The Walking Dead Review by John Keegan

The Walking Dead 8x08: How It's Gotta Be

The Walking Dead 8x08: How It's Gotta Be

Written By:
David Leslie Johnson and Angela Kang
Directed By:
Michael E. Satrazemis

The first half of the eighth season has been remarkably rough and slipshod.  In essence, the story is simple: Rick’s alliance builds off their successful repulsion of the Saviors at the end of the previous season and launches an attack on Sanctuary, but things eventually fall apart when the battle plan isn’t followed.  By the end of this episode, the good guys have really taken it on the chin hard, but they are ready to bounce back.  And then the ground falls out from under Rick’s feet.  Sounds compelling, right?



Only it has been anything but, given that Rick’s plan is never properly communicated to give the audience a sense of whether or not things are going well, the characters make idiotic decisions that lead directly to the conflict lingering long beyond necessary, and even Negan ultimately gets weakened yet again by threats that barely come to pass.  The Scavengers are recruited over the course of two episodes, just to run away almost immediately in this installment.  It’s so confused and unfocused that it merely underscores why many felt like the show needed a creative boost after the drastic drop in ratings in the seventh season.


Of course, all of that culminated in yet another extended episode that proved, once again, that it almost never works to the benefit of this series when they do so.  Much of this episode felt like marking time, or padding out time, or both; regardless, it felt like the episode could have been much shorter than an hour than needing to be longer.  And that included the ridiculous “foreshadowing” that lacked so much subtlety that the audience didn’t wonder at whether or not Carl was actually being killed off, but why the producers would be so short-sighted as to alienate even more fans.




When I say that, I’m not talking only about the story itself, though there are issues with the notion of removing Carl when he has always been portrayed (and remains in the source material) as a symbol of hope in the dark apocalyptic world.  Instead, it’s how the deed was done, and the ugly truths that are coming out of the woodwork, despite the efforts by Scott Gimple and the rest of the production staff to spin this as “necessary to Rick’s story”. 


For one thing, despite hints from Gimple that this was a mutual decision or a long-standing creative plan, this has been completely debunked.  For one thing, Chandler Riggs not only didn’t ask to be released, he had been promised by the Gimple himself that he would be around for at least three more seasons (which would, presumably, be the remainder of the series at this rate).  Riggs was convinced enough to buy a house near the production in Georgia and plan his college life around those promises.  Then, before Riggs turned 18 and despite everything, Gimple informed the young actor and his parents that he was being written out.  (There is the even more disturbing implication that his pay scale would change when he was legally an adult, and this was Gimple’s way of avoiding that cost.)



If this decision smacks of desperation, of coming up with something shocking to generate buzz on the level of Negan’s introduction, as an attempt to use a high profile departure to help turn around a massive ratings decline, then that’s probably because that’s the most logical interpretation.  What’s worse is that the story elements that were introduced to help set the stage for Carl’s departure not only don’t make a lot of sense given the timing and the massive war taking place, but it insults the intelligence of the audience by happening outside of the conflict that it has been asked to invest in for several episodes.


The explanation given by Gimple and others, that this is meant to prove to Rick that it’s important to save lives for when the war is over, so some measure of civility remains intact, falls entirely flat.  For one thing, Gimple admits that he can’t understand why Rick lets certain people live at the end of the conflict, and so he supposedly came up with this as a means to that end.  But hasn’t Rick already been horrified by Daryl’s draconian measures?  Hasn’t Jesus been upset by Maggie’s decisions to be more and more punitive?  I could go on and on, but this season has already beaten that message into the heads of the audience several times.  Carl’s sudden decision to pursue mercy for a random survivor doesn’t add much to the equation, especially when showing that mercy to one of the Saviors would have at least tied his demise to the conflict.



In other words, one is left to conclude that the writers are more incompetent than imagined, the producers are utterly untrustworthy, or both.  And given the ugliness that is being uncovered regarding the motives of the production staff, how can one give any credence to the notion that there is an actual story being told?  Perhaps that’s why the episode was also so dark as to be nearly unwatchable; it’s easier to hide how things are pulling apart at the seams.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • At least something finally happens
The Bad:
  • The way Carl/Chandler Riggs has been treated this season is beyond egregious
  • The writing this season has been a mess, and this episode brings that to a new level
  • Much of the action happens in darkness to the point of being impossible to follow

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

The Walking Dead by - 12/11/2017 11:52 AM281 views

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