The Walking Dead Season 8 finale, Wrath, wrapped-up two seasons' worth of plot points in just an hour, and laid out the breadcrumbs - for better or worse - for Season 9 too.
All Out War has come to a close, Negan is alive but imprisoned, the Saviours have turned, Morgan's off to Fear The Walking Dead, Eugene's not a bad guy after all, and Maggie might be heading into a civil war with Rick. Phew.
But for all the characters that were actively involved in the finale, the most important is one who wasn't there, having been killed off a few episodes ago.
While Carl Grimes has lingered on the show like a one-eyed, cowboy-hat-wearing, pudding-loving spectre, our Ebenezer Scrooge has been ignoring the warnings of his Jacob Marley, until Wrath that is.
Having finally read Carl's letter, Rick outlines his son's vision to Negan and decides to let him live, albeit after having slashed his throat in the process. The finale then ends with Rick penning his own letter to his lost son, writing:
"Dear Carl, I remember. I forgot who I was, you made me remember. I remember that feeling walking with you that day, like I finally knew who I was for the first time in my life. The thing is, we were walking side by side but you were bringing me somewhere. Bringing me here, bringing all of us to the new world, Carl. You showed me the new world. You made it real. I see it, I remember. – Dad"
Well, that's just lovely, isn't it? It's played over a flashback scene of Rick and a very young Carl, before all of this had ever happened, in a non-descript location that keeps on repeating like a walk down the hallway of the Itchy and Scratchy offices.
This is supposed to bring closure to Rick's arc over the last few episodes and Carl's death as a whole, but really Rick's words and actions in Wrath just make it all worse.
Rick's letter, on face value, is fine, but the notion of RIck forgetting who he was and needing Carl to remember only further underlines how much a mistake it was to kill him off. Carl was the show just as much as Rick is, and is inherently important to his character. There was no need to kill Carl off for Rick to come to this realisation.
Likewise, it talks of Carl's new world. A world he's made real, but won't get to see. Admittedly there's a sense of tragedy in that, but again, it lessens the purpose of this new world: it's Carl's vision, no one else's, so what's the point if he isn't around to see it?
Rick's actions, too, don't completely fit with him remembering and carrying out his son's dying wish. Carl envisaged a world where Negan is a contributing member of society, where there's complete peace and everyone plays their part.
Rick, instead, twists that. He uses Carl's words as a trick to stop Negan from killing him, and then cuts his throat before having him saved. The first bit of that is a cheap move, the second a risky one because, no matter how good Siddiq may be, there can be no guarantee that Negan would survive the attack.
Luckily for Rick he did survive, because that was his plan and his way of honouring Carl's words, but it's hard to see it as such. He's condemned Negan to a life in prison after almost killing him, which feels more like a betrayal of what his son wanted.
The show could've done something more interesting with this, by having Rick go completely off the rails - as he'd started to a couple of episodes earlier by killing the Saviours - and letting his wrath prevail over his mercy, killing Negan consequences be damned.
Alternatively, it could've had him really doing what his son wanted, finding a way to end the conflict without more violence and bloodshed. Maybe that's unrealistic - it certainly would've been more difficult - but it would've rung truer to Carl's words.
Instead, the end result is something of a middle-ground compromise, where the show attempts to have its cake and eat it. It needs the throat slit moment because it's an iconic scene from the comics, but can't have Negan die because of Carl's letter and the need to keep Rick as the hero.
So, half-a-season on from his death, Carl's legacy is not to push his father into a really interesting, radically different direction, but nor has it completely served its more altruistic purpose. It was a waste then anyway, but there was a chance for redemption. Now that's gone too, and it's hard to see what's really left.
What did you think of the Season 8 finale? Let us know down in the comments.
NCTJ-qualified journalist. Most definitely not a racing driver. Drink too much tea; eat too much peanut butter; watch too much TV. Sadly only the latter paying off so far.
A mix of wise-old man in a young man's body with a child-like wonder about him and a great otherworldly sensibility.