So, has everyone seen the latest episode of The Walking Dead? If not, why are you reading this review? I ask because, on another site that I write for, I’ve got two people bitching at me for revealing too many spoilers about the shows that I review and, as a result, I felt the need to post an apology to those people. As far as apologies go, it was fairly passive-aggressive and I’d hate to have to be that insincere on this site. So, in other words, if you haven’t watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead, don’t read this review. Thanks!
(Okay, I think I’ve rambled on long enough that anyone who didn’t want spoilers should have left by now.)
On Sunday night, the eighth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead resumed and oh my God, I have got such mixed feelings about what I just watched. Before I go any further, allow me to share something that I tweeted back in April of 2017:
In other words, I can’t say that I’m shocked that Carl’s dead. In fact, to a certain extent, I kind of respect the show for following through as opposed to coming up with some last-minute contrivance to allow Carl to live. At the same time, I do think that the death of Carl has robbed the show of some potentially intriguing future storylines. In the comic, Carl is still alive and he’s even bonded a bit with Negan. During Season 7, the show seemed to be laying the foundation for that storyline but apparently, Negan’s going to have to bond with some other kid now. Maybe Henry. Maybe Judith.
I guess the main thing that bothers me about Carl’s death is that I really do feel that it was mostly due to the fact that the show’s pace has slowed down to such an extent that Chandler Riggs was getting too old to play the role. The Walking Dead has been on the air for 8 seasons but how many years have actually passed in the show? It’s hard to say but really, it doesn’t seem like Carl should be any older than 14 or maybe 15. Meanwhile, Chandler Riggs is closing in on 19. It’s hard not to feel that the show’s producers decided to kill Carl off rather than maybe just wrap up a few storylines and have season 9 open with a “Four years after the defeat of the Saviors” title card.
Myself, I’ve frequently gotten annoyed with Carl as a character, even though I’ve always appreciated Chandler Riggs’s performance. That said, Carl was one of the few characters left on the show with room to grow. Rick is never going to change. If Negan does become the friendly gardener that we saw in Carl’s fantasy, it’s going to have more to do with expedience than anything else. Carl, though, was still discovering who he was and what he believed. The majority of the characters have spent the last three or four seasons in a rut. By virtue of being young, Carl was one of the few characters who actually had a chance of breaking out of that rut.
I mean, to be absolutely honest, I always assumed that the show would end with Carl shooting Rick before he could reanimate. If you go all the way back to season 1, that’s the ending that the show has appeared to be logically building up to. Now, I guess Judith will have to do it.
As for the episode itself … again, my feelings were mixed. This episode was determined to wring every last drop of emotion out of Carl’s passing. When it worked, it was largely due to the performances of Riggs, Danai Gurira, and the always underrated Andrew Lincoln. At the same time, there was a part of me that started to resent just how much the show dragged out Carl’s death. I know that AMC likes to do “super-sized” episodes of The Walking Death but, in this case, I think this episode would have been more effective if it had just been an hour. Yes, that single gunshot was heart-rendering but, up until I heard it, there was a part of me that feared the show was planning to drag Carl’s death out over the entire rest of the season.
While Carl was dying, Carol, Morgan, and a few other people went off to rescue Ezekiel. Gavin, who was always one of the most obnoxious of the Saviors, is now dead and yay for that. Morgan has apparently decided that he’s okay with killing people again. Morgan also apparently now has Jason Voorhees-style super strength.
It wasn’t a bad episode, though it certainly didn’t carry the power that it would have carried if it had happened during the fourth or fifth season. On the one hand, I’ve always appreciated the fact that anyone can die on The Walking Dead. On the other hand, characters die so frequently (and then pop up on the Talking Dead to say goodbye) that it’s now easy to get cynical about the whole thing.
In fact, it may be too early to say whether The Walking Dead handled Carl’s death the right way. It depends on how this all plays out. Will the show use Carl’s death as an excuse to go off in an unexpected direction or will we promptly get back to Negan chuckling and Rick giving speeches? I’m actually looking forward to next week, just because I’m interested in seeing which Rick we’re going to get. Are we going to get the crazy Rick who appeared after Lori died or are we going to get the catatonic Rick who showed up after Negan executed Abraham and Glenn? Or maybe it’ll be the return of the Stoic Rick who shot zombie Sophia because he knew he had no other choice. Which Rick will it be?
We’ll find out next week … hopefully.