This review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead is back!
At the end of the mid-season finale, we found out that Carl had been bitten by a walker. While it might not have been the most intense cliffhanger, due to its inevitability, it still got you asking the question “what happens next?”
The majority of the episode was centred around Carl, either in flashback form or in the present saying his goodbyes. They made it very clear from the start that this was a ‘goodbye episode’, and usually with The Walking Dead, they are very good at executing these type of episodes. And it was no different here. This was a very good episode, probably one of the best in terms of the emotional storytelling and acting. For starters, the opener was very stylish and was, in a weird way, peaceful. Carl had clearly come to terms very quickly with the situation and was already having his ‘last day on earth’ experience. This peace and tranquillity would last for all of his scenes, no matter how emotional they got. They put in plenty of great callbacks to previous seasons and characters which worked well to highlight the journey that Carl has been on since Season One. I’ve stated previously that Carl is one of my least favourites characters, but this season I have praised Chandler Riggs a lot. While I didn’t shed any tears when he died at the end, shooting himself offscreen, it was the reactions of those around him that set the waterworks off.
To start with, the scenes with Carl and Rick in this episode were beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measure. Their real-world connection has given them great onscreen chemistry. So these scenes were always going to be brilliant. And brilliant they were. Andrew Lincoln was outstanding here, delivering one of his most emotionally charged performances to date. Carl had some fantastic lines here, Carl’s final gift to his dad was putting him on the path of salvation rather than vengeance. We need this Rick going forwards. Danai Gurira was also at the top of her acting game here, and given the relationship between Michonne and Carl, it was always going to be an emotional goodbye. I was hoping they would avoid the ‘mother’ route and they did, opting to depart as ‘best friends’. It was a great line and reflected their relationship perfectly since they grew close after the attack on the prison.
While I loved all the big character performances here, there were a few other smaller scenes which packed a real punch. First of all, Carl passing the hat on to Judith was a beautifully subtle moment. There was also a touching scene featuring Siddiq, and I’m very eager for him to take a more prominent role in the show because Avi Nash is incredibly talented.
Towards the end of the episode, we finally get an explanation for the dreamlike ‘Old Man Rick’ scenes. They are just that, dreams. These are what Carl hopes for in the future. I’m glad this has now at least been addressed and can put an end to some of the debate going on with fans because it has been a little distracting for the show. Oh, and as for Negan being there all smiles with Judith? That was great. Go read the comics for more on why that was such a cool moment. Not that I think it will be a reality, but what it does mean is that all the characters we have seen in these sequences are once again back on the chopping board, so again, no one is safe.
So what about the other characters? Well, to break up the highly emotional scenes with Carl they expertly inserted Moran and Carol going on a killing spree. So for those who only want the show to focus on death and destruction, you should have been left satisfied with what you were given. I mean, Morgan literally rips the guts out of a guy and between the two of them they racked up an impressive body count. But despite all the killing and mayhem, thanks to great editing Carl also had a part to play with Morgan as well. Cutting between Morgan wanting to kill and Carl wanting Rick to save was a wonderful juxtaposition. This was one of the episode’s best moments.
Overall, this was a strong return for The Walking Dead. It was an enjoyable, emotional ride from start to finish with plenty of action in between to break up the show’s intensity. We had plenty of characters missing, so there is still a lot more to catch up on, but hopefully, they try to push on with the overall story and keep the pace going. On a final note, while Carl has been one of my least favourite characters, Chandler Riggs has been very impressive this season and deserves a lot of credit. We’ve also lost another Season One character, and there are not that many of them left. So that’s also something to take into account in terms of what it means as a loss to the show.
What did you think of the episode? Tell us your favourite Carl Grimes moments! Leave all your comments and feedback in the comments below.