Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Walking Dead 08x08 How It's Gotta Be

Photo Credit: AMC / Gene Page
Rick tries to make an alliance with Jadis and her trashheap crew, while the rest of Alexandria wants to take Negan out immediately after believing crucial members of The Kingdom have been killed. Tara and Daryl enact a plan of their own against the Saviors which backfires, leaving the communities to deal with a surprising ambush by Negan.

Below includes spoilers of the series' eight seasons so far. You've been warned but hope you enjoy!


A Plan Gone Awry

Apparently, when the communities agreed to take out Negan, some members were crossing their fingers back their backs. Rick's idea, to isolate Negan and the Saviors with nothing left to do but surrender, wasn't good enough for Daryl and Tara who like everyone else wants to Negan suffer. After the hotheads ran a semi-truck into the Saviors' compound (without making sure their enemies actually died) and then shuffled on home, a little surprise came a knocking for all of the communities: Negan and the Saviors made it out alive and were out for blood. Again.

How It's Gonna Be tried to round out the journey so far from the season eight premiere by laying out the communities and their struggle to follow through on their plans. But instead it took a hearbreaking, unexpected turn that will undoubtedly change the way fans watch from now on.

Maggie found herself with a choice to make at The Hilltop Colony. After she and some of her fellow colonists were blockaded on the highway by Simon and his goons, and one of her own were killed, Maggie sent a message to the galley of prisoners in her front lawn: she killed a redshirt and might start questioning Jesus's decision to bring the so-called Saviors on her compound.

After coming home from their mission with only Carol and Jerry in tow, we watched King Ezekiel fall from his pedestal. When more Saviors quickly surrounded what was left of his flock and threatened to kill them, he quickly came to the rescue, pleeing with Carol to make sure his people were safe.

Until Tara and Daryl's ingenius job of not picking off their enemies but unleashing them, the communities struggled to carry out their plans, whether to kill the Saviors or keep the innocent ones alive. The duo's betrayal against Rick and fuddling his plan with the Trashheap crew could only be outdone by the biggest, most action-packed betrayal of them all: Carl finally being allowed to step up to the plate, protect his friends and family, and pay a serious price for it.

From the second Negan strolled up to Alexandria, Carl was running the show to protect everyone. Finally, we saw Carl become the leader we always knew Rick was training him to be. Like the little sheriff throwing smoke bombs all over Alexandria to keep the fight going long enough for him to be safe underneath the sewers, this episode was filled with misdirections, delayed foreshadowings, and a twist to shock us all.


The World Didn't Spoil Him

The moment of Carl's death, or the first part of revealing he was bit in a previous episode [], was one of the most poetic moments of the entire series. But it also seems the only thing The Walking Dead know hows to do is kill off characters because, typically, in their final moments they go out with a bang.
You are not safe. No matter how many people are around, no matter how clear the area is. No matter what anyone says, no matter what you think. You are not safe. It only takes one second, one second and it’s over. Never let your guard down. Ever. I want you to promise me.” - Rick to Carl, season five
How apropos does this quote feel for all of the characters who have died so far. We as the audience probably shouldn't ever let our guard down because Gimple and the writers expect that: to feel like characters are safe only to pull a switcheroo and kill them off. Carl let his guard down, and it literally came back to bite him and pretty much all of us.

Ironically, or to push it into our faces once again, Carl didn't stay in Alexandria like his father or Michonne asked him to. In trying to appeal to Siddiq and welcome him to the community, Carl played a pretty tribute to his mom Lori before her death in season three; he didn't let the world spoil him. For one last time for foreshadowing sake, he snuck out to bring back Siddiq, and in the midst of their chit-chat were swarmed by walkers, and Carl was bit. Since then he's been harboring the bite, for at least a day or so.
It’s tough for Carl to show them that he’s been bitten. He feels like he’s failed his father. – Chandler Rigg
In a pretty stunning transformation, Carl has grown up in this world that's held a knife to their throats every day. Despite facing walkers, witnessing his friends and family die, almost getting raped and turned into cannibals' dinner, he's managed to raise his sister, become a man in front of his father's eyes, became a son to Michonne, and despite everything Negan threw at them, aiming to accept new people because they are the future. In his last moments, literally going down guns blazing as he delayed Negan's attack as long as possible, he took everything he learned from his dad to helm a pretty impressive last stand: he ensured Alexandria safety by putting himself on the line.

Carl revealing to his father that he was bit, underneath Alexandria being burned to the ground and with the glowing lights of the candles surrounded by his entire family, was pretty surreal. Everyone seemed somber despite their apparent victory. Daryl sat with lil asskicker. Siddiq sat at one end of the sewer with his knife out. And, Michonne and Rick were gobsmacked by the biggest shock of their lives. Though fans have been calling it online for the past few weeks merely by tracking the actors' appearances on set, it's difficult to say that this wasn't a jawdropping and disappointing surprise.


Is This It?

Next to the young Harry Potter stars, Chandler Riggs has grown up in front of The Walking Dead family. Unike Harry succeeding in defeating Voldemort to live nineteen years later and see a world no longer trapped under The Dark Lord, there wasn't a special curse or spell that could save Carl from his unpredictable death...nor that blatant way the series seemed to flaunt it in our face.

The entire episode aimed to reinstate its own creative decision to the audience, priming us for the monumental decision ahead without caring whether it makes sense or not, if it goes back on seven years of storytelling. From Carl being bit on the ribs (instead of an arm or leg that could be lopped off a la Herschel) to the episode's title How It's Gotta Be acting as a reason for showrunners to permenantly say 'There is no cure to save him ' and 'This isn't Dumpster Gate', there's officially no coming back from how the story is pushing forward without the symbol of the future.

Carl may have answered the door like a big boy when Negan came knocking on the gates, but the writers did not get the call that this is not how the fans want this show to be run: for characters to be used loosely, barely at all, until they become the sacrificial lamb to a "high much purpose" on the show. Not only is Carl's death more of the same, it's failing to live up to the premise of what this show used to be: Rick ensuring the world for Carl was good enough for him to grow up in.

There's plenty of issues with Carl's death storytelling-wise: if the show was going to pass the torch off to Riggs after Rick was supposedly killed off, who gets his storyline? who do we want to see the show expand with if it's not familiar characters? How will Carol and Maggie react to finding out Carl is going to die / has died? The show has been subtly planting the ideas that everyone is accountable for creating peace, not just one leader, but it has failed to offer explanations for replacing Carl and his anticipated comic book journey.

Earlier in the season, Rick was shown looking bloodshot, uttering "May my mercy prevail over my wrath", and it was then we subtly knew only one big deat could make Rick flip his views around from killing Negan to saving him instead. Carl, having becoming the new last-minute voice of reason, will surely squeeze in a final few words for his dad to honor his death. Suddenly, without his son, the communities will continue to rally together more to keep Negan alive and build a peaceful world without him.


So Long Partner

There's been a lot of gutwrenching deaths on this show, whether we expected them or not. Every time a fan must think that nothing is going to be as bad as the last one. Yet, somehow it always is, or perhaps this instance is the worst of them all because no one actually believed the series had the gumption to kill the future. Yes, Judith could be the future, or the comic book storylines can be swiped over to Enid and other characters, but nothing quite compares to the dynamics this show has lost: Rick and Carl's relationship.

Which brings me to: there's not a whole lot I'm holding onto with The Walking Dead. Emotionally, I haven't been tethered to the characters like I used to. The past three installments have been painful, not just for the loss of characters, but the loss of hugely passionate interest I used to have. And, if there's one thing I learned from the downfall of Once Upon A Time, it's that sometimes it's okay to quit the show if you have to. And, there comes a time to stop justifying the horrible mistakes of the showrunners.

Not only has the storytelling run amuck, but the treatment of Gimple with firing Riggs displays an unexpected cutthroat manner. If you haven't heard, Riggs was told he would be on the show another three years, bought a new to be closer to the studios, and then two weeks before his eighteenth birthday, Gimple gave him his walking papers. If it wasn't for Riggs's dad speaking up, AMC would've let us all accept that Carl getting killed off was Chandler's idea when it wasn't. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time the show has treated actors like this - Laurie Holden who played Andrea and Emily Kinney who played Beth comes to mind. It's become this type of disrespect behind-the-scenes that is now unconscionable.

As I look realistically at the show so far, beyond my lens as a die-hard fan, it's not hopeful. Some of my favorite characters are on their last legs - Rick, Michonne, Carol, and Maggie. In particular, Rick has always been my absolute favorite, and very often it's been Andrew's performance that has saved me from quitting. As of December 2017, there's no word yet if Lincoln has renewed his contract, which makes me apprehensive of what the future beyond the upcoming season finale will be like. I think I have the patience to continue until the upcoming finale for this season, however, like Carl, I might just go quietly into that good night and say, So Long Partner.


Additional Thoughts

+ A growing list of names not to call Maggie: Marsha, dear, honey, cupcake.

+ "May my mercy prevail over my wrath" was created for fans to chant to themselves as they sit in the fetal position bawling their eyes out wondering what the heck has happened to The Walking Dead

+ Michonne had to relive the nightmare of coming back from her back and finding her newborn son, boyfriend, and friend had turned into walkers.

+ So much of the previous storyline was a waste and a smoke screen. Daryl actually has nothing to do with Carl getting bit.

+ How does Negan just tell Eugene they need bullets, only for the Saviors to have endless amounts?

+ Everyone hated Rick and thought he was a coward when he fell in line with Negan, now they all agree on a plan to defeat him and sixty seconds later it's his fault FOR HOW THEY DID IT

+ Dwight has done more for the group recently than Daryl. As usual, the writing will probably  overlook how Daryl and Tara let Negan loose anyways.

+ Apparently, Andrew actually punched Jeffrey Dean Morgan in their fight. He did us all a favor.

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