More loss comes as the death of Carl still lingers
Will Carl’s death mean a return to form for The Walking Dead? I don’t have much faith in that after the following events.
This week’s episode was split into separate character profiles for Michonne, Negan, Enid, Simon, Jadis, and Rick, though it’s not fully clear why these specific names were chosen as highlights — and these characters weren’t always the stars of their own sections. The first, for instance, may focus on Michonne, but the camera tends to linger on Rick, who’s having a private moment over Carl’s newly dug grave and ignoring Michonne hacking away at walkers in the background.
Elsewhere, Rick is already reneging on the promise he made to his son. Carl’s death tries to fill the empty space between the events of the hour, but it only gives the impression that season 8 so far doesn’t have a clear plan to get to its conclusion — much like Rick’s wobbly logic as he trudges forward in the present conflict.
A wooden cross fashioned out of sticks and rope protrudes from Carl’s grave site. Rick initially dangles his gun from the branch, but further reflection prompts him to take it back.
Michonne surveys an Alexandria in ruins and the walkers that now wander freely along the streets. She goes to close the gate as more of the dead shamble towards the opening, but the snarling corpses wedge themselves between the gate and the door, providing a needlessly gory moment when a walker’s face gets caught on the lock and its decaying flesh is pulled from its skull. It’s needless because it ruins the mood the episode is trying to set with a gruesome shock factor.
Michonne and Rick lifelessly wander Alexandria to scavenge what they can. Rick pulls a walkie off of a body, while Michonne is taken aback by the paint handprints Carl made with Judith on their porch. She begins to cry but must hold it in when she sees more walkers stalking towards them. There’s no time to mourn in this world because when someone dies, walkers are typically close by. It’s this bottling up of emotion without a release that tends to cause characters to act impulsively and make horrible decisions.
She returns to grab Rick, and the two pile more supplies into their van, nearly ready to leave. But Michonne is struck by the image of a burning gazebo. Carl used to sit on its roof, so she and Rick rush over with fire extinguishers to try and snuff the flames. There are too many walkers, and they’re forced to flee — leaving this reminder of Carl in ash in their rearview.
On the road, Rick wipes away tears as he wonders what Carl meant by his last words. “Did he want us to stop fighting? … [to] surrender to Negan?” he asks. Rick’s final promise to his son — on his deathbed, no less — was to fulfill his vision for the future, and already he’s poking holes in it. Carl mentioned this is the paradise his family could have if he could be more like the Rick he once was, but present Rick seems to see this as a weakness, as he interprets Carl’s wish as more of a submission than a compromise. He refuses to even read the letters Carl wrote him, a decision he clings to when Michonne shows him an extra letter Carl wrote to Negan.
This scene also highlights the often simple dialogue written into The Walking Dead. Rick blurts out that he wants to go see Jadis. “Why now?” Michonne asks. Because, as he so plainly lays out, the Scavengers were with him attacking The Sanctuary and are probably Negan’s next target after Alexandria. “They’re ours, not theirs,” Rick says. (Carl was also his son, not Negan’s, and he’s irked by the fact that Carl wrote his enemy a letter.)
So they head to the junkyard. As soon as they enter, they trip a trap and trash falls down to block the entrance, while they hear the snarls of walkers approaching them.
It seems the main purpose for these sectional breaks is more to mark shifts in time because, again, while this portion is supposed to focus on Negan, it hones in on Simon.
Negan learns over the walkie that the Alexandrians managed to escape, though he still doesn’t know about Carl. They talk about Hilltop and how their plan went swimmingly, even though Simon didn’t want to play it like that — more basic dialogue. Simon, however, is antsy. He doesn’t know what to do with himself if he’s not “running down Rick and company.”
Negan tells him to see the Scavengers, but to only deliver the standard message: kill one of their own to force the others to fall in line. Simon lets his frustration show and suggests they cut their losses and kill them all, because Negan’s way hasn’t been working as of late. Negan warned him to follow his orders, but more in a subdued don’t-f—with-me sort of way and not in his typical Negan manner.
Their conversation is interrupted when Saviors enter with a gift from Hilltop: a wooden coffin containing the now-turned corpse of the Savior Maggie killed. Again, Simon sounds off about going to kill every last one of the Hilltoppers, and this time Negan screams at him to “do your job.”
(Recap continues on the next page.)
After killing Natania in the woods while sneaking into Oceanside, Enid and Aaron are now brought as captives to be held at the colony’s school. Cyndie, still a young girl, is given the task of deciding their fate, since Natania was her family. After a brief moment of deliberation while Enid reflects on the life she took, Cyndie and her Oceansiders come back in to bring them to the beach for execution.
Enid somehow manages to talk Cyndie out of it in a not-all-that-convincing way — just a few words about how eventually Rick and the others will come looking for them and will wipe out Oceanside if she and Aaron are discovered dead. (Though it didn’t seem Aaron told anyone of his specific whereabouts, and Oceanside could easily fling their bodies to the waves.)
Oceanside is by far one of the biggest sources of frustration. The colony doesn’t seem to really fit into the mix with what’s going on, but the writers are determined to revisit them. Tara betrayed Oceanside’s trust when she not only told Rick about their existence, but then returned to forcibly take all their weapons. When members of Alexandria come again, they kill a member of Cyndie’s family. Despite all this betrayal, they still don’t retaliate, and Aaron still believes he can convince them to fight with them against Negan.
So he elects to stay behind and send Enid back home — because if they spent all this time traveling on an excursion that already seemed fruitless to begin with and came back empty handed, that’d just be bad storytelling.
Simon shows up in full force at the junkyard to confront Jadis. His composure begins to crack as he and his men stand off against the Scavengers. He relays Negan’s message of forgiveness: As long as Jadis can honor the original terms of their deal and fork over their entire supply of guns and ammo, all will be swept under the rug.
Jadis agrees, and her people are forced to give up their only means of defense, but Simon also wants an apology. The two speak over Jadis’ latest painting, as he wonders about the solar panels and helicopter launch pad in the back. All she’ll say to those is that it all used to be a dump, but now it’s something the Scavengers can claim as their own.
Simon then wants to feel assured that there is remorse on Jadis’ part for her role in aiding Rick. She claims there is, but he swiftly pulls out his gun and shoots down both of her main advisors. Jadis punches Simon in the face, knocking over a can of blue paint — the same spill Rick and Michonne spotted when they first entered the landfill. Simon stands up and in retaliation has his men kill all of the Scavengers except for Jadis.
Simon returns to The Sanctuary with all of their guns but keeps the full degree of his actions from Negan. This moment reminds me of Shane a bit when he killed Otis in season 2: He had returned to the farm and shaved his head to keep his brutal act hidden. Now Simon looks down at the paint smudge on his boots, the only clue to what really happened at the junkyard.
Negan mentions they still haven’t heard from Gavin at Hilltop (‘cause he’s dead) so he sent a convoy out to investigate. One of his men then mentions Rick is calling for Negan over the walkie.
We travel back in time a beat to pick up with Rick and Michonne battling the walkers that were once the Scavengers. They climb up a pile of trash for safety and find Jadis. Now dressed in white, the illusion she cast for her people (that annoying way of speaking) is broken in the face of so much loss. She explains in a normal voice that she used to come to this trash heap before the outbreak to find canvases to paint. Once the virus spread, she and the other Scavengers became something new amid a world they called their own.
Rick isn’t sympathetic to her plight. He leaves her with the claim that she caused her own people’s death, and he fashions a shield out of a car door so he and Michonne can make a run for it. Jadis asks to come with them until the walkers have dispersed, but Rick says he’s done with her games.
Rick and Michonne fight their way through the herd and force a hole through the garbage blocking the entrance. Instead of letting Jadis, who’s hurrying up behind them, do the same, Rick fires a bullet in the air, signaling other walkers to her location.
Jadis manages to escape down a side alley, and as her final act as Scavenger leader, she wrangles her own people toward a waste disposal. She watches as they are all ground into heaps of entrails, their guts splattering against her painting. Now alone, she sits down to eat applesauce from a can, trapped in a world of her own making.
Back on the road, Rick tells Michonne he fired the bullet because he didn’t want Jadis to be dead, just gone. Michonne mentions something Carl said about having a choice to change their future, and Rick pulls over to read the letter his son left for Negan. It’s a request for him to lay down his arms and make peace with Rick, something Rick claims is too late when he walkies for Negan over the radio.
Ezekiel mentioned a while ago to Carol that everyone has a role to play in this world. His character reverted back when he lost Shiva, Rick breaks after losing Carl, Jadis breaks after losing her people, and now another facade breaks as the weight of this news about Carl washes over Negan. He fears it was his attack on Alexandria that killed the boy, but Rick angrily informs him it wasn’t. Negan says he had “plans” for Carl, whom he saw as “the future,” which only further enrages Rick.
Negan continues to lay on the blame: “Do not let any more of your s-— decisions cause you to lose anyone else you love,” something Rick hasn’t learned from in the past. The rest is a tangle of words. Negan asks why Rick couldn’t just let him “save” everyone, which is what he says he was trying to do when he killed Glenn and Abraham. “Give up,” he says as a final message. “Give up because you already lost.”
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