SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen “The Walking Dead” Season 8 midseason premiere, titled “Honor.”
“The Walking Dead” midseason premiere opened the second half of Season 8 with the death of a character who has been with the show since Season 1.
Carl Grimes, who revealed at the end of the first half of the season that he had been bitten by a walker, spent the midseason premiere saying his goodbyes to his father and the group that he has taken as his surrogate family.
In the beginning, viewers see that immediately after he has been bitten, Carl does not wallow in despair but instead decides to be proactive. He helps wayward traveler Siddiq hide out in the sewers beneath Alexandria, writes a series of goodbye letters, and spends time with his little sister Judith. Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl, spoke with Variety about Carl’s reaction to his fate as well as the impact his death will have on the rest of the show.
“His death leaves behind a really inspiring and motivational feeling,” Riggs said. “He’s not really angry about it. He’s not lashing out against anyone. It’s his fault that it happened and there’s nothing that he can do about it. So it’s him trying to show Rick every lesson that he’s learned over the last few years.”
Elsewhere in this episode, Carol and Morgan travel to the Kingdom to rescue Ezekiel from the clutches of the Saviors. Savior lieutenant Gavin tells Ezekiel that Negan will surely kill him for his betrayal, but Ezekiel keeps trying to tell Gavin that it is never too late for Gavin to change his mind and reject Negan.
Back in the sewer tunnels, Dwight, now an outcast for turning on the Saviors, advises that they wait out Negan’s assault, with the group planning to move everyone to Hilltop. Rick knows that Carl will not make it that far, so he and Michonne agree to stay behind with him. Siddiq offers his support, revealing that he was a doctor in training before the zombie outbreak. Rick asks Carl if that’s the reason he decided to take Siddiq in, but Carl says it was simply the right thing to do.
“Helping Siddiq shows maturity past just the war,” Riggs said. “Rick was kind of deadset on just the mission and taking out anyone else that is unnecessary to them winning the war. I think Carl sees past that. He sees a different kind of future, one for Judith that’s really bright and not full of hatred and killing.”
Carl gets a rare show of support from Daryl, who commends Carl for getting the citizens of Alexandria to safety when Negan attacked. Carl also offers words of encouragement to Judith, telling her that she is the hope for the new world, giving her his iconic sheriff’s hat. Riggs said that the scene with Judith was the last he shot for the series.
“Right after I finished that scene I walked off set and the whole crew had eye patches like Carl’s on,” he said. “They were all clapping and cheering. It was pretty overwhelming and really sweet of them. They gave me a hat that Andy wore in Season 1 and a framed shirt that I had worn in Season 1, which was really cool. It was really weird waking up that next morning, but bittersweet is the best way to describe it.”
At the Kingdom, Carol and Morgan make quick work of the Savior guards, eventually ambushing Gavin and his remaining troops in Ezekiel’s throne room. In the ensuing gunfight, Morgan literally rips a Savior’s intestines out through a bullet hole and proceeds to chase Gavin out into the courtyard. Morgan prepares to kill Gavin, but Ezekiel and Carol tell him to stop. Suddenly, Henry–one of the Kingdom’s youngest residents who has previously tried to bond with Carol–drives a staff through Gavin’s neck, killing him.
The episode ends with Rick and Michonne doing everything they can to make Carl comfortable as they say their goodbyes.
“I’ve done countless super-emotional scenes with Danai and Andy but this was definitely different,” Riggs said. “Luckily, that final goodbye scene was one of the first ones that we shot for the episode. That was good to get it out of the way and get it over with. It was bittersweet in a way and since I didn’t have a negative outlook on it, I think it improved the morale among the rest of the cast. It was so awesome having that amazing experience. Eight years of being employed in the first place was great, but getting to do what I want to do was really incredibly. Now I get to go do other things. It’s really fun and exciting.”
Carl reveals that the visions of a future, bearded Rick in a rebuilt Alexandria are his dreams for a future in which the fighting has ended. Everyone, including Eugene and Negan, are welcome in the community and are helping support each other. Rick and Michonne then leave Carl alone in Alexandria’s burnt out church so that he can end things before he turns into a walker. After they hear the shot, they bury him in the community cemetery.