The Walking Dead
“How It’s Gonna Be”
December 10, 2017
We begin the mid-season finale moments after Rick scared Siddiq off with that warning shot back in the season premiere. As he and Carl head back home, they argue about the virtues of trying to help, Carl insisting that this whole fight with Negan is pointless unless they are working for something more than just killing other people. Finding a way forward is harder, but it’s the way it has to be.
Back in the present:
Oh, so remember how Aaron and Enid went off on some mission and then we completely forgot about them because ~shrug~? Apparently, they were on their way to Amazonia to try to talk those ladies into joining the fight against Negan. They swing by a distillery first — can’t just show up empty-handed, after all. But once there, Aaron is jumped by a mystery person, whom Enid shoots and kills. Except, WHOOPS! It’s Amazonia’s Grandma, and I’m not sure a bottle of rye is going to smooth over that particular faux pas.
Rick arrives at the Sanctuary with the Trash People who are unimpressed with the decided lack of walkers attacking the place, and when a sniper starts shooting at them, the Trash People are like, “Yeah this isn’t what we signed up for bye.”
Rick then is saved by a Deus Ex Carol and Jerry, and after driving off, the three agree to split up.
In Alexandria, Michonne apologizes to Daryl for not joining him on the assault on the Sanctuary, and he’s like, “eh, no worries, it worked.”
Meanwhile, in his house, Carl writes a note for his dad and then takes a long look at Enid’s “just survive somehow” note. So, obviously, he’s doomed, as if we didn’t already know he was doomed since the premiere.
Over in the Kingdom that evening, King Ezekiel is still having a pout when he hears a commotion from outside. As the Saviors pour into the theater looking for him, he hides backstage because they’ll never think to look there.
Outside, that one Savior in charge of the Kingdom explains to the 8 Kingdomites that are still alive that everything the Kingdom produces now belongs to the Sanctuary and all able-bodied adults will be sent to the Sanctuary to repair it. In the meantime, the Saviors will be making themselves comfortable in the Kingdom.
Then That One Savior Guy demands to know where King Zeke is, and everyone is like:
King Z sets off some distraction fires and drives a bus between the Saviors and his people so that they can safely escape. As Carol orders the Kingdomites to go to a safe house a couple of miles down the road, King Ezekiel locks himself inside the Kingdom with the Saviors, which can’t be good. That One Savior Guy laments that he liked King Ezekiel and is irritated that he’s going to have to kill Zeke and put his head on a spike. But marginally good news: Morgan is outside the gate listening to everything so maybe there’s still a chance for King Zookeeper?
Elsewhere, Jesus, Maggie, that one Kingdom Lady and a redshirt are driving towards the Sanctuary so as to meet up with Rick and finish things off once and for all, per the plan. That’s when they come across a tree in the road and are soon surrounded by Simon and the Saviors — lots of Saviors — who pull Jerry and an empty coffin out from the back of a truck directly in front of Maggie’s car.
Simon announces that they all need to hand over their guns, and they comply because what other options do they have. Maggie asks Simon how they escaped, and after explaining that Alexandria and the Kingdom are being destroyed, but the Hilltop has been chosen to keep producing, Simon finally explains that Dr. Mullet helped them get free from the herd. Simon then gives Maggie a choice: either he kills Jerry here and now and then puts Maggie in the coffin to take back to Hilltop to kill before releasing the herd on her people … ORRRRR she can return to Hilltop and start growing that sorghum and save everyone a bunch of trouble …
… but also, too, they are going to kill one of her people. Before she can even agree, Simon shoots Redshirt in the backseat. So Maggie agrees and in exchange asks for the coffin to which Simon’s like, “Sure, why not.”
Once she arrives back at Hilltop, Maggie marches over to the prisoners, pulls a random one out of the pen and shoots and kills him. Maggie then orders Jesus to fortify the walls with more guards and announces that at first light, everyone starts farming. They aren’t giving up, but they have to be ready for Hilltop to make the last stand. Maggie then puts the dead Savior in her new coffin, writes on it “We have 38 more so STAND DOWN, FUCKERS” and orders her men to leave it where the Saviors will find it.
Over at the Sanctuary, Dr. Mullet has a crisis of conscience and heads to the infirmary to tell Dr. Carson and Father Gabe that he gave a laxative to the guard at the north gate, before slipping them a set of car keys.
And while all that is happening elsewhere, in Alexandria, Michonne finds Carl pulling open a sewer grate, explaining that he’s helping out a traveler. But before he can elaborate, Negan begins banging on the gate, announcing on his Mr. Microphone that they have three minutes to give up Rick before the Saviors begin bombing everyone with grenade launchers.
Carl orders his people to gather supplies and guns and head out to the woods to hide. Tara and Michonne want to stay and fight, that they can’t just give Alexandria to the Saviors, but Carl insists that they just have to survive the night. As everyone leaves, Carl heads over to the gate to tell Negan that Rick’s not home, and offers his own life to make all this nonsense stop. If his death will make things better for everyone else, for the other kids in Alexandria and the Sanctuary, it will be worth it. After all, is this what Negan really wanted? Is this how he wanted it to be?
Meanwhile, Daryl leads a convoy of trucks through the Saviors’ roadblock set up by Dwight and some lady Savior, and Negan realizes Carl was just playing him, LOL. The Saviors begin firebombing Alexandria, as Carl releases smoke bombs to make his escape into the sewers.
Out in the woods, Michonne, Daryl, Tara, and Rosita wait for Dwight to lead a group of Saviors to them, and once he does, Dwight helps Team Rick shoot and kill his fellow Saviors. However, that one lady Savior sees what Dwight is up to, and shoots him in the arm before running away.
When Daryl, et al, find Dwight, he explains that it was Dr. Mullet who helped the Saviors escape, and assures them that he can still help them defeat the Saviors. Daryl and Tara are like, “OH FINE. WE’LL LET YOU LIVE. FOR NOW,” and take him down into the sewer , while Michonne closes the manhole cover over them, remaining above ground.
And that’s when Rick FINALLY shows up. As he searches his house for his family, he’s surprised by Negan. Fight fight banter fight, and Rick manages to get away because Rick Grimes Plot Armor™.
Outside Rick finds Michonne who is taking her anger out on some random Savior and she leads him to the sewer where everyone else is hiding. There, away from the other members of Team Rick, they find Carl alone and sweaty, and he pulls up his shirt to reveal he’s been bit.
So, I’ve spent the past nearly 20 days trying to figure out what to say about Carl’s death because all I’ve really got is, “eh? too bad? but yeah, this was coming?” The fact is they telegraphed this result in the season premiere: between the flash forwards with Rick crying over a pair of graves; the flash forward-forward in which Carl is nowhere to be seen; the whole “mercy” scene with Siddiq; and the fact that Chandler Riggs is now college-aged, it was fairly clear that someone close to Rick was doomed, and that person was most likely Carl.
I understand on an intellectual that Carl’s impending death upsets people. For one thing, it was cheap to have Carl be bitten off-camera, it felt unearned. Show us at least that he was in danger — hell, I didn’t even see any walkers in Alexandria as it was being fire-bombed, so what the actual fuck? You’re going to kill off a major character, but not show us how it happened?
But also, it feels wrong to kill a kid, especially a kid who tried SO HARD to get himself killed at every turn, but who still managed to survive. TV fans were sure (myself included) that Carl was the future of Team Rick’s community. It was entirely plausible that if the series were to end (an increasingly unlikely proposition, I know), it would conclude with Rick dying and Carl stepping up to take control, leading his people to some sort of brighter future. And — spoiler alert for the comics, but I’m not going to spoiler font this one — Carl is still alive and well and an important figure in the current comic story.
So I understand why people are upset about his fate.
But I’m not.
First of all — and this is pretty shitty to say — but I don’t think Chandler Riggs is that great an actor. But maybe it’s the writing, maybe it’s because Carl has long been a one-note character with nothing much to do for the past season and a half other than serve as the voice of his father’s conscience, (maybe it’s ~cough~ the acting) but I have long found Carl unspeakably boring. And now that Carl had broached the cusp of adulthood and was no longer a vulnerable figure in need of protecting, he became a considerably less interesting character.
There was a moment when the show began teasing Carl’s anger and attraction to Negan, a direction the comics explore in much more detail, and had they continued along that path, he could have been a much more interesting character. However, the show clearly decided sometime soon after Carl’s visit to the Sanctuary to make him a preternaturally “good” character with no nuance or depth — probably because they had decided to kill him off.
And here’s why (I will spoiler font this comic plot point even though it’s pretty common knowledge now, so scroll over and hold to read): The show clearly intends to keep the “Rick spares Negan” plot point, but they needed to give Rick a reason to do so. For Rick to give up his quest for revenge, for Rick to let go of his need to kill Negan, something completely soul-crushing and catastrophic had to happen to Rick. And nothing could be more soul-crushing than the death of a child — especially a preternaturally “good” child who preached to his unhearing father about mercy and forgiveness. For Negan to live, Carl had to die. It’s boring, it’s trite, but it’s wholly predictable.
But second of all, unless the writers are complete assholes, this clears the way for Judith to become the future leader, which would be poetic and symbolic in its own way. There are many who have theorized that the generation born after the event that caused the apocalypse — including Judith — might somehow be immune from the condition. While that might be an interesting twist and present its own plot possibilities, I doubt the writers will go down this particular path because I don’t think they are that interested in theories about the zombie apocalypse. But I could see them thinking that it would be highly meaningful for the child born after the event to lead her people into a new, more humane future that her father and brother died to create.
Or at least, that’s how I’d end it.
Anyway, shame about Carl. I guess. I’ll see how I feel when the show returns in February and formally kills him off.
The Walking Dead returns on AMC on February 25.