The Walking Thread: How It's Gotta Be (S8, E8)

TWD 8.8

There’s an old boxing expression that “everyone has a plan until they get hit”. Despite some hiccups (the massacre of the Kingdom’s troops, getting captured by Jadis), Rick’s plan to win the war was going pretty well, until things inevitably went wrong. Like every war, it all goes according to plan until it doesn’t. “How It’s Gotta Be” finishes out the first half of Season 8 by detailing the clusterfrack that taxes place after the Saviors inevitably escape their sanctuary. It’s a decent episode with some good action scenes and a genuinely shocking reveal at the end, but also some head-scratching moments and (up until the ending) a lack of real stakes that dilutes the tension. Overall it’s an effective B episode, but not the high note that we had hoped to go out on before the midseason break. Let’s hope the second half of the season is able to recapture that tension, otherwise we’re just marking time until somebody finally kills Negan.

As “How It’s Gonna Be” opens, the Saviors have gotten loose (offscreen) courtesy of Eugene (apparently Daryl’s knocking down the front door was not a contributing factor), and are on the warpath looking for retribution. Negan and his goons attack Alexandria before Rick can get there, and Carl takes charge, executing an escape plan for the town and bravely facing Negan alone. He keeps Negan talking to give everyone time to escape safely, and then gets away himself, dodging exploding houses (thanks to the Saviors’ firebombing the town) before getting away himself. Nicely done, Carl.

Another group of Saviors hit the Kingdom looking to kill Ezekiel, and he manages to get his people out of danger (with an assist from Carol), but gets himself captured in the process. Things look pretty grim for him at the end, but Morgan is seen watching things with a sniper rifle, so there is a good chance he’ll be able to save The King in the future.

Another group ambushes Maggie and her people on the road, killing one of them and taking their guns to get Hilltop back in line. Incensed, Maggie pretends to comply, then heads back to Hilltop and executes one of the Saviors they have in custody (although sadly it’s not that long-haired douchebag Jared), then has his body sent to the Sanctuary with a message. Clearly she’s not quite ready to submit yet. Glenn would be proud.

Another group of Saviors is on their way out, but get ambushed by Daryl and company, as well as Dwight, who finally reveals himself to be Rick’s. One Savior escapes, and will no doubt be a thorn in their side in the future. Daryl and Tara consider taking their chance to kill Dwight, but he claims he can still be useful in the fight against Negan, so they let him live for the moment, but their beef with him is clearly not resolved.

There are also two mini-subplots. In the first, Aaron and Enid impulsively decide to go to Oceanside and try to broker a partnership with them (dangerous idea, since Team Rick stole their guns last time they saw them). It doesn’t go well, and Oceanside’s matriarch ends up dead. In the other, Eugene’s conscience finally gets the better of him and he tells Father Gabriel he will help him and the doctor escape the Sanctuary. So assuming this plot succeeds, at least Maggie will have someone working to keep her unborn baby alive while she’s fighting a postapocalyptic war. But since Eugene himself is staying with the Saviors, he’s likely not to come out of this conflict breathing.

Back at Alexandria, Rick shows up shortly after Carl’s escape and has a fight with Negan that, of course, ends in a draw, since both men have their plot armor on. Rick gets away and Michonne leads him to the sewers, where the Alexandrians are hiding out and safe for the moment. He also finds Carl, and the episode ends with a gut-punch of a twist: Carl reveals that he has been bitten by a Walker (back when he was helping Siddiq out) and has been concealing it this whole time. We’ll have to wait until February to find out his ultimate fate, but it doesn’t look good for him.

TWD 8.8.1

Random thoughts on this episode:

*This was a pretty well-done episode, but the problem is that in spite of all the sound and fury, nothing much happened. The show wanted to pretend that most of the major characters were in danger, but we never really felt it. Alexandria burned to the ground, Rick and Negan fought it out and Ezekiel and Maggie had guns to their heads, but up until the very end, there were no real stakes, and unless the writers can convince us that somebody might get killed, there is no tension. The storytelling just hasn’t been selling it lately.

*Actually, my biggest complaint about the episode is that it was entirely set at night. Normally the showrunners do a pretty good job making nighttime spooky and atmospheric (remember the Season 6 finale where they finally meet Negan?), but this time it just made the action hard to see.

*Man, that was one helluva cliffhanger to end on. The whole reason Rick has been fighting this war has been so that future generations can grow up free of people like Negan, so to lose his son would be a devastating blow. It would be an interesting twist if Carl turned out to have an immunity or something, but I seriously doubt it. I think the next episode is going to be a real heartbreaker.

*In retrospect, Carl’s attempt to sacrifice himself to the Saviors and that cold open where he talks to his dad about how the world needs to be after the war, both have a lot more depth. At the time, Carl knew he’d been bitten and was probably not long for this world, something that has clearly given him more clarity and bravery, while robbing him of his own hope for the future.

*Exactly how many Saviors are left? Dozens of them have been killed this season, and there didn’t appear to be many left in the Sanctuary, but now Negan apparently has an infinite supply of troops at his disposal. Did he draft all those factory workers into his army of something?

*Michonne didn’t have a major role in this episode, but it was nice to see some new aspects of her personality. She’s the same old badass, and gets to take out both Saviors and Walkers, but she is still recovering from the beating she got last season. Seeing her shock and horror at the Saviors showing up at Alexandria’s doorstep and her willingness to let Carl take charge of things were both very uncharacteristic. Danai Gurira really plays every facet of this character well and makes her a three-dimensional person, even when she’s on the sidelines.

*Negan’s reaction to Rick putting his hands on Lucille was hilarious. Only he would stop in the middle of a life-or-death fight to get offended at someone else touching his baseball bat.

*One thing the show does really well is give supporting characters personalities with only a little dialogue. I was just starting to like that guy in the back seat behind Maggie, the guy who said “hell no!” to the idea of giving up easily, when they killed him off. Bummer. Seemed like a genuinely cool dude.

*Some fans are complaining that they didn’t show how Eugene led the Walker horde away from the Sanctuary, but I don’t mind. It had been built up plenty in the last episode, and to show it would’ve just been devoting time to checking off plot boxes rather than getting to the meat of the story.

*I hope something horrible happens to Trevor for even thinking about shooting Jerry. You don’t mess with Jerry, Jerry is awesome.

*They finally resolved the backstory of the machete with the red handle. Apparently it stuck in a Walker’s torso for a long time before ending up in the hands of Joe, the “claimed” guy from Season 4. A bit anticlimactic, but it was kinda fun that they brought Joe back for a cameo.

2 comments to The Walking Thread: How It’s Gotta Be (S8, E8)

  • Tracy

    Show runner Scott Gimple, appearing on Talking Dead, said at least twice, that we will see Carl’s walker bite play out as bites DO on the show. While he declined to state that Carl will die, death would be expected the way bites play out on the show. Like you, I thought it might be cool if he had an immunity, but, based on Gimple’s comment, I don’t think immunity is in the cards. He DID say that Carl isn’t dead yet, and that in the mid-season opener (Feb 25th 2018) Carl has a major part to play yet. Perhaps he’ll bite Negan?

    • JimmyC

      One possibility that people have been floating is that the second half of the season will introduce The Whisperers from the comics, people who wear Walker skins on their faces and pretend to be Walkers, and that Carl actually got a human bite from one of them.

      That would explain why he hasn’t died/turned from the bite yet, so it’s possible, but considering that Chandler Riggs’ contract is up and he’s said he wants to leave the show and go to college, I’m not holding my breath. You never know, though.