Review for The Walking Dead 809
by R.C. Murphy
Whoa! Slow down, there. Before you read on, be aware there’s copious episode spoilers in this review.
This is the first time a main character’s death hasn’t affected me in any way, shape or form. Which is strange considering I cry at the mere possibility of certain characters biting the big one. For instance, when Carl was threatened by Negan before the Glenn/Abraham murders, I came unhinged, yelling at the TV. How is it possible for the show to suck all the emotion out of losing yet another original cast member?
Rumors flying around TWD’s decision to preemptively end Carl’s story don’t make anyone out to be the good guy, here. That being said, the production team seems to be going out of their way to ruin what should be a heartbreaking goodbye. The outpouring of love from cast members for Riggs is more touching than the character’s final scene. It takes two full episodes for Carl to pass. The story is told in that tiresome disjoined timeline style they lean on in order to create false tension. Which means we spend every second of the extra time in the extended episode watching scenes which provide no new information because it’s all stuff astute fans figured out during the hiatus. Carl’s time with Judith is sweet. I thought that’d be the tear-trigger for sure. However when we jump back to the present, Carl’s goodbye to his sister is loaded with weird propaganda. The guy who opted to spend his afternoon finger-painting with his sister then goes on to have an adult conversation with her? If the conversation ended when he gave Judith the hat, that would have been the emotional cue the production wanted. Instead we’re forced to watch this loaded speech which only traumatizes the youngest cast member. It’s not touching. It’s uncomfortable and as a parent, I wanted to get Judith out of there way, way before Daryl finally speaks up to offer his protective services.
We can’t talk about Carl’s demise without pointing out one thing which makes me think the production has it out for this character in particular: Red Machete. AMC picks a sub-plot every year and produces a web series which usually leads into one of the two Walking Dead shows. This year’s production brings back The Claimers. Quick refresher: The Claimers came around in season 4, giving us a small taste of how Rick’s crew would react to a Negan-esque character who swept through the apocalypse taking what they wanted no matter who stood in their way. These are also the men who died in probably the most violent hand-to-hand combat scene featuring Rick. Why so violent? They threatened to rape Carl and Michonne. The timing of The Claimers’ return feels wrong. Either someone in the production forgot that these men threatened the outgoing character with sexual assault, or this is an intentional poke at Carl’s character as he’s shuffled out the door in the newest TWD controversy. Honestly? I’m not sure how anyone forgets what trash The Claimers are, let alone forget it long enough to resurrect these men for two webisodes. And all of this to, what, glorify a weapon Rick wields? Don’t we have enough problems with weapon-lust in this nation without using rapists as props to show what an awesome thing it is to be able to maim a living creature?
Red Machete exists solely to build Rick’s mythos as a savior of the apocalypse. It’s this weird piece of character PR, but nowhere near as weird as Carl treating Rick like Jesus during their final scene—a scene which lasts far too long because they splice it with Morgan’s meltdown instead of just letting Riggs and Lincoln take us away with their amazing performances. Yet again we have a moment where the actors are doing remarkable things, but editing and the script fail them utterly. Watching Carl confess his sins to Jesu—I mean Rick, is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. For a long moment, I thought I was imagining things, putting in subtext because I’ve got a hyperactive imagination. But, no. Rick goes on to absolve Carl of his sin. Then Carl tries to rewrite Rick’s past by thanking him for his sacrifices and saying his only job as a father is to love. Gee, who else goes around pardoning others of their misdeeds and spreads love as he does so, no matter the cost to him personally? Not only are Carl’s constant speeches at the end tiresome, but they’re loaded with weird junk dialog and take too long to get to the point. Carl’s plan is suicide so he won’t turn on his friends and family. The longer he delays, the more likely it is he will falter or become too weak to ensure his shot will prevent resurrection. Mindful to the last, it makes no sense for Carl to wait so long, to suffer needlessly, and completely traumatize his loved ones by making them listen as he dies.
As Carl drags out his death, Alexandria’s remaining citizens forget how to survive an attack. Pretty much everyone stuck in the tunnels freaks out at one point or another. Who do they turn to while Rick mourns his son in his newest father fail? Not Michonne. Or Rosita. Not even Daryl is a viable option for these poor panicked people. They look to Dwight to be the new white savior, going so far as to have Michonne lead the charge; she nearly attacks him, desperate to make the Saviors leave. We’ve seen her crumble before, but this wasn’t even a good variation, just an excuse to put another man in charge of the group so the lead character can fall into destructive grief head first.
Over at the Kingdom, Ezekiel waits for the inevitable end. Gavin’s endless lectures about how good they had it as a team underscores his deepest fear: Negan’s punishment for lieutenants in charge of misbehaving communities beholden to the Saviors. Gavin’s leadership skills kept him one step ahead of his boss’ wrath, but the second Ezekiel steps out of line to join Rick, it’s a domino train leading to the worst outcome possible for a man who just wants to maintain the status quo. Negan doesn’t get a chance to teach his Kingdom-minders a lesson, though. Morgan and Carol, each on a separate mission originally, team up to save Ezekiel. Here’s where we see how they plan to move Morgan off TWD. The plan is apparently just to make him so crazypants, the others insist he leaves. Even Carol, the most pragmatic character on television, is done with Morgan’s uncontrollable need to kill those who’ve harmed his people. On the other hand, this ham-handed method of shifting Morgan from TWD to FtWD gives us an insane death gag on par with the scene I mentioned above with The Claimers and Rick. As always, when the writing fails, I sit back and enjoy the fights. One has to find the silver lining somehow and TWD’s stunt team rarely disappoints.
The episode focuses on Carl’s demise and his quest to wring a promise from his father before the end. What promise? To save their people, give up on the war, and find peace in a stable community. There’s even little fantasies sprinkled throughout to reinforce his desire for the future. All of which is disregarded by Rick in the preview for next week’s episode. So, yeah. I’m really looking forward to watching Rick ignore his dead son’s wishes, just like he ignored him while he was alive. We’ve seen so much character growth over the last eight seasons, I can’t believe it. (Yes, that is sarcasm, readers.)