REVIEW: The Walking Dead, S8 Ep9 – Honor

The Walking Dead, S8 Ep9 – Honor

The Walking Dead returned with a somber, moving valedictory episode for one of the show’s major characters.

The shocker at the end of the mid-season finale was the revelation that Carl had been bitten and so was doomed to die. At this point in the apocalyptic saga, nothing much can take someone like Rick Grimes by surprise. But this development really left him speechless. He had spent a lot of time believing himself invincible and this was the cruel reminder that he could still suffer loss. And what made it worse was, as Carl explained, there was no one to blame. Not the Saviors or any of the group’s enemies. Only the harshness of the world they were all trying to survive in, the world of The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead, S8 Ep9 – HonorThe majority of the episode was devoted to Carl’s dying moments, as the young man took his time to properly say good-bye to the people closest to him. Since we’ve watched the character and the actor literally grow up in front of our screens for the last several years, this farewell really resonated with me.

I never disliked the character as much as some parts of the fandom did. He had some characteristics of the frustrating “TV teen” but he was actually less irritating than others. And this episode really showed how much he had matured in the last few years, especially given that most of his short life has been spent in a horrendous wasteland and that even as a child, he had to plunge a knife into his own mother. This would have been more than enough to turn him into a twisted psychopath. And yet, for all that, he seems to have emerged fairly balanced and even compassionate. A rare feat in The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead, S8 Ep9 – HonorSo this was a death that we could actually care about and a character that we could properly mourn. The show has often played up the deaths of minor characters and tried to use shock value as a device too many times. But every now and then, the writing is strong and characters are allowed to be who they are and go out on their own terms.

Watching Rick and Michonne kneeling by Carl’s side, two strong warriors teary-eyed and vulnerable, was a powerful moment. But Carl had been determined to make his passing as easy for his family as possible. It was touching to watch him, peacefully resigned to his fate, make all the preparations to soften the blow. I was particularly choked up to see him with Judith on his lap, taking a photo of them together. He even had time to compose letters to those he loved the most.

Another moving moment in an episode filled with these was Carl’s good-bye to Judith and his giving his father’s hat (the hat that had made Carl’s look so distinctive) to her. The child’s loud cries showed that she had some idea of what was going on, that she was seeing her big brother for the last time. It was heart-wrenching.

The Walking Dead, S8 Ep9 – HonorDespite all this sorrow, there was some time for a B-plot which involved Morgan and Carol (my faves) teaming up to rescue Ezekiel from certain death. The two badasses were as effective as expected, with Morgan reaching another gruesome extreme (seriously, there is never any middle ground with this guy) and pulling a guy’s guts out of his bullet wound. There’s intense and then, there’s Morgan.

But he doesn’t seem to be as bloodthirsty as he used to be and maybe has started to find some fairly neutral moral territory that will allow him to exist while showing some self-restraint. The rescue mission did take up more time than it should have, because this had to be an extended episode of The Walking Dead. And so unnecessary screentime was given to a minor character, Henry, who is poised to be the new annoying, murderous zompocalypse child of the show. Sigh.

The Walking Dead, S8 Ep9 – Honor

Carlotopia

Rick was a wreck and I wonder how he ended up wounded and wide-eyed at the end of the episode. It’s unlikely that he will be the next major death but it was still a somber image to see. And it still leaves the mystery of how he got there unsolved.

But what was revealed was that all the happy visions of an idyllic future were actually part of what one reviewer called a “Carlotopia.” Carl’s dream of the perfect future, with everyone alive and well, working together, not a walker in sight. I don’t know why he imagined Rick to be a few years shy of Santa Claus when Judith was only a few years older. The most jarring scene was that of a kindly, smiling Negan, greeting Judith with a chirpy “Good morning to you, darling.” Too weird.

RIP Carl. You will be missed.