AMC’s The Walking Dead mid-season finale aired December 10, 2017, and I have a lot of thoughts on the major character’s life hanging in the balance as the cliffhanger.
***SPOILERS AHEAD: DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW WHO IS IN DANGER***
After some heavy-handed foreshadowing within the storytelling, it was revealed that Carl Grimes (played by original cast member Chandler Riggs) was suffering from a Walker bite and death is impending. In case you somehow missed the 7500 hints they gave us in the extra-long episode, Carl is in fact going to die. If his willingness to sacrifice himself to Negan, the letter he left his dad, or his sweeping monologues didn’t give it away, I’m not sure what to tell you, but here we are. And so, this opens up an issue I have with this show and seemingly have had for some time now. It’s gotten predictable and obvious and that is not a good thing.
I’ve seen many people feeling good about this season so far, saying things like it’s been “faster paced” (I guess) and “action packed” (sure). What I’ve seen this season is more of the same. I don’t feel like we’ve moved anywhere at all. This season started with an assault on the Saviors, and that is still going on… with no end in sight. I’ve read the graphic novel on which this show is based and so I’ve been able over the years to pinpoint when certain moments from the comics were going to crop up and when certain moments have defected from the canon.
Spoiler Warning for Comic Storyline: Long story short, Negan and Rick eventually engage in hand to hand combat which results in Negan passing out and waking up to Rick standing over him. Rick and Carl have a conversation about what to do with him, Carl wants him dead, Rick wants to build a better tomorrow and Negan is jailed. I thought this would happen at the end of Season 7, especially considering two things. 1) ratings fell 2) the ratings drop could be directly credited to fan response to Negan. But alas, no, we are still telling this story midway through Season 8 and as much as I adore Jeffrey Dean Morgan as an actor, I’m ready to move on to the next phase.
The next phase of this story involves a strong, united people working together, Rick and Maggie as respective leaders, to create a better world. They are the alpha’s now. But it seems Scott Gimple thinks that continually watching them mildly get a leg up and get beaten down again is what we want to see. No. I’m ready for them to prosper. This has gotten tired and old. We have watched basically the exact same story play out over and repeatedly for the past seven and a half seasons and I’ve grown tired of it.
The repetition isn’t the only storytelling flaw, the past few seasons have had issues with character development. One of the things I loved about this show early on, it was a story about people. Often non-watchers would ask me why I watch this show and my answer was always the same, because it’s not about zombies, it’s about people reacting to the world in a post-apocalyptic setting. I never needed to know the how or why of the zombies, because they were tertiary characters. The story was in the morality of human beings and the decisions they would make to protect themselves and their families in this heightened environment. That was fascinating to watch. Some fans complained at times that it was “too slow”, too much time was spent on dialogue and character moments and not enough action. But for me, that’s what made this show unique. Listening to characters talk to each other, learn about one another, and navigate this world together was enticing. But it hasn’t been that way in a while.
It’s begun to feel like the only time characters start to have any reflections of morality or mortality is when they’re about to get killed off. That makes it predictable. We all knew Sasha was going to die last season, it was painfully obvious; the same way I knew Carl was dying last night, it was painfully obvious. And that is a problem. It also feels now like we kill characters off more for ratings than for plot. “Someone will die” uh yeah, it’s the zombie apocalypse. This has also made the show slightly unrecognizable. Rick and Morgan are the only 2 characters that remain from Season 1, Episode 1 with Daryl and Carol being the only others left from the original group in Season 1. And I feel like more and more the faces I care about are being taken away.
So here we are, Carl Grimes is about to die, and I’m pretty pissed about it. Not in a “this isn’t how it goes down in the comics and so I’m mad” way; I’ve never had a problem with most of the defecting down on this show from the comics. This is an adaptation and if it was the same, it would be boring for those of us who’ve read it and know what happens. It’s fun to see if a certain storyline is playing out the same or if it’s going to take a hard left.
I can see all the storyline potential in Carl dying. It creates a bond between Rick and Morgan. It will shake Negan because he has an affection for Carl. It will make Rick and Michonne stronger. It will most likely be the inspiration for Rick to not kill Negan and to honor Carl’s wishes for a better tomorrow. However, the heart of this story both in the show and in the Graphic Novel’s has always been Rick and Carl Grimes. They are the story. At inception, this is about a man who is determined to rebuild society so his son doesn’t grow up in this toxic atmosphere and the affect this environment has on his son. The story is about whether Carl grows up to be a good person or not. So now, while I still care about Maggie’s child yet to born and baby Judith, the main person I’ve followed and watched for 8 seasons is dead. And I just think that’s a mistake.
We can credit this plot decision on the fact that it’s been 8 years and telling a story for a long time is hard. Allow me to reference a little show called Supernatural, now in its 13th season. One can argue that show is of a repetitive nature. Sam and Dean are battling a big bad, someone dies, someone comes back to life, rinse, repeat. But yet, somehow that show is still interesting and still draws viewers. Why? Because it has never lost the heart of the show which is the relationship between Sam and Dean. At its bare bones, that’s what Supernatural is about and The Walking Dead, at its bare bones, was about Rick and Carl Grimes.