You're probably either breathing a sigh of relief at The Walking Dead's mid-season break or already itching for its return next year, but AMC's televised zombie romp bows out of 2017 with another messy, meandering, and all round mediocre episode.
It was the mid-season finale, so we always knew there were going to be some cliffhangers left by How It's Gotta Be, but I'm frankly surprised I'm still having to ask this many questions after eight episodes' worth of unresolved story threads. With that in mind, be mindful for major spoilers for The Walking Dead so far, as I ask the biggest questions left by episode eight.
1. Is Carl a walking dead man?
Let's begin with the most significant cliffhanger of the bunch. At the very end of the episode, a weary Carl reveals that he was bitten by a walker during the scene with Saddiq in episode 6, which, on second viewing, used sneaky camerawork to both reveal and hide his injury at the same time, but is Rick's heir to the Ricktatorship down and out for good? Let's look at the facts. The Walker took a hearty chomp on Carl's stomach, which can't exactly be amputated to stop the infection from spreading, so we can rule that one out. Additionally, Chandler Riggs has already given interviews revealing that he's exiting the show this season, though AMC may well be trying to pull off a Jon Snow by deliberately misleading its fans towards false conclusions.
Indeed, some have suggested that there's still hope for Carl yet. This could be AMC's way of introducing the Whisperers - a group of survivors who roleplay as Walkers - to the show, and Carl may have merely induced a nasty but ultimately non-fatal bite from a now very dead human. Alternatively (and much more probable), is the possibility of Eugene redeeming himself by concocting a makeshift cure, or better yet, Carl might even turn out to be immune to the infection altogether. Yes, yes, I know these are some bold predictions, but Carl's become one of the show's best characters, and I'd be genuinely upset to see him go.
2. How did Negan and The Saviours escape Sanctuary?
Twice during the episode, someone asks one of the Saviours how they cleared Sanctuary of its walker infestation, and both times they refuse to provide any details, aside from hinting at the fact that Eugene was involved. So how did it all play out? Simon implies they were able to draw the undead away with the power of music, which leads me to wonder whether Eugene managed to hitch up another iPod to a glider, after Dwight shot down his last one.
Eugene himself appears to be safe and sound back at the Sanctuary, though his addiction for the giggle juice is only getting worse, meaning he isn't proud of what he's done to survive in recent days. That begs the question: if he has pied pipered the zombies away from Negan's base, where is he planning on leading them to?
3. How is everyone getting around so quickly?
There so many conveniently timed appearances in How It's Gotta Be, that it actually made me question whether I'd missed some crucial scene in which Rick and the gang stumble across a teleportation device that helps them change the tide of war.
Rick's in trouble at Sanctuary, you say? Don't worry, Carol and Jerry are here in a car (for some reason) to save him! The Saviours need leverage against Maggie for their ambush? Good thing Jerry is suddenly their hostage, without any explanation as to how he ended up there or why Rick and Carol escaped when he didn't! But uh oh, back to The Kingdom, which is now under attack! Fear not, for Carol is somehow here again! And so too is Morgan, who's changed positions from Hilltop escort to Sanctuary lookout to wandering vigilante in the space of three episodes! Oh, and Rick's back at Alexandria now, just in time to find out his son is going to die. Someone please ring up AMC and tell them how geography works.
4. Where did the Heapsters go?
As if to completely render the majority of last episode's events as entirely pointless, Rick loses the support of Jadis' Heapsters again, literally within the opening few minutes of the episode. That's right, at the first sight of conflict, the supposedly tough as nails cult just straight up run away, presumably going back to their junkyard to sculpt each other in the nude some more.
Right… so what was the point of their presence this season? Does AMC want us to believe that Jadis has changed her mind again? Are we really going to have to watch Rick return to their compound and try to persuade them to fight for the third time? Or will they ride in to save Alexandria at the last minute, like Gandalf at Helm's Deep?. I'm pining for the latter, because I refuse to watch Rick fight yet another armoured zombie in AMC's budget version of the Thunderdome.
5. Where will the Alexandrians live now?
Another season of The Walking Dead, another settlement destroyed, but what does this mean for Alexandria's former inhabitants? Right now, they're hiding out in the sewers, but that's no place for a community over the long term, especially with young un's like Judith in the equation.
Perhaps, once this war's over, Rick can spread his group out amongst what remains of Hilltop, The Kingdom, and a Negan-free Sanctuary. On the flipside, Alexandria's demise could kick off the start of another 'wandering season' for The Walking Dead, similar to (shudder) the Terminus days, where the show takes its name all too literally with endless episodes of walking and talking. None of us want that, so here's hoping Rick figures something out before Hilltop and The Kingdom are rendered uninhabitable by Negan's grenadier troops.
6. What’s going to happen at Oceanside?
It's been a while since a character has really messed things up for everyone in The Walking Dead, but Enid's mistake was laughably stupid. After she and Aaron head to Oceanside to try and cosy up to the all-woman community, the first thing she does when she gets there is shoot and kill their leader, Natania. You really can't make this stuff up (unless you're AMC, obviously).
So what happens now? A very awkward conversation, I would imagine, and one that doesn't end up with the Oceanside crew coming to fight Negan. Alternatively, Rick's previous journey to the settlement revealed that Natania's stubbornness was the only thing preventing her group from enlisting in the war. So, in her own idiotic way, perhaps Enid has accidentally got rid of the sole obstacle to an Oceanside alliance, thereby achieving what she and Aaron set out to do in the first place. I think we can forget about her and Cyndie becoming best buds anytime soon, though, seeing as she did just shoot her nanna in cold blood.