The Walking Dead (S08E14) "Worth"

 

Endings and Set Ups & Letters, Oh My!

Fans of Negan and The Saviors got an almost bottle episode in ‘Worth’, an episode resolving some storylines while setting up others for the 8th season finale ‘Wrath’.  Written by David Leslie Johnson & Corey Reed, ‘Worth’ is directed by Michael Slovis and stands as a powerful penultimate episode of season 8’s All Out War story.

The other two storylines in ‘Worth’ also tie back to Negan, with Aaron at Oceanside and Eugene kidnapped by Rosita and Daryl. Emotional heart comes from Rick reading Carl’s letter finally, in a surprise, yet welcome voiceover from Chandler Riggs, bookended by Michonne reading Negan, via walkie-talkie, the letter Carl left for him.

The episode begins with Rick reading Carl’s letter in the best bit of writing in the episode thanks to Johnson and Reed. Here is the transcript of Carl’s letter to Rick:

“I remember my eighth birthday at KCC with that giant cake and Aunt Evie showing up on leave and surprising all of us. I remember Mom. I remember Codger. I remember school and going to the movies and Friday night pizza and cartoons and grandma and grandpa and church, those summer BBQs and the kiddie pool you got me. Could have used that at the prison.

I hope Negan wore his “shittin’ pants”, because ‘Worth’ shows how much his control has broken down at The Sanctuary in his absence. Simon thought he successfully staged his coup, but ends up as a fence walker for his trouble, after Negan kills him and all his supporters. Steven Ogg owned the screen this week and makes one of the best walkers ever.  We see Negan finally lose control, unleashing his rage completely, as he kills Simon in front of them all. Some control restored; Negan is frightening, at last.

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It turns out that Laura was the mystery passenger Negan picked up at the end of ‘Still Gotta Mean Something’, so Dwight is finally exposed as a traitor.  Negan sets up a diabolical plan which results in some fine Saviors theater. Thanks to Negan, Dwight unknowingly gives Gregory false plans for an upcoming Saviors attack.  Rick and his army will end up walking into a Negan trap thanks to Dwight, now locked into his old cell. Showing how he maintained control over the Saviors this whole time, Negan cat-and-mouses both Simon and Dwight throughout the episode until he unmasks the traitors and reveals his plans. This was a chilling performance by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Negan has a tough episode after learning that his two most trusted people betrayed him.  By the time Michonne reads Carl’s (naive) letter asking him to stop the war, Negan has had enough of everything and everyone.
Carl’s letter to Negan:
“Negan, this is Carl. I was helping someone. I got bit. We didn’t even have to be doing what we were doing. I was just helping someone and now I’m gone. You might be gone. Maybe my dad made your people give you up and he killed you, but I don’t think so. I think you’re still around and you’re working on a way out. Maybe you got out. Maybe you think we’re a lost cause and you just want to kill all of us.
Lucille’s husband listens to the letter but refuses peace, promising to kill “every last one” of Rick’s army. Oh well, sorry, Carl!
Who else at The Sanctuary is betraying Negan?  Welp, that would be Eugene, pressured to crank out the bullets needed to fight. Will Negan be brought down by Rick’s army or by his own people since his most trusted folks are all betraying him?
Eugene is the King of The Bullet Factory, lording it over Negan’s wives and the still- sick Father Gabriel. He has a smart, but disgusting diet by the way. Eugene needs to meet a deadline for a huge amount of rounds, but some are defective. Eugene, sadly, is in full thug mode, enjoying his privileges in every way he can.  Josh McDermitt gives a tremendous performance in ‘Worth’ which shows again how the underestimation of Eugene often works to his advantage. Eugene fans have been heartbroken since ‘Worth’ aired.
Rosita and Daryl daringly kidnap Eugene after which Rosita tells him exactly what she thinks of him and promises him a living hell existence occasionally being “allowed to do something productive.” Eugene points out that his bullets are made to help out Rosita’s group. Christian Serratos is terrific in letting Rosita’s rage vent over Eugene.  She brings up Glenn and Abraham and blames the war on Negan and Eugene, echoing Negan, protests that the war is Rick’s fault.
Eugene takes advantage of some nearby walkers to stick his fingers down his throat and vomit on Rosita so he can hide and escape.  Who knew vomit and dirt make a great escape tool?
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Back at his outpost and pressured to crank out bullets, Eugene returns to work, presumably making more defective bullets following a comic storyline.
From Eugene’s perspective, why would he ever want to go back to Rick’s group, where he is unappreciated, seen as just “weird Eugene” always in the shadow of his early lies about getting to Washington?  At the Sanctuary, he is “Dr. Porter”, he has power, has the respect of Negan and The Saviors plus access to Negan’s harem. His privileges there make The Sanctuary a better place even if he is becoming as thuggish as the rest of the group.   My hunch is that he will stay at The Sanctuary or the outpost after the war and become a constant, complaining thorn in Rick’s side.
Aaron is at Oceanside, sick and alone in the woods in the rain. His being there is a plot device set up so when the Oceanside women come to kill him, he can rage at them over what they have become.  We learn that Simon killed all the Oceanside men so that fandom theory proves true.  Aaron tells the women the Saviors turned them into a version of themselves since Oceanside only hides and kills others. They are no better than the Savior and allowed the Saviors to turn them into equal savages.  Zombie Apocalypse (ZA) life is tough, Y’all!
Aaron’s speech is a set up for the finale as we can predict Oceanside will finally join the war against Negan under “the enemy of my enemy is my friend/ ally” strategy.  War makes strange partners since Rick stole all their weapons last season to fight Negan. The setup is a bit awkward as if the writers were ticking off a box more than writing with any interest for Aaron or Oceanside’s characters, but this has been a long-term problem for The Walking Dead, so barely shrug-worthy. I’d like to know more about Cyndie, Beatrice and the women of Oceanside.  Who were they and will they ever get to become 3-D characters?
A small but terrific scene comes early in the episode as Gregory and Simon have a last conversation.  Xander Berkeley and Steven Ogg always have great chemistry together and this scene does not disappoint. Simon ends up owning Gregory who slavishly makes him coffee in an effort to get back into Simon’s good graces after the disastrous Hilltop night raid.
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Overall, ‘Worth’ does what most 15th episodes of The Walking Dead do: there is a big death, storylines end or are set up the season finale with a lot of great work from the cast.  The bonus Carl letter scenes add some necessary emotional aspects to what would otherwise be a Negan & Saviors-centric hour.
Grade: B