Subtlety is a long forgotten and extinct practice on The Walking Dead. That means eight seasons in, it’s hard for the writers to find ways to surprise us. As How It’s Gotta Be opened with one of these random monologues with Carl and Rick, it was evident the younger Grimes was gonna be a goner. That’s just how it’s gotta be on this show. More on Carl’s fate in a bit or should that be bite?
As far as midseason finales go, this wasn’t terrible. The only problem was how meaningless it made some of the previous seven episodes. We spent nearly two episodes focused on Rick and the Wreckers as he believed they would be pivotal in ending the war. The second they got shot at, they bailed. I don’t blame them since they’ve never shown a trace of loyalty, but Rick sure seemed dumb for trying to repeatedly bring them into the fold.
And also for apparently ditching his car and walking to Alexandria. Did he stop for pizza or something? At least this gave us a pretty great first actual fight with Rick and Negan.
For the sake of shock value, maybe it was more effective just having the Saviors back on the attack. But given how many episodes felt like treading water, actually seeing how they escaped and then laying out their revenge plan would have been worthwhile.
If anything, the Saviors regaining the advantage and promptly terrorizing everyone sure did make Jesus look clueless. He didn’t have much to say with Jerry being threatened and poor Neil getting killed. It was almost as if these guys are terrible, awful people who would happily kill them all and make random examples of everyone if given the chance.
The Kingdom was the first to fall under siege, but Ezekiel finally woke up and rescued his followers before getting captured. I wasn’t a fan of that since Zeke could have escaped with the others, unless he’s trying to be more effective as a martyr? But with Morgan on the outside of the Kingdom gates, Ezekiel might have a way out after all.
While Rick and Ezekiel kept insisting on finding idiotic ways to screw up, Maggie seems the only one fully capable of handling all-out war. She’s fortifying the Hilltop and made an example of the Savior who nearly killed Jesus. If she wasn’t already, Maggie established herself as the most capable of the three generals fighting The Saviors.
With an extra half-hour, How It’s Gotta Be also addressed Aaron and Enid. They wanted to try again to rally Oceanside, but Enid killing the leader probably won’t help their recruitment pitch. Eugene briefly rediscovered his conscious and helped Gabriel and the doctor escape. And Dwight finally crossed the line, helping Daryl and co. escape the backside of Alexandria. I’m intrigued at the thought of Daryl and Dwight teaming up on Savior killing missions. I did get a good laugh out of Daryl grabbing his vest back.
Now, for Carl. In eight seasons, we’ve had some great deaths. Some tragic (Herschel, Beth), some surprising (Lori, Abraham) and a few heartbreaking ones (Glenn, Sophia). Then we’ve had some that defied logic and did nothing for me. These were the deaths where the character practically begged to get killed like Denise yelling on the railroad tracks; Bob leaving the others to have a smoke break or Tyrese not checking rooms before waltzing in.
After his admittedly cool face off with Negan, Carl kept acting like he had a death wish by going to cars and houses for seemingly no real reason. The minute the Saviors started launching grenades was the time to follow everyone else in the sewer. Not that it mattered. Carl was already a goner. Like some suspected, Carl did get bit when he went to help Siddiq. So either at the hands of the Saviors or slowly succumbing, Carl was a goner.
It’ll be interesting to see how this affects Rick going forward. Carl ultimately died trying to help someone else. Will Rick hold Carl’s death against Siddiq? Will Siddiq do something to atone for Carl getting killed helping him out?
Largely this first half of the season experiment didn’t truly work, but How It’s Gotta Be put the season on good footing for a stronger second half.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: AMC