SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen Season 8, Episode 5 of “The Walking Dead,” titled “The Big Scary U”
“The Walking Dead” devoted the tiger’s share (too soon?) of this week’s episode to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and The Saviors, delivering one of the more satisfying episodes of the season thus far in the process.
Morgan has always appeared to have plenty of fun leaning into Negan’s smooth-talking, psychotic persona, but this week allows him to explore more sides of the character than previously seen.
The beginning of the episode takes place prior to Rick and the coalition’s assault on the Sanctuary. Gregory (Xander Berkeley) wakes up when Simon (Steven Ogg) brings him a pancake breakfast. These two enjoy a fascinatingly bizarre chemistry that makes the scene both hilarious, awkward, and terrifying at the same time. Simon ominously tells Gregory that he must solve the problem with Hilltop.
Gregory then goes into a meeting with Negan and all of his top lieutenants. Gregory suggests that he can declare anyone at Hilltop who goes along with the revolt against the Saviors will be expelled from the community, proving that Gregory was lying to Maggie (Lauren Cohan) when he told her that was all Negan’s idea. Negan is unconvinced that Gregory has the power necessary to carry out such an order. Simon suggests they take a large force and re-install Gregory as leader of Hilltop. If people resist, Simon says the Saviors will kill them all. Negan slams Lucille down on the table and reminds his lieutenants that people are a valuable resource. Instead, he says their goal needs to be killing Maggie, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), and King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) to give others the message. At that point, Rick’s group arrives and Negan steps out to meet them.
The episode then cuts to the present, with Negan and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) in the trailer we saw them in in the end of the season premiere. Negan quickly disarms Gabriel, telling him they will wait out the walkers until the Saviors come to rescue them. Gabriel says that he believes he has been trapped with Negan for a reason, that the priest is meant to take the Savior leader’s confession.
The Savior lieutenants reconvene, trying to figure out what they are going to do if Negan is dead like they suspect. Regina (Traci Dinwiddie) suggests they arm a group of workers and use them to punch a hole in the herd surrounding the Sanctuary. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) throws cold water on the idea, saying the group would get overwhelmed within minutes. Dwight (Austin Amelio) backs Eugene, saying they need to keep the workers on their side. Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith) then correctly surmises that someone in their ranks is feeding information to Rick, with suspicion quickly falling on Eugene.
Later, Eugene stops by Dwight’s room to thank him for having his back, offering him a jar of pickles as a token of good faith. Before Eugene leaves, he notices a chessboard in the corner. When he touches one of the hand-painted pieces, he ends up with a red stain on his thumb.
In the trailer, Negan reveals that he used to work with kids before the zombie apocalypse kicked off. He compares his Saviors to the children he used to help, saying that he had to show people the way when he assumed command. He goes on to say that all his workers, though essentially slaves, are fed and cared for better than when he first arrived. But when Gabriel presses Negan about his wives, asking if he had a real wife before the events of the series, Negan begins to falter. Suddenly, Gabriel grabs his pistol back from Negan and ducks into the back room of the trailer, slamming the door behind him.
Back on the road, Rick and Daryl (Norman Reedus) go through the wreckage of the truck that was carrying the Saviors’ heavy machine guns. Daryl finds a box filled with explosives. He tells Rick they could blow open a hole in the Sanctuary walls and let the walkers flood in, ending the war in one move. Rick counters that the innocent workers inside could easily be killed in such an attack. Daryl doesn’t care and begins to storm off. When Rick tries to stop him, Daryl drills him in the face with a punch. They fight, with Rick tossing the explosives back toward the truck. When the truck catches fire, they both dive for cover as the explosives and guns go up in a massive fireball. They make up after their fight, but Daryl still makes Rick walk instead of offering him a ride on his motorcycle. Rick says he has to finish “the last play”before their plan can be accomplished.
Negan talks to Gabriel through the door inside the trailer. Negan knows they cannot make it separately but just might survive if they work together. Before he opens the door, Gabriel confesses that he let his congregation die rather than give them shelter when the walkers came to his church. Negan reveals that he had a wife, and that he treated her poorly. She grew ill before the apocalypse began, dying after it started. Negan says he was weak because he did not have the strength to end her after she turned.
Gabriel and Negan then drag a walker in from outside and cover themselves in its innards. They make it outside and begin working their way towards the entrance of the Sanctuary. Before long their cover is blown and they have to start fighting their way through.
Inside the Sanctuary, the power has died and the workers are beginning to revolt. They demand to know what happened to Negan and refuse to listen to any further orders until they know what is going on. An argument breaks out and Regina kills a man in the crowd who brandished a gun. Negan then appears with Gabriel and the Saviors immediately bow to him. He tells them he won’t die until he is “damn good and ready.”
Negan calls his lieutenants into another meeting, where it is revealed that the worker with the gun had several in his possession from the armory. As it would be impossible for a worker to get that many guns without help from someone higher up, suspicions again rise that a traitor is in their midst. Looking at the bag the guns were found in, Eugene notices a red paint stain on the bag, identical to the paint Dwight had on his chess set.
After the meeting, Negan tells Eugene he has faith that Eugene will figure out a way to solve the current host of problems plaguing the Sanctuary. And if he can’t, Negan promises to kill Eugene quick before starvation and dehydration set in. Eugene then goes to the now captive Gabriel with a welcome present of sorts. Gabriel is deathly ill, apparently from the walker guts.
As Rick walks along the road, he is dumbfounded when he sees a helicopter flying overhead. As he continues on, it appears he is walking toward the junkyward where Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and the Scavengers live.