (R. Keith Harris), was quite refreshing even if we did see the good doctor meet his demise at the hands of the Saviors.
Father Gabriel has indeed come a long way from the cowering and pathetic excuse of a survivor he first was, to a strong and confident member of a dwindling core cast. Even though Gabriel’s moral compass is clearly a religious one in an apocalyptic setting in which the dead feast on the living, it still seems to work for our favorite crusader, and especially in this episode.
While the episode began with Darryl (Norman Reedus) leading Alexandria’s survivors through the forest on the way to the Hill top, our favorite cross bow touting bike rider didn’t really have a central role in this episode. Rather, the conflict between Dwight and Tara took center stage in the forests of Virginia, as Tara is still fuming over Dwight’s killing of her former girlfriend and love, Denise (Merritt Weaver).
A good view into Dwight’s soul was during his explanation to Darryl over his actions as a Savior, describing his motivation to do what ever it took to keep the love of his life safe. However, Tara’s inner torment and rage does not allow her to see Dwight as anything other than the snake she believes him to be, which is further fueled by her desire for revenge. Throughout the episode, Tara seizes every opportunity to see Dwight die, even going so far as to attempt to murder him in cold blood.
But when a group of Saviors shows up at the entrance of a swamp Alexandria’s survivors have sought refuge in, Dwight saves Tara and the helpless Alexandria refugees by leading the Saviors away and once again falsely joining their ranks. An act which seemingly proves Dwight’s intentions to Tara and Rosita (Christian Serratos).
The episode also sees Eugene (Josh McDermitt) stand stead fast in the face of Negan’s accusations and suspicion over Gabriel and the doctor’s escape, as he is placed in charge of his own outpost so as to make more bullets for Negan’s Saviors. Again, we can see Eugene continuing to grow a back bone and become more than he ever thought he was capable of.
And while Maggie (Lauren Cohan) must come to terms with feeding her people or letting her prisoners starve, she still finds the courage to do the right thing and be the leader the Hill Top needs, if not the one it deserves.
Just as both Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride) rise above the monsters they both have churning inside of them, in order to help young Henry (Macsen Lintz) not become the monsters they both recognize inside of themselves. Incidentally, Macsen Lintz is the real-life brother of the former and original Walking Dead actress who played Carol’s daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz).
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the episode however was Darryl arriving with Alexandria’s survivors in tow at the Hill Top, with Maggie, Enid (Katelyn Nacon), and others at the Hill Top breaking down and mourning Carl’s (Chandler Riggs) death.
All in all this was a good episode for any fan of AMC’s and Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead.