The Walking Dead Season 7

It was last week when The Walking Dead reintroduced Morales, an ally of Rick’s from back in the early days of the show, when anxious survivors of the apocalypse cared only about getting to the CDC in Atlanta. Now a loyal lieutenant for Negan, Morales was anything but a friendly face when he cornered Rick (Andrew Lincoln) at the very end of last week’s episode.

Though it seemed all but certain that Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja) and Rick would enter a new story arc, one built upon their brief friendship and driven by audience speculation as to where the hell Morales has been all this time, their reunion was cut short. Thanks to a hot save by Daryl (Norman Reedus), “Monsters” put an end to a big character’s return before it truly got started.

Easily the most intense and dangerous version of a conversation you have when you bump into someone from high school, Morales and Rick “catch up,” with Morales revealing his family hardly made it to Birmingham like they had planned in Season 1. It was because of Morales’s loss that led him to Negan. Then, like, there’s some loud noises and Daryl shoots an arrow in Morales’s skull. And that’s the end of that.

Unlikable as Negan may be, Morales is proof that no one can deny his cult of personality. It’s what inspires purpose among his followers, and it’s precisely what makes Negan that much more dangerous over previous big bads like the Governor. The Saviors sincerely believe in Negan, even if they also fear him at the same time. That’s a kind of control Rick can never command out of his people — if he even tries, Alexandria would be in revolt. Deep down, it must eat at Rick that he can’t have people fight for him like the way Negan’s people do.

The Walking Dead
Rick's reunion with Morales is cut short, thanks to Daryl.

After last week’s big episode, which was almost non-stop warfare between the Hilltop, Alexandria, and the Kingdom against the Saviors, “Monsters” is significantly slower and subdued. There’s conflict, to be sure — tensions between Morgan and Jesus continue to boil with a somewhat chop socky fight scene — but “Monsters” is hardly all guns blazing. Even Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is MIA, which is a relief to any fan exhausted by Jeffrey Morgan’s always-on sadist. But Negan can’t be far behind, as “Monsters” ends in an unfortunate twist of fate for the Kingdom, who get too cocky and unwittingly wander into a trap where they’re nothing but fishes in a barrel.

The Walking Dead premieres 9 p.m. Eastern on AMC.

Photos via AMC