The Walking Dead is back after a welcome hiatus with Honor, and we rejoin Rick and the gang as they deal with a personal loss and continue their quest to be the most unlikable human beings in Georgia. The midseason premiere, Honor, aired on Feb 25, 2018. Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, and Chandler Riggs.
This recap contains major spoilers.
So, in Honor, this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, Carl Grimes snuffed it. And you know what? I didn’t feel a thing. Well, maybe I felt ever so slightly perturbed right at the end. But for the most part I didn’t give a single, discount s**t about any of it.
Why is this? There are a few reasons, I guess. One of them is that I hate Carl. Have since, what, season two? I hate his face and his hair and especially his hat. I’m glad to be rid of his annoying pouting, and I’m happy that Chandler Riggs, who plays him, has extricated himself from the mess this show continues to make of itself.
Another reason is that this show, even at its best, has botched so many character arcs, has divorced itself so completely from logic and reason, and has so fully embraced laughable storytelling techniques, that even when it really devotes itself to giving a long-running fan-favourite character a worthy send-off, it’s still mostly terrible.
Some of this is in the execution. I could certainly do without the anachronistic musical montages or the dreamy filtered flashbacks that we learned this week had been Carl’s hallucinations all along. But a lot of it is simply down to persistent bad writing. It wasn’t too long ago that Carl was doing dumb s**t like trying to sneak into the Sanctuary to assassinate Negan. And yet this week we’re expected to buy that he has adopted Zen-like acceptance of his own death.
That Carl elected to kill himself was supposed to be the culmination of a coming-of-age arc. If that’s what the show’s writers think they were doing over the weeks – and, let’s be frank, months – leading up to the midseason break, then that’s charming. But it’s also nonsense. Like all of the characters in The Walking Dead, Carl has been whatever the story needed him to be in any given moment; whatever would most easily allow for cheap drama and cliffhanger endings and f*****g flashbacks.
I’ll say one thing for Carl’s suicide, mind. That was the bit that got me. It was slight. It didn’t last long. But as Rick and Michonne waited outside for him to do the deed, and they visibly flinched at the gunshot, I felt something. For a brief, fleeting second, The Walking Dead managed to manufacture some actual human drama.
It’s a shame that we didn’t get any of that throughout the rest of Honor, which tempered the weepy bullshit with some terribly-staged action business involving Carol and Morgan. Morgan who’s nuts now, for basically no reason, and Carol who I think has some vague form of PTSD. Remember what I was saying about how this show just seems to click its fingers and characters start to behave completely differently? It’s like they’re all under hypnosis, but the hypnotist is narcoleptic and has no short-term memory.
Carol and Morgan were out to rescue Ezekiel, who still insists on speaking like a 16th Century playwright. Their cunning plan involved leaping out onto the stage of Ezekiel’s throne room and just opening fire on the Saviours, without any cover or anything. Par for the course, at this point, but still extraordinarily dumb. There are so many gunfights in The Walking Dead that the fact they haven’t learned how to shoot them yet is almost comical.
Hand-to-hand fisticuffs fare better, it must be said. During the tussle, Morgan reached into one of the Saviours’ guts and yanked his slippery intestines out. More of this would suit me. If we’re going to spend so much money on the makeup and effects in this show instead of paying decent writers, directors, editors and actors, we might as well make the most of it.
One of the Saviours managed to slither away, leading to a really compelling moral dilemma for Morgan, who had to decide whether to be a pacifist warrior monk or a mindless murderer, despite having just been the latter about thirty seconds prior. Luckily he doesn’t have to make a decision, because the kid, Henry, sneaks up behind the guy and stabs him through the neck. Don’t ask how he managed to get right up behind the guy without anyone seeing him. Just be thankful that he has taken an important step on the road to becoming a man, which was apparently to murder a defenceless man who was already surrendering. And from behind, no less.
Honor ended with another of those dopey close-ups of teary-eyed Rick, sat against a tree, this week looking visibly wounded. I’m not sure what this means, but I’m not sure how much importance we should place on it either. After all, the last of Carl’s hazy, idyllic imaginings featured Negan picking vegetables.
All told, Honor managed to give Carl Grimes a relatively poignant farewell, despite his death still seeming a bit pointless and unnecessary and unearned to me. It’s a shame that The Walking Dead only ever bothers with meaningful character development when it’s about to kill off a major character, but still. Some character development is better than none at all, even if it is just for one episode. The B-side shenanigans were predictably dopey, but they had to fill the rest of the episode with something, I suppose.
What this show needs is better creative personnel and a smaller cast. That’s what I was mostly thinking this week, when I could just about see the bits around the edges that almost worked. At the very least Carl got some kind of ceremony. The writers remembered basic human sentiments like, you know, love, which is what these characters are supposed to feel for each other. That’s better than what Glenn got, although at least his popped-out eyeball didn’t have to witness the absolute catastrophe this show has become.