The Walking Dead: 8.08 How It's Gotta Be

Another mid-season finale of The Walking Dead is upon us, and once again it brought with it death and destruction. Last week’s episode ended with Rick clapping eyes on a completely empty Sanctuary, and this week we found out that the Saviours had not been completely devoured, but escaped to wreak havoc on everyone else once again.

I found that on the whole I was rather disappointed by this episode, to be honest. It felt like too many things were supposed to be happening at once, which consequently made it difficult to focus on any given thing. I don’t mind the switching between seeing what’s happening with the likes of Rick and Carl, Maggie and Jesus, and Ezekiel and Carol, but adding in Eugene at the Sanctuary, Aaron and Enid on their way to Oceanside, Dwight shooting some Saviours, and Morgan doing literally nothing in the episode but being shoved in anyway, was all too much at once. Despite the heavy saturation of characters, the pacing of the episode felt slow. Even half of Alexandria being blown up didn’t feel too exciting because it was overshadowed by the chaotic feel of the plot and frustration of Saviours being at large again.

By far my biggest gripe with this finale was the utter lack of explanation of exactly how the Saviours made it out of the Sanctuary unharmed. Every time someone was asked, they simply responded with “Eugene,” which isn’t a satisfactory answer. As we know, he did have the genius idea to lure the hoard of dead away with a flying music player, but that got shot down by Dwight, so HOW ON EARTH did he come up with anything else, and what on earth was it? Up until now I was really enjoying the continuity of this season, but this episode just completely skipped over this major event. I sorely hope the mystery of surviving Saviours will be returned to in the second half of the season and we find out exactly how Eugene saved them all, or else it’ll have been possibly the worst instance of lazy writing the show has ever seen. I was really looking forward to seeing some serious walker action as they swarmed the Sanctuary, but clearly that would’ve just been too much excitement.

Speaking of Eugene, when is that guy going to pick a moral direction and stick to it?! As I said in my last review, last episode I was really happy with how resolutely harsh he seemed to be in his decision to be one of the baddies moving forward, but now he’s backtracking once again and giving in to his conscience, letting Father Gabriel escape with the Doctor. I’m happy that those two get to make a bid for freedom, but I’ve just about had enough of Eugene’s flip-flopping.

In contrast with my feelings about Eugene are my feelings regarding Ezekiel. The poor man suffered a crisis of confidence after leading his fighters to their deaths and then losing Shiva, but when the Saviours came to take over the Kingdom, his spirit finally returned thanks to the recent encouragement of Carol and Jerry. Ezekiel has truly cemented himself as one of my favourite characters this season, and his valiant efforts to distract the Saviours and let his people get to safety while sacrificing himself really moved me. I’m really hoping that this won’t be the end for him and that he and Carol will somehow be reunited, but if not then I’m happy for “save them, like you saved me,” to be the last thing he says to her.

Meanwhile, Maggie is a constant favourite of mine and now she’s on the warpath. The Hilltop convoy got ambushed by Saviours in an eerily similar way as they did the night she lost Glenn, but Maggie will not be intimidated. In response to Simon executing one of her people, she put a bullet in the head of one of the Saviours being kept prisoner at the Hilltop. I can’t wait to see what kind of leader Maggie is going to keep evolving into and how she’ll continue to resist the Saviours until the very end. Also, I want her to shoot Gregory next time he calls her Margaret.

The major event of the episode was of course the revelation that Carl had taken a walker bite to the abdomen when rescuing Sadiq. It took me longer than it should have to realise that Carl had of course known throughout the events of the episode that he was doomed, and that’s why the episode opened with him writing a letter to Rick. Unfortunately I knew in advance that Carl was a goner this episode, so of course it being the mid-season finale in the middle of All Out War, I was expecting the worst. I completely thought Carl’s death was going to be awful and grisly, so for him to go out via walker bite is almost a sweet relief. Carl’s always been somewhat of a controversial character, but in recent years especially many people have warmed to him, myself included. He’s grown into a responsible and compassionate young man, and so for him to meet his end in the form of one bite when innocently trying to help another person is just about as good a way as it could possibly have gone. It’s been a long time as far as I know since anyone on the show has died in such a simple way in aid of someone else, and I really like it. Hopefully when season 8 returns we’ll get to see just a little more of the talented Chandler Riggs as Carl before he goes out, and of course when that time comes I’m sure Andrew Lincoln’s incredible portrayal of grief will make a return, though we have yet to see whether Carl’s sentiment of helping others will stick with him or not. I’m sad to see Carl as a character go, but I like the way it’s been done (at least so far).

In conclusion, Maggie, Ezekiel, and Carl were by far my favourite things about this episode. This mid-season finale had a bit of a sluggish, anticlimactic feel that I’m sure was meant to be more sinister. That being said, I enjoyed it nonetheless, and hope things will pick up again in the second half of the season.

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