Warning: Minor spoilers ahead
I’ve been a big supporter of The Walking Dead since I was introduced to the series back in 2011, but as some of you already know, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the latest mid-season finale. To be honest, I was hopping mad. I’m also an avid comic-book reader, and knowing how critical Carl Grimes is to future comic storylines, I found it very disheartening that Scott Gimple and the writing team would purposely throw a grenade into all of those wonderful arcs. And what for? For mere shock value in a lame attempt to win back some of the viewers the series had lost over the past year and a half? This all being said I wasn’t really looking forward to screening the mid-season premiere, and that’s a big deal for me because I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t as excited as a teenage girl on prom night to see the next episode. However, I am very happy to report that a good deal of my fears and doubts have been allayed, and ironically, the mid-season opener may turn out to be the best episode of all of season 8.
After that shocker of a mid-season finale, the return of the series has been building up for the past couple months, and as most of us expected, the majority of the episode is the Carl Grimes show. Chandler Riggs really stands out in the episode, which features some of the best work of the young actor over his 8 years on the show. Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira also give phenomenal performances, and the emotions are very raw and very real because no one wants Riggs to leave the show. And, while some of us may have already forgotten about him, newcomer Siddiq (Avi Nash) also gets a good deal of screen time and in a good way. For those not familiar with the comics, Siddiq is a fisherman and a construction worker in the original source material, and while the writers may have stayed true to the back stories of some of the other characters — like Abraham, Eugene, and of course, Rick — this couldn’t be further from the truth with Siddiq. That is, expect a shocker or 2 about Siddiq’s prior life before the apocalypse.
While the vast majority of “Honor” is highly-emotional and without a doubt, will have you crying multiple times (so be sure to have those tissues handy… and lots of them!), there’s also a great deal of action and even a fair share of gore. One character may shock you with his/her coldness and cruelty during some fight scenes, and one particular sequence is especially hard to watch and calls back to a similarly disgusting scene from the back half of season 2. On the other hand, for those fans who are hard-core and enjoy seeing lots of zombie action, you may be disappointed. The only scene that features walkers on a large scale is a flashback that explains how the Saviors escaped from the Sanctuary (which was also featured in a recent Sneak Peek). Regardless, in my opinion, you won’t even notice because every minute will grip your attention, and you certainly won’t be bored.
However, what makes the mid-season premiere even more compelling and really pushes it into the strong “A” territory is a couple of perfectly-timed and completely unexpected twists. You think you have the Old Man Rick visions from the premiere episode all figured out? There’s been a great deal of discussion surrounding these scenes on social media, and most fans seem to think they know exactly what they mean. Well, all I can say is don’t be so sure of yourself. I think most of us have learned over the years that nothing is cut-and-dry on The Walking Dead, and so, be prepared to have the rug pulled out from under you.
Finally, as you may have heard, this episode is 86 minutes long, and don’t you dare try to cut out and turn the TV off before it’s completely over. No way I would dream of spoiling this, but I can tell you that if you do cut out early, you’ll be missing the 2 most important scenes in the entire episode. Both are very, very brief, but after a few seconds of processing what you just saw, you will likely be over-the-moon happy or you will scream and want to leap through the TV to punch Scott Gimple. They offer a glimpse of the future — not just of the ending of All Out War but also beyond — and the fan reaction will likely be a mixed bag. I personally was ecstatic and my tears from losing Carl became tears of joy. However, I can see a part of the fandom having the opposite reaction.
All in all, “Honor” is a very good mid-season opener, and probably one of the better ones in recent years. While it is 86 minutes, no time is wasted, and the episode doesn’t drag like in other extended episodes, especially those from last season. It also gives a proper and memorable send-off to one of the most beloved characters whom we have literally watched grow up over the past 8 years. The only question that remains is will it be enough? While I was angry with the events of the mid-season finale, there was never a question of whether I would continue watching the show. I have dropped coverage on some shows over the years, but The Walking Dead was never going to be one of them. I’m here for the long haul. But, I’m not so sure about the fans, especially the die-hard ones who also read the comics. In some people’s eyes, Scott Gimple and Co. just re-wrote the source material, a move that many people view as unwelcome and unwarranted. Given that the series now has a new showrunner, I personally would encourage fans to stick around and see where all of this goes. Whether that will actually happen, only time will tell.
The Walking Dead returns this Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.
Critic Grade — A-
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com