I’m not quite sure what I just watched, and I find it hard to imagine a team of writers turning that script in and thinking that it would make for a satisfying, entertaining or even reasonable Mid-Season Finale. I love The Walking Dead, honestly, but “How It’s Gotta Be” was truly poor form for a show that desperately needs to win back viewer confidence. Let’s first start with the big reveal in the final seconds of the episode. Spoiler warnings are implied.
Carl, who has had very few scenes this season outside of welcoming a new character to Alexandria, takes up a sort of rise-and-fall hero arc but instead comes across as complete moron. He insists that this is “his show” and has a “big plan”, but all that involves is distracting Negan for a few minutes while the others escape and then letting off a bunch of smoke bombs while stumbling around a firebombed Alexandria like a dazed and confused child. It would have made much more sense for him to let off a few smoke bombs and run straight to the sewers – where he ended up eventually – but instead we get a nonsensical and irritating sequence of him shuffling around trying to avoid explosions. In the episode’s final moments it is revealed that he was bitten on the torso and will most certainly die in episode 9.
Now when the second half of season 8 picks up in February the show might throw us into the disjointed timeline format they’ve been so fond of lately, filling in the blanks and showing how Carl was bitten (perhaps while trying to find Saddiq – his pet project – or helping him kill walkers a few episodes back). But either way, making such a huge off-screen leap into a major death is an enormous risk for a show that’s already starting to let their network reign slip. The worst deaths across both TWD and FTWD have come with “oh, by the way I was bitten when that vague thing happened previously”, and to pull out a major character death in this way just feels lazy.
As little sense Carl’s inevitable death makes, it’s nothing compared to what is perhaps the shows most nonsense contrivance to date. First off, the episode picks up exactly where last week left off, with a horrified Rick thinking what in the actual fuck happened to all the walkers surround The Sanctuary. He leads the trash people closer to the scene before they are all shot at from the windows; The Scavengers run away (hopefully from the show entirely) but Carol and Jerry very conveniently drive up to save Rick, as if they were just going for a joy ride nearby for absolutely no reason. It’s never explained.
But that’s not the worst part. Deus Ex Machinas are commonplace and somewhat forgivable with shows like this, but what happens to all three after they drive away is not. We see Jerry driving Carol and Rick along before a freeze-frame and crash noises indicate that they were hit. The next time we see Jerry he is a captive of Simon’s crew, bloodied and on his knees with a gun to his head; the next time we see Carol she casually walks up to The Kingdom to try and save Ezekiel; the next time we see Rick he has arrived at Alexandria and is stalking outside the walls. What the fuck happened after that car crash?
There’s not too much happening over with other characters either, but somehow trying to catch up with them all takes up most of the episode. Maggie and Jesus are terrorised by Simon, who lets them go with a stern warning but not before shooting a no-name in the head. Maggie cries and then returns to The Hilltop and shoots one of the imprisoned Saviours in the head in revenge, seemingly planning to hold the rest hostage so Negan backs off. Why she thinks they hold any value whatsoever to a group that’s proven time and time again to be largely sociopathic, I’m not sure.
Over at The Kingdom, Ezekiel stops sulking and offers himself up, unnecessarily, to Gavin and his crew in order to give The Kingdomers time to escape. Morgan shows up to stare at a wall and just let us know he is there, but that’s about it. As with most of the developments this episode, it sets up some exciting possibilities for the second half of this season but the actual episode itself is reduced to filler in order to move pieces into place. That shouldn’t be happening for a Mid-Season Finale.
The question of who was too blame for The Saviours escaping and Rick’s plan failing was touched on throughout the episode. Daryl, Rosita, Michonne, Tara and Maggie all found out that Eugene was the culprit in question, with his decision to save the Saviours spelling most definite doom for at least a few members of Team Rick. Eugene knew that, which is why he was still stuck at The Sanctuary shotting wine and wallowing in regret. Relenting to Father Gabriel and helping him escape with Dr Carson is a small gesture, but least it shows us that Eugene is still somewhat conflicted about helping Negan. Daryl found out he isn’t too blame for what happened (to be honest, Rosita is the reason Eugene was taken in the first place – so it’s her fault), but it still would have been nice if we were given at least some insight into what Eugene actually did to fix the problem and save everyone at The Sanctuary.
Will The Walking Dead return to its glory days when Season 8 continues? The show is going to have to do a lot of cleaning house to make this happen, and firebombing Alexandria was a good start. There’s plenty of interesting developments that could lead to some great television here, but this episode does very little to indicate the writing team will capitalise on it all.
Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
- Dwight helps Alexandria escape
- Eugene gives in to Father Gabriel
- Negan firebombs Alexandria
- Jerry doesn’t die
- Simon’s back (more Steven Ogg please)
- Jerry, Carol and Rick crash not explained
- Carl reveals off-screen bite
- Maggie thinks keeping hostages is an effective strategy
- Ezekiel sacrificing himself when he could have easily escaped with his people
The Walking Dead will return to Australian audiences via FX in early 2018
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC