The Walking Dead – How Its Gotta Be
By: Kelly Kearney
This week’s mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead” was as shocking as it was heartbreaking. With the tides turning in the war against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the AHK are left scrambling to save their communities and their loved ones. It’s traitors, murder and hellfire galore and, in the end, a death that crushes the heart of this show.
The Failed Plan
After Rick convinced Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and her trash heapsters to head to the Sanctuary and force the Saviors to surrender, he is shocked when he sees the walker herd was massacred and the Sanctuary back up and running. Immediately, he takes cover when Negan’s boys start shooting at the group, which sends Jadis and her people running for their garbage dump and leaving Rick behind. Luckily, Carol (Melissa McBride) and Jerry (Cooper Andrews) drive up in a mini-van and Rick hops in, ordering her to floor it. As this is happening, we flashback to Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Rick on the day they discovered Siddiq (Avi Nash) at the gas station. Carl is finally becoming a man and he’s laying down some wisdom for Rick about the Saviors. Carl doesn’t see how killing everyone will help save humanity when the whole point is to get these communities to work together. Rick cracks a joke about how he doesn’t see himself picking strawberries with Negan anytime soon, but Carl thinks that teamwork might be the answer to their problems because just hoping things get better isn’t enough.
As eerie music plays in the background the camera cuts to close ups of each character until it finally lands on a smiling and whistling Negan. It seems Eugene (Josh McDermitt) came through with his promise to help save the Sanctuary because Negan is in a truck ready to wreak havoc on the AHK. Revenge is in the air and the AHK needs all the help they can get. That’s why Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) head to Oceanside to convince the community of women to join them in taking down the Saviors. Aaron has no idea Daryl and Tara’s plan failed so they assume they’re coming with news of Negan’s impending surrender. Since Oceanside has the numbers and the guns, a partnership seems to be in the best interest of everyone until Enid shoots that plan down, literally. Aaron lets Enid drive and she makes the choice to turn off the road in search of a gift for the community. She spots a Roanoke distillery truck and pulls over to load up the car. The two decide to camp by the truck that night and that’s when they see someone creeping around near the woods. Aaron gets out of the car because he’s not sure if it’s a walker or an enemy and Enid follows closely behind with her gun drawn. Suddenly, Aaron gets attacked and Enid opens fire, almost hitting her traveling companion but killing Natania (Deborah May) who is the leader of Oceanside! With the woman dead, the partnership between the communities seems all but impossible now and the look on Aaron and Enid’s face says it all.
Just Survive Somehow
Back at the ASZ, Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) telling Michonne (Danai Gurira) how his plan worked. She says she’s sorry for bailing on him and Tara (Alanna Masterson), but Daryl brushes off her apology because he’s happy it all worked out. He has no idea the plan failed and Negan and the Saviors are on their way to enact revenge.
Over at Rick’s house, Carl’s in his room crying over a letter he’s written his father. The young Grimes appears to be struggling with something and it’s not the fact his father can’t play nice with Negan. He opens a book and inside is a note from Enid that says, “Just Survive Somehow.” Carl, the teenager full of hope, looks nothing but hopeless. Later, Michonne catches Carl sneaking into the ASZ sewers and he comes clean about Siddiq, the traveler he’s helping. He doesn’t get to elaborate because Negan is banging at the front gate looking for payback over his destroyed Sanctuary. Using the intercom Eugene fixed, Negan tells the ASZ they have three minutes to open the gate and hand over Rick or he will blow the entire town off the map. With Rick gone, Carl’s in charge and he tells Michonne all they have to do is survive tonight.
Speaking of Rick…Carol’s car gets t-boned by a Savior’s truck, sending them off course and giving Negan time to invade the communities. The ASZ isn’t the only group in trouble as the Saviors blast through the walls of the Kingdom looking for Ezekiel (Khary Payton), who’s still not over the death of Shiva. Sitting in the theater moping, Ezekiel hears the Saviors and takes off running. At the same time, the Hilltop is also experiencing some Negan unpleasantries when Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Neal (Karl Funk) and Jesus (Tom Payne) see a tree blocking the road on their way to the big Savior surrender. Maggie’s seen this tree tactic before when they killed Glenn (Steven Yeun) and she knows immediately the Saviors got out. A brigade of trucks pulls up and Simon (Steven Ogg) tosses an injured Jerry out into the street and then props a coffin up on the hood of Maggie’s car. The scene moves back and forth between the Kingdom where the Saviors are demanding the people hand over their King to Simon threatening to shove Maggie in a coffin and take her back to the Sanctuary so he can put her head on a stake. Luckily, Simon says that Hilltop, which is a farming community, is too important to burn down so they’ve been chosen to be the producers. Unfortunately, the Kingdom is a different story because the Saviors lost their home in the attack and they plan on moving in while they force the Kingdomers to rebuild the Sanctuary. They give the community a choice of handing over Ezekiel or dying one by one. The Community sticks by their King and remains silent, which angers the Savior who really doesn’t want to traumatize their children. Trauma is how the Saviors keep their upper hand and that’s exactly what Simon does when he takes Maggie and Jesus’ guns and shoots Neal in the backseat. All their power comes from intimidations and threats and Maggie stays calm while Simon threatens Jerry next. Eventually, he lets her and Jesus go back to Hilltop and even allows them to take the coffin to bury Neal.
Is This Who You Want To Be?
Back at the ASZ the countdown continues, but Carl and Michonne have no intention of letting Negan inside the walls of their home. Carl climbs up on the ASZ to look out and lets Negan know Rick is gone and he’s not letting the Saviors kill anyone. There are children and his baby sister inside the walls, but Negan reminds him that there were children and baby Grace at the Sanctuary and that didn’t stop Rick. He says these communities need a strong leader and that’s when Carl offers to die to protect the ASZ. Negan is impressed at how brave Carl is, to the point he’s speechless. The young Grimes goes on to say he doesn’t want to die, but if it stops this war he will do it. That’s when a convoy of armored vehicles breaks out of the back gate and almost runs down Dwight (Austin Amelio) and a group of Saviors. Negan realizes that Carl tricked him and orders the ASZ to be fire bombed. Grenades are lobbed over the walls and it quickly goes from a tense discussion to a flaming ball of run for your life! Carl almost dies a few times while trying to dodge the flames and explosions, but eventually he gets away from the Saviors by throwing a smoke bomb and heads to the sewers.
Over at the Kingdom, Ezekiel starts his own fire to draw the Saviors attention away from his people. The diversion works and Kingdomers grab their weapons and take off out the gate where Carol is waiting, alive and well. She orders them to her old farm house in the woods where she promises them safe refuge. Carol tries pleading with Ezekiel to come with her, but he smiles and closes the door. The King is ready to go down with the Kingdom. As he takes a punch to the face by a Savior, we see Morgan (Lennie James) creeping around and ready to fight.
While all of this is going down, Eugene is at the Sanctuary feeling guilty about his part in this whole war. In looking out for himself, the guilt of knowing his former friends might die is starting to eat him alive. Even guzzling a bottle of wine fails to calm his racing mind so he decides to do something good for a change and assists in Father Gabe (Seth Gilliam) in Dr. Karson’s (R. Keith Harris) escape. He lets them know he poisoned the guard at the back gate with laxatives and then hands the two men a set of keys to a getaway car. Gabe tells Eugene he’s a good man and if he wants to come along he’s sure Rick would forgive him. Eugene declines and says his decision is purely a selfish one. He needs to sleep and clearing his conscience might just do that.
Maggie’s also had an attitude adjustment after her run in with Simon. When she enters the Hilltop she immediately kills one of their Savior hostages since Simon killed one of their people. Then, she writes on the coffin “we have 38 more so stand down.” She orders one of her guards to put the coffin somewhere that Negan will find it and then prepares for the influx of survivors from the neighboring communities.
As for those escaping convoy of trucks, Daryl, Tara, Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Michonne were behind that and now they’re hiding in the brush waiting for the Saviors to drive by. Lucky for them, Dwight knows they’re waiting and leads the Saviors directly in their path. A shoot out ensues and even Dwight starts taking out his fellow Saviors. One woman survives and shoots Dwight, but she gets away and the injured man knows he can never go back to the Saviors. He begs Daryl and Rosita to take him with them and promises he can help since he knows how Negan works. Daryl asks him how they got out and Dwight tells him it was Eugene. Daryl, happy it wasn’t his plan that failed, strips Dwight of his angel wing vest the man stole from him three seasons ago. Rosita takes pity on Dwight and helps him to his feet, leading him back to the ASZ.
Hope Dies Bringing Rick to His Knees
Daryl, Tara, Rosita, Dwight and Michonne make it back to the ASZ and one by one they go down in the sewer to hide. As the she watches her home burn to the ground, Michonne refuses to go down until she clears the streets of Saviors. As she’s hacking her way through walkers and Negan’s men, Rick makes it home and heads to his house looking for his family. Unfortunately, Negan was waiting and ambushes Rick with a few swings from Lucille. Rick manages to get the upper hand and takes the bat from Negan and the two go toe to toe until Rick gets pushed out a window and flees before he can kill Negan. Running through the streets he finds Michonne slaughtering a Savior and unleashing her rage with her Katana. After a quick hug and some tears, Michonne leads Rick to the sewers where he’s shocked to see most of the community survived. As they make their way through the crowd the mood is somber and Rick sees Siddiq sitting next to Carl. His son tells him that he’s been helping the traveler and that’s how this happened. He lifts his shirt and reveals a walker bite to his side. He was bit when he and Siddiq were putting down a group of walkers in the woods. Michonne falls to her knees and Rick, bleary eyed and devastated, kisses his son’s hand knowing his boy is about to die.
After eight seasons of watching Carl Grimes go from a precocious little boy to a man who sacrificed his life for the greater good, it’s a heartbreaking loss for the ASZ and the fans of “The Walking Dead.” How will Carl’s death change Rick and will he lose what little hope and humanity he has left? Time will tell, but for now Carl’s friends and family sit by his side waiting for the inevitable choice to let the boy turn or put him out of his misery. It is a tough decision for anyone, but after losing his wife, his best friend and now his son Rick Grimes is at the end of his rope. His mercy could drown in a wave of vengeance, the very thing Carl Grimes fought so hard for.