Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead's latest episode.
After Carl died and planted his seeds of hope and peace within Rick and Michonne's minds, I actually did think that Rick's murderous savagery would take a backseat to a more ethical approach to ending the All Out War. But "Still Gotta Mean Something," in which Rick eventually read Carl's personalized letter, saw him teaming up with Morgan on a mission to not only kill some Saviors, but to utterly destroy any sense of decency that still remained within him. How upside-down is a Walking Dead episode when Negan is far more compassionate than the show's lead protagonist?
Because Rick is currently unable to just sit serenely for any measurable span of time without getting overwhelmed by grief, he tasked himself with tracking down the escaped Hilltop prisoners. Viewers knew bloodshed was imminent once Rick chatted up Alden, the poster child for Hilltop rehabilitation, who very specifically requested for Rick's mercy where the other Saviors were concerned. Alden made a case for them having made poor choices driven by panicked impulse, and though Rick didn't pinky-swear to bring any stragglers back to show them the error of their ways, he technically agreed. And then later broke that promise in some pretty horrifying ways that also didn't do much for Rick's moral standing with Michonne.
Morgan, whose mental struggles are now more apparent to Carol than ever, spent the early chunk of this episode mourning Henry's assumed death and convincing himself that he needed to kill Jared to stop Henry's death toll. So when Rick showed up with a plan that centered precisely on the deaths of Jared and his cohorts, it must have looked like the most fortuitous sign imaginable for Morgan.
After being quickly subdued by the Saviors they were seeking, Rick made it look like he would indeed deliver on Alden's hopes for this mission to be one of retrieval and not outright elimination. He talked about getting all the Saviors back to the relative safety of the Hilltop, a concept that some were already very keen on. To the point where some of them rescued Rick and Morgan once walkers invaded the dive bar. (Walkers likely drawn by Morgan's darkly hilarious howls about everyone turning, which was a splendid moment for Lennie James.) Not long after, Rick was once again saved from certain doom by one of the Saviors, and it was one of the biggest close-calls of Rick's post-outbreak life.
But instead of guaranteeing himself a ticket to safety, that Savior instead signed his own death warrant. Literally seconds later, Rick plunged his hatchet into the neck of that same dude who just saved his life, as Morgan stabbed his staff through the necks of the two unsuspecting Saviors nearest him. The viciousness of that moment should not be ignored, either. Both men could have easily just shot those Saviors in the head as they were already doing with the surrounding walkers, but instead made each act more personal and meaningful.
In a sense, we didn't see anything other than Rick Grimes at his most Rick Grimes-est, as the character's idea of leniency has rarely been his strong suit. But for him to continue his cold-blooded tactics in such a way, all the while taking advantage of Morgan's cognitive disruption, it paints Rick in the darkest shades that a so-called good guy can be painted. Even though Carl's letter could very well turn him around completely, Rick looks more willing and able than ever to murder the shit out of Negan in a most monstrous manner. And Alden looks like he knows it, too, so let's see what happens when Maggie and Rick speak again.
Oh, and on a final note, a loud hooray for Jared's extremely disgusting and completely deserved death, even though Morgan did it, and not Rick. And even though it was pretty uncomfortable to watch him squeal and beg Morgan for mercy while getting ripped apart by walkers. And there's less of a hooray for Henry still being alive, especially since Morgan is probably too broken to fully appreciate the gravity of it all.
With Morgan's exit to Fear the Walking Dead coming very soon, The Walking Dead will be wrapping up Season 8 on AMC over the next two Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out who we think Negan picked up in his car, as well as what we think that helicopter moment meant. To see what else will be available around the TV-sphere, head to our midseason premiere schedule and our summer premiere schedule.