The Walking Dead Episode 8.8 “How It’s Gotta Be” (Mid-Season Finale)
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by David Leslie Johnson & Angela Kang
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Christian Serratos, Tom Payne, Khary Payton, Austin Amelio, Alanna Masterson, Katelyn Nacon, Steven Ogg, Pollyanna McIntosh AMC
Air Date: Sunday, December 10, 2017
Warning â€“ SPOILERS for AMC’s The Walking Dead…
On last weekâ€™s The Walking Dead, Eugene had some tough choices to make whether to stay loyal to Negan or to reveal that Dwight is the mole; Tara, Daryl, and Morgan decided to deviate from Rick and his alliesâ€™ plan to take down Negan and the Saviors; Rick actually managed to finally get Jadis and the Scavengers to join their fight against Negan. Unfortunately, when they rolled up on the Sanctuary, Rickâ€™s plan was not in motion; instead, the walkers surrounding the place were gone and so were the snipers. It was bad, and Rick was understandably shaken.
On this weekâ€™s episode, 8.8 “How It’s Gotta Be,” it gets worse. It really does. Not only has Rick’s plan gone south, but a beloved character is going to die. Since this is the mid-season finale, you know there’s going to be pain, suffering, and death.
The episode opens with Rick and the Scavengers at the Sanctuary. Rick sees that his plan didn’t work, but he doesn’t realize yet what’s happened. Jadis flat-out says that what’s going on is not what Rick showed them. After they shoot their way out of the area, we don’t see the Scavengers anymore. Then, Carol and Jerry roll up and pick up Rick. (WHY did we go through all of that with the Scavengers only to end up not even needing them? And where did they go???)
During these early scenes, we see flashbacks to Rick talking with Carl, who’s telling his father that if you care about something, you don’t just “hope,” you do. This is leading up to everyone executing the original plan the Allies (Alexandria, Hilltop, and The Kingdom) had. Carl stresses that there had to be something to come back to after the fight and that finding a way forward from the situation is important.
At Alexandria, Michonne tells little Judith that her daddy will be back soon, then Daryl arrives and informs her that his plan “worked.” Tara goes to Rosita and says the same thing, that the new plan “worked.” We then see Carl writing a letter for his father, and leaves another note, clearly for Enid, that reads “Just survive somehow,” which is her motto.
Meanwhile, Enid is off with Aaron on a mission of their own. On their drive, Aaron reminisces about his trips with Eric when they used to scout for people to join their community at Alexandria. Aaron wants to make sure Eric didn’t die in vain. That’s why they are going to Oceanside to try to convince the people there to join the fight. Unfortunately, when they get there, the leader Natania finds them and Enid shoots her! We last see them looking down at the wounded leader as her compassionate granddaughter Cyndie, who had previously helped Tara, cries in horror at what’s happened. Yeah, I don’t think they are going to help after this!
Night falls, and Negan and his soldiers have arrived at Alexandria, and everyone who thinks that their plan “worked” is wondering how the hell the Saviors escaped! Carl then puts his own plan into action, and stresses to Michonne that they need to follow him — he’s in charge now. Tara says they can fight the Saviors, but Carl has another idea, and says that they just need to survive the night. They’re going to let Negan have Alexandria… kinda.
Outside, Negan is pissed and wants multiple apologies, and the person with the lamest one gets killed… then he’s coming for Rick. But Rick isn’t there, Carl informs him. By the way, Negan is shouting out his threats through a microphone. Really??? A megaphone I can understand, but he rolls up with a microphone and possibly a wireless one. Anyhow, Negan does his usual blathering on, and Carl then offers himself up as a sacrifice. “Kill me,â€ Carl tells him. He knows someone will have to die as punishment for what happened and he’s will to be the one. If his death will make all of this end, and make things better for all the children involved — at Alexandria and the Sanctuary — then it will be worth it. “Was this supposed to be this way, is this how you wanted it to be?,” Carl asks Negan, appealing to the man’s “savior” complex.
Over at the Kingdom, Savior lieutenant Gavin shows up to take over. He demands the people give up their leader King Ezekiel, but they all remain silent, even under threat. Gavin says that The Kingdom now belongs to Negan and that the Saviors will be moving in there while their subjects go and repair the Sanctuary. Umm… not so fast, Gavin! Here comes Ezekiel to save the day! First, he sets the place ablaze, creating a diversion so that his people can escape to safety. Carol arrives to help get everyone to safety, but Ezekiel won’t go with her. “Save them like you saved me,” he tells her before locking himself inside the gates with the Saviors. Later, when Gavin is going on and on about how he’s going to take Ezekiel back to Negan to be tortured and killed, we see Morgan on the other side listening in. When we last see Ezekiel, he’s smiling, because either he knows he’ll be rescued or he’s willing to die for his people, or both.
Out on the road, another group of Saviors led by Simon, who is holding Jerry hostage, intercepts the Hilltop caravan, who is being led by Maggie, Jesus, Dianne, and Neil, who are now confused as to how the Saviors made it out (join the club, we all are!). Simon, who is very similar to Negan in his grandiosity, goes on and on about what’s going to happen next: The Kingdom and Alexandria will be taken over by the Saviors, while the Hilltop, which is populated by the farmers, will keep on producing for Negan, although now they’ll be living off much less. Simon then shoots Neil, because Neil is a Red Shirt obviously and someone has to die for what Maggie did. She agrees to go back to the Hilltop and keep farming, but asks if she can have the box Simon brought to put Neil’s body in to bury (he had originally threatened to put Maggie in it). He agrees, and convenient does NOT follow the caravan back to the Hilltop, where…
Maggie goes right to the POW holding pen and has Dean, who had tried to kill Jesus in a previous episode, pulled to the front. She points a gun at him, and in classic Walking Dead fashion, Dean gets smug, thinking that a person who has survived the apocalypse this long won’t kill him on the spot. And guess what? She shoots him right in the head, then tells the POWs it’s because the Saviors killed one of theirs on the road. When she walks off, she you can see in her face that she did what had to be done. Later, we see her with the box she said she was going to put Neil’s body in. But she had Dean’s body put in it; on top of the box she writes “We have 38 more inside, stand down” and tells her men to put it out somewhere so its seen. She had said she would use the POWs as leverage if it came down to it, and I guess she thinks that time is now. Although, in my opinion, I don’t think Negan would give up the fight to get his people back.
Back at Alexandria, Carl’s plan is put into action. While everyone escapes through the sewers, Carl disappears, to Negan’s surprise. We see explosions going off and everything ablaze.
On the road, Dwight leads another group of Saviors right into an ambush by Daryl, Tara, Michonne, and Rosita, who had escaped out through the back with the other Alexandrians. Things get a little messy and Dwight is forced to shoot some of the Saviors himself, although Laura manages to escape. But not before she realizes that Dwight was the traitor and then shoots him in the arm. “It’s over,” Dwight calls to Daryl’s crew, who then come with guns pointing at him. Daryl asks him how the Saviors were able to get out of the compromised Sanctuary – was it because of what he did? No, Dwight reveals, it was Eugene who got them out. Umm, HOW!?!?!? We never find out. Also, I totally do think it’s because of Daryl’s rogue plan. Things get tense for a while, since a few episodes back, Daryl and Tara made a pact to kill Dwight once this was over, so Dwight has to do some fast-talking to get them to spare him now. Although he can no longer spy for them, he can still be an asset to him, and he wants Negan dead. They begrudgingly let him live, but Daryl is sure to rip his vest off the injured man, finally getting it back. (This is a common theme with Daryl – he typically eventually gets back what is taken from him.) Rosita helps the injured man up, and they all make their back to meet up with the other. Everyone goes, except Michonne, who at the last minute decides to turn back.
And what’s up with Eugene? He’s back in his cozy bedroom at the Sanctuary, but he’s having a sleepless night. The wine he relies on for sleep isn’t effective this time, and he’s clearly distraught, so much so that he marches himself to the infirmary and tells the ailing Father Gabriel that he’ll aid him in getting Dr. Carsen back to the Hilltop so he can deliver Maggie’s baby when the time comes. So, this is supposed to be Eugene’s redeeming moment, but it doesn’t seem so to me. He’s spent so much time being a coward who only cared about his own survival, so it seems out of character that he would put himself at risk now. But that’s what he does now – he incapacitated a guard and gives leaves the doctor and priest with keys to a car outside the gate, but he’s not going with them.
Inside Alexandria, Negan realizes that Carl was buying time to save his people. He instructs his soldiers to burn everything down except Rick’s house, which is where he’ll be eating some spaghetti. Also, Rick’s house will be 100% safe from the surrounding fires, because that’s how fire works – it’s so easily contained! Rick does, of course, make his way back to his house looking for his family, and Negan is there to ambush him. The two come to blows, while Negan rattles on, as usual. At one point, Rick even asks him, “Don’t you ever shut up?” Nope, Negan says, and it’s true, he doesn’t. He tries to taunt Rick by saying that in a few years Carl will be one of his top guys. This only gives Rick more reason to fight, and he manages to take possession of Lucille, Negan’s beloved barbed-wire-covered baseball back. “Don’t you touch her!,” Negan shouts, showing his out-of-control side. Rick eventually crashes out of the window, and makes his escape, leaving Negan inside.
Outside, Michonne has returned ready to fight, and when she is grabbed by one of the Saviors, she defeats him. It’s here where she and Rick are reunited, and she brings him down to the sewers, where he sees his people are safe. He spots Dwight, as well as Siddiq, the traveler he had chased off. “I brought him here,” Carl tells his father of Siddiq, “that’s how it happened.” He then lifts up his shirt to show a Walker bite mark. The episode ends with this reveal that Carl is near death, but it’s clearly not the end for him … yet.
The entire season, Carl has been saying that the world they live in has to be a world worth living for, and his quest to help Siddiq, even against his father’s wishes, has shown us that he wants to live a life of compassion and meaning. He doesn’t want to just kill everyone, as was Rick and company’s plan when it came to dealing with the Saviors. The flashback we see in this episode takes place after their encounter with Siddiq, where Rick refuses to help the man, and instead fires warning shots at him, much to Carl’s disappointment. When he tells Negan, “Kill me,” he does it to distract Negan so the others can escape, but the sentiment behind it is still true — he is willing to die to broker peace, because that’s what he cares most about. He nearly does die trying to escape at the end as explosions are set off through the community.
Carl’s death is a hard one, as he was not only an original member of the show, but we’ve watched him grow into a man over the course of eight seasons, and into a good man at that. But his death has always seemed to be looming. He survived multiple shootings, lost an eye, nearly lost an arm, and was constantly used by their enemies to keep his father in line. He has been Rick’s weak spot every time, so if Rick is going to continue to be the leader, his son would likely have to be sacrificed. And that’s where we’re at. Except instead of Carl being killed by an enemy of Rick’s, he died saving people. Also, he’s still alive at episode’s end, and seeing as Negan has a soft spot for the young man, seemingly wanting to be his mentor and father figure, perhaps Carl’s final mission will be to finally end Negan.
Chandler Riggs has played Carl Grimes from the start, and we’ve seen his character go from an little boy who just wouldn’t stay in the house to a young man who became a leader whose death will be for a brave and noble cause. Riggs’ Carl will be greatly missed on the show.
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[Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Courtesy of AMC. Used with permission.]