The losses in the midseason finale of The Walking Dead conjure both despair and hope in the viewer. The death of Carl, one of the last three remaining original characters from season one, is not something people expected or even thought was possible at this point. And, maybe just as surprising was the fall of Alexandria. Fans are wondering how the story can go forward without this character and this setting. What are the possible ramifications of these losses?
Do We Get to Come Back?
Season eight has been one of callbacks to previous events and themes in the series, and making the connections to those references provides the viewer with insight. Episode eight of this season mirrors episode eight of season four, "Too Far Gone." In this episode from exactly half a series ago, the prison as well as Rick's vision of hope for his son is lost when the Governor attacks. Rick spent the first half of season four trying to create a wholesome, violence-free life for his son at the prison, which Rick and his people had worked so hard to build into a safe home. Those who survived the destruction of the prison had to scatter, find each other, and painfully rebuild, but can they do it again? The resources they enjoyed at Alexandria are rare now. In this world, everything is finite, and so any kind of loss can prove devastating. Will they ever have what they had at Alexandria?
In connection to Carl, this callback episode didn't contain Carl's literal death as much as it did the figurative death of Rick's more innocent ideals for Carl. Besides Rick, it can be argued that the other most important character on the show is Carl since his dynamic with Rick drives much of the show. If it weren't for Carl, Rick may have never had the motivation to make it out of the hospital in the very beginning. The most pivotal moments for Rick are often tied to Carl. Think back to Rick when Carl lost his mother or when the Claimers tried to assault Carl. He responded to these events with mental breakdowns and violence. Andrew Lincoln has stated that Rick's family is his ultimate breaking point. How will his son's death change Rick as well as the story?
All things considered, hope does remain for the story and the show. There is one critical, positive idea that echoes throughout the callback episode when home and hearth are under constant threat: We get to come back. This is a phrase that bookends the entire first half of season four, and it is the one that reoriented Rick after the death of his wife. And, depending on who is speaking this phrase, it takes on both dark and optimistic interpretations. If this phrase is applied to its current sister episode, it would imply there is hope on the other side of these losses. As far as the trajectory and success of the show, these upsets might be necessary. We've been in the same setting while fighting the same conflict for a season and a half. No matter how the aftermath of these events play out, it will shake things up much to the refreshment and excitement of the audience.
With the stakes so high and the losses so great, the possibilities for what will comes next in The Walking Dead are many. How would you like to see things change for your favorite characters and the communities they belong to? What would you like to see in the returning episode this February?
Other Lingering Questions
- How will Rick and Michonne's relationship be affected by Carl's death? Will this bring back memories for Michonne about the loss of her biological son?
- How will Judith's role in the story shift with the loss of her older brother?
- How will the Saviors also regroup after the events of the midseason finale?
Ciara Cerrato was a projectionist and curator at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, and she currently is a poet and freelance writer in New York.
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