The Walking Dead recap: All will be resolved

Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimesi - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC via AMC Networks Press
Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimesi - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC via AMC Networks Press /

Carl Grimes’ death definitively marks the beginning of the end for The Walking Dead. Spoilers. Obviously.

They’ve made a huge mistake.

By “they” I mean Scott Gimple and by “huge mistake” I mean killing off Carl Grimes. Ever since The Walking Dead pulled Dumpstergate, the fan base has been waning, but the untimely death of the once untouchable baby Coral has finally tipped the scales over into the void of no return.

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Sure, the death was touching. Yes, it was definitely sad. I cried!  But the use of Carl to forward a storyline that could have very easily been forwarded by the death of another character – say, Morgan – was lazy at best. Laziness in writing has been a common theme throughout the last two seasons of The Walking Dead, and that’s either a result of showrunner Scott Gimple being so broken by the failure of his dumpster dive that he lost all confidence, or that the show has literally run out of ideas.

I don’t think it’s the latter. The comic book is entering into territory that could finally provide a satisfying and organic end point for the series and, given that Gimple has been replaced with TWD scribe Angela Kang as showrunner for Season 9, I’m gonna go ahead and blame all this garbage squarely on him.

But, honestly, even if we ignore the increasing number of fans jumping ship, how much longer can The Walking Dead actually last? Most TV dramas lose steam after 5 or 6 seasons at best. Fellow AMC series Breaking Bad came to a satisfying conclusion after six, and Mad Men stretched to seven. LOST went to six. The Wire did five. Even teen sensation Pretty Little Liars called it quits after seven seasons. You get the idea. TV dramas that drag on too long eventually wear out their welcome. (The exception seems to be Grey’s Anatomy. The series is still going strong even in Season 14, but that’s probably only because Shonda Rhimes is magic.)

Ever since Season 6, The Walking Dead has sadly gone from a critically praised series to a punchline. And all the reminiscing around Carl’s death just reminded me that the show used to be one of the most amazing things on television. No more. The actors are still phenomenal and they’re all doing their darnedest to do the best they can with the material they’ve been given, but character development has stalled like a revolving door clogged with flesh-eating zombies.


Actual depiction of me watching in horror as The Walking Dead narratively collapses in on itself.

Throughout the Season 8 mid-season opener, Carl’s death was front and center. As the extra long (read: extra special AMC ad revenue) episode dragged on, we were smashed over the head far more times than necessary with the deep, transcendental meaning of his sacrifice. If you didn’t see the episode, well, here it is: People can live together in harmony without being killers. Are you shocked? No? Me either. Because this is the same exact thing the show has been feeding us for years. Years, guys. Years. This show needs to end.

Conveniently, the meaning of Carl’s sacrifice is meant to propel the story through the remainder of All Out War and into some sort of peace treaty with Negan. Way to spoon feed your audience, Gimple. ::eye roll:: Now we know, more or less, exactly what’s going to happen at the end of Season 8.

As for this very special episode, it starts off with a jumble of flash forwards and flash backwards and present moments. The timeline pings around like a rapidly deflating balloon, whooshing out any sense of drama or tension that it may have held otherwise. Finally, after showing us a whole bunch of unnecessary nonsense, the show settles on showing us what happened right after Carl got bit.

It’s a lovely montage set to an upbeat tune that doesn’t quite convey the gravity of the situation, but it’s heartwarming to see Carl confidently take steps to ensure that he will be remembered. Siddiq (Avi Nash) helps him make some of the arrangements, and I really wish that Siddiq had shown up three years earlier when this was a better show, because I like him very much and he deserves better.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC via AMC Networks Press
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC via AMC Networks Press /

Eventually the montage meets up with present day. Carl lies on a cot in the sewer, his chalky complexion recalling a dying E.T., and sits with his Mom-chonne and dad as he slowly slips away. Annnnnd that’s pretty much it for him for the remainder of the episode. He gets a series of speeches designed to get the ole water works going – like I said, I definitely cried – and boy does Chandler Riggs deliver.

Chandler, god bless his child actor soul, did a fantastic job here. He imbued Carl’s slow and steady death with as much pathos as possible given the circumstances, and he’ll certainly have a great clip to showcase when he inevitably seeks out other acting jobs. He has his round of farewells with those closest to him – Judith (who’s not really and truly absorbing any of it), Michonne, and Rick. The connection between the Grimes family has always been one of my favorite things, and it’s heartbreaking to see it dissolve. Even though Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl ostensibly have the closer bond, my personal favorite moments in the episode were when Carl and Michonne (Danai Gurira) interacted. Those two had a bond that transcends almost anything, and I might just mourn the loss of that relationship more than the loss of Carl himself.

While Carl lay dying, Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride) go on a quest to save Ezekiel (Khary Payton). Watching the two of them take down a whole gaggle of Saviors without blinking an eye is fun, but it’s been done before. So has the game of morality ping pong that’s been going on between the two of them since the Season 6 mid-season finale. For those counting, that’s two entire seasons of ping pong. And even though ping pong is awesome, it gets tiring after awhile. Just ask Forrest Gump.

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Lennie James as Morgan Jones – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC via AMC Networks Press
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Lennie James as Morgan Jones – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC via AMC Networks Press /

Not surprisingly, Carol and Morgan save the day, but not until after Morgan goes feral on one of the Saviors, yanking his intestines straight out of a gaping hole in his body. It’s disgusting, but it’s also definitely one of the more genuinely surprising things to happen in the episode. Once the King is safe, the requisite crisis of conscious plays out. Morgan catches up to the lone Savior Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith) and struggles with whether or not to kill him. Ezekiel and Carol try to appeal to him through motivational speeches, but they know it must be Morgan’s decision in the end. Op! Turns out that Morgan doesn’t get to decide because Benjamin’s brother Henry (Mascen Lintz) sneaks up from behind and skewers Gavin right in the jugular.

Everything seems to comes full circle as footage of Morgan’s indecision is interspersed with Carl recalling back to when he shot another boy in cold blood during the Governor’s raid on the prison. That was ages ago when the show was still great. Sigh.

Some fans think that Henry might take on some of Carl’s storyline from the comics during the Whisperers timeline, but honestly we don’t need a Carl substitute. Also, I personally wasn’t a huge fan of that storyline in the books, and I’d prefer they just skip right over it. The path of the Whisperers only provides opportunities to retread old material, and virtually zero opportunity for growth. A popular internet theory posits that Fear the Walking Dead may be getting the Whisperers instead, and I’d be more than happy if that development came to fruition.

The set up for a potential future was nowhere more present than in those fuzzy flash forwards that turned out to be Carl’s utopian vision for the future. Gotta admit, I did not see that coming. Carl envisions a world where, much like the prison post-Governor, everyone can come back together and work towards a common goal. It’s a lovely sentiment, and a particularly apt message for the divisive political climate we live in now, but it’s also one that the show has been touting almost since the very beginning.

Carl’s final vision is of his sister Judith approaching a man in a well-tended garden. The man rises up with a welcoming smile. It’s Negan. He addresses Judith with warmth and love and says, “Good mornin’ to you, darlin’.”

The unbridled optimism of it all smacked me square in the face, and made me realize that all we want from The Walking Dead is a happy ending for our heroes. It’s why we’re so invested in these characters, and why we’re inconsolable when they die, and we know that each death moves us closer to a potential happy ending. It’s no coincidence that “No Way Out” and “No Sanctuary” are the two the highest rated episodes of the series on IMDb. Those are the happiest episodes. And, in the end, I know that I’m pretty much sticking around to see how this all ends because I care for these characters with a passion usually reserved for people I actually know.

Just like someone bit by a zombie, there’s really no way to bring The Walking Dead back to its former glory, but, like Carl, AMC can give it one last hurrah before they kill it off. It’s the least they can do. We obviously need to say our goodbyes, but at this point, there’s a mercy to ending it on a (relative) high note rather than continuing to beat it into the ground for years to come. If The Walking Dead has taught us nothing else it’s that when you love something, sometimes you have to let it go.

Related Story: The Walking Dead Recap: Once Bitten

Random Thoughts Before I Go:

  • Looks like the Garbage Pail Kids are back next week. Ugh. They were a fun novelty for a bit, but they have officially worn out their welcome. Can they all please die already?
  • The way Carol and Morgan were clearing each courtyard as they slowly made their way to Ezekiel felt like they were working through levels of a video game with Gavin as the final boss.
  • At one point, a tear comes out of Carl’s dead eye. Of course, Chandler Riggs still has both of his eyes in working condition – thank goodness – but I like to think that Carl was so sad that his eye came to life just to cry a few final tears of sadness. We’re with you, Carl’s eye. Now and forever.

‘The Walking Dead’ airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.