‘The Walking Dead’ mid-season finale recap: ‘How It’s Gotta Be’ changes series forever with massive shocker

The Walking Dead” is known for placing shocking deaths or reveals in finales and premieres, and the Season 8 mid-season finale is no exception. The extra long Episode 8, “How it’s Gotta Be,” caps off the first part of the “All Out War” story arc in epic fashion. Amid the bullet storms and fistfights, one brutal revelation will change the hit series forever.

Something More – Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is still perched on the sniper tower, none of his men reporting in. We flashback to the moment after the gas station incident in the season premiere. “You don’t just hope, it takes more than that,” Carl (Chandler Riggs) says, chastising his Dad for “hoping” that Siddiq (Avi Nash) survives on his own. “We’re fighting for something more than just killing other people.” The memory of his son fades as shots are fired from The Sanctuary. The Scavengers retreat, leaving Rick scrambling for cover. Now that he’s close the the building he can see the Saviors have escaped.

Aaron’s Failed Mission – Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) are taking a secret road trip to Oceanside. Aaron is convinced that their involvement is key to defeating The Saviors. They steal a distillery truck, hoping to use its contents as a peace offering, and park the vehicles for the night. Aaron awakes to a shadowy figure and investigates. Enid hears Aaron knocked to the ground and discovers the figure about to impale him with a spear. Without hesitating, she shoots the assailant. Oceanside fighters surround them as the attacker is revealed to be their leader Natania, and Cyndie emerges from the forest wailing over her dead grandmother.

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Saviors Attack – Alexandria is too calm. Carl is writing a letter to his Dad. Michonne (Danai Gurira) reveals how glad she is that the plan “worked.” Then there’s a knocking at the gate. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is at their door and announces over a loudspeaker that they have three minutes to open the gate and beg for forgiveness or they will all be slaughtered. Carl flies into action, organizing an exit of some fighters out the back for an ambush while the other citizens hide underground. As he gathers smoke grenades that Rosita (Christian Serratos) scavenged, Michonne is worried about letting Negan take the town. “It’s my show, you said it,” states Carl. “We just have to survive tonight.”

Long Live the King – The attack reaches The Kingdom as well, where Ezekiel (Khary Payton) hides while Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith) rounds up the Kingdommers. He informs the crowd that The Saviors will be taking everything they produce and making their residence in The Kingdom while the able bodied Kingdom dwellers will be tasked with repairing The Sanctuary. Just as Gavin is about to kill a random citizen, Ezekiel creates a large explosion to distract the Saviors. He smashes into the area with a school bus, giving his people the opportunity to overtake the soldiers. His people flee The Kingdom as Carol (Melissa McBride) arrives as backup. But Ezekiel prevents her from entering by barring the gate. “Save them like you saved me,” he tells her as he locks himself inside and falls captive to Gavin.

Maggie Gets Even – Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and her convoy are stopped by a fallen tree on the road. Before she can turn her people around, Simon (Steven Ogg) and a team of Saviors surrounds them and demands everyone’s weapons, or else he kills his hostage: Jerry. Simon kills a Hilltop denizen named Neil instead, and informs Maggie that as a farming community, the Hilltop must keep producing for Negan. Otherwise, she will be placed in a box (which is presented to her), shipped to The Sanctuary, and her head placed on a spike. She acquiesces and takes said box home with her to bury Neil. Back at Hilltop, she orders one of the Savior prisoners be released from the cage and shoots him point blank to make things even. She orders her people to fortify the walls and gather crops. “It’ll be up to Hilltop to make the last stand.” The Savior is placed in the box and left where Negan’s men can discover it, with a message reading “We have 38 others. Stand down.”

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Carl’s Show – Negan demands to speak with Rick, but gets the young Grimes instead, as Carl tries to talk down Negan from a lookout perch. When he can’t get anywhere negotiating, he simply says, “Kill me.” He knows that Negan will need to kill an Alexandrian as punishment so Carl volunteers, which greatly intrigues Negan. But this distraction allows the team of Michonne, Rosita, Tara (Alanna Masterson), and Daryl (Norman Reedus) to bust their way out Alexandria’s back door. Infuriated, Negan orders an attack and Saviors launch explosives into the town. Carl flees his post, setting off smoke grenades to provide cover and takes refuge in the sewer.

Double Cross – Dwight (Austin Amelio) leads several cars worth of Saviors in pursuit of the escaped Alexandrians, but Daryl and company are lying in wait with smoke grenades. Dwight purposefully drives his group into their crosshairs and dives out of the car. Daryl, Rosita, Tara, and Michonne open fire on the Saviors while Dwight turns around and starts shooting his own men. Laura discovers him in the act and shoots Dwight in the arm. Bullets rain down at her and she escapes the ambush. Dwight begs the Alexandrians to come back with them, noting that Laura will now tell Negan and blow his cover. He also reveals that Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is the one who orchestrated The Saviors’ escape from The Sanctuary.

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Eugene’s Conscience – Eugene is kept up at night with a troubled conscience. He sneaks into the infirmary to wake Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Dr. Carson. Eugene gave the guard laxative laced food, ensuring the path would be clear if they wanted to escape. Gabriel urges Eugene to come back to Hilltop with them, but Eugene refuses. Instead, he leaves a set of keys to one of the remaining cars in the lot. Gabe beams and tells him, “You’re doing the right thing.”

Once Bitten – Rick is back in Alexandria, searching his house for Carl. He encounters Negan instead and the two come to blows. The brawl sends them smashing through the house and Rick is eventually tossed out a window. He escapes through the smoke filled streets to find Michonne. She is slaying walkers and Saviors alive in a murderous rage. She leads Rick to the sewers where the entire town is hiding out. Rick is relieved to spot Judith in the distance, but confused at seeing her with Siddiq. As he makes his way past rows of heartbroken faces, he spots Carl. “That’s how it happened,” says the young Grimes with tears in his eyes. Carl lifts his shirt as Rick and Michonne react in horror to a zombie bite on his torso. The Grimes family is about to suffer another devastating loss.

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