After a month of waiting and praying this moment wouldn't come, the mid-season premiere finally arrived. The Walking Dead can't go back on the most shocking twist of the entire series: the death of Carl Grimes. Picking up from the mid-season finale How It's Gotta Be, his brief return after the winter hiatus finally came to the conclusion we didn't want to face: there is no cure to save him. There are no Whisperers who accidentally bit Carl. No, instead his producer-imposed death came with inspiring speeches and questionable visions about the future. Hold onto your sheriff's hat and settle in with a bowl of pudding, there's a lot to unpack in this week's Walking Dead recap.
Morgan & Carol to the rescue - kind ofAs always with The Walking Dead, it would be almost surprising if the show handled a character's death without skipping all over the place. However, that's just not how things roll in the apocalypse. Intermixing Carl's death with teasers of Santa Rick in the future, and Carol and Morgan trying to rescue King Ezekiel from the Saviors, Grimes's farewell was and wasn't all about him.
In a side plot that ultimately drew a full circle around Grimes's journey so far, the episode jumped between Rick and Michonne hovering over Carl as he got sicker, and Carol and Morgan teaming up to slay all the Saviors who captured King Ezekiel. Facing their non-commitment to be violent when necessary, the duo sliced and diced a patch of Saviors until they came to their leader's rescue. Their ambush, necessary but graphic, showed how far once again Morgan has gone over to "seeing red", while Carol can still hold onto some semblance of sanity.
Despite knifing a Savior and pulling out his intestines right in front of Carol and Ezekiel, they tried to convince Morgan not to kill one savior Gavin. What purpose does Gavin serve more than other Saviors? I don't know - he had more dialogue than his comrades, by definition making him less of a red shirt. Hell if we don't keep returning to the fact that Carol and Morgans' consciences have struggled with the blood on their hands. The series's best friend Plot Convenience allowed for Henry to come out of nowhere like a Ninja and drill a hole through Gavin's neck with a wooden staff.
The moment reflects Carl's perfectly-timed admittance to Rick and Michonne about regretting killing Jody, one of Woodbury's young soldiers at the prison when he was about to surrender his weapon in season three. As a major motivating factor in Carl's sudden call to establish peace between everyone, Henry is inserted into the series as a Carl 2.0; a young kid taking something into his own hands that's not be morally right but will haunt him later.
Since episode eight dealt with Maggie's face-off against her own band of Saviors, Carol and Morgan with Henry was an okay insertion into Honor but not without its major faults - why is our group hesitant about killing Saviors who torture not only their own people but terrorized innocent survivors until they joined Negan? Some Saviors might come to their senses and want to be an ally like Dwight. But isn't it okay to kill Saviors who want to continue doing more harm than good? to protect themselves and others? The show has struggled to define which Saviors are necessary or not. And most importantly, do we care about Henry, a last-minute newcomer so he can live out Grimes's journey? It'd be nice if Grimes's was around to mentor kids and provide a shelter for them so they didn't have to kill.....
What Do You Want?In season six, when Deanna was on her deathbed she eagerly told Michonne to ask herself this question. As most characters facing their last moments before dying, Carl knew exactly what he wanted and was trying to instill that same sense of proactive mindset on them: a future of Alexandria that was peaceful and thriving without him.
What we're assuming of the visions that have played throughout season eight is that a victory must be earned. But the tactics since the beginning of slaying everyone who doesn't join their cause might drastically change if only the leaders want to see Carl's hopes be fully realized. As much as they want to honor their son, who was bit by a walker and not injured or killed by their enemies, Rick and Michonne now have to ask themselves what their victory means now.
Everything Rick has done since he woke up from his coma has been to keep Carl safe. Michonne and Carl had a very close step-mother and son relationship. They brought out a lightness and humor in each other, reminding each other of the people they were before the apocalypse. Even though everyone was making a team effort to defeat the Sanctuary, other people will now have to be the deciding factor of what to do from now on. Without Rick's lasting reminder and connection to the old world, will he able to break new ground?
Alexandria, We Have a ProblemHold up on that thought, because we have a problem. One of the episode's biggest revelations was that the timejump visions of Alexandria's rosy future belonged to Carl - not Rick as we all assumed. When played out in full, Carl saw Judith catching up with various members of the communities: Jerry (who Carl never met as far as we know), Eugene, and on a disturbing note, Negan.
Besides Carl's death in general, this optimistic look at Negan by Carl is a major issue. While Rick has done everything for Carl since the beginning, and often struggled with losing his identity and moral code to protect his son, the show has had an inconsistent path of showing Carl's wants between war and peace during this part of the war.
To start, in season seven's Sing Me A Song, Carl hated Rick for surrendering to Negan so easily; he wanted them to fight back. He believed in vengeance so much he broke into Negan's Sanctuary to try to kill him and ended up witnessing the inner-workings of his sick mind; it didn't change Carl's perspective of what they needed to do. Fast forward to the seventh season finale First Day of the Rest of Your Life, guess who took the first shots against Negan once Walker Sasha burst out of her coffin? CARL. Not too long after kickstarting the war on Alexandria's turf, Negan threatened to kill Carl with Lucille in front of Rick, and Carl watched his best friend with Michonne nearly beaten to death by Negan's allies the Trash People. Suddenly in the span of a few days in the show's timeline, we're supposed to believe Carl wants peace? he envisions a world where the grossest survivors are redeemed and forgiven?
Carl's vision is perturbing, mostly because of how the producers perceive their villain as the charismatic anti-hero instead of what he is: a psychopath and a rapist; he's manipulated and terrorized women from their families, forced them to give him sexual favors or work in the field. So why is it that Carl who met his concubines and threatened to kill Negan would be okay with forgiving him? seeing him with his younger sister? Going by Carl's vision of seeing Eugene earn redemption, why wouldn't Carl see Dwight (someone who has actively tried to earn honorable allegiance) instead of Negan ? Honestly, it's a piece of the puzzle that doesn't fit.
Rick and his family has always balanced out how to deal with villains, even if the moral ambiguity of what fans would've done in their situation is different. These characters didn't take issue with slaughtering the Termites in Gabriel's church, and they were cannibals who lured innocent people to their deaths and ate Bob's leg. Despite the fact that Dawn shot Beth when Rick and co. were trying to negotiate her return, they didn't kill the cops who manipulated people into being their slaves. So why has the show gone so far as to not divide the Saviors up between innocent workers who've taken safety under Negan because there was nothing else for them, versus the sick murderers who prey upon others desperation to steal, rape, or kill? Negan's M.O. is to exert power over others, so why should I care that he is saved? Is it unreasonable to think that a villain like him is irredeemable? and it's okay for our guys to earn a victory via his death? If he's kept alive in Carl's name, what does this say about honoring Glenn? Abraham? Spencer? Sasha?
My only hope is that seeing Negan interacting with Judith is not from Carl's dreams, but Rick questioning whether or not he could accept his daughter being safe around Negan. The placement of Rick ending up underneath a tree with stained glass windows, looking to be severely injured, might elude that this final prediction is Rick imagining if he could live up to his son's requests. Even though we've seen Rick waste and take advantage of opportunities to be merciful, he's finally reached that stage Morgan once did in season four. It's all up to Rick now of how he chooses to live without his son.
So Long PartnerIt's ironic that tonight's episode is titled Honor. How do you send-off a character long before his time was due? Even though Carl let his guard down and was bit by a walker, knowing he was going to die but executed his plan to keep Alexandria safe; the moment we waited for him to become a leader came, impressed us, and then vanished. With all of the idealistic moments stitched together to make fans feel all the things, his goodbye was fitting but completely illogical.
It's difficult to put into words the gravity of what Carl was afforded to do before his death, and what they all mean emotionally. As At The Bottom of Everything by Bright Eyes played over a montage of Carl's last day, Honor dabbled in showing the hours leading up to revealing how he got bit and being taken care of by his family. Carl wrote goodbye letters, changed his clothes to appear as if nothing was wrong, played with Judith, planted crops in the field, and maintained the community while Rick was trying to make an alliance with the Trash Heaps. Carl acclimated Siddiq to the sewer system, giving him food and enjoying candy (Big Cats that he once shared with Michonne in season four) with his new friend. Daryl told him he was a hero. Carl passed his hat and his mom's last words to Judith, letting Michonne know how much she meant to him, trying to give his dad confidence that everything will be okay, befriending Siddiq and being told his sacrifice would be honored.
Then, what's more heartbreaking than a father feeling like he failed his son, and vice versa, than watching him do the best he could to keep him safe in what little time he had left. Rick and Michonne tried to keep him as comfortable as possible by eventually removing Carl from the sewers to the burned-down church when the coast was clear. How fitting it was that his last words of wisdom occurred in the same place where Rick declared they were going to go to war with Negan, and where Glenn told Enid that you honor the dead by living in their memory. Like Andrea in season three, Carl shot himself instead of letting his father or stepmother having to live with that painful memory. If this was the way Carl had to take his curtain call, he did all right.
However, given the situation we've had so many characters face in the past, the writing at times felt satirical; of Carl's dreams about the future and what he wanted. When sharing his mother's powerful farewell with Judith and Rick ("You are going to beat this world. I didn't. I know you will"), the moment felt almost laughable. Given the fact that every time someone dies on The Walking Dead, they wish their loved ones to live in a better world (hasn't happened yet folks - is the 100th time the charm, right?). Every so often drawing out all Carl's newfound wisdom felt like he had committed Words of Wisdom for Dummies by Herschel to memory to fill out the extended running time.
What mattered most, despite the fact that Carl should not be dying and should be the future of the series, was that he kind of went out his way. The Walking Dead has a great talent for knowing how to dispose of its fanfavorites, and Carl was no different. His death, albeit unnecessary, was fitting. Even though Carl's death felt a little dragged out by the constant intervention of Carol and Morgan's adventure, his scenes had a nice, calming pace. Each one managed to draw out more emotion and heartbreak. (Thanks to the stranger who honked a clown horn outside my house during one pivotal scene; it gave me a good laugh to release the tension).
In so many words, Carl grew up in front of our eyes. Over the years, Riggs and his character have been torn to shreds by fanboys about not being a good actor. Like the cast of Stranger Things and Harry Potter, he was often treated as if he wasn't a kid growing up onscreen in one of the biggest shows in the world. Despite the insider jokes of Carl never staying inside the house, Riggs evolved over time, being able to show his potential in episodes like Killer Within and After. With Honor, despite the fact it truly felt like the show was trying to convince its actors and fans this move was necessary, he gave a superb performance.
To consider the loss of Carl, also means to consider the meaning of him as a character to fans. I started watching this show at 20 years old, so I didn't technically grow up with him the same way as a teenager might've. Still, this show helped me define things about humanity I didn't get other places. Like so many fictional symbols of what you can be in the face of all odds, Carl surviving the impossible and being challenged to not let the world turn him into a monster was inspiring. I think of the teenagers I've seen at conventions who exploded with excitement about meeting Riggs as if they had met One Direction, and fans whose parents also watched the show while they were terminally ill and talked about how much Carl was their favorite before passing on; that the dynamics between Rick and Carl is universal and were the glue of humanity. The dynamics of The Grimes Family as a whole is what made this series possible in its weakest moments. Some might be able to now transfuse that relationship to Rick with Judith, or Enid, or Henry. But similar to the fact that there is never going to be another Glenn or Herschel, there's just never going to be another Carl. With one cockeyed idea, nothing will never be the same.
I say thanks for the memories Riggs, and giving it everything you've got. Wishing you absolutely nothing but the best for you You're going onto great things, and for now to Carl, thanks for not letting the world spoil you. So long partner.
AMC's True ColorsDoes AMC or The Walking Dead have its priorities straight? Killing off Carl isn't the only issue that's festered a distaste for the current state of the series - it's the inappropriate way of discarding its castmates. If bidding bon voyage to Carl isn't a red mark against the show's family-like reputation, maybe the way Scott Gimple fired him should be. (Same method of firing that happened to Laurie Holden and Emily Kinney). From unceremoniously etching itself into one of the worst decisions in tv history to make headlines about featuring their first nude zombie, I'd say no.
Stuff happens behind-the-scenes, right? Contract negotiations fail. Showrunners are replaced and AMC took advantage of making more money than the producers. There might be other reasons why the cast couldn't come together for Riggs, but it definitely makes one consider how bad the cast is treated, and if as a fan, should I continue supporting this pattern of behavior.
To be honest, Riggs's send-off on Talking Dead was disappointing. Paired onto the post-talk-show couch with Honor's director Greg Nicotero, Riggs was only offered brief pre-taped snippets of the cast wishing him a farewell. While AMC marketed the hell out of Glenn and Abraham's death, cashing in on a whole summer of hype over Negan and Lucille before the seventh season premiere, one of the last remaining original cast members didn't receive any kind of ovation. No Skype sessions with Andrew Lincoln or Danai Gurira. No special guest appearances like TWD Superfan Yvette Nicole Brown or Michael Cudlitz surprising Sonequa on her last Talking Dead appearance. Gimple was nowhere to be seen. Nobody showing up for this kid to say goodbye to a character he's played for eight years makes one think that series's so-called special camaraderie is for literal show.
On that note, I'm committed to write these recaps at least until the end of this season. If nothing else, they bring me a little closure before deciding what to do before season nine, especially with the fate of other cast members up in the air. That doesn't stop me from knowing AMC is the graveyard of The Walking Dead's potential. Gimple is our grim reaper. And, maybe it's time to stop mourning the loss of what might've been to quit while we're ahead. And just troll the hell out of the Powers That Be.
when u spend like 3 years in the apocalypse but die bc you tripped and fell— chandler riggs (@chandlerriggs) February 2, 2018
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