The Walking Dead recap: It's time to say goodbye to Carl

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Feb 25, 2018

Spoiler alert! Full recap of The Walking Dead Episode 809, "Honor," follows. Do not read if you are not caught up. Check out our recap for the previous episode, "How It's Gotta Be."

Tonight's episode is essentially split into two storylines: Morgan and Carol "freeing" the Kingdom and, of course, Carl's last few hours of life. Let's just jump right into the Carl stuff, since I know that is what everyone is talking about.

It feels weird to talk so openly about a death in The Walking Dead. Usually they are sudden, often violent surprises. It is actually a nice change of pace to get a chance to say goodbye to a character. As soon as Carl revealed he was bitten in Episode 808, you knew he was going to die. If he didn't, it would be a major, major change to the show's mythology. Even still, it feels somehow spoilery to talk about it so openly.

The Carl stuff is all really emotional. I will admit, I shed a few tears, which is something I never do. I have no soul, and I am okay with this. What got to me was the maturity Carl showed in the face of death. The show backs up a bit to show Carl's bite, and his immediate reaction. I guess living in the world of The Walking Dead, you accept that your fate might be just a few chomps away. Instead of freaking out, Carl accepts his fate with quiet grace. He cleans his wound, writes individual farewell letters to everyone (we don't see the contents of any of these; I suspect they will be peppered in throughout the rest of the season), and spends time with his baby sister. He plants a sapling and enjoys the sun on his face.

Gene Page/AMC

Back in the sewer with Rick and Michonne, Carl explains calmly that it wasn't the Saviors who did this; it happened when he went back to get Siddiq. "It just happened. I got bit," he says simply. Throughout the episode, he assures his dad that it was his choice to bring Siddiq back here. He would have died without them, and Carl wants Rick to be more like he was after he brought in the people of Woodbury: building a community instead of killing.

The war is raging overhead, and Michonne, rattled by Carl's impending death, implores Daryl to make it stop. After some debate, it is decided to remain hidden and keep to the plan: meet up at the Hilltop when things settle down. The Saviors eventually leave, but Carl can't make it to the Hilltop. Rick and Michonne will stay with him, and they entrust Judith to Daryl. Before they leave, Carl gifts his sheriff's hat to his little sister. "Listen to him, but not always," he says of Rick. "Sometimes kids have to show their parents the way." The sheriff's hat "always kept dad with me, made me feel as strong as him. It helped me. Maybe it will help you, too. Before mom died, she told me I was gonna beat this world. I didn't. But you will. I know you will."

At some point Rick realizes that his son cannot die in a sewer. He and Michonne take Carl topside and discover Alexandria is in flames. The Saviors destroyed everything. Rick desperately wants to get Carl into a house, a bed, but he settles for the decimated remains of the church. Carl thanks his dad for getting him here, "for making it so I could be who I wound up." He makes a deathbed confession about the boy he killed outside the prison, and reveals that the flash-forwards we have seen all season were actually Carl's visions for what the future could hold for them. He encourages his father to keep the dream alive, and Rick swears he will.

Gene Page/AMC

The time is getting close. Rick feels guilty for not being able to protect Carl; it is a father's job. "No, it's just to love," Carl assures him. He reaches for Rick's gun. Michonne begs him to let her do it, but Carl insists that he has to be the one. He tells Rick and Michonne individually that he loves them. Rick sobs and gives his son a final kiss on the forehead. As dawn approaches, they wait on the porch. A single gunshot causes them both to cringe. And just like that, Carl is gone. We never see him dead, but this isn't one of those fake-outs. That is him under the sheet as Rick and Michonne dig him a grave. He is dead.

The other half of tonight's episode deals with Morgan and Carol freeing Ezekiel from Gavin. The Carl scenes were deeply emotional, but the Morgan scenes are all breathtakingly violent. The episode cuts rather abruptly between Carl scenes and Morgan scenes. I suppose this is done to juxtapose the different stories, and give the viewer a bipolar view of the world. For me, I just found it jarring and too frequent.

After leading folks from the Kingdom to her home, Carol dismisses Henry from trying to accompany her back into the Kingdom. She meets up with Morgan and the two start killing their way through the Saviors there. Carol is a little concerned with how gung-ho Morgan is about the killing. Not that he seems to be enjoying it, but that he seems to have an almost obsessive-compulsive desire to kill everyone he sees. She backs him up when he attacks a trio of Saviors unnecessarily, and kills one before he can kill Morgan, but she's not happy about it.

Gene Page/AMC

Gunshots make Gavin nervous. He is guarding Ezekiel, and has instructions to bring him to Negan alive. He rushes Ezekiel into his "throne room" and has a handful of Saviors covering the doors. An explosion near the door draws everyone's attention, but it's a ruse. Morgan and Carol come out from the stage and shoot the place up. Gavin takes one to the knee while his men drop all around him. Ezekiel manages to grab a gun and take part in the shootout. Morgan is tackled and ends up wrestling with an injured Savior on the ground. He plunges his hand into injured Savior's wound and literally disembowels him. Everyone is dead except Morgan, Carol, Ezekiel, and Gavin -- but Gavin is freaked out after watching an emotionless Morgan rip the intestines out of one of his own men. Ezekiel wants to leave, but Morgan doesn't see why: "They are all dead."

Well, not all of them. Gavin is still alive, and Morgan hunts him. It is like any good horror film: slow, threatening, panicky. Gavin is a Final Girl, and Morgan is Jason Voorhees. When Morgan corners Gavin, he realizes his only hope is to talk himself out of this situation. He plays the "I was just following orders" card and promises that they can't beat Negan, and everything will go back to how it was. When Morgan drags Gavin up from the ground, Ezekiel steps in and begs Morgan to relent. "Ending him is the coward's way. We won; you don't have to kill him." Carol chimes in with her agreement, but Morgan insists he has to kill him. Suddenly, a sharpened stick pops out of Gavin's neck. But it didn't come from Morgan; it came from behind Gavin. When Gavin drops to the ground, we see the killer: young Henry.

One of the final scenes of the episode is another candy-coated vision of Carl's idea for the future. In his visions, Rick and Judith go around visiting all the Alexandrians (or Hilltoppers -- everyone is farming). Jerry and Siddiq are working together; Eugene has rejoined the group with a smile. But there is one other person there: Negan.

What do you think? Do you think Negan will ever be able to fit into Carl's idealized version of the future? Or will he follow his comic book character and continue to be an asshole? Let's discuss tonight's episode!