WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead, "Honor," which premiered Sunday on AMC.
There’s no doubt we’ll still be feeling the ripples of Carl Grimes death until The Walking Dead draws its last breath – if it ever does, that is. Preserving his life and creating a better world for Carl served as Rick’s primary motivation. He was also the source of a lot of hope the more he grew into a relatively well-adjusted young man. This week’s midseason premiere, “Honor,” featured Carl embracing his final hours with beatific acceptance. But while he was able to die in relative peace, his exit will no doubt have a planet-sized impact on the remainder of Season 8, as everyone on both sides processes this loss. It’s worth speculating on some of the immediate effects Carl’s death will have on the rest of the season.
The character facing the most foundational damage is clearly Rick. He must grapple with the loss of his own son, the guilt that no doubt already plagues him and that, in order to grant his child’s dying wish, he has to find a way to make peace with Negan and end the war. It’s that last task that will define the trajectory of Season 8.
There are already two clear factions emerging among Rick’s people: those who want to eradicate the Saviors, and those who believe they should be shown some measure of mercy. It’s big disagreement at a crucial time in the formation of this fledgling society, and it’s manifested all over the first half of the season.
In Episode 2, “The Damned,” Rick kills a Savior while searching one of their outposts for guns. When he finally gets the keys the man was keeping from him, they open the door to an adjacent room. But instead of guns, there’s only the man’s infant daughter in her crib. Horror washes over Rick’s face when he realizes he just murdered her father, and it was difficult to watch without agreeing something was very, very wrong. That brief moment aggressively reminded us there aren’t as many demons populating the Saviors as it appears.
Later, after Morgan and his team capture the Satellite outpost, Jesus insists they take prisoners instead of killing the Saviors who surrendered. Tara and Morgan are in staunch disagreement, albeit for different reasons. Tara is still fueled by a serious case of Bloodthirsty Revenge, and Morgan finds it difficult to live in the moral gray area created when he went back on his resolution to avoid killing at all costs. He can’t bring himself to execute anyone, so the group goes with Jesus’ plan to restrain the prisoners and take them back to the Hilltop.