The Walking Dead Review by John Keegan

The Walking Dead 8.09: Honor

The Walking Dead 8.09: Honor

Written By:
Matthew Negrete and Channing Powell
Directed By:
Greg Nicotero

Knowing all of the behind-the-scenes drama that surrounded the betrayal of Chandler Riggs by Scott Gimple and his cronies, it’s hard to come at this episode with a great deal of objectivity.  And make no mistake: Riggs (and the character of Carl Grimes) has been used by Gimple as a sacrificial lamb to regain audience investment with a series that has been woefully mismanaged for the past season or so.  Ever since the emotional peak of Negan’s introduction, Gimple and his writing staff have been flailing horribly to maintain any sense of creativity that might remain.  Carl’s death is merely an attempt to bandage a gaping wound.

 


 

As a result, the events of the episode fail to connect in an organic fashion.  It’s not hard to feel horrible that Carl is dying and ultimately takes his own life to spare his father the agony of the responsibility.  Riggs leaves everything on the screen and does everything possible to invest the audience in his character’s final moments.  But it is so blatantly manipulative that it comes across as almost clinical in execution.  We all knew it was coming, so this is simply a slow march into the all-too-well known.

 

It also doesn’t help that the “official” explanation for the need to kill off Carl makes no sense.  Since the end of the episode foreshadows it, there’s no reason not to mention how the source material handled the end of the All-Out War arc: Rick ultimately chooses not to kill Negan in the name of building a better future.  While this admittedly seems forced in the source material as well, there is more than enough justification within Rick’s perspective to justify it.  Gimple simply couldn’t wrap his head around the audience for the adaptation accepting that outcome without a ham-fisted Carl subplot that makes no sense, designed to deliver Rick’s moral decision on a silver platter with little to no nuance or room for Rick to debate Negan’s fate on his own.  (Let’s leave aside that his distaste for Daryl’s no-prisoners approach would have been foreshadowing enough for eventual mercy.)

 

 


 

Carl’s sacrificial role also takes what is an internal choice on Rick’s part, and thus a motivator for his post-war actions and direction, and renders it largely external.  He didn’t come to the point of mercy on his own; he’s doing it because Carl’s dying words compel him to do it.  Given the depth of Rick’s established obstinance in the face of literally everyone else in his personal history, would he really be driven to adopt a philosophy he wasn’t already following, even under these circumstances?  (Let’s not overlook that Rick literally reacted more to Glenn’s death at Negan’s hands than the death of his son.  Even Lori’s death shook him worse.)

 

On the one hand, it’s easy to see why Gimple didn’t have Carl die as part of the actual war, despite the fact that it would have been a more organic and logical means.  If Carl dies as a result of the war, Rick would never be able to let Negan live.  Therefore this gambit only works (at least in theory) if Carl dies due to something that has become increasingly mundane.  Rick is suddenly reminded of the real purpose of his actions, supposedly: saving everyone possible from the threat of Walkers.  On paper it’s not hard to see why this decision might have seemed compelling, but given that Carl’s subplot was anemic and ridiculous from the start, it just adds to the clinical nature of Gimple’s numbers-driven plotting decisions.

 


 

Perhaps the most irritating point is when Carl is forced to pass the “hope for the future” baton to Judith.  First of all, she has barely existed in the narrative in recent seasons, so it is a fairly obvious attempt to give Carl’s death and Judith’s presence meaning.  But that brings to mind the fact that Carl has always been (in both the source material and the adaptation) the established, relatively well-developed face of the future.  He actually gave the story a point in an increasingly-meandering narrative, because even Negan’s soft-spot towards Carl only matters if Carl is around!  Passing that metaphorical role to Judith sounds great until one realizes that she’s barely on-screen and could also be killed off just as easily once Gimple or the new showrunner decides the ratings need another boost.

 

One would think that perhaps a parallel plot thread with Morgan, Carol, and Ezekiel debating the finer points of killing and mercy would elevate the narrative.  Instead, it seems like the writers couldn’t figure out that maybe killing off Carl might engage the audience if more time was spent on the characters and how this is affecting them.  Other characters have literally had entire episodes devoted to how people are handling their demise, but Carl gets shuffled off pretty quickly between action scenes with other characters.  It just adds to the sense that it’s all calculated and manipulative.

 



Our Grade:
C-
The Good:
  • Chandler Riggs gives one of his best performances, despite the circumstances
The Bad:
  • The clinical nature of Carl’s removal from the series undercuts the impact
  • Rick is less devastated by Carl’s passing than several other losses over the years
  • It’s hard to see how this will do anything but contribute to the show’s hastening decline

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 - 2/26/2018 11:45 AM334 views

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