The Walking Dead packed on the suspense for 90 minutes during its midseason finale, but it really only needed about three minutes to rip our hearts out. Here’s our review of “How It’s Gotta Be.”
During “How It’s Gotta Be”, the writers hastily wrap up Carl’s arc in a 90 minute span that will probably bewilder longtime fans of the show. It also showed us some much needed character development for Eugene, Maggie, and a darker side of Michonne.
We find out that Eugene is the one who orchestrates Negan’s escape, and after some soul searching, he decides to help Gabriel get Dr. Carson back to Hilltop. The viewer isn’t shown Eugene’s ultimate decision, but it seems like he alludes to killing himself.
“Why are you doing this?”
“I’m getting some sleep tonight.”
To me, it feels like Eugene is going to use the same means of killing himself that he gave to Sasha. Eugene is scared of dying, so he may not be able to go through with it.
Aaron and Enid are on a trip to Oceanside together, and we finally get to see Aaron express some grief over Eric’s death. He tells Enid about the trips they used to take together, and they share a hope that Oceanside will help them so they have numbers against Negan.
Eventually, they stop for the night. Aaron hears a noise, and they go to investigate. The Oceanside leader hits Aaron and knocks him down, and Enid comes around the turned over vehicle and shoots her in the back, killing her.
All the other Oceanside women converge on them and take them prisoner.
Maggie and Jesus are on their way to the ASZ when they are stopped in the middle of the road by a downed tree. Maggie knows immediately that the Saviors got out and tries to get everyone to turn around.
It’s too late, though, and they’re surrounded by Saviors.
Simon is their contact and has always been Hilltop’s go between with Negan. He pulls up in front of Maggie’s vehicle and brings out Jerry and a box (coffin). He was captured after his own vehicle was hit by some of Negan’s men.
The scene is orchestrated to push Maggie over the edge. The viewer can see that she’s not really there anymore, but instead, she’s back to the night that Glenn was murdered. Even Maggie’s coloring and hair are similar to that night.
Simon explains to Maggie that he wants Hilltop to remain a producer for the Sanctuary, and that all she has to do is agree to their terms, and she can go home. He tells her that other Saviors are hitting the ASZ and the Kingdom…just like they did to their outposts.
This can all be okay if Maggie agrees to their terms, but the Saviors will have to kill one person, though.
In the end, Maggie knows she must agree to save more lives. Instead of Jerry being shot, though, Simon shoots the man sitting directly behind Maggie. After he kills Neil, Maggie asks for a favor.
She wants the box they brought with them to bury Neil in.
Simon agrees and lets them go.
At Hilltop, Maggie goes directly for the pen that the Saviors are being kept in. Gregory is upset that Maggie doesn’t let him out and chooses a Savior instead. Once this Savior is out, she pulls out her gun and aims at it at him.
Jesus tries to tell her that there’s another way, but she kills the Savior. As she’s walking away, she’s crying, but she doesn’t let anyone else see it.
In the end, Maggie boxes up the Savior and writes:
“WE HAVE 38 MORE. STAND DOWN.”
Looks like Simon didn’t make that big of an impression on Maggie. The Hilltop is going to be the lone surviving community once this is said and done.
In the Kingdom, the Saviors are looking for Ezekiel, but he’s not coming out and his people aren’t giving him up. The lead Savior doesn’t look happy that they’ll have to kill all these people, especially the kids, but they’ll do what they have to do.
Ezekiel sneaks out of the building with Shiva’s chain and sets a fire and explosion to distract the Saviors. All the people run, and Ezekiel busts in with a school bus for their escape. (The other time a bus was used for means of escape is season four when the prison falls.)
The Kingdomers escape, and as Carol is running up to the gate, Ezekiel is shutting it. She yells for him to stop and he says:
“Save them. Like you saved me.”
He shuts the tall fence and uses Shiva’s chain to lock himself in with the Saviors. While Carol stands and watches, resigned.
He is hit and knocked to the ground, but before the episode ends, we see that Morgan is on the other side of the fence, listening.
Daryl, Michonne, Tara, Rosita, and…Dwight? Yeah, this ragtag group that hasn’t been given much direction this season or supervision which led to Daryl’s master plan of sending a truck carriening into the Sanctuary to let walkers spill in.
Rosita didn’t want any part of it and left before it happened. Michonne bowed out right before it went down. Tara, Daryl, and Morgan were the only ones to actually take part in the plan.
Back at the ASZ, Daryl says that their plan worked so many times that he probably started to believe it. Tara and Rosita aren’t having a great reunion as they load up the vehicles for a final ambush, but the tension dissipates with Tara’s awkward humor.
With the help of Dwight, these four are able to stop a convoy of Saviors, but Dwight is outed in the process by one of his own. He can’t go back to the Sanctuary because Negan will kill him…painfully, and they don’t really want him in the ASZ, but they don’t really have an option now.
After Daryl gets his vest back, Dwight tags along with this foursome and into some serious shit at the ASZ after telling Daryl that it was Eugene who let the Saviors out. Not necessarily his big truck hole in the side of the building.
At the ASZ, they help as many people escape as possible. Michonne really goes dark and very reminiscent of her S4 meltdown after the prison, where she kills all the walkers in the woods before Rick finds her and they make a break for the sewer tunnels and away from Negan and the fact the the ASZ is burning down around them.
Now, let’s focus on Rick.
He got tricked by Jadis several times already, and after they get fired on by Saviors, they’re gone again. Rick gets back to the ASZ as quickly as he can but it’s already too late.
This episode is interspersed with flashbacks of Rick talking to Carl from the very first episode of the season. It’s always about how to treat people and what they should be trying to make in this new world.
Idealism isn’t something that’s needed now. I can’t stress this enough.
We get several up close shots of Rick looking scared with tears in his eyes, and we can be honest, Andy Lincoln nails terrified crying.
After he gets back to the ASZ and sees it’s in shambles, he goes home and looks for Carl. Now, Negan is already inside and is waiting for Rick.
They get into a fight in which Rick takes Lucille from Negan and doesn’t hit him with it. In the end, Rick gets knocked out of a window, rolls on the ground, gets up and run away. He encounters Michonne and they run to the sewer opening.
While their home burns above them, they’re sitting in a sewer drain. Rick sees that something big has happened just by the stoicism of the people around him, and he begins his long walk to the end of the tunnel where he and Michonne see Carl.
He’s pale, drawn, and looks really bad.
Then he reveals a walker bite on his stomach. Apparently this happened earlier when he was helping Siddiq escape the woods.
And Rick’s world is shattered. As is Michonne’s and everyone else’s.
We hadn’t spent much time with Carl this season, and the time we have seen of his has been focused on showing us that Carl has become his own person, and that he has finally taken to heart his mother’s advice.
He saves Saddiq and goes against what Rick tells him to do. Carl tells Saddiq that parents can learn from their kids, too.
“How It’s Gotta Be” showcased Chandler Riggs and possibly his best performance on the show. He gets up on the wall and talks to Negan to buy everyone else time to escape. He tells Negan to kill him instead of killing anyone else.
He knows he’s going to die, and if this way saves people, he’ll do it. Carl’s martyr moment is full of realism that comes with the fact this young man has grown up too fast and seen too much. He knows there’s a price for every misstep and sometimes you have to pay up even if you aren’t ready.
The title of the episode, “How It’s Gotta Be” directly reflects that. Carl tells Negan that he doesn’t want to die, but is how it’s going to be. He knows he will die of this walker bite or he will die because of Negan, but there is no life left for Carl Grimes, so he’s going to die in a way that would make his mother proud.
She told him before her death, “You’re smart, and you’re strong and you’re so brave. And I love you. You gotta do what’s right. Promise me you’ll always do what’s right. It’s so easy to do the wrong thing in this world, so if it feels wrong, don’t do it, if it feels easy don’t do it, don’t let the world spoil you.”
Carl understands that sometimes the easy way out (letting some rando die because who cares) isn’t the best choice. It’s lovely to think that he takes that into consideration during his last hours.
In a flashback scene, he even writes his father a letter, and I’m sure that will convey Lori’s sentiment as well about not letting the world change him which is where we get the “My mercy prevails over my wrath” quote from Rick.
Carl buys people time and saves lives knowing he has no time left to spare. He doesn’t tell anyone about his bite because he would just distract them from what they need to do.
“How It’s Gotta Be” ends with Carl exposing his bit to Rick and Michonne, and leaving nearly every viewer with heavy heart as we enter the hiatus.
RIP, Carl. You deserved better, but that’s for another post.
What did you think about “How It’s Gotta Be” and Carl’s eventual death? We know that it will be stretched into the midseason premiere, so bring tissues.
See you in February when The Walking Dead premieres on the 25th at 9/8c on AMC.