Across the nation last Sunday night with many watching The Walking Dead mid-season finale, there were pockets of people – groups big and small, individuals, viewing clubs and more – who let out collective shouts of “Hooray!” as they learned the fate of one long time series character.
But … let’s discuss that a little more in depth a bit later, okay?
It was an interesting mid-season finale to end the year. The plan Rick and Company have been working to overthrow Negan and his people got its table turned and lots of unknowns raised their ugly heads as a result. Just as intriguing, I thought, was the fact everyone was touched on in some way, shape or form during the expanded airing. And, in one particular and somewhat shocking instance, in the form of a “love bite.”
Yes … a love bite.
Not everyone was showcased. But most of the characters we know and love were given screen time, pointing them in different directions and often forcing them to think in alternative manners.
Eugene, for instance. I’ve simply become too confused by his actions to understand any sort of definitive road he’s traveling. Currently, I haven’t a clue where his loyalties are grounded. Is he truly “Negan” as he claims? Is he putting on airs to make it seem that way? Is he really on the sly, still on the side of his friends at the other communities? The other day “Hostiles And Calamities” (S07E11) was playing and I watched it again casually. And there it was, that smirk on Eugene’s face after the heart to heart he had with Negan, informing him how to keep walkers from disintegrating. Walking away with his “gifted” jar of pickles, that smirk was clear indication Eugene was pulling a fast one on The Saviors’ top dog.
Now? I’m just not sure. Not after all the tricks he’s pulled out of his hat in order to do solid by Negan and The Saviors. He’s distracted walkers with sound contraptions, built that paper airplane drone, created and backed plans to further The Saviors’ agenda and more. And his latest? Giving Gabriel and one of the Hilltop doctors the means to escape The Sanctuary. It seems all the wine he’s been throwing back has affected his cognitive abilities. Or has it? Is he still undercover? Is he still turncoat? Or is it something all together different I haven’t caught on to?
Carl: The boy put his foot down on not only telling his father the way it needed to be in the beginning of the episode (that “how it’s gotta be” coming off as rather prophetic) and then following through working his own plan sticking it to Negan when he came a’knocking at Alexandria’s door. Kudos, Carl. Even Negan has to appreciate the cojones on him for that move.
Maggie: After she, Jesus and the others get caught by Simon and his thugs, her badass self heads back to Hilltop and she offs one of the captured Sanctuary group. Eye for an eye, indeed! Don’t mess with a pregnant chick! That right there was a heckuva shocker if you ask me! After all the discussion between she and Jesus about the importance of keeping those Sanctuary folks alive and well for possible future negotiation, she didn’t hesitate in the least popping one in the noggin in retaliation of Simon taking out one of the Hilltop residents. Who can blame her?
Rick and Negan: The tussle with the two once Rick returned to Alexandria was a long time coming, both getting in their licks, neither giving in. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the confrontation, thinking it more as a wish list item to be revealed a bit further down the line. But there it was, in all it’s Neanderthalish glory. Yet … unresolved in the end.
Now, to the most controversial and jarring moment of the show, coming at its conclusion … and appropriately so. And, in this reviewer’s opinion, it was done pretty well: Carl’s revelation he was bitten by a walker. That aforementioned “love bite.” (Note: I thought the manner in which his wound was revealed, without any introduction, without any aforementioned announcement, simply with that raw, sudden and silent declaration, was terrific. Nice touch, TWD writers.)
Now, here’s the thing: As shocking as it was, as revelatory as it appeared, still it needed to be confirmed. And it was … by none other than the showrunner Scott Gimple himself on the follow-up “Talking Dead” that evening. Nevertheless, a thought occurred to me while watching. As matter of fact as he is on his way dead, a little tweak reared its head in my mind so bear with me here.
What if, just what if, Carl had built up an immunity to walker flotsam and jetsam? What if that love bite didn’t do him in? What if his cyclopean self survived the wound without any ill effect? Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants?
Think about it: For quite some time now, the group has been cruising the countryside, involved in all sorts of deadly shenanigans involving the living and the dead in equal measure. All that blood and guts spewing left and right, all those entrails they’ve been draped in time and again as camouflage, flying chunks of undead debris from knifings and gunshots slapping wetly against them, wouldn’t you expect a little immunity from the disease the walkers carry to transfer over to those still alive and well in the world at this point? It’s unrealistic to think some of those errant body parts and fluids, pelting everyone again and again, wouldn’t act as a natural immunity eventually. You’re exposed to something long enough and your body acclimates to it, realization of the old “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” adage.
Those TWD Powers That Be have done this to us previously, you know. This idea isn’t without precedent. Glenn comes immediately to mind. Remember when it ended up he dove under the dumpster to escape that marauding horde of walkers? He survived. And Glenn’s was the most outstanding example of a wool-over-the-eyes death. (For the record, I never believed he was gone for good at that time.) And there have been other characters we’ve been fooled into believing were toast, if only for a short period.
I’m simply suggesting Carl’s curtain call could have gone completely sideways and we could have been surprised all over again had Gimple not spilled the beans. Wouldn’t that have irked the many “Coral” haters out there. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Instead TWD’s return in February will detail how Carl’s eventual exit takes shape. Oh … what fun it would have been to see something different. Think about that if you will.
This mid-season finale wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But it was doable and satisfying enough to leave us annoyingly hanging in the wind until the second half comes around sooner than we anticipate.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, February 11 at 9:00 PM on AMC.
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