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TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.9 “Honor” (Mid-Season Premiere)
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The Walking Dead episode 8.9 review

The Walking Dead
Episode 8.9 “Honor” (Mid-Season Premiere)
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Christian Serratos, Tom Payne, Khary Payton, Austin Amelio, Alanna Masterson, Katelyn Nacon, Steven Ogg, Pollyanna McIntosh
AMC
Air Date: Sunday, February 25, 2018

Warning – SPOILERS for AMC’s The Walking Dead…

We haven’t had a new episode of The Walking Dead since December’s mid-Season 8 finale, which ended with both hope and sadness for Rick Grimes and his group, as well as for the fans. There was just one thing on everyone’s mind going into tonight’s mid-season premiere, Episode 8.9 “Honor,” and that was, is this really the end for Carl?

Rick’s teenaged son — who we’ve watched grow up on the show from a little boy who wouldn’t stay in the house like he was told to the natural leader he’s become — was bitten by a walker in the previous episode. And the bite was not on an appendage that could be amputated to avoid death, like we’ve seen before. No, this bite is on his torso, which, in this universe, means certain death. But by the previous episode’s end, Carl was not yet dead. Could that mean that there is a way for him to cheat death?

Unfortunately, no. This show doesn’t do that. One week a character can be saved by a dumpster, only to later have their head bashed in. This show takes away everyone you love.

Previously, the Allies (Alexandria, Hilltop, and The Kingdom) had formulated this grand plan to rid their world of Negan. But for some bizarre reason, Daryl decided to jump the gun and execute the plan sooner than scheduled. He managed to trap Negan and the Saviors inside the Sanctuary and surround them by Walkers. Meanwhile, Rick had once again convinced the Scavengers to join his fight against Negan. But “the plan” doesn’t work, since the Saviors managed to escape and take King Ezekiel captive, as well as take over Alexandria and destroy it. Thankfully, the Alexandrians got out and are now hiding underground – that’s where bitten Carl led them (the Hilltop is safe as well).

In Episode 8.9, we see the flashback to the moment Carl was bit – it was when he was helping Siddiq in the woods and they got attacked by walkers. Through a montage that takes place while everyone is out following “the plan,” we see Carl bring Siddiq to the underground hiding place, where the two become friends while Carl waits for his father’s return. Carl also spends time at Alexandria, dressing his wound, gardening, playing with his baby sister Judith with the two of them leaving their handprints on the porch, and writing letters to everyone for when his imminent death comes.

Meanwhile, Carol leads the Kingdom survivors to safety so that she can go rescue their leader, King Ezekiel. She meets up with Morgan and learns that young Henry is still on the grounds. They take out a bunch of Saviors, with Morgan’s previous stance to not kill long gone now (he uses protecting Henry as an excuse).

As for King Ezekiel, he has to deal with Gavin, the annoying Savior assigned to The Kingdom, who is planning to bring him to Negan to meet his end. Gavin tries to make excuses for his own behavior, saying that things were good the way they were before Rick came along and put thoughts in Ezekiel’s head about going up against Negan. Ezekiel repeatedly says that there’s still time for Gavin to do the right thing, but Negan’s lieutenant isn’t hearing it. Soon after, there’s a showdown inside the theater, where we see Morgan pulls out a Savior’s entrails. Holy shit!!!!!!! (Pacifist Morgan is truly gone.)

We find out that Carol and Morgan wiped out everyone, with only Gavin left. Morgan wants to kill him, but Carol implores him not to — it’s not him and it’s not what he really wants, she says. Gavin here probably should be keeping his mouth shut, or at least being more humble, but instead he tells Morgan that nothing is going to change and that he should just go back to kowtowing to Negan. Morgan is about to deal him a death blow, when, surprise, young Henry shows up and kills Gavin! Wow! “I had to,” little Henry says. Listen, not only did Gavin have it coming, but he was the man in charge when his underling Jared killed Henry’s older brother Benjamin, so I don’t blame the kid.

But what’s happening back at Alexandria and with the survivors hiding in the underground tunnel? We pick up right where the previous episode ended. Above, Negan’s gang is setting Alexandria on fire, while in the tunnel below, Carl reveals his bit to everyone, including Rick and Michonne. As everyone else talks about what to do next — they decide to wait until the Saviors are totally gone before they move on to the Hilltop — Carl reveals what happened with Siddiq, who we learn was a doctor before the outbreak. But that’s not why Carl helped him; it was because the man wasn’t going to make it out there alone and needed help.

Throughout the episode, we return to the tunnel, where Carl is saying good-bye to everyone before they leave for the Hilltop. To his baby sister, who Daryl promises to keep safe at Hilltop, Carl bequeaths his sheriff’s hat: “This was Dad’s before it was mine, now it’s yours,” adding that he kept it with him because it helped him feel close to this father, and now maybe it will help her, too. He also tells her to listen to their father, but not always, because “sometimes kids have to show their parents the way.” This has been a theme running through the last few episodes, where Rick had become so jaded from his experience with Negan that he no longer trusted anyone new and his main goal was to kill Negan. But his son wanted something better for him and their community.

On his death bed, which takes place on the floor of Alexandria’s now burned-out church, Carl tells Rick and Michonne that he loves them and shares with them his vision of what the future could be if his father goes back to being the man he was before without his current “us against them” mentality. Rick explains that every decision he made was FOR Carl and later for Judith, too. “I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you,” Rick tearfully tells his son, “a father’s job is to protect his son.” “Love,” Carl replies, “it’s just to love.” He thanks his father for helping him grow into the man he is today.

This is where we learn that all of those hazy flash-forwards we’ve been seeing in the last few episodes, as well as this one, have been Carl’s wishful thinking for the future. Of his vision, Carl tells Rick, “If you could still be who you were, that’s how it could be.” In Carl’s dream sequences, Rick is a little older and grayer and walking with a cane, but his surroundings are idyllic. He’s happy with Michonne and Judith as a family. Everyone is living together in harmony and their efforts are fruitful. Even people like Eugene, who had become an “I am Negan” loyalist, are there too. By episode’s end, we find out that Carl saw Negan as part of their community, too. Their former enemy is planting tomatoes as he happily wishes young Judith a good morning. So Carl’s vision was for there to be true peace amongst everyone, even after all of the death and destruction that’s happened.

Carl’s death is, of course, heartbreaking for the characters who must say good-bye, as well as for the rest of us who absolutely do not want to see the young man go. Carl is one of the few original cast members, and his growth, both physically and emotionally, has been one of the highlights of the series. He will absolutely be greatly missed.

The expanded episode was tough to get through, as we had to go through watching Carl die (thankfully, his actual death was off-scene and by his own gun), and seeing Rick lose his son. While Carl’s vision for the future is a wonderful one, is it actually realistic? It’s one thing to have a dream, it’s another thing to have an actual plan to make it a reality. Negan is a tyrant and his idea of peace has been for everyone to be subservient to him and his idea of compromise has been for everyone to work to pay tributes to him.

So here’s what bothers me about this vision of “peace” that’s been pushed this season: 1) How do you make peace with someone like Negan? (I don’t think it’s possible!), and 2) The Allies have been indiscriminately killing the Saviors during the execution of their “plan” to kill Negan, but for some reason whenever they are confronted with a lieutenant, there’s not only a hesitation to put their enemy down, but the others will try to talk the person out of killing said enemy. So, it’s OK to kill the nobodies who are just following orders — likely out of self-preservation — but it’s morally wrong to kill the leaders giving the orders? No, that just doesn’t make sense. Why does this vision of a peaceful future include Negan and Eugene, but not the other Saviors who were just following orders?

Without Carl, it will be up to someone else to be the moral compass and push for this future of peace. But, at this point, I’d rather see every Savior lieutenant get what’s coming to them, as well as for Negan to die a slow death, thanks.

Video

‘Negan is Going to Kill You Now’ Sneak Peek Ep. 809 | The Walking Dead


King Ezekiel comes to terms with his fate after standing up against Negan.

[Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Courtesy of AMC. Used with permission.]

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