Fresh off its mid-season break, The Walking Dead returns with episode 9 of season 8, titled “Honor.” We didn’t end the first half of the season on a particularly happy note, as Alexandria was in the middle of being completely decimated and, most notably, we discovered Carl Grimes had been bit by a walker.
*Episode Spoilers Ahead*
Aside from having to wrap up Carl’s story, The Walking Dead had its work cut out for itself with this episode and, ultimately, for the rest of this season. Fan reception hasn’t been what it used to be, and season 8 has received some of the lowest ratings ever for the former cable TV juggernaut. For the most part, “Honor” delivers on all fronts – especially with sending off Carl Grimes and actor Chandler Riggs, one of the ONLY remaining season 1 veterans on the show. Once it was revealed in the previous episode that Carl had been bitten, I wasn’t completely sold that he was actually going to die; I thought there had to be some kind of ruse going on. But as we saw last night, Carl has officially seen his last moments alive. Rightfully, Carl’s death and him saying his goodbyes to everyone took up the bulk of the episode. A few standout moments were Carl bonding with Judith on his last day and his passing Rick’s hat on to her. That stuff was gripping and it really showed how much The Walking Dead shines when they put proper care and focus on character moments. Of course, the final moments with Rick were hard to watch, especially as Rick sat outside and had to listen to the gunshot Carl put into himself. Siddiq had some really great things to say, showing his appreciation for Carl paying the ultimate price just to bring Siddiq in to the group. Siddiq made it clear that he will honor Carl going forward, just as he had honored his own mother. Finally, the hardest hitting for me was probably Carl and Michonne, but that could be because I’m biased and Michonne is one of my favorite characters, on the show or in the comics. I always loved the dynamic between the two of them, and I absolutely did NOT cry when Carl told Michonne she was his best friend, which she reiterated (okay, maybe just a little tear or two). Chandler Riggs, Andrew Lincoln, and Danai Gurira all delivered top-notch performances here, and should be commended completely. This was a wonderful way to end Carl’s arc, and even though I am 100% against the idea of Carl being written out of the show, I have to accept it for what it is. Also, the revelation of the season’s previous “flash-forward” moments of an older Rick, Judith, and the others were revealed to be the future Carl wants for his family and friends, and the final one we saw showing a friendly and part-of-the-community Negan worked really well, and feels like something that could totally happen.
Aside from Carl, the B story this week involved the totally awesome team-up of Morgan and Carol saving Ezekiel from a Saviors-occupied Kingdom. This plotline kind of dragged more than it needed to and was clearly meant to offset Carl’s final story with some action, but it was fun to watch nonetheless. As cool as it all was, though, there are STILL issues going on surrounding Morgan’s morality. Morality questions are fine and can be great if done well, but it’s getting very old when it comes to Morgan, as he has had this same story arc for way too long now. This needs to be resolved and Morgan needs to either move on or be taken off of the show (granted, Morgan will be gone from the show for an undetermined amount of time as he joins the cast of TWD’s prequel series, Fear the Walking Dead.) As Carol sent the Kingdom’s survivors to her secret cottage, she and Morgan freed Ezekiel. Gavin, the shithead Savior who showed up in the first half of this season, was killed by Henry, the child whom Carol taught to use a gun and whom Morgan taught to use the staff. Gavin caught a staff right through the neck from behind, all as revenge for his dead brother. It was a shocking moment, and one that could be seen coming, but not quite on a detrimental level. An even cooler moment came when Morgan reached inside of one of the Savior’s bullet wounds and literally RIPPED HIS INTESTINES OUT. It’s one thing to see that kind of thing happen to a Walker, but holy shit, it is quite another to see it happen to another living human being. And it was glorious.
There were a couple times during the episode in which we saw a nearly-defeated Rick, red eyed and bleeding out, sitting against a tree with stained glass hanging from its branches. In classic The Walking Dead fashion, these scenes were treated as bookends, and most certainly are something that will be happening in the future; more than likely, they will be addressed in season 8’s finale.
While not perfect, “Honor” was a half-step in the right direction in getting TWD back on track, even if I am vehemently against Carl dying. With 7 more episodes to go, the promise of REAL All Out War, and a new showrunner taking over next season, here’s hoping The Walking Dead can win back its former throne at the top of the television heap.