It’s been three months or so since last episode, with near-daily reminders of Carl Grimes’s encroaching death and all that he will never be able to accomplish in the story, but we’re back. All of that tasteful work out of the way, it’s time to talk about “Honor.”
1. Yet Another Unnecessarily Extension
As a show, The Walking Dead used to have episodes with justifiable extensions. A lot was going on that had to be covered, or other reasons.
This is not one of those episodes. There are a grand total of two plot lines, and both of them take much longer than they have any right. Carl Grimes’s death takes nearly an hour and a half if we count the Gavin plotline. Although there are less things going on, and the lighting is far better, that does not mean that this episode was worth the sheer amount of time it spent.
It takes a lot of effort not to quote Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer” on this one, but let’s just say it ran way too long. For an episode about death, it went far beyond its expiration date and began to stink.
2. Randomized Changes in Time
Speaking of time, this episode spends a lot of effort using flashbacks and flashforwards, at completely random points in most cases (only shown by the bloodshot eyes of Rick Grimes we had seen in the last half-season).
First, we have a review of Carl’s bite, which seems to be less about going back to explain things and more as an excuse to shut down criticism about him not having enough to do/not having been bit long before, as well as to bring up a new plot point with Carl’s farewell letters to his family and probably his friends. Then we go over to whatever Morgan’s been doing since the idiotic plan with Team Daryl.
Other than that, there are extended views of the future, which, from the perspective of readers, is two years down the road. Instances like Negan being alive and working with them would be a shock, but the whole use of this flashforward mechanism in and of itself is pretty badly handled. More on that later.
3. Reveling in Death
As stated above, the past few months AMC has been reveling in Carl’s imminent death. This episode is no different than what they have been doing, in spite of their attempt to “justify” it all with the flashback of his bite and the aftermath.
The scene repeatedly cuts back to his haggard, sickly face, despite never having done this for any other death in the entire series. No one, not Lori Grimes, not T-Dog, not Merle Dixon, nobody had this amount of attention to their death. The closest would be Tyreese Williams, and yet they didn’t spend nearly as long on the actual death there.
Carl has time to have meaningful speeches with every person important to him (and Saddiq), where he gives some kind of wisdom or another. To Judith, he remarks that she is going to be the one who beats “this world” instead of him, and while this would be rather touching, he also notes that his mom said that to him on her deathbed, and it didn’t mean he was going to live either.
Saddiq, who is not only the reason for Carl’s death, but also has known him for less than twenty-four hours, gets a long monologue about how important Carl’s sacrifice is to him and how he will live his life to try to make up for it all… despite having met him less than twenty-four hours ago and this probably having happened before with other survivors.
Rick has a lot of moments with his son. While this interaction is rather justified, his note that he did everything for Carl, and then for both Carl and Judith when the latter was born, is rather jarring. Did he never do anything in the apocalypse for Lori Grimes, his own wife? Did he forget she exists despite Carl talking about her and her death right in front of him?
By the time Carl decides to end it himself with a bullet to the head, it seems more like a relief that we don’t have to watch this extended, torturous demise anymore than a sad departure, a mercy both for the viewers and the dead himself.Continued below
4. Juxtaposition of Deaths
One of the best parts of this episode is the use of juxtaposition. Both the destruction of the Kingdom contingent of Saviors and the death of Carl Grimes work in tandem, answering each other and following parallel character beats. While Gavin, the leader of the Kingdom Saviors, begs for his life, Carl is at peace with his death. While Gavin is mercilessly killed from behind by a little boy, Carl dies by his own hand, well aware of what he leaves behind.
Carl notes how easy it was to kill while Gavin is yelling at Morgan about how is taking way too long to just finish him off. Rick talks about how none of the death is Carl’s fault (even when he blatantly murdered a boy on the side of the Governor as his son himself admits) while Gavin accepts fault for all he’s done, but refuses to change regardless. Carl talks about how they can go back to being peaceful (despite all of the stupidity that led to last season) while Gavin also begs to have it all end in his own way.
In all, it seems to be a good back-and-forth between two similar scenes, illustrating how the situations are the same yet different from one another, as well as how Morgan has become more and more of a monster in contrast to Carl becoming at peace with himself and others telling him how he doesn’t have to think of himself as he used to be.
Maybe this episode is going to turn out pretty okay, at least on that front. Let’s see what’s to come up ne—
Oh, right, there’s that little nugget.
5. Carl Grimes the Prophet
Far and away the stupidest thing to ever happen on The Walking Dead, Carl Grimes, on the verge of death, talks about how he’s had a vision of the future, one that is absolutely identical to the flashforwards we have had. He talks about how Judith is older (obviously), how Rick has a big beard, how Michonne is happy, et cetera. In response, Rick says that he will “make it real,” meaning the vision.
Now, this show has had its bizarre occurrences, but they exclusively involve the undead. Never before, in any of the media, from comics to television to video games, have the characters developed actual superpowers, even on the verge of death. This occurrence, which turns Carl into an actual prophet, breaks the suspension of disbelief not only in half, but into a billion pieces, sets them on fire, and puts them into the trash heap the Scavengers live in.
That isn’t to say this is the only thing that was bad about it all. We still have unlimited ammunition, which is especially apparent when attacking the Kingdom to save Ezekiel. But that problem has occurred before, and is old news. Actual, legitimate superpowers like precognition are too much. What next? Death rattles of events to come as fun little nods to comic readers? Someone to write down prophecies as people are dying, just in case?
Yes, these are sarcastic comments, but at this point, who would be surprised if these things actually occurred, turning the show into a full on supernatural horror instead of just survival horror with zombies (which it barely is anymore, with barely any undead in the present day portions)?
For an episode called “Honor,” this midseason premiere shows a serious lack of ability or care about honoring the spirit of the show, let alone the source material it is trashing in the process.