By Carolina Gallardo (@carolgallardo)
So it's been a good couple of weeks since The Walking Dead's mid-season finale but the outcome (particularly the big reveal) has been resonating with fans and critics alike since it aired. Some feedback has been positive, some...not so much. And some of us have been inundated with small children, and the holiday season...but I guess that's just me? In any case, let's dive into this ocean of apocalyptic drama that is Season 8, Episode 8: How It's Gotta Be.
The episode follows the similar formula that's been used throughout the first half of the season which is having various story lines occurring concurrently that we touch upon during the episode. This episode was no different in that we have what occurs at The Hilltop, The Kingdom and Alexandria (along with Aaron & Enid's side adventure), with each location going through its own confrontation with The Saviors. It's established before the opening credits that Negan and the Saviors have successfully escaped The Sanctuary and are likely on their way to punish Rick and crew for their disobedient behavior. Rick, Carol, and Jerry (of all people) are abundantly clear on this since they are the ones to pick up Rick from The Sanctuary, where he is ambushed and the Garbage People scatter (of course they do). They ultimately decide to split, with each one furiously trying to reach their dedicated location before the Saviors get there first.
Dotted throughout this episode, we see a lot of images of Carl, even a flashback to when Carl and Rick first came upon Siddiq at the gas station. We see the continuation of the conversation that occurred between the two, and Carl's insistence that there must be another way rather than just killing everyone. This in conjunction with images of a pensive Carl at Alexandria, writing his father a letter and observing Enid's original JSS (Just Survive Somehow) note, make us realize that Carl will factor heavily in this episode. Plus, you know when anyone on this show takes the stance of the moral compass, it never leads to good things, historically speaking.
In any case, at the same time, we have Maggie and the Hilltop on their way to The Sanctuary, clearly unaware that Negan and the Saviors have escaped. At one point, Jesus and Maggie's car stops when they see a tree down, blocking their path. Immediately, you can tell that Maggie gets a flashback to that night that they first encountered Negan, when they similarly blocked their paths, until they ultimately surrounded them, lined them up and executed Glenn and Abraham. She recognizes this as a sign that it's them and she's correct. When she radios the back of her convoy, it's too late. The Saviors have them sandwiched in, with nowhere to go. Eventually a van pulls up in front of Maggie and a couple of Saviors open the back and roll out an injured Jerry (who we know was t-boned from an earlier clip) as well as a coffin (what is it with these guys and coffins?). They kneel him, and hold him at gun point which made me INCREDIBLY apprehensive (who DOESN'T love Jerry?).
In what is likely the most convincing act of strength during the course of this night is when Maggie returns to The Hilltop, slightly shell shocked from the confrontation with the Saviors and the execution of Neil. She immediately goes to her Savior "pen" picks out one of the prisoners and executes him at point blank range. In a more human moment, we see Maggie in tears when she walks away afterward, unbeknownst to everyone around her. She is making decisive war time moves, but they are not easy decisions in the least but they are decisions that must be taken. We later see that the coffin she requested from Simon is not used to bury Neil but rather to lay in the executed POW with a note scrawled on the top of the coffin stating, one down, thirty eight to go. SAVAGE.
Unbeknownst to Gavin, King Ezekiel has set up a diversion, by collecting some gas barrels and setting them on fire, creating an explosion. The Saviors quickly run to attend to this distraction, allowing Ezekiel to storm through the gates of the Kingdom with a school bus, telling all his loyal servants to escape. Carol shows up at this point, instructing everyone on where to go but she is unable to convince Ezekiel to come with her, opting instead to use the chains to lock himself in the Kingdom with the Saviors. Carol looks on in frustration as the doors close her out and we are left to wonder what will come of Ezekiel. Fortunately, we come to see later that Morgan is hanging out at the gate so I would expect to see Morgan pull some moves to spring Ezekiel from this situation. But that's just my thought.
Not to be forgotten, Enid and Aaron have gone on their own side mission to apparently try to convince the Oceanside women (remember them?) to join them in the fight (we assume probably since all of the Kingdom soldiers were killed). Upon reaching the fringes of their community, they appear to get some rest that night, until at least Aaron sees a shadowy figure by their truck. Upon investigating, Aaron is attacked and Enid, in a heat of the moment reaction, shoots...and kills Natanya, the matriarch of the Oceanside community. Her granddaughter Cindy confirms that she is dead and now it's pretty much anyone's guess what these ladies will do with Enid and Aaron at this point. I guess we'll need to wait and see.
Mark my words, that little baby Gracie, currently Rick's POW, WILL play a role this season or the larger scheme of the show at large. Just saying.
At this point, Carl offers himself as a sacrifice and tells Negan that if punishment needs to be doled out to kill HIM. Negan is momentarily stunned by this offer and he asks him if he indeed WANTS to die. Carl says that he doesn't...but he will, if it means that it'll potentially save everyone else. He then pushes Negan asking him if this is what he wanted when he created the Sanctuary, if this was the end goal. Because they have this relationship where Negan has a respect and quite frankly, an affection, toward Carl, we can tell that he is seriously contemplating and considering his words. It's at this point, however, that Daryl and company storm through the back of Alexandria, leading Dwight and his team after them in pursuit (as was Carl's plan). Negan immediately realizes what's going and exclaims his feelings quite succinctly by stating:
"I thought we were having a MOMENT, you little a#$hole! Bombs away!"
Love him or hate him, these Negan outburst moments are fabulous.
As instructed, the Saviors begin raining down grenades and bombs into Alexandria and are told by Negan to burn down every other house and find Carl but DO NOT kill him. Again, Negan with the affection toward Carl as well as realizing that humans are resources. He tells them all that he'll be at Rick's house, making himself some spaghetti (a callback to when Negan brought back Carl to Alexandria).
|Smoke bombs, grenades and fire ensues|
Rick finally arrives at an Alexandria almost completely up in flames. He makes a beeline to his home, checking to see if Carl and his faction were able to escape alive. I, at least, was completely shocked when Negan came out of nowhere and started beating down on Rick since I had forgotten he was waiting for him at his home. What ensues is an old fashioned brawl between the two men, with Negan even telling Rick that he intends on taking Carl under his win and making him his right hand man (huh, not sure how Negan's going to react to the sad news). It's at this point that Rick asks Negan if he ever shuts up (to which Negan replies NO). HA. That was definitely a good one.
So that's the mid-season finale: Carl is on his deathbed and is going to die senselessly for helping Siddiq kill walkers, presumably (everyone disputes that Carl will have a "dumpster moment"). Assuming that this will indeed with be the case, this is shocking turn for the show, since Carl is a character very much alive in the comic and it has always been assumed that Carl would be the future leader of the free world, in this post apocalyptic era. With Carl no longer alive, it leaves us all with numerous questions as to the future direction of the show. How will Negan react to this information? How will this affect Rick and his mental state? Does that mean that the season premiere Old Man Rick "flash forward" is NOT a flash forward but a dream of what COULD HAVE been? What happens now with some of the well known comic story lines that are coming up where Carl was a catalyst?
All we can do is speculate for now and speculate we will. After the holidays, we will likely post a podcast discussing our thoughts specifically on the death of Carl and predictions for how this could affect the second half of the season (and moving forward). Stay tuned for that...
In the meantime, thank you all for your support and have a wonderful New Year!