The Damned: The moral abyss in The Walking Dead’s All Out War

The Walking Dead brought back a season 1 character in "The Damned," which gave it an unexpected, nostalgic twist...while some characters walked the tightrope over a moral abyss.
Lennie James as Morgan Jones - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Lennie James as Morgan Jones - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

"The Damned" is the second episode of the eighth season of the popular television series The Walking Dead. Originally airing on October 29, 2017, it may not be a fan favorite, but it can't be accused of lacking action. This episode is part of the "All Out War" story arc, where the survivors, led by Rick Grimes, continue their fight against the Saviors and their leader, Negan.

"The Savior Saga" episode follows several simultaneous assaults on various Savior outposts by the united communities of Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom, which was largely formalized in the episode "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life." Rick and Daryl lead an attack on one outpost to find a weapons cache, while Carol and King Ezekiel pursue a fleeing Savior who might alert other outposts. Meanwhile, Aaron and Eric, along with other fighters, attack another outpost in a prolonged gun battle.

So, what about character development? Eric is critically injured during the attack on the outpost, which deeply affects Aaron. Morgan, known for his "all life is precious" philosophy, struggles with his vow not to kill as he is thrust into the violence of war. It could bring to mind that classic, bad-ass Nietzsche quote: "Battle not with monsters, lest you become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you" (then again, maybe I'm misapplying that quote — but it does sound good; you have to give me that much!).

A character from the Walking Dead past comes back

Rick encounters Morales, a character from the first season who now works for the Saviors, creating a surprising twist. It also continues the Walking Dead theme of unexpected character transitions. The episode explores themes of morality and the toll of war on individuals, highlighting how different characters handle the violence and their personal codes.

The moral complexities of warfare and survival are emphasized, showing the blurring lines between good and evil in the post-apocalyptic world. Perhaps my strongest critique of the episode would be that, yet again, "walkers" are sort of de-emphasized. Sure, part of the series' good reception is the claim, "It's not just about zombies," but I think sometimes it should have been a little more about them.

Final thoughts

"The Damned" received mixed reviews from critics. Some praised the action sequences and the return of Morales, while others felt the episode was too chaotic and lacked focus. The pacing and intensity were noted, as the episode maintains a high level of tension and action throughout.

Like most episodes, it at least had its share of significant developments. The return of Morales was a significant moment, as he was last seen in the first season when he parted ways with Rick's group to head to Birmingham, Alabama with his family (and first seen in the episode "Guts"). The episode's ending cliffhanger, where Morales recognizes Rick and holds him at gunpoint, sets up a dramatic confrontation for the following episode.

"The Damned" is a pivotal episode in the eighth season of The Walking Dead, driving forward the conflict between the survivors and the Saviors while delving into the psychological impact of the ongoing war on its characters. As the series has died down, and even the spin-offs can be considered limited series, it can still be interesting to look back and recall some of these character's trajectories. Meanwhile, we look forward to Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Boys' season 4, as well as his continued presence in The Walking Dead universe.