‘The Walking Dead’ Mid-Season Finale Recap ‘How It’s Gotta Be’: Prepared to Die

In ‘The Walking Dead’ recap for the mid-season finale, Negan leads the Saviors on a counter attack and the end of this episode may be one of the most shocking yet…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

Anybody who reads ‘The Walking Dead’ comics knows that no one is out of bounds when it comes to creator Robert Kirkman’s willingness to kill off characters.

That was made rather evident when he had Lori Grimes die fairly early in the series or when he sacrificed Glenn to help introduce the biggest of the bads as Negan made his debut in issue No. 100. No one is safe should be Kirkman’s moniker but even he’s kept two characters fairly unkillable throughout his run of 150-plus issues.

Rick and Carl Grimes.

Well ‘The Walking Dead’ television series has boldly gone where even Kirkman hasn’t been willing to go with a shocking end to the mid-season finale on Sunday night as it was revealed in the final seconds of the episode that Carl Grimes was bitten and he’s on his way to meet the same fate as anyone else on the show.

Now it’s not that uncommon for ‘The Walking Dead’ television series to alter the canon from the original source material ­— much like Andrea or Dale dying in much different ways than anything that actually happened in the comics. But this twist is particularly stunning considering how important Carl has remained to the source material and now his time is running out on the TV series.

Needless to say, ‘Walking Dead’ show runner Scott M. Gimple just pulled off a game changing moment that will forever alter the course of this show — for better or worse.

With that said, let’s recap the mid-season finale of ‘The Walking Dead’ titled ‘How It’s Gotta Be’…

They’re Here

Picking up from last week’s episode where Rick Grimes arrived at the Sanctuary expecting a surrender and instead found nobody at home as the Saviors had found a way to escape the herd of the undead that had been scratching and clawing at their doors for weeks. Of course, Rick’s new partnership with the Dumpster Dwellers ends in a hurry when sniper fire rains down upon everybody from inside the Sanctuary.

Jadis and her people flee — hopefully back to their trash heap where they will be dealt with in rapid fashion and then never to be seen or heard from again.

Meanwhile, Rick is pinned down until a truck pulls up with Carol driving and Jerry in the passenger seat to save him from certain death. He jumps in the truck as all three of them realize the horror of what they are about to face ­— the Saviors have escaped.

Unfortunately because the Sanctuary is so far away from the other communities, Negan has a big head start on Rick and the others trying to race back to warn them. The group decides to split up with each of them taking a different community — Rick goes to Alexandria, Carol to the Kingdom and Jerry to the Hilltop.

Sadly, Jerry barely makes it out of the convoy before he’s blindsided by another vehicle.

Back in Alexandria, Daryl and Tara are attempting to make amends with Michonne and Rosita after going ahead with their plan to crash a garbage truck into the Sanctuary in hopes of putting an end to the war immediately rather than waiting until the people inside were starved out and forced to surrender.

As for Carl, he’s hunkered down inside his house writing a note to his father with another that echoes Enid’s statement that’s stuck with him for quite some time now — just survive somehow. The meaning behind Carl writing these notes becomes crystal clear by the end of the episode as well as the flashback we see from the very start of the season after he tried to save Siddiq yet Rick scared him away with some gunshots when he was trying to offer him some food.

The way Carl sees it is that when this war is over, they have to be better than Negan and the Saviors or they just become Negan and the Saviors. That’s why Carl puts it to his father to think about the consequences of his actions in the midst of winning this war. If they are victorious, what happens to the rest of the Saviors and the people who were loyal to Negan? Do they all get executed? Isn’t this all a lesson that they need to be better than the enemy?

Finally as Carl and the rest of the people in Alexandria are preparing for the battle to end because Rick, Maggie and King Ezekiel are supposed to be on their way to the Sanctuary to offer the Saviors a chance to surrender, the war lands on their front door.

Negan arrives at the gates of Alexandria offering them three minutes and two choices — they can either open the gates and offer a very heartfelt apology for everything they’ve done or they can watch Alexandria get torn apart and blown to bits when the Saviors come storming through those gates.

Carl quickly devises a plan where Alexandria will be sacrificed but the people inside will be saved. Soon after this happens, Maggie’s caravan headed to the Sanctuary is cut off and captured by Simon and his group of Saviors, who soon produce Jerry as a hostage. Finally, Gavin and his group arrive at the Kingdom to round up King Ezekiel and turn this place into the new home base until the Sanctuary has been repaired and returned back to normal after it was wrecked by gunfire and a horde of zombies.

The Ocean Between Us

The only people unaware of Negan escaping are Aaron and Enid, who are driving to the Oceanside community to try and convince them to finally join the war to finish off the Saviors. Along the way, Enid suggests bringing the Oceanside a present as a way to welcome themselves to the community before asking them to join the war.

They end up stealing a truck full of liquor with plans to drive it to Oceanside but day soon turns into night and they are forced to grab some sleep before continuing on in the morning. Unfortunately in the middle of the night, Aaron spots somebody moving nearby the liquor truck and he gets out alongside Enid to investigate.

As Enid creeps around in the dark, she hears a loud thud, which means Aaron is down and a voice warns “you shouldn’t have come here”. Enid turns the corner and fires a single shot, killing the person holding a weapon on Aaron.

A second later, a group from Oceanside emerge from the trees and find that the person who was shot was Natania, the leader of the community, and Enid stands shocked after killing somebody. It’s probably going to be rather difficult to convince them to join the war after killing their leader.

Heavy Is the Head That Wears the Crown

At the Kingdom, Ezekiel is still mired in his funk when he hears the gates open up and the Saviors arrive. He quickly snaps out of his depression and hides while the Saviors gather up all the people in the Kingdom for a town meeting.

Gavin explains that he always liked doing business with the Kingdom but then they decided to join the insurgency, which means they have to be stamped down now. Gavin then declares that everything the Kingdom builds, raises or gathers now belongs to Negan but they’ll be given just enough to survive so they can continue to work for them.

The next order of business is finding King Ezekiel because he’s going to be the new trophy at the Sanctuary for anybody else who decides to turn against the Saviors.

Quietly, Ezekiel sets up a gas tank explosion that causes a distraction while he drives through a gate with a school bus, which allows the people of the Kingdom to flee and escape while he has the Saviors chasing him.

The people from the Kingdom make it through the gates just as Carol arrives. Ezekiel tells Carol to save his people but rather than running away himself, he closes the gates and puts a chain and padlock in place so that will give her time to run. Carol tries to convince Ezekiel otherwise, but he’s not having it. Morgan also shows up at the Kingdom just when the Saviors are locking the place down and he witnesses Ezekiel’s sacrifice.

Gavin finally catches up and Ezekiel surrenders but his people have all escaped with Carol now leading them out of harm’s way.

Stand Down

Maggie and Jesus are driving in the lead car on the way to the Sanctuary with the belief that they’ll arrive and Negan will hopefully be ready to surrender.

Along the way they run into a tree down in the middle of the road and while Jesus is ready to chalk this up to a storm, Maggie knows this is the signature of how the Saviors herded her people into that trap that ended with Glenn having his head bashed in by Negan.

Sure enough, Maggie’s convoy is quickly shut down when Simon and the Saviors capture everybody in the cars and then produce Jerry as a hostage. The Saviors go around and collect all the guns while Simon lays out his terms to Maggie after first shooting Neil, who is one of the soldiers from the Hilltop sitting in the back of her car.

Simon then reveals how the Saviors escaped the Sanctuary — it was thanks to Eugene, whose ingenious plan allowed them to get free of the walkers and plan this counter attack while the rest of his men lead the heard away in another direction.

Simon explains that the Hilltop is too valuable for the Saviors to destroy — that’s where there’s farm land and crops are produced, which keeps everyone fed. Simon offers Maggie two choices — much like Negan — where she can watch everyone in her group get slaughtered and the Hilltop still falls or she can surrender and agree to serve the Saviors just like she was supposed to do all along.

Maggie goes for option No. 2 with one small favor — she asks Simon for the coffin he brought along as intimidation while promising to put her inside to take back to the Sanctuary if she resisted. Simon agrees, hands over the coffin and allows Maggie to lead her people back to the Hilltop where they will go back to serving Negan as always intended.

When Maggie makes it back to the Hilltop, everyone is confused because this was supposed to be the end of the war. Instead, Maggie marches over to the prison cell where she has all of the captured Saviors. She quickly demands that Dean — the Savior who attempted to kill Jesus a few episodes back — brought out of the pin.

Maggie puts a gun to his head and while Dean thinks this is some bullshit show of force, she wastes no time pulling the trigger and blowing his brains out. The rest of the Saviors are shocked, to say the least, and she has her people carry the body over to that casket.

Maggie puts the dead body inside along with a message.

“We have 38 more — stand down”

Maggie then instructs her people to put it out somewhere that the Saviors are certain to find it before closing the gates and posting lookouts to await their arrival. Maggie isn’t giving up this war and she intends on the Hilltop serving as the place where the communities will make one last stand.

Sleep Again

Back at the Sanctuary, Eugene is still being tortured by his decision to help the Saviors escape and he’s pounding booze in an attempt to get a good night’s sleep. The alcohol isn’t helping anymore so he decides to unburden his soul of at least one sin.

Eugene goes the infirmary and helps Dr. Carson and Father Gabriel escape — he “accidentally” gave one of the guards some laxative so he won’t be posted where he should be and he even “drops” a set of keys to a vehicle parked right outside that gate.

Father Gabriel commends Eugene for doing the right thing as Dr. Carson will now be able to return to the Hilltop to care for Maggie during her pregnancy. Eugene counters by saying he wasn’t doing the right thing — he’s just doing something in hopes of finally being able to sleep at night.

Prepared to Die

In Alexandria, Carl takes over the leadership role with Negan knocking at the gates and Rick nowhere to be found. He explains his plans to everybody — the people in Alexandria will form a convoy by the back gate and Carl will use smoke bombs to help cause a big enough distraction that they’ll be able to escape.

Of course, Michonne can’t help but question the plan to sacrifice Alexandria, but Carl says saving lives is more important.

Finally with everybody loaded up in to trucks and cars ready to make a run for it, Carl greets Negan at the front gate. He explains that this doesn’t have to end with violence — instead he’ll offer himself up as a reward and Negan can kill him as punishment for starting this war in the first place.

Negan is impressed by Carl’s willingness to die for his people — of course he has no idea what’s really going on or why Carl is ready to die for the cause — but he’s not ready to sacrifice the boy he believes he can mold in his own image one day.

Meanwhile outside the back gates of Alexandria, Dwight has formed a blockade using only cars because he wants to leave a path open enough that the people could escape if the plan goes according to what he believes will soon unfold.

Sure enough, Daryl leads the caravan smashing through the back gates and through the cars set up as a blockade. Of course, Laura admonishes Dwight for such stupid planning as they gear up to give chase to the survivors.

Daryl, Tara and the others set up and ambush and Dwight leads the Saviors directly into the trap where gunfire starts raining down on them. Dwight decides this is the time to pick a side once and for all and he ends up shooting a few of the saviors before Laura gets the drop on him, realizing that he’s been the traitor this entire time. She shoots Dwight in the arm but can’t finish the job as shots fire right near her head and she flees off into the woods to escape.

When Daryl and the rest of the survivors catch up to Dwight, he explains that he set up the blockade so they could escape because he’s one of them now — he still wants Negan dead and the Saviors defeated. Daryl lets him live but takes back his vest that Dwight has been wearing for the past couple of seasons. Finally it’s Rosita who helps Dwight to his feet as they all leave together for the sewer system beneath the streets, which has been designated as a rendezvous point after the attack.

Back out front, once the caravan smashed through the gates, Carl jumped down from the perch but injured his leg, which hampers his escape. Negan finally orders his people to open fire as they bring down hell on Alexandria with grenades and bullets ripping through the town. Negan finally drives a truck through the gates while instructing his people to sack Alexandria while waiting for Rick to finally come home again.

When Rick finally arrives, he sees that Alexandria has fallen but he still has to go inside because he has to find Carl and Judith. He sneaks around until finally arriving at his house where he runs inside to find his children but instead gets walloped by Lucille as Negan has been there waiting for him to come home.

Negan begins beating the hell out of Rick while promising to kill him slowly over time before finally putting him out of his misery when he’s nothing more than a bloody, lifeless stump. Rick fights back and gets the upper hand on Negan, even using Lucille against him at one point but that’s a very bad idea.

Negan doesn’t like anybody touching his girl and he once again drops Rick to the ground. Rick spots his gun and makes a run for it, but Negan recognizes what is happening and pushes him out a window as soon as a shot is fired. Rick escapes and runs away as Negan is disappointed that he couldn’t capture the man who started all this.

Rick continues to look for Carl and Judith when he runs into Michonne, who has also returned to town, refusing to give up everything they’ve built by just handing it over to Negan. The two of them escape together, realizing that Alexandria will soon be nothing more than a pile of ashes.

Rick and Michonne get down into the sewers where they are reunited with the rest of the citizens of Alexandria. Rick is elated to find Judith alive and well along with everybody else making it out alive.

That’s when Rick finds Siddiq sitting in one corner and Carl sitting on the opposite side. Carl then reveals to his father that he’s been bitten — it happened when he was trying to bring Siddiq back to Alexandria and they were attacked by that horde of zombies.

In other words, Carl has known since then that he was going to die, which is why he was writing that letter to his father and why he was willing to sacrifice himself to Negan as a distraction to let everybody else escape. Carl didn’t have much time left but he was going to use it to save as many people as possible.

Carl is destined to die but at least he gave everybody else a chance to live.

Carl will return for at least one more episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ because he hasn’t turned yet but his time is running out. Carl’s death also reveals that the flash forward scene we witnessed in the season premiere was just a dream that Rick was having because we see him walking with a cane and talking to Judith at some point in the future, we also see Carl talking to him in the house. If Carl is going to die soon, it’s clear Rick was just contemplating a life he hoped to have after this war was finished — and that’s one dream that will never come true now.

‘The Walking Dead’ will return on Sunday night, February 25 for the second half of season 8 on AMC.

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