Are you sitting down? No? Me neither. At the time of your reading this review, I’m probably still pacing the room contemplating the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead’s eighth season. A mixed bag of emotions (rage, anger, and fury), this episode sure gives us a lot to discuss. Be warned, there are full spoilers to follow.
In order to give you guys more than just a five-sentence review (which would consist mostly of the word ‘shit’) I’ll give you a little story about my feelings toward the run up of Season 8. My attitude toward the Walking Dead, since Season 4, has mostly been “Well at least 14 out of the 16 episodes were good” which was immediately ditched after Season 7’s 50/50 split of good and awful episodes. With this in mind, my anticipation for the eighth season was at an all-time low – the only saving grace being the fact that I was certain that they couldn’t completely ruin the “All Out War” plot from the comics. My benefit of the doubt was offered by the bucketful, even if my excitement wasn’t. Well good God, was I wrong. The show threw a litany of shit our way, and after it consistently displayed the tendency to vary from the comic’s version of events (with drastically poor results) I was still certain that the arc would be all wrapped up by episode eight’s end credits. Once again, I was wrong. The plot still hangs open as the mid-season draws to a close, dragging out what should be a simple -and gripping- run of events to worse extremes than the Hobbit trilogy.
What’s worse than the prolonged arc is the way in which it has been left open. The camera panned out into the darkness of a sewage line (a cold and empty tunnel of shite is perhaps a perfect metaphor for this mid-season) as it is revealed that Carl Grimes has been bitten on the flank by a walker. I’ll not delve into steak puns here, thank you – this is still a serious review. This spells certain death for the character as his bite is untreatable, and isn’t in a spot that can be amputated. And as Carl dies, so too does the show. The character (while a nerfed version of his comic counterpart) was a driving force for the show, as his very existence was what kept main character Rick going through so much trauma. The two characters spent plenty of time together over that last 7.5 seasons and the few moments that deeply explored their relationship were some of the best.
“…a cold and empty tunnel of shite is perhaps a perfect metaphor for this mid-season”
The potential to have Carl take up Rick’s mantle (as leader of the world) was one of the most anticipated eventualities for the franchise. Not only have they killed the main character’s driving force, but they’ve killed the very heart of the show: the pair’s relationship. While it has been overshadowed and pushed aside of late, the father-son story was the thread that was supposed to live through everything the show could conjure.
There was much talk of the time-jump from the comics coming about in the next half of the season, and many believed that it would be the revitalisation that the show sorely needs- but with the lack of closure in this episode, that hardly seems likely. The creators have presented us with yet another ending that serves as a cheap ploy to bring viewers back next February (a trick that blew up in their face during the Season 6 finale). There is a lot to be said about what was wrong with How It’s Gotta Be, but that could take far too long to cover. Instead I’ll just say this: The Walking Dead has hammered the final nail into its own coffin, with a selfish and egregious mid-season finale.
Perhaps I am being unfairly critical, and I may yet warm to the episode upon re-watching. Right now, however, I’m only hoping it’s not against the rules to give a mark of zero out of five.
Abandon all hope, ye who watch The Walking Dead…