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The Walking Dead: How It's Gotta Be

"You lose. It's over."

If you loved this episode, maybe you'd better skip this review.

Nearly every scene in this episode was so dark that it was outright difficult to see what was going on. Was that supposed to be an artistic choice? And yes, I get it. The episode was physically and thematically dark because it was about the death of a child – and not just any child. And yes, Carl isn't dead yet, but he was bitten, and not in a place that can be chopped off. No one in this series has ever recovered from a walker bite, and they're not going to start now.

It was obvious from the beginning that this was Carl's episode, and it was Carl who chose how Alexandria would respond to Negan's invasion. I particularly liked the calm way that Carl confronted Negan at the gate, standing far above him both physically and in a moral sense, saying calmly that Rick wasn't home as if Negan was just a friendly neighbor coming over to borrow their lawn mower. I also liked how Carl asked Negan, "Is this who you wanted to be?" as if to say, no one would ever want to be the sort of human being you are. It made sense afterward, when we knew that Carl had been bitten. He had nothing to lose.

Before leaving to toss smoke bombs, blow stuff up and hide people in the sewer, Carl even offered himself to Negan as Alexandria's sacrifice. That was outright classy and courageous, a thoughtful way of making his death count by saving someone else. At least it wasn't Rick's revolution that killed Carl in the end; it was his act of kindness toward Siddiq. Carl's death is going to be hard enough for Rick to take as it is.

As Alexandria was exploding, things weren't going well in the Kingdom, either. Gavin, probably the most sympathetic of Negan's lieutenants, told King Ezekiel's subjects that the Saviors were moving in permanently, they were all about to become slaves and someone had to be beaten to death, but hey, let's not traumatize the kids. King Ezekiel was indeed captured, but not before he blew stuff up and freed his people by somehow bequeathing them to Carol.

I like King Ezekiel, and I'd prefer that he didn't die horribly in the next episode. And maybe he won't. He did smile as if he knew something the Saviors didn't. Maybe it was that the fearsome Morgan was on the other side of the gate.

The initial Hilltop drama took place in a car, when Maggie and Jesus were stopped by Simon and his guys, who were holding a gun to Jerry's head. After shooting the unfortunate Neil, Simon told Maggie that she could either get in the coffin that they had handily brought along and go to her horrible death, or she could take her people back to the Hilltop and prepare to farm for the Saviors forever. (I was a bit confused about that. I thought Negan had standing orders to capture the Widow for his walker tableau?)

At any rate, Maggie and Jesus returned to the Hilltop, but didn't exactly obey Simon. Maggie shot and killed one of her prisoners in cold blood, put him in the coffin, wrote a message on it: "We have 38 more. Stand down" and ordered her people to leave it where the Saviors would find it. Wow. I think Maggie just turned an emotional corner, because that couldn't have been easy for the woman we used to know.

(If she had to kill one of the prisoners, why couldn't it have been Jared?)

It was the end of the line for Dwight, who had to lead his own people into an ambush; now he has to live with another group of people who hate him. Still better than living with a man who burned half his face off and stole his wife, though. Gold acting stars to Austin Amelio, who has managed to make me care what happens to Dwight. I was relieved that Daryl couldn't follow through and kill him. Rosita even helped the injured Dwight stand up. I like the change we've been seeing in Rosita.

We checked in with Eugene just as his digital clock struck midnight. Eugene is having trouble sleeping, and well he should. At least he can no longer betray Dwight, so that's something. It seems that Eugene is being jabbed by his conscience, since he drugged a guard and gave Dr. Carson and Father Gabriel a way to escape the Sanctuary. Note that even this scene played out in the freaking dark. The only light in the room was a flashlight strapped to Eugene's forehead. No, no symbolism there, not at all.

Where was Rick during most of this episode? It felt weird that the lead character wasn't around, even though the focus was clearly on Carl. And how disappointing that we finally got a Rick versus Negan fist fight in the Grimes kitchen, but no conclusion except for a broken window?


-- Jerry left King Ezekiel a goodbye note. With Carl's to Rick, that's two goodbye notes in one episode.

-- Aaron and Enid went to Oceanside, just in time to accidentally kill their leader, Natania. I don't think even a hostess gift of whiskey is going to help with that.

-- Now we know why flashforward Rick's eyes were red in the earlier episodes.

-- Negan mentioned baby Gracie, implying that the AHK had killed her in their attack.

-- Tara and Daryl were both saying that what happened wasn't their fault, but I wonder. It most certainly led to Eugene saving the Saviors. Then again, maybe it was Rick's fault for coming up with a shitty plan in the first place.

-- I liked that moment when Michonne and her sword completely lost it with a Savior, and Rick very carefully came up behind her.

-- Carl's upcoming death is apparently a radical departure from the comics. Doesn't matter to me, but I wonder if it matters to comics fans?

I didn't like this episode at all. It didn't upset me, and considering the content, it should have. When the show returns on February 25th, we'd better get something more interesting than ninety minutes of literal and metaphorical darkness.

One out of four smoke bombs,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. I agree with your review 100%.

    I knew that I no longer cared about the fate of the characters when I felt nothing when Carl made his reveal. When Scott Gimple sat on the talking Dead couch, he stated that he thought everyone know that Carl had been bitten. I got so angry because they are forever faking us out with character's deaths. If I watch when they come back, it will be to hate watch only.

  2. I'm hoping they'll win me back, but hey, I don't know. I had gotten the impression that Riggs wanted out so that he could go to school or something, but apparently no -- he was just fired for story reasons. I'm not happy about it.


  3. Hi! Remember me? :D

    And no, I don't watch the episodes anymore - because of reasons - but I do come here and read the review. Also, I read the recap on this site EW, for instance the latest episode http://ew.com/recap/the-walking-dead-season-8-episode-8/

    ...which only takes me about 5-10 minutes instead of a drudging, boring, hour.

    And I'm very happy with this. From having read all the recaps of the season and your reviews I know I haven't really missed anything.
    Yes, your reviews are that good! :D

    Thought you might like to know.

    Merry X-mas (Z-mas?) in advance!

  4. Of course I remember you, Henrik. :) I really want The Walking Dead to succeed, but I'm definitely starting to wonder if the way they wrote out Glenn and Abraham was the beginning of the end. Maybe they needed to make a decision at that point to leave the comics behind and go in a different direction, but they didn't. And maybe they just made that decision with Carl, to finally leave the comics behind, but it was too late?

    I know that I really don't want to write negative reviews. I'll finish out reviewing the eighth season, but if the show doesn't bring me back, I'll probably stop.

  5. I definately didn't like the epsiode. It was hard to see stuff in the dark (who did Simon shoot just now?). It was confusing (where is Rick?). It was more of the same (Saviors terrorizing people in the dark). They did those face close-ups again like it's some kinds of art, both at the beginning and end of the episode.

    I eas glad it's over and I didn't care one bit about Carl, sorry. I even forgot how Eugene saved the saviors. Was it even explained last week?

  6. Patryk, no, I don't think how Eugene saved them was explained, although I thought it had to do with the glider. Or maybe Eugene's promise to replace their ammunition. Guess we'll find out in February?

  7. This episode needed more long, melodramatic close-up shots of people's faces fading into each other. That would have been the only way to save it. Way more of that, please.

    Seriously, the problem with this season is that the episodes are so long and meandering yet nothing ever bloody happens. I don't need another episode about Eugene's conflicted loyalties, especially if you're not going to give a definitive answer and contradict yourself next episode. I don't need to see characters make dumb decisions. I don't need the garbage people at all, their potential is squandered by making them all wimps who could be taken down by a seagull with it's beak stuck in the neck of a bottle.

    Why does nobody shoot Negan? He puts himself out in the open at every opportunity to make dumb, juvenile, macho speeches which always lead me to believe he has severe sexual problems. Hell, why don't other Saviors shoot Negan? He treats them all terribly.
    Why does Negan keep putting people who have every reason to want him dead in positions of authority that require them to not only know his secrets, but stick close by him at all times? He was forever taunting Dwight about raping his wife. He killed Eugene's friends in front of him. He tried to 'break' Daryl to no avail. And if I were Negan I certainly wouldn't have Simon so close by considering how bloodthirsty he is.
    Why did Rick go the Garbage People? If he had the place surrounded, that would be different. But they had a thousand different opportunities to kill him and didn't, and if they had, nothing would have happened to them. He didn't have the place surrounded.
    Why did Gavin suddenly become incompetent? He rounded up the entire Kingdom, but one very recognizable man who they're actively looking for frees everyone with relatively minor distraction tactics?
    Why did Simon not send a garrison of men with Maggie? He seemed to have enough. The Saviors have unlimited soldiers, it seems, he should've spared a few.
    Was I supposed to care about Neil even a little? At least kill Diane, she's a face I know even if I did have to look up her name. There are plenty of surplus characters to kill that would have impact without being main characters. Tobin, maybe, even though I like him.
    Why do the Saviors alternate so wildly between being super ninjas capable of great strategic ability and being morons who couldn't find water if they fell out of a boat?
    What is happening to this show? It's unsettling that Gimple is moving to Fear the Walking Dead. He's not Scott Buck levels of disastrous, but he sure ain't good.

  8. As a side note, it would've been so easy to write Riggs out without killing Carl. "Coral, the war is intense, you're a big target, I'm sending you with a small group out west or east or whatever to find more settlements and so on, I trust you son, you're a man or something now, keep it real". Just do that.

    Also the Negan vs Rick fight was terribly directed.

  9. I haven't watched TWD since that episode with Glenn and the dumpster, but the reaction to Carl's impending death certainly caught my attention. Carl dying is something I thought would never happen. It's a bold move that could either be the kiss of death for the show or a source of reinvigoration.

    One way or another, the comic book fans are hating Scott Gimple more than some fans of The 100 hated Jason Rothenberg when he killed a certain character on season three.

    On a positive note, Chandler Riggs requested a TWD spoiler blog not to spoil the events of the episode. It was such a polite and thoughtful request. He really cared about his Carl. Here is the link to the story:


  10. The Walking Dead just got renewed for a ninth season. Scott Gimple has moved up to run both TWD and FtWD, and Angela Kang just became TWD showrunner.



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