After weeks of turmoil within #TWDFamily the moment finally arrived. Some cheered, some mocked, some didn’t bother tuning in at all, but most others reacted with deep emotion. I admit, I went into this episode with a Gimple-sized chip on my shoulder. Did you notice I didn’t even bother to recap episodes 7 and 8? Pure frustration caused a great inability to focus my thoughts. And, seeing as it was so close to the holidays, I wasn’t about to let a series of writing and production errors, in my opinion, steal my joy. So, I moved it all to the back burner. I expected episode 9 to bring it all to a boil again. Instead, I was actually more impressed with the episode than I had thought I could be. In fact, I wept. I wept for a lot of reasons. The episode hit a nerve, from both fandom and real-world levels for me. This is the beginning of the end of an era, whether people want to admit it or not. And I wept.
Need to get caught up? CLICK HERE to read a detailed play by play of the episode. Ready to rant? Let’s go!
I need to jump around a bit, so bear with me. But before I do that, I feel the need to remind viewers to pay attention to the series’ timeline, not our literal one. The first half of season 6 took place in the same span of 24 hours, but from the perspective of different characters. The back half of that season moved quicker, but didn’t advance all that much in time, just beyond the two weeks that Tara was gone on the supply run with Heath. Two weeks from the time they raided and murdered at the Saviors’ outpost to the day Tara returned and learned of Denise’s death. From there, maybe another couple of weeks passed until our survivors found themselves on their knees in front of Negan.
Jump to the start of season 7. We say goodbye to Abraham and Glenn. And then everyone retreats to their community corners. Daryl spends roughly a week to 10 days as a prisoner at the Sanctuary. He breaks out. War is about to begin. By the time we reach the end of season 7, from start to finish, it has literally only been a matter of weeks.
That brings us to season 8, the first half of which all took place in roughly 2-3 days at best, from start to finish. So, for people bemoaning the fact that Maggie isn’t ginormous or delivering her baby yet, she is barely into her 2nd trimester and living in a world where people are surviving on scraps. Lori carried full-term and her baby bump on the day she delivered was the size mine was at 6 months. Emaciated and malnourished mothers don’t blow up like balloons. Especially not that early in the pregnancy. It feels like an eternity to viewers because we’ve known she was pregnant since season 6. However, their timeline has moved at a FRACKING SNAIL’S PACE since then. At this point, it will take a time jump to see her carry to full term. And, given that Lauren Cohen just accepted a role on a new ABC drama for next season, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Let. It. Go. Nitpickers.
That being said, the same principles apply to those griping about how long it took Carl to succumb to his bite, comparing his bite to numerous others who died and turned quickly. To those viewers I would like to present Jim, Milton, and Andrea as evidence. In season 1, Jim received an almost identical abdomen bite as Carl. He was bitten in the night attack of their camp. The bite wasn’t discovered by Jacci until the next morning. They then debated for hours on what to do. They eventually packed up and headed to the CDC. Halfway there, Jim asked them to pull over and leave him on the side of the road. His fever was spiking, but he was very much alive. And, as we didn’t witness it, we have no way of knowing how many more hours it took for him to die, and then to turn. That’s more than 24 hours. Whereas, Amy, who was bit in the same attack, had a chunk of throat ripped out. She bled out, but it still took hours for her to turn. Milton, was mortally wounded in his abdomen by the Governor and left to turn and kill Andrea. It took him hours to finally bleed out and die, but then when he did, he turned in a matter of minutes. Andrea was bitten, but wasn’t even at fever point yet when they found her, and she took her own life, so there’s no way of knowing a time range there. Carl was bit helping Saddiq sometime in the morning/early day. Like Jim, it was an abdomen wound (a gut shot takes longer to kill a man than being shot in the head). But unlike Jim, Carl was able to go home, take a shower and clean the wound. He bandaged the wound, which helped to slow the eventual infection. He used his remaining hours wisely, spending them with his sister, maybe 15 minutes to write a few notes, feeling the sun on his face, and ensuring the safety of his people. By sunset, Negan had arrived. Carl was still holding his own. The fever didn’t take hold until the night hours, again held off some by the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen) Saddiq offered. Daylight was just breaking when Rick and Michonne heard the shot. It took just under 24 hours for Carl to be bit and die. Quit bitching and making it sound like it took days. It did not.
I am glad they gave Carl those hours though. The handprints on the porch, sadly, have been destroyed. But, having the forethought to take a photograph for Judith and Rick to remember him by and keeping the photo and letters on him was beautiful. Carl’s goodbye speech to Michonne was particularly heartbreaking because she had done this already, on two counts. First, she had already lost a son to this world. Second, the scene of her “best friend” being calm and brave and reaching for a gun saying “I have to do it” was reminiscent of her final moments with Andrea. Watching everyone else give him a nod as they slowly left was another nod to season 1 and letting go of Jim.
I appreciated Carl’s deathbed confession to Rick about the boy he shot at the prison. Prior to that, Carl was all about looking for the good in people. He’s the reason Rick ultimately let Michonne stay. But once Carl pulled that trigger, in the midst of the anger and frustration being attacked by the Governor, and Carl recognizing, “…how easy it was to take a life” we began to lose him. He was so pissed when Rick brought the Woodbury people there. But, by the time they lost the prison and were wandering again, Carl was old Carl again, running to save people calling for help in the woods, and even bringing Gabriel into the fold.
Rick has been lost since the end of season 2. Every time I think we have him back, he goes coo-coo again. There is no gray area for him. Every scenario is all or nothing. Kill or be killed. He became the Governor long ago. In his final moments, Carl is trying to save Rick’s humanity. The grace and compassion that he showed to Saddiq, the idea of his visions of a future where the likes of Eugene and even Negan can find redemption and learn not only to survive but to thrive together, these were all to save Rick.
“It is not too late to walk back from something decided.” ~Ezekiel
Which brings us to Carol, Morgan, Ezekiel, Gavin and Henry.
At first, I thought Morgan was sparing Carol’s conscience by saying “No” and taking the kill shots from her. After all, Daryl did that for her when they were trying to save Beth. And we all know Carol is having a difficult time carrying that weight. Her struggle with wanting to protect the people she cares about but not wanting to kill anymore people has caused a lot of strife. Morgan has faced the same personal struggle, coming back from the brink of isolation and insanity and the need to “clear”, to finding inner peace. But, if there’s one thing we can count on with pendulums, they always swing back the other way eventually. The match-up of Carol and Morgan over the last few seasons has been an interesting one to witness. At some point, it would be nice if they could find a balance. I do believe Carol, after being somewhat chastised by Ezekiel in this episode, could be on her way. But Morgan, poor Morgan, he just needs to “clear” again. Perhaps seeing Henry kill a man in cold blood, and then quote Morgan as a reason for doing it, will be enough to push him one direction or the other with finality.
Morgan’s fears and his inability to put down his already dead wife caused him to fail at keeping his own son alive. His fighting lessons with Benjamin caused him to feel a sense of responsibility for his death, as well. Carol’s inability to protect Sophia, or the myriad other children who have crossed paths with her since the ZA began, eats at her very soul. Henry, Benjamin’s little brother, like most children, is Carol’s Achille’s heel. When she tried to be overprotective and sheltering, she lost a child. When she chose to arm the children and encourage them to fight, she lost Lizzie and Mika. When she shunned Sam, her absence of assistance in either direction eventually caused her to lose him. Carol’s first instinct when bumping into Morgan at the Kingdom was to wait it out, remain unseen until they could save Ezekiel. As soon as Morgan mentioned seeing Henry sneak in, she switched gears into killing machine mode. However, Morgan “cleared” it all for her and Henry, who surely witnessed the slaughter learned by example. So. Much. Parental. Conflict.
I did have a good laugh at the sheer stupidity of Gavin and his band of Saviors in the theater. They fell for the oldest trick in the book, a classic misdirection. Perhaps if any of them had ever spent any time IN a theater gaining culture prior to the ZA, they’d have known that there are entrances backstage. Bugs Bunny might as well have pointed at the sky and said “Look up there!” with his left hand, while landing a bitch-slap with his right. If ever there were a group of TV villains who deserved to be shot and/or have their guts manually pulled from their bodies, it was this group.
Overall, the pacing of this episode helped make it more enjoyable. From the circular story telling, the dichotomy of their situations, to the parallels between the action and reasoning of both parties. I can only hope that the remainder of the back half of season 8 stays on a similar course until we can reach the dawn of a new, Gimple-free day.
I think that they handled Carl’s final hours and moments beautifully. Carl already knew everyone was going to die; Rick told him back at the barn. But when you know you only have hours to live, what do you do with those hours? His dad was gone. The sheer grace under pressure in this young man’s final hours was heart-wrenching. His final thoughts and actions were to put others first. Always, others first. When my brother was dying, he took the time to write notes for each of us. Carl may have told Judith that their mother’s prediction didn’t come true, but he was wrong. Carl Grimes did beat this world. He led by example. And it was an example that more real-world people should strive to follow. To Honor. If the character of Carl truly had to go, I’m glad it was like this. Thank you, Chandler Riggs for allowing us to watch you grow, for the time you spent with fans like me, for taking us on your personal journey as you brought life to Carl on his, and for handling your final scenes with such dignity and talent.