No matter how many times the word "shocking" was mentioned going into this episode, nothing could have prepared me for what transpired during its closing moments.
On The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 8, the Saviors escaped the Sanctuary and -- as expected -- made a beeline straight for Alexandria and the Kingdom. As far as midseason finales go, "How It's Gotta Be" did a decent job of keeping us on our toes for 90 minutes, with wondering which character would bite the bullet.
Some elements within the episode worked -- others not so much. But in the end, it was without a doubt an intense and incredibly shocking way to close out the first half of The Walking Dead Season 8.
Jadis and the Scavengers deserting Rick at the Sanctuary when the Saviors opened fire was not surprising in the least. It was actually quite comical how quickly they hightailed it out of there, leaving Rick to fend for himself. Luckily Carol and Jerry showed up to pull Rick out of there.
How did they even know he'd be there? That whole situation just seemed a tad too convenient.
The scenes during the ride back to Alexandria and the Kingdom were terrifically done as everyone's extreme look of fear began to set in. The focus from everyone else's look of incredible concern and then switching to Negan grinning from ear to ear set the tone for the episode that followed.
Negan arriving at Alexandria was intense, and I was impressed to see how Carl stepped up to Negan. Carl offering himself to Negan to save everyone else -- while part of the ruse to get the Alexandrian's out -- was genuine.
Carl wants this war to end more than anyone and he was more than willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that.
He mentioned to Rick earlier in the episode that there has to other alternatives to Rick and Negan's method of doing things. This was emphasized even more when Carl read the note that Enid gave him on The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 2: "Just survive somehow."
The Saviors flexed their muscle again by heading to the Kingdom and searching for Ezekial.
At first I was very disappointed with how Ezekial seemed to run and hide when the Saviors came knocking. Losing the Kingdommers and Shiva on The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 4 took a serious toll on him, and I've been waiting -- and hoping -- that he would once again step up and be "the King."
Apparently, the Saviors threatening Ezekial's people is all the motivation he needed.
He didn't have time to feel sorry for himself anymore. Sure the Kingdommers he led into battle with the Saviors were killed, but he was not about to lose even more of his people.
Although, now that the Saviors have Ezekial, what will Negan's plan be for him? Surely he's going to make an example out of him, but to what extent remains to be seen.
Maggie and Jesus encountered a big problem of their own as Simon and some fellow Saviors captured Jerry and threatened to execute him if she didn't comply. While the Kingdom and Alexandria were being completely taken over by the Saviors, Negan still wants the Hilltop to be business as usual.
Of course someone needed to be punished, and I was a tad worried that Jerry's life would be in jeopardy. However, Simon opted to just kill Neil instead.
I can live with that.
The best part of the episode came when Maggie arrived back at Hilltop and shot one of the captive Saviors in retaliation for Simon killing Neil. What's more, is she's using his body to send a message back to Negan.
Rick going at it with Negan was long overdue, but it was way too short-lived. It was really just a tease of what's to come between these two, and while the brawl was brief, it was extremely satisfying seeing Rick get a few good licks in.
There's plenty more where that came from.
To be honest, I was getting extremely nervous as the episode approached the tail end of it's extended 90 minute mark. Not necessarily because of who the announced "shock" would revolve around, but rather when it would happen.
If it was going to be anything like the cliffhanger on The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 1, I likely would have set my TV on fire. However, while the reveal at the end was indeed shocking, it didn't end so abruptly that it was frustrating and it gave us time to process what just happened.
That's right. The Walking Dead went somewhere that I never thought it would dare go: killing off Carl!
Although Carl was still alive at the close of the episode, the inconveniently placed walker bite seals his fate. It's been confirmed that Chandler Riggs will be back for one more episode when the show returns from its hiatus in February.
It's a seriously bittersweet moment. While I applaud The Walking Dead for making such a bold move, Carl is the last character that deserves this treatment.
There was so much potential to explore more of Carl's story going forward, and after his numerous brushes with death throughout the series, going out from a walker bite just feels extremely disappointing and cheated.
I truly can't see Carl's death adding anything significant to the story. If anything, the series will likely be worse off for the decision.
Regardless of how Carl's death affects the group going forward, one thing is certain: we can expect an incredible tear jerking performance by Andrew Lincoln.
And now we'll have to wait for what will feel like an eternity for the series to return in 2018.
- Morgan showed up and had added absolutely nothing to the episode with his 10 seconds of screen time. Great utilization of an awesome character.
- Ezekial using Shiva's chain to lock himself in the Kingdom with the Saviors was fitting.
- Dwight shooting his own people was the official turning point for him. It was the point of no return, especially now that Laura will no doubt blow Dwight's cover.
- Aaron and Enid's botched meeting with the Oceanside residents didn't go over too well. Good luck trying to ask for help now that Enid shot their leader, Natania.
- I'm glad Daryl finally realized that his ridiculous plan ended up aiding the Saviors in their escape from the Sanctuary. Hindsight is indeed 20/20.
- Eugene finally decided to help Gabriel and Dr. Carson escape the Sanctuary. I hope his pretty little mullet can sleep easy now.
- When did Carl get bit? I'm thinking it was during his little walker encounter with Siddiq in the woods. He knew he was infected for a while, which is why he was so quick to offer himself up to Negan.
- Daryl's got his vest back!
What did you think of "How It's Gotta Be"? Are you completely shocked at Carl's imminent death? How will his death affect Rick and the rest of the group going forward? Do you feel cheated in losing such an important character? Sound off below and let me know!
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Steven Ford is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.