'The Walking Dead' season 8 mid-season recap: who dies?

Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The shocking moment promised by the producers came at the very waning seconds: Carl is bit. He's going to die. Next episode. In February.

Folks online had previously speculated that the actor Chandler Riggs wanted to leave the show now that he's college age, that he wants to become a musician. Heck, he has grown up his entire adolescence and teen years on the show. But he told the Hollywood Reporter this was not his call.

In the graphic novels, which is far ahead in time line terms, Carl is still alive and becomes Rick's co-captain in a sense. But the TV show has frequently veered sharply from the comics. Carol is still around on the TV show. And Daryl never existed in the comics.

During episode six this season, Carl had that ridiculously pointless battle with walkers while recruiting Shaddiq. He had gotten bit but didn't say anything to anybody. Now we know why he is leaving notes behind, why he is acting so fatalistic. It's why he told Negan he is willing to "sacrifice" himself for the greater good.

Instead, Alexandria is now in ruins, destroyed by an angry Negan. Even those ever useful solar panels are gone, as Negan lamented.

Carl is one of just five original members left on the show from season one: Rick, Daryl, Carol and Morgan are the others. His character has been often an irritant ("Where's Carl?" was a popular refrain the first two seasons). And as he grew up and matured into a fighter, Carl could be both heroic and impulsive, tender and belligerent. Rick always felt he could count on his son to be there for him.

This pending death will wreck both Rick and Michonne, as if Rick hasn't already been wrecked enough as it is. As for me, I was never a huge fan of Carl and he won't be nearly as a big a lost as, say, Glenn. He was never considered an untouchable like Rick, Michonne or Daryl. But the producers will surely milk Carl's death in episode nine and infuse it with super amounts of pathos and meaning.

As a character, Carl has suffered enough as it is. . He was shot season two and survived. He had to kill his own mom before she turned in season three. He was shot through the eye in Alexandria season six and survived again. Twice, Negan could have easily killed him. In one case season seven, Negan decided to see what the boy was made of despite the fact Carl tried to murder him. The second time during the season seven finale, Shiva distracted Negan milliseconds from whacking Carl with Lucille.

It's hard to believe, but only about three years have passed since the beginning of the apocalypse in "The Walking Dead" time line. Carl should only be about 14 years old at most. Riggs is now 18. We have accepted this absurd time leap because seven real years have actually elapsed.

Danai Gurira as Michonne, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

But enough about Carl. There was plenty going on in this episode.

The Great Escape

We don't see the Saviors escape but they do, thanks to some handiwork by Eugene in terms of drawing the walkers away from the Sanctuary. It's not clear if Daryl's gambit made much of a difference either way but obviously, Rick's plan was not going to go as planned because that would be too easy and we have 16 episodes, not eight.

Eugene stays behind at the Sanctuary, feeling more guilty than anything else knowing his former "traveling companions" are now in danger. He tries to sooth his conscience by giving Dr. Emmett Carson and a very sick Gabriel a way out, car keys included. Can Gabriel leave given his health? Will they even bother to leave?

Khary Payton as Ezekiel - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

At the Kingdom

The Saviors split up to wreak vengeance upon Rick's crew. Gavin's Saviors return to the Kingdom to track down King Ezekiel so Negan can kill him at the Sanctuary. Gavin explains to the surviving residents that they are going to help rebuild the Sanctuary. In the meantime, the Sanctuary folks will camp out at the Kingdom.

Ezekiel blows up some stuff to distract Gavin and allow his people to escape. Carol shows up in time to help them out. Ezekiel allows himself to be captured to give his folks a chance to get away. After suffering depression from losing nearly his entire military crew, he appears to be back in action.

Morgan, on his own, lingers outside the Kingdom. What will he do?


Maggie and Jesus are on the way to the Sanctuary in hopes of convincing the Saviors to surrender as was part of Rick's plan.

Except the Saviors ambush them. They had grabbed Jerry and used him as bait. So everyone surrenders their weapons to Simon. Simon, in retribution, kills some random dude Neil sitting behind Maggie. He says the Saviors need the Hilltop as farmers. (It's clear after seeing the set that in reality, the Hilltop is tiny but our imaginations, they must have hundreds of acres of farmland that allows them to feed so many people.)

So Simon directs Maggie back to the Hilltop to ensure they have food for everyone. Oddly, he doesn't have a Savior join her to ensure she complies. Instead, she shows up and, in a pique of anger, shoots one of the Savior prisoners of war dead, some dude named Dean. What's her next move? We do not know.

"She strategic and emotional at the same time," said showrunner Scott Gimple during "Talking Dead."

When Maggie was ambushed, Rick and Carol managed to escape with Carol going to the Kingdom and Rick to Alexandria.

Enid and Aaron

Enid knows about Oceanside through Tara so she and Aaron decide to go over there in hopes of convincing them to join in the war against Negan. They try to be nice by bringing a truck full of wine or something like that. But after leader Natania attacks Aaron, Enid shoots her dead.

Clearly, arriving and killing the leader of a group is highly unlikely to win you many friends.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Austin Amelio as Dwight - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC


Meanwhile, at Alexandria, everything seems peachy. Daryl thinks his plan had worked. But then Negan arrives. Carl has a plan allowing everyone to escape via the sewer system. He pretends to reason with Negan, buying time, but then Negan just blows the entire community up with grenades.

Once outside, Daryl, Tara, Rosita and Michonne attack the Saviors caravan. Dwight starts shooting his own guys to help them out. Laura catches him and shoot him in the shoulder. She now knows he's the traitor. Then she escapes. When Daryl & Co. see him, he tells them he can still be useful to them and he wants Negan to die so they keep him around. (But Daryl does grab his vest back from Dwight.)

When Rick arrives at Alexandria, he checks out his house. There's Negan waiting! Naturally, they battle each other to a draw with Rick being thrown out a window and escaping, more or less unscathed. On shows like this, you can be thrown out a window, no big deal. Same as getting punched numerous times in the head or the gut or anywhere for that matter.

At the end, he finds everyone in the sewer including Carl. And we know what's going on with him.

Overall, this was one of the better episodes this very uneven, sometimes laborious season. Is it fully redemptive? Not quite. Grade: B-plus.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.