The Walking Dead: How It’s Gotta Be Review
AMC‘s The Walking Dead, season 8, episodes 8, ‘How it’s Gotta Be,’ leveled the playing field in the worst way, in the All Out War; but leveled the season out of its dip, in the process. We all knew it was coming (though the script skimped on the details of the Savior comeback, for some reason); we all expected AHK to take some major lumps, in the process; and we were all waiting for Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to cross pissing streams with Rick (Andrew Lincoln), again.
So that pale-faced moment – when Rick realized that the Plan went plotz – might’ve been a told-you-so moment, for most of us; and if that didn’t do the deed, there were multiple montages of faces, encouraging viewers to gear up for another round of Bat Roulette – complete with signature theme whistle. Whistle along!
Rick Grimes! You’ve managed to rally a team; gamble on a play; then duck out for a bonus round, earning the support of the Scavangers. Well, now you’ve found that the Saviors have gotten clear of their penalty round – your team will have to choose which door to take next.
The Scavengers chose door #4! I’d like to take this time to point out that the stage has no door #4 – that was actually exit, stage left. One less life-line, Rick!
Ah, but there’s more. As an extra penalty, each of our major players will now be cornered by their respective Savior handlers. Simon (Steven Ogg) gets to skull-grin at Maggie (Lauren Cohan); Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith) gets to bitch at Ezekiel (Khary Payton); and Negan gets the main piñata – currently being held in place by Carl (Chandler Riggs) – to swing at (cue Price is Right fail horn).
Game show qualities aside, the big takeaway to ‘How It’s Gotta Be,’ was likely the old Road to Hell maxim. With the Showrunners being coy about how the Saviors get free of the Sanctuary siege, the Revengers were left circling second-guesses & recrimination, over the role their plan might’ve played in the blow-back. I’m expecting a reckoning, between Rick & his rogues, at some point; but even if the plot didn’t directly drive a hole through Rick’s plan, the Revengers needed a moment of self-reflection. You could say they meant well; but that’s not how revenge works. If the Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions, I think bad intentions get you free gas. I suck at math, but I reckon bad intentions, leveled at bad people, still add up to bad intentions, and karma’s a blind woodsman.
The point is, if morality doesn’t win wars, then making it emotional/ personal is often a good way to loose them. Time to put the Revengers thread to bed.
BTW, If anyone feared that the Aaron (Ross Marquand) & Enid (Katelyn Nacon) road-trip was going nowhere, take heart: it had some good intention behind it, as well; the last way you’d want to make a first impression being the initial outcome.
As the lightest hit, of the three allies, the Hilltop could still afford some defiance; and nothing underscores that intent like a reprisal execution. I’m willing to give Maggie an emo pass, for this, since Simon didn’t reckon that the only thing worse than a cornered animal is a pregnant cornered animal.
Now, about the one-eyed elephant in the room. I don’t think I’ve ever been more impressed by Carl (Chandler Riggs), and that should’ve been an unconditional achievement. He was given a last-line command he wouldn’t have deserved up to a season ago, and not only made sensible calls, but tactically sound ones. To the script’s credit, an earlier bout of flash-back lecturing set-up his big moment – facing Negan – as another de-evolution into more speechifying – then didn’t. When even the speeches get put to practical use, we’re getting more for our eye-dollars. Congratulations, Carl Grimes, you are now The Man in The Hat.
…Well, that was good while it lasted (for maybe a half-hour, or so). I won’t go all spoilery, with my disappointment, but let’s just say that turns like these just hollow out character showcase moments, if they all keep ending like this. Keep the hat, Carl – at the very least, the night’s promotion wipes your last reckless act off your record.
There were a few other bits I took issue with, of course. Dwight’s (Austin Amelio) detail went too sheepishly, and a proper ambush would’ve come from both sides of the road; but we needed to dread Laura (Lindsley Register) being on the loose, with the dirt on Dwight. Simon’s handling of Maggie lost some of its tension, since we knew who the token kill was going to be (Will the Red Shirt sign in, please. – “Damned straight.” – Thank you). I didn’t see anything in Negan’s ranks that would ignite entire buildings as easily as cars – or have the range to reach them – but they lit up, for effect, all the same.
Speaking of fires lit for effect, Gavin’s detail should’ve had enough manpower to keep Ezekiel from staging his bow-out play. I expected the loss; but it seemed more of deliberate gesture, than necessary sacrifice. Personally, I would’ve appreciated Nabila’s (Nadine Marissa) role in that a lot more, had an element of surprise at least been attempted (rather than a series of watch-the-hijab close-up shots).
The Mischonne meltdown (with a side of cutlery catharsis) would’ve been more satisfying had it not been handed to her by a Darwin Award winning Savior (those guys’ll take anybody, it seems).
Did we really need more Eugene (Josh McDermitt) soul-searching? It’s been kinda painful, watching him have a mini-seizure every time his emotions get the soap-box away from his mind. Maybe he just needed to up the giggle dosage, but what we got was a backdoor to redemption being unlocked. Well, I’m still claiming his diarrhea distraction as one for the evil scientist henchman. So there.
There was also an open question of just how low a priority has intelligence been to Savior recruitment, prior to Eugene. Alexandria is a modern, functional town – you’d think someone in the attacking ranks would consider a sewage system a go-to place for escapees. Well, the night is young. Maybe they’re saving the tunnel rat action for 8.2 (pacing, or some junk).
All that aside, ‘How It’s Gotta Be’ delivered more progress from AHK’s set-backs, than we got from AHK’s initial victory. The Saviors didn’t really give as good as they got; but that’s a good thing. Too much time was wasted trying to milk a won war, from a won battle, and I’d rather not see this All Out War played out as a trading off of holding actions.
As action goes, it delivered in pretty short bursts that worked for it. That included the main event – the single combat, between Warlords, that you just don’t get in post-industrial conflict – for Rick & Negan. The Beard vs Bat brawl was short, and relatively inconclusive; but at least it felt like a real fight (and Negan owned up to talking too much – he wasn’t planning on doing too much damage, right away).
Beyond the action, there was also some promise, regarding future violence. On top of a literal underground, recoiled for retaliation, there was a Murder Machine & a Killer Queen left on the loose.
So with all that season 8.1 opening optimism going sour (both for the ‘good guys,’ and for show fans), I’d say a semi-bad end was the shot-in-the-arm that 8.2’s prospects needed. It was the ending that had that Empire Strikes Back quality – going out on a loss, without being a total downer about it – but most importantly, it was an ending that suggests that things are only just getting started. The montage of faces said so.
As for the bit some of us may not have wanted (despite maybe wanting at some previous point): well, payback is the reason this ending gave us something to look forward to. Payback will have to be the driving force of this All Out War. How it’s gotta be.
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