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For anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead's midseason premiere, there are major spoilers below, so make sure to watch before reading on.
As Walking Dead viewers, we all knew that the midseason premiere would be an interesting and somewhat different affair, with Carl getting a rare episode-long farewell. (Mixed in with Carol and Morgan's story, but still.) I can't say I expected "Honor" to layer its emotional beats so successfully, but there were quite a few moments that attempted to and succeeded in making a bell's rope out of my heartstrings.
To that somber end, here are all the moments in "Honor" that made us want to sob our patch-covered eyes out, though admittedly, we were intentionally trying our damnedest to stay as far away from Daryl's ugly-cry face as humanly possible. For obvious reasons. Now grab a soft hankie and let's start this depressing journey by breaking down that opening montage.
Rick and Michonne Digging Carl's Grave
Well, The Walking Dead wasted zero time getting down to dour business, opening up on Jerry being awesome in the soon-to-be-disproven Old Rick flash-forward and then harshly juxtaposing it with the emotionally splintered Rick and Michonne digging Carl's grave, the sun beating down on them from above. We were already coming into the episode sensitive to anything that could trigger an onrush of tears, and I'm sure any parents out there (among others) definitely felt a crack in the armor at the thought of having to physically dig the hole that their child will soon be laid in. Especially in a world without functioning embalming tools or funeral services.
Carl Accepting His Fate
Surprisingly, it wasn't immediately gut-wrenching to watch the moment when Carl got bitten, though the haunted look on his face could have done it. But the ol' peepers started to twitch as Bright Eyes' "At the Bottom of Everything" took over the soundtrack, and once Carl stood in front of the bathroom mirror to assess the lethal damage, it was all we could do to not start leaking like a sink faucet. One can easily envision Carl going into that moment with the faintest of hopes that it wasn't a walker bite at all, but some other less agonizing injury, only to face reality head-on. Not the best feeling in the world, and then to immediately follow that with him getting the letter that Michonne wasn't even around. He just looked so lost.
Carl and Judith Making Memories
Yes, it's another moment from the opening montage, which can already be considered one of The Walking Dead's most powerful cold opens in its run so far. Knowing that his lil' sister Judith won't retain many memories of their time together, Carl spent a chunk of his final hours hanging out with her, laughing and making handprints and taking pictures so that she can keep him alive in her heart and mind. (Not to mention he was also bonding with Siddiq and setting him up with temporary shelter during this time.) Judith is usually an afterthought for me, I have to say, but her presence here (and in a later scene) made me feel all the love in the world for her.
Rick Trying To Grasp The Randomness
Season 8 Rick saw a resurgence in energy and spirit as Team Family came together to battle Negan and the Saviors, but Carl's death threatens to derail that sharpness, as showcased in Rick's haphazard way of denying The Enemy wasn't responsible: "No, it's them. It's them. They don't...It wasn't..." As his eyes started blinking heavier, he drifted into Season 3 Rick territory, back when "frazzled staring" become his go-to hobby after Lori's death. Rick drifted in and out of that dazed state right through the final moments, realizing for all the blame he puts on others for his hardships, he hasn't a single entity to hold in contempt for either Lori or Carl's deaths. So while that knowledge might improve things in the future, his complex grief is worth weeping over for now.
Carl's Last Words To Judith
If the feels caused by the siblings' sweet moments earlier in the episode could be merely blinked away, those same feels came back with a ruthless vengeance later, when Carl had his final conversation with Judith. He talked about kids sometimes needing to lead their parents, and he then sent us over the edge by giving her his hat and sharing the story of its importance. He told her how Lori was wrong in assuming Carl would beat the undead-stricken world, and that the impetus is now on Judith to carry the Grimes lineage on. (She would also be carrying on the Walsh lineage, but that's neither here nor there.) It was strangely fitting that this farewell was followed by Daryl's, which consisted of him giving Carl props for keeping everyone safe, and Carl nodding back.
That Final Conversation
Thankfully, a lot of Carl's final conversation with Rick, while sad, were more inspirational and sensible than wholly depressing and downtrodden. From his regrets over shooting Jody to the flash-forward reveal, it was largely about "how it could be." (Worth noting that his missing eye cried during the Jody bit.) But when Rick promised to make it all real, the melancholy feelings returned, and they flourished exponentially once Carl told Rick that a father's job is not to protect his son, but to love him. Cue the endless waterfalls as Carl convinced Rick and Michonne that he had to be the one to take his own life, his voice cracking a little as he said, "I grew up." Many tears and declarations of love followed. Mark everything there down in the top slot of "conversations I never want to have with anyone, ever."
The Moment Carl Did It
Even though Carl's official death immediately followed his final conversation with Rick and Michonne, it definitely stands out as its own entry here. Rick and Michonne were in the awful position of waiting outside the church for that detrimental gunshot, and viewers barely had enough time to grasp the context of the moment before it happened. I'm sure everyone jolted right along with Rick and Michonne, knowing that Carl had taken his last breath. Even after an episode dedicated to setting up Carl's death -- hell, even after a midseason hiatus with the same purpose -- it was still a gut-punch to the nth degree to actually witness the incident and its brief aftermath. Hopefully we'll see Carl again one day.
The Walking Dead will likely still clobber us with emotions elsewhere in the back half of the season, but we can probably expect to see more outright action and mayhem in the near future when it airs every Sunday night on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out Chandler Riggs' favorite Walking Dead scene to shoot, as well as the silly farewell song Andrew Lincoln put together. And head to our midseason premiere schedule to see all the new and returning shows on the way.