Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Walking Dead, Season 8, Episode 8: How It's Gotta Be

We open with some heavy handed moral reminders because the writers of this show think everyone watching it is a damn fool and needs the moral lessons to hit us around the head with the same subtlety as a sledgehammer: Carl talking to Rick about Siddiq and how they need to be better after they defeat the Saviours or what’s the point of defeating them in the first place

Less torture, people burned with hot irons and rape but let’s keep dancing to this moral equivalency tune.

Alas the rest of this episode is depressing because the Saviours are back and counter attacking and WHY CAN’T NEGAN BE DEAD ALREADY?!

At the Kingdom Ezekiel is rocked from his depression by the arriving Saviours. Gavin arrives to tell everyone how he totally wanted to play nice but now everything is going to suck, so there. I almost believe he means it. He demands the Kingdom people hand over Ezekiel which is going to happen 2 weeks after never. Instead Ezekiel is rocked into action and manages, through distraction and a school bus, to get most the people of Kingdom out and away - but in doing so ends up staying behind to provide distraction and delay, much to Carol’s outrage

And mine. I mean, yay go Ezekiel a hero and all that but there’s absolutely no reason why he had to sacrifice himself here. I’m going to treble that if he dies. This is a chance for Ezekiel to grow and become more - not for him to “find redemption” in martyrdom. I’m hopeful that Morgan lurking outside the Kingdom may change this

Maggie’s group is ambushed on the road by Simon and some other less pleasant Saviours who have Jerry hostage. They kill one of Maggie’s men and demand she come with them peacefully or they kill everyone and drag her… Maggie surrenders. But she keeps her wits about her and asks for the coffin (the one they expected to take her to Negan in) to bury her dead man in. Simon agrees

I’m not sure I buy him agreeing, to be honest, it seems dubious - but I guess it shows how confident they are and a willingness to avoid conflict when they’ve already been hit hard. Especially since, as he says, Hilltop is the only settlement being spared since it IS the primary good producers.

Maggie has a different idea. At Hilltop she finds the captured Saviour who has been a pain in the arse and shoots him even as he says she won’t do it. It certainly shakes Good Saviour guy and Jesus - but Jesus doesn’t say a word in protest though he does wonder at her plans to fortify. Maggie seems to have written off the other two camps but fully expects there to be survivors who will head to Hilltop - so they need to be fortified for a last stand

She puts the dead Saviour in the coffin and paints a little sign saying she has 38 more captives if Negan & co don’t stand down. Part of me says Maggie’s not playing but part of me also thinks it’s awfully convenient she thought of prison exchanges back when there was no indication this would be needed. Still this leaves Hilltop as the one remaining outpost to fight

Because Alexandria is also gone. Negan himself leads his forces to Alexandria and Carl leads the defence

And my gods what bullshit this is. Yes Michonne did the whole “you get to lead the defence” think in the first episode but that was a sop. This child should not be leading these adults and should certainly not be dictating to Michonne and Tara both of whom disagreed. And, yes, they disagree with him and he overrules her. (I even get why Michonne disagrees because one big thing for Michonne was finding a home and Carl’s tactic of abandoning Alexandria would hurt that deeply held desire - more could be made of that). Which is beyond belief. I mean maybe he could convince her. Maybe they could think of it together. Or maybe she could make the decision being the damned adult and all

And I don’t care that he’s RIGHT, it’s the writers who put those words in Carl and Michonne’s and Tara’s mouths and made two minority women completely fold and cede leadership to a damn teenager so Carl can have his moment

So Carl arranges for everyone to run away, using the sewers as a point of escape while he talks to Negan. And his speech is mature and powerful and full of calls for peace and even offers to martyr himself and seems to really touch Negan. Until he realises that Carl is basically playing for time until everyone can escape

And escape they do - because the people guarding the exit are led by Dwight who carefully makes sure the Alexandrians can escape and then leads his Saviours into an ambush - but he is revealed as the mole in the process so he pretty much has to stay with the Alexandrians now. Even if Daryl still gives him angry eyes.

Negan responds by unleashing a load of RPGs on the town - which he apparently has - while Carl flees leaving trails of smoke bombs behind. Negan enters the burning Alexandria and decides to wait in Rick’s house until he’s overcome by smoke or the raging fires reach him Rick comes home. Rick does and they have a fight with lots of posturing and me wondering why Negan would be stupid enough to confront Rick alone before Rick escapes much to Negan’s annoyance

He meets Michonne who has returned to Alexandria to walk through the smoke and unleash katana death on anything she finds and together they flee

In the sewers they catch up with Carl who has saved everyone… and reveals he has been bitten by a zombie in the stomach - there’s no way they can heal that. Michonne and Rick are both devastated.

I think the bite was actually from when he helped Siddiq kill zombies - when we open Carl was writing a note to his dad saying “survive” somehow which suggests he knew he was dying.

Other notes:
Michonne and Judith are just adorable together

Daryl and Tara are both feeling shaky about how they just screwed up everything and Rosita is trying to make them feel better about it.

Eugene is further dropping into a booze bottle to cope with his guilt and as part of that helps Gabriel and the doctor escape but still refuses to go with them. He talks right and wrong with Gabriel, insisting it’s subjective but seems less sure now. I predict a martyr redemption in Eugene’s future. It would not shock me if he died in the second half of these season and did so bringing Negan down.

Aaron and Erin are still characters and go to Oceanside for help - and promptly screw everything up. Aaron is held at gun point by the leader of Oceanside and Erin shoots her. Not a good first impression

Carl’s bite - this matters. This is important for The Walking Dead I think because it’s finally returning to what is supposed to be the core threat of this story: the Walkers. Because ultimately the Walkers are what has changed the world and I think we often forget this. Let the zombies be a threat again.

Of course it’s also about the central moral conflict - being good vs treating people as a threat, caring over fighting etc etc. Because Carl was bitten while helping Siddiq - but at the same time he has not become angry about this but is holding on to those beliefs, those principles.

It’s also a huge shift from the comics. I actually thought Carl was up there with Rick in terms of immortality. Sure he’s not TECHNICALLY dead but how do you stop a bite to the abdomen? The flip question is we have had weird visions of the future which seemed to include Carl… apparently not

The loss of Alexandria - not a fan. Ok Alexandria has been around for a while but I don’t like what this does to the overall shape of the plot. We seemed to be heading to a new future with building a new civilisation; but removing their base of operations (especially since Kingdom seems to be in the same situation) feels a lot like we’re flashing back to the Prison days again: brief moment of safety is destroyed, now what? Are we back to nomadic survival? Part of me wonders if having a multi-part war everywhere is actually a way to decimate the cast, remove a lot of these side characters so the show can return to a relatively small number of wandering nomads. In the early days of our comic reviews we had lists of the survivors and the dead until it became impossible because of the size of the cast: is this a return?

Of course, Alexandria has been the base of operations for several seasons now so it’s definitely a shake up - but what will we end up with?