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The Walking Dead - Honor - Review

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The Walking Dead “Honor” was written by the team of Matthew Negrete and Channing Powell and was directed by Greg Nicotero. The episode marks the death of Carl (Chandler Riggs). While the episode saw a modest bump in the ratings, I have to wonder if the show hasn’t also killed itself. I’ll be very interested to see what the ratings are going forward. If the show loses another 5 million viewers as it did after the death of Glenn that will take it to its lowest ratings… ever. And it’s already just barely hanging on above season two ratings. For now, let’s focus on the amazing work done by Chandler Riggs in this episode.

As has become the overriding motif of this season, we begin the episode with a close up or Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) eyes, mouth and face. He’s clearly overwrought – whether from grief of pain isn’t immediately obvious – in fact, it doesn’t become clear until the end of the episode. We’ve actually seen these shots of his face as he mumbles “have mercy” and “prevail” and “over my wrath.”

In the end scene, we get a quick flash of Rick leaning up against a tree with something shoved through his left hand. Please tell me that they aren’t finally going to follow the comics and take off one of his hands! Rick is clearly in severe distress – has the preceding episode been an hallucination? Rick’s worst nightmare? Or has Rick been injured trying to carry out Carl’s vision of the future?

From the opening close up, we go immediately into that dream sequence of the future – which we will later discover is actually Carl’s dream. Or maybe now it’s a shared dream? We see that Jerry (Cooper Andrews) is alive and well and helping out at the Hilltop – where he’s come for dessert from the Kingdom. He’s helping Siddiq (Avi Nash) who is impossible to say no to. And this is our first clue – because Rick’s dream would be very unlikely to include Siddiq – and definitely not be name as he doesn’t know him yet – depending on where in time we’re locating this dream. I did love the cinematography that softened the edges of the dream sequence and sharpened the colors. It’s also light – all of which is a clear contrast to the dark, grey horrors of the episode.

We cut from there to Rick and Michonne digging a grave. No doubt Carl’s grave. And from there we flashback to the scene in which Carl is bitten. Chandler Riggs deserves ALL the awards for the emotions that just flow across his features. The music that accompanies Carl carrying on seems like it is jarringly happy – but it is a tribute to Carl’s own hopes for the futures. It’s bittersweet as Carl steels himself and tries to accept his own death – which he knows is inevitable. Carl’s major concern is that he’ll be able to say goodbye to everyone.

Michonne (Danai Gurira) has left Carl a note, and I’m sure that’s where Carl gets the idea of leaving notes for everyone. He takes care to set Siddiq up in the sewer, but it’s also preparing things for his own death. We see that he’s also left a note for Enid (Katelyn Nacon) – and she is going to be devastated by his death – assuming she makes it out of Oceanside alive. Carl then sets about making memories with Judith. He leaves their handprints together in paint on the porch – does their house get blown up? That is where Rick and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) fight, so maybe it will survive. Carl also takes a polaroid with her – and I completely flashed back to Glenn and Maggie’s (Lauren Cohen) picture…

Carl shares a chocolate bar with Siddiq – and how are they still any good??? But it does seem fitting as a last meal. Carl planting a tree did seem a little on the nose, but he’s happy to see Michonne come back, and he takes a pause to just enjoy the feeling of the sun on his face. He’s reached the acceptance stage.

We finally see Eugene’s (Josh McDermitt) plan unfold as the Saviors plow through their ammunition to clear a path out of the Sanctuary – and finish it off by leading them away with music. Morgan (Lenny James) gives the order to evacuate. I loved him leaving a herd to protect his own getaway.

Carol (Melissa McBride) sends the Kingdom survivors to her cottage and puts Nabila (Nadine Marissa) in charge. Nabila is sure that the Saviors don’t stand a chance up against Carol. Henry (Macsen Lintz) is determined to come with her to help, and of course, Carol shuts him down, and of course, he goes anyway.

We finally get back to Carl in the sewers. They wanted to mimic the British hiding in the subways during the Blitz in WWII, and it certainly does that as the survivors all sit through the blasts of Alexandria being destroyed. This is also their Darkest Hour as they seem to be losing the war – just as they are losing Carl.

Carl gives the letters to Michonne, knowing that Rick will be a mess. And he’s right. Rick is not even coherent and is unable to even string together a meaningful thought. Carl tries to comfort Rick and get him to accept it. He tells Carl that he got bit bringing Siddiq back. And of course, Rick is going to take on the guilt of not bringing Siddiq back in the first place. It’s clear that as death grows closer, the reality is also setting in for Carl – that he got bit and there’s no coming back from it. Now that Rick is there, Carl can finally really confront it – up until this moment, he’s had to be strong for everybody else.

Back at the Kingdom, Ezekiel (Khary Payton) has found his own strength again. He is at peace with his own impending death because he – like Carl – has ferried his people to safety. Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith) doesn’t get it. He distressingly uses the past tense – “I liked you…” Gavin tries to impose his own world view on Ezekiel – just accept that it isn’t going to be better than what you already have and get by with as little conflict as possible. And of course, that’s how Negan gets in charge – no one willing to strive for better – like Carl’s dream.

Ezekiel tells Gavin that he made a choice that he can live with – and now it’s Gavin’s turn. It seems that Ezekiel hasn’t completely given up hope. Was he counting on Carol coming for him? He pretty much had to know she would. Was he also counting on Morgan? Carol and Morgan together are an awesome and unstoppable force! Both have found a cause that they have to fight for. Morgan has already seen Henry there – but we don’t see him until the very end…

Michonne and Rick try to make Carl as comfortable as possible. Siddiq has some anti-inflammatories to help with the fever – it did with his mom and dad. He offers them to Rick and Michonne, for their son – and this is very bittersweet for Michonne. Let’s not forget that she too went off the deep end when she lost her son. Our hope – and Carl’s – is that Rick and Michonne will be able to get each other through his death.

Rick asks Siddiq if he’s a doctor – he’s not but close enough, he was a resident. And no. Carl had no idea until right then that he was bringing back someone who could be so valuable to their community. Will it be Siddiq or Dr Karson who will save Rick’s life – and possibly hand? Carl didn’t know – he only knew that Siddiq wasn’t going to make it alive and he needed them.

When the bombing increases, Michonne wants it to stop – and loses it on Dwight (Austin Amelio), but of course, there’s nothing he can do. Rosita (Christian Serratos) steps in. She confirms with Dwight that Hilltop is safe and suggests that they all get to Hilltop – and take Carl there. Dwight warns them that the Saviors think they all escaped into the woods – and they’ll be looking there. Tara (Alanna Masterson) chimes in with the fact that they won’t go west because that’s the direction the Saviors will be looking. Dwight urges them to stay there – it’s the safest place. Daryl (Norman Reedus) says they’ll all be killed if they’re found.

Dwight tells them that it was never about destroying Alexandria because they don’t have the ammunition for that – they’ll be gone soon if they all just wait. And Rosita agrees for the rest of them. Dwight doesn’t think that going to Hilltop is the best plan anyway because then they’re all in one place. But Daryl tells him, “All of us together will be their worst damn nightmare.”

Morgan is actually a lot scarier than Carol as they mow their way through the Saviors. James is amazing – I just loved the way he stuck the stick into them. Carol tries to take on some of the killing, but Morgan insists it’s on him. She pauses to tell him that she’s not worried about the Saviors – she’s clearly worried about what’s going on with Morgan and the toll the killing is having on him. And Carol has to step in to save Morgan when her pleas for caution fall on his deaf ears.

The scene between Carl and Michonne has to be one of the best moments on the show and certainly in this episode. Again, I’m struck by how much the show is giving up by letting Chandler Riggs slip through their fingers. Carl says to Michonne that she was supposed to be resting. She says she wasn’t tired, and Carl playfully tells her that she looks great – in stark contrast to Carl, who looks terrible. Carl appeals to Michonne to make it stop. He knows it can be better. And he knows that Michonne can influence Rick the same way that he could – he’s clearly passing the torch to her.

Gavin complains to Ezekiel that you fight and fight and just hope for things to settle. And this is the perfect choice of words – that’s what Gavin does. He settles for what he’s given. He doesn’t try for better. He doesn’t realize that he contributes to the fact that it always gets dark and inhuman. Ezekiel once again tries to convince Gavin that it’s not too late. But Gavin will never take the chance of ending up where Ezekiel is. And then, there’s no response on the walkie talkie… Ezekiel knows, and still offers Gavin a way out – but Gavin heads to the theater to take a stand.

We pause about mid episode for another dream sequence. This time Rick and an older Judith come upon Eugene devising some machine for baking apples. And I think we’d all like to see Eugene redeem himself – but it’s also a parade of the people that Rick is really going to struggle to bring back in to the community to honor Carl’s memory. And again, the dream switches to Rick and Michonne – this time filling in the grave.

Back in the tunnel, Daryl has gone to take a look when the explosions seem to stop, and has given Judith to Rick. Michonne comes back to give the all clear. They can get Carl to Hilltop, but Rick knows that Carl won’t make it. He’s staying – and so is Michonne. Rick asks Michonne to take Judith to Hilltop to keep her safe, but Daryl steps in and tells Rick he’ll do it. There’s a nice moment as Daryl takes Judith and he just reaches out to squeeze Rick’s shoulder – so much is said between the two by that small gesture. It’s clear that Daryl will also be waiting to help Rick any way he can.

Carl wants a chance to say goodbye to Judith – and Chandler Riggs is utterly amazing – again! – in this scene. Carl tells Judith to be good for Rick and Michonne, to honor and listen to what Rick tells her. She doesn’t always have to though because sometimes, kids have to show their parents the way – and how many times has Carl done that for Rick? Carl passes Rick’s hat to Judith, telling her that it always kept Rick with him and made him feel strong like Rick. It helped him – and he hopes it will help her too.

Carl takes us back to Lori’s words – that he’d beat this world. Carl tells her that he didn’t, but she will. Daryl takes Judith and his final words to Carl are that Carl saved everyone – it was all Carl.

Siddiq also takes his leave. He knows he can never repay Carl for what he’s done, but he vows that he will honor Carl by showing everyone that what Carl did wasn’t for nothing. That it mattered and it meant something. Siddiq promises that he will honor Carl. Carl is clearly pleased and takes some comfort from the words - knowing that Siddiq will carry through with this promise given what he's already done to honor his parents. We see Siddiq disappear in silhouette down the tunnel – one of those other recurring motifs.

Gavin deploys his men. Gavin insists that he can’t be someone else – he lives and Ezekiel dies. Ezekiel calmly tells a freaking out Gavin that the petty compromises he made were always done in the service of saving his people’s lives – not his own. And now he realizes he was also saving Gavin’s – as Gavin is sure that he’s going to be punished by Negan. Ezekiel tells him that he’s done saving him.

Morgan and Carol are a two-person wrecking ball. Ezekiel also manages to get a gun and help. Morgan is in trouble – and we get one of the goriest scenes yet in the show’s history as he shoves his hand inside his attacker and pulls out his intestines! Yikes! Gavin is shot in the leg but manages to escape. Ezekiel wants to leave, but Morgan assures him that it’s safe – all the Saviors – but one – are dead.

Rick and Michonne try to keep Carl as comfortable as possible. We get another really amazing scene between Michonne and Carl. He tells her that he doesn’t want her to be sad or angry afterwards – he clearly hasn’t forgotten her history either. He tells her that he needs her to be strong for Rick and for Judith and for herself. She promises that she will. He tells her not to carry THIS part – his death. He calls her his best friend – and she declares that he is hers too. They had such a special bond… the show will be less without it.

Rick is determined to get Carl out of the sewer – he wants to get him into a house, a home. They only make it as far as what’s left of the church. Carl thanks Rick for getting him “here.” Rick apologizes for dragging Carl around, but that wasn’t Carl’s point. Carl is thanking Rick for getting him to this point in time, for making it so he could be who he wound up.

Carl takes them back to the prison, and the kid that Carl killed in cold blood in the woods. I loved that the show circled back to this very problematic moment. It’s clearly been something that has weighed on Carl. He thinks about the kid and how easy it was to just kill him – killing is the easy way out, the coward’s way.

Rick is tortured by what Carl has lost, all the things that he had to do. Carl was just a boy. But Carl assures him that Rick did see what was happening, how easy it had become. Carl knows that that’s why Rick changed –this scene is beautifully shot with light streaming into the church – it’s almost a new day, Carl’s last day, but maybe a new beginning for Rick. Carl knows that Rick brought all the people into the prison because of it. Rick put away his gun so that Carl could change, so that Carl could be who he is now. How Rick stopped fighting was right then and still is now. Carl tells Rick that he can still be like that again. And once again, when you think that Chandler Riggs can’t be any better, he is.

Rick tells Carl that it can’t be who he was – too much has happened. But Carl insists that Rick can’t kill all of them – there has to be something after. For Rick and for them.

Gavin runs in a panic and Morgan follows him patiently. Gavin flies his coward flag – and I will miss Jayson Warner Smith – but I do wish that Gavin could have grown a spine in the end. Gavin tells them that they can’t beat Negan and killing him won’t make any of it go away. Morgan spares Gavin. And Ezekiel tells Morgan that Gavin will have live with what he’s done and that will be punishment enough.

Carol steps in too – again her worry is for what it’s doing to Morgan. Carol reminds him that they can be better than them. Morgan tells her that he had a plan – he has to kill Gavin. And James is really fantastic in this scene. But then Henry spares Morgan by killing Gavin from behind. And his is beautiful symmetry as this scene unfolds in tandem with the scene with Carl in the church. Morgan has been the role model for Henry the way that Rick was for Carl – and both boys have discovered that killing is easy. Sadly, Lintz is no Riggs.

Carl tells Rick and Michonne about his dream. Alexandria is bigger and there are new homes and new crops – so it never was the Hilltop in the dream. People are working. Everybody is working and helping everyone else. The dream fades as Rick and Judith approach a working figure – and Carl tells Rick that that’s how it could be. But Rick tells Carl that it’s all been for him. Right from the start. Everything Rick did was for Carl – but since the prison, it’s been for Carl and Judith. Nothing will change that. Carl tells Rick this is what he wants for Rick, and Rick promises that he will make it real for Carl.

Ezekiel tries to comfort Henry and shield him from looking at the body. But Henry’s not really upset – he had to do it to avenge his brother. Carol is angry that he didn’t stay at the cottage. This wasn’t what he was supposed to do – this wasn’t for him. “This” being the violence. Carol clearly wants to shield Henry from the violence as she tried with Morgan, taking it on herself to spare them. Ezekiel, however, tells Henry that all will be resolved and pulls him into a hug – though Henry still doesn’t look the least bit upset. Will Ezekiel be able to do for Henry what Rick did for Carl?

Rick apologizes for not doing his job as a father and protecting Carl. But Carl tells him that’s not a father’s job. A father’s only job is to love.

Carl pulls his gun, and Michonne isn’t ready. Carl tells her that he knows that it should be someone you love – IF you can’t do it yourself. He still can. He grew up and he has to do this. He tells Michonne that he loves her and he tells Rick the same. Rick tells Carl that he loves him – and that he will make it real. It’s day as Michonne and Rick hear the gunshot from the porch.

They are clearly digging Carl’s grave – with his shrouded body beside them – when we finally see that it was Negan in the dream that Rick came upon last. From there we get to that final scene of a wounded Rick. He’s sitting against a tree with stained glass hanging from it. Has he hallucinated this entire episode – God, I hope so, but I’m pretty sure that’s just me still stuck in denial of Carl’s death.

This episode belonged to Chandler Riggs. Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln are also fabulous, but because they are such wonderful and generous actors, it’s clear that they made sure that their performances complimented and didn’t over shadow that of Riggs. Special mention for Lenny James – and really? Shunting him over to Fear the Walking Dead makes even less sense now. The episode was beautifully shot and acted, but I can’t say that I really enjoyed this episode.

What did you think of the episode? Will you continue to watch without Carl? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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