TV Review: The Walking Dead - Season 8, Episode 8

Season 8: Episode 8: How It's Gotta Be

PLOT: The Saviors try to bring the war among communities to an end.

REVIEW: With How It's Gotta Be, the eighth season of AMC's The Walking Dead has reached its midseason finale, and as we enter the break period between the season's first eight and last eight episodes, I'm left thinking that maybe this show needs some fresh creative blood behind the scenes. It really feels like the current team is running on fumes, because somehow they have managed to make a storyline called "All-Out War" play out on the screen in a very dull and unengaging way. The first half of this season is the least interested and involved I have ever been with a stretch of Walking Dead episodes since the show began... or at least since that hospital stuff at the head of season five.

They have to find some way to course correct, because this isn't going well at all. How It's Gotta Be almost felt like intentional sabotage. There has been a lot of talk over the last year or so about the fact that The Walking Dead has been losing viewers, hitting lows it hasn't hit since it was building up its viewership. Casual viewers have noticed a pattern: if they just tune in for premieres and finales, they can still keep up with the major events and don't feel like they missed all that much. Given that more people are likely to tune in for this midseason finale, I would think showrunner Scott M. Gimple would aim to deliver something exciting and spectacular to try to convince those casual viewers that they actually are missing something by not tuning in weekly. Show them, "The Walking Dead is must-see TV!" But no. If How It's Gotta Be made casual viewers think anything about the overall show, I'm thinking it would be that "The Walking Dead is so dull now, not even the midseason finale was worth watching."

If someone only watched the season premiere and this finale, I couldn't say they missed much in the episodes in between. Probably nothing they'd care about, aside from maybe the death of the tiger Shiva. Now that they tuned back in, they still didn't see much of any interest.

Somehow the villainous Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his people, the Saviors, have escaped from their zombie-infested home base called the Sanctuary and are out to get the situation between the warring communities back under control. Top representatives are sent to the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and Alexandria communities to tell them to stand down. This mission results in some destruction that will be troublesome for our heroes and there are some casualties, but I didn't find any of it to be particularly exciting.

How did the Saviors escape from the Sanctuary? Don't worry about it, the show didn't even think that event was worth showing to us. Who dies? Well, in the final moment it looks like someone important is going to bite the dust, but the people who die before that are probably not people you ever thought much about, if you ever took note of their existence at all. And remember when Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) convinced the junkyard-dwellers called the Scavengers to join him in the fight against the Saviors at the end of the previous episode? It might as well not have happened, because it has no bearing on this episode.

I'm not saying there wasn't anything good or notable about How It's Gotta Be. It did have its moments. King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) getting back on his feet, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) making a tough decision and showing resilience, the last moment reveal... that was great stuff. But overall this super-sized episode (63 minutes without commercials) felt like a slog.

There was a truly terrible moment in there, too. Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) set out on their own personal impossible mission to recruit the women of the Oceanside community into the fight, even scoring a truck loaded with goods from a distillery to offer to them as a gift. They whizz this plan down their legs almost immediately, when Aaron is jumped by someone from Oceanside and Enid shoots them dead without even a word of warning or a warning shot. It was a moment so stupid that it was comical.

How It's Gotta Be was a rough episode to get through, and it's getting tough to care about what's going on when it doesn't even feel like the people putting these stories together care anymore. The show feels tired, like the creative team is just going through the motions. It needs to be rejuvenated somehow, and I really hope the second half of this season will be better than the first half was. Otherwise the show is just going to continue losing viewers, and I will be able to understand why people don't want to watch it anymore.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: This moment didn't involve a zombie doing something on screen, but the ending reveal that someone very important has received a zombie bite... and on a part of their body that can't just be cut off to save them... was one hell of a zombie-related moment.

GORY GLORY: There wasn't much gore, but Michonne (Dania Gurira) did get a couple good kills in with her sword.

FAVORITE SCENE: Odd to say, but my favorite scene in this midseason finale was an intentionally comedic moment when Rosita (Christian Serratos) has Tara (Alanna Masterson) carry a large stack of heavy items for her. 


Extra Tidbit: What did you think of How It's Gotta Be?



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