Review: The Walking Dead 8×09, “Honor”

Aaron Neuwirth reviews "Honor," the midseason 8 premiere of The Walking Dead, where we deal with the final moments of a major character.

I’m not sure how much I have to write about for the mid-season eight premiere episode of The Walking Dead. “Honor” is another extended episode that goes on far longer than it needs to (even with all the commercial breaks), with too little going on to justify it. Sure, it’s an episode mainly focused on saying goodbye to one of the most important characters (in theory) on the show, but did all this time give this event a more significant impact? I guess it doesn’t hurt that fan-favorites Morgan and Carol were given time to run wild in the episode’s B-plot but was there really much more to take in thanks to an extra 15 minutes?

We are in a strange position where the world of The Walking Dead is growing, but I’m caring less about the people who are filling it. Sure, I can enjoy the silliness of Ezekiel, the general badassery of Carol, the coolness of Jerry, and begrudgingly be on the side of Rick, but I’m hard-pressed to say I’m rooting for too many of these people. I’m more in the camp of supporting the least amount of harm coming to folks in a deeply nihilistic world where surviving is rewarded with dying eventually and getting an unnecessarily long episode of television devoted to you (with a follow-up guest spot on Talking Dead, of course).

This is a long, roundabout way of saying I don’t really care about Carl. With respect to Chandler Riggs, who put in his effort to playing a sort of nothing character to the best of his ability and dealing with some unfortunate hair, but the series got a lot bigger than him. For all the reasons he needs to be around as far as being a tremendous motivating force for Rick, The Walking Dead has rarely found a good story to stick with when it comes to Carl. The Enid as a love-interest angle went nowhere, and the only worthy action Carl took was saving Saddiq, which wound up biting him in the…side.

That’s not to say I wanted him to die, but the writers have made a choice that I can only hope leads to a stronger turn for the remaining original survivors; especially Rick. I won’t delve too far into graphic novel references, but Carl has remained as much of an important character as others who have survived some of the harshest days in the world of Kirkman and Co., so moving on from him in the TV version is quite the shakeup to take on. In regards to this episode, however, the kid just really needed to die and get it over with.

To the credit of this episode, “Honor” is not about Rick and Michonne trying to build our hopes with their desperate attempts to find a miracle save. We get the gist pretty quickly that this kid’s days are numbered. Flashforwards to the digging of a grave make that pretty clear. At the same time, we also see more flashes to the world of Santa Rick and all the peacefulness around him. The eventual reveal that it’s a vision Carl has been having is cute, I suppose, but it overall feels like a strange ploy chosen more for the sake of confusion than an affecting concept that we all wish would be the actual endgame.

Additionally, dying Carl, of course, requires many goodbyes and boy do we get them. Plenty of cries are coming from everyone who has a moment with Carl, but as the little one-eyed, former sociopath gets paler, his Zen-like state allows him to start dropping all sorts of knowledge. That’s nice I guess, as I’d rather see cool and contemplative Carl over a whiny kid complaining about what he can’t do. However, there is some dark comedy to be found in his final words to Judith (the convenient, very alive second child of Rick’s, who will continue to motivate him, without needing occasional subplots). Hearing Carl tell Judith how she will beat this world is practically a cruel joke given the way things have worked out for her dying older brother, but I guess someone needs to be optimistic this week and it might as well be the kid on the stretcher.

Speaking of optimism, Morgan’s back to not giving any…staffs about who gets a stab in the throat. He and Carol go on a rescue mission for the sake of Ezekiel and kill everyone not wearing a Kingdom nametag. It is brutal stuff that even gives Carol a moment to say, “Hold on, I wasn’t ready for this much bloody violence.” Regardless, it all boils down to Ezekiel getting saved, the one decent Savior (to a point) getting stabbed in the throat by 10-year old Henry (classic Walking Dead switcheroo), and Morgan continuing to be in “I don’t die” mode. Good thing Lennie James makes this all compelling enough to watch, but I also think we’ve reached a quota on his actions for a bit.

That’s appropriate as the Saviors have finally gotten themselves out of the pickle they were in with the horde blocking their exits at the sanctuary. Don’t even try to ask me how this plan was supposed to work, but I’m sure Negan is ready to inflict all sorts of terror, which I guess already started since he’s been firebombing Alexandria. Yes, there’s some timeline stuff to sort out, but I’m sure you’ve got it figured, now it’s just time to let things play out, as I’m sure Rick is going to quit the crying and start going for the jugular.

“Honor” is a bit of a mixed bag. The actors perform as they need to when it comes to emotional sendoffs, but I’ve seen these kinds of episodes before. It’s a pattern when it comes to drawn-out deaths of long-lasting cast members. The extended runtime doesn’t help, nor does my lack of emotional weight when it comes to Carl. Still, I respect that the character was given a goodbye, all while Carol and Morgan went to town on some saviors. Now we’ll quit the dreaming and move onward.

Dead Bits:

  • Zombie Kill of the Week: We missed out on seeing a zombified Carl, but to round thing out, the honor will go to his demise this week.
  • Why would Carl dream of his father having a limp?
  • Saddiq better get ready to be a damn good doctor in honor of his savior.
  • Oh, Morgan tore out the intestines of one of the Saviors this week, because this show knows what you want to see!
  • Rick is sitting bloodied under a tree. We don’t know what that’s about yet, but it probably won’t be as entertaining as the sight of Santa Rick.
  • Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks,, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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