The first seven episodes of The Walking Dead‘s season 8 were a critical mixed bag, but the midseason finale, titled “How It’s Gotta Be,” concluded with a major (and heartbreaking) character development that will undoubtedly affect the series moving forward.
Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest of the AHK crew were once again on the defensive when Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors escaped the Sanctuary and sought revenge, but the real twist occurred at the very end of the episode. As Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) saw that most of the Alexandrians were safe in the sewers underneath the town, they came across a weakened Carl (Chandler Riggs), who revealed a nasty zombie bite to the torso (which he probably got when he was saving new recruit Saddiq in the woods).
Opening our mentions and DMs this morning like pic.twitter.com/4RzojZCtwa
— The Walking Dead (@TheWalkingDead) December 11, 2017
Turns out last night’s episode of The Walking Dead did NOT qualify for bereavement leave and I was supposed to show up for work.
— Merry Lisamas Bitches! (@xLiserx) December 11, 2017
Please find a cure, I will be the most happy person in the W O R L D
— Eyal Schwartz (@eyalpopi) December 11, 2017
Although people are devastated by the Carl twist, he isn’t actually dead yet, as star Riggs and showrunner Scott M. Gimple (on the post-finale episode of Talking Dead) were quick to remind us in post-show interviews. The writing is on the wall, though — meaning there probably isn’t going to be a bait-and-switch à la Glenn and the dumpster.
With a Tomatometer score of 64 percent (updated), season 8’s mid-season finale isn’t quite as Fresh as season 7 (78 percent), but a whole lot better than season 6 (35 percent). Here’s what the critics had to say.
The finale delivered the requisite dropped-jaw response.
“It turns out, as usual, that a big heart is a relatively fast track to death in this post-apocalyptic, rotting world.” – Laura Bradley, Vanity Fair
“Subtlety is a long forgotten and extinct practice on TWD. That means eight seasons in, it’s hard for the writers to find ways to surprise us. They did with this fall finale.” – Jeffrey Lyles, Lyles’ Movie Files
“The Walking Dead always tries to hold a big reveal for the end of their mid-season finale, and I think it’s safe to say that this one delivered fairly well.” – Jim Vorel, Paste Magazine
“Director Michael E. Satrazemis’ use of close-ups is visually striking, and shifts the emphasis to individual reactions to a crisis, which has always been the show’s strong suit.” – Noel Murray, Rolling Stone
This turn of events with Carl should finally shake things up.
“The mid-season finale is as long and tedious as so much of season 8, but a game-changing cliffhanger is a terrifying reminder that no one is ever safe.” – Sarah Moran, Screenrant
“While this has been one the more energetic episodes this year, it’s the small preview of the back half of season 8 that looks far more exciting and enticing than what we’ve seen so far this season.” – Nick Romano, Entertainment Weekly
“It was a pretty shocking twist to an otherwise-frustrating episode… Without Carl, anything might be possible. That might just be exactly what The Walking Dead needs.” – Kelly Lawler, USA Today
“Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.” – Miracle Max, The Princess Bride
Plenty of critics thought the slow burn and nonsensical action were still too tedious.
“This is all just characters acting dumb for no reason, and it’s all too much for this episode to bear, especially when it plays out so slowly over 90 minutes.” – Jeff Stone, IndieWire
“Man, does this feel empty. Despite all the big events, so much of ‘How It’s Gotta Be’ is boring, and so little of it makes sense.” – Zack Handlen, AV Club
“The stakes in the finale didn’t feel nearly as high as they needed to (sorry Carl). It’s hard to invest emotionally in characters when they seem to be running around toting assault rifles / bin lorries etc. to no clear purpose.” – Ed Power, The Daily Telegraph
“By the end of the episode’s ‘shocking’ reveal, I could only shake my head in disgust. What a joke this show has become. A bad joke.” – Erik Kain, Forbes
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, Feb. 25 at 9 p.m. on AMC.