"How It's Gotta Be" is the eighth episode and mid-season finale of the eighth season of AMC's The Walking Dead. It is the one-hundred and seventh episode of the series overall. It premiered on December 10, 2017. It was written by David Leslie Johnson & Angela Kang and directed by Michael Satrazemis.

Plot

Every story and battle from the first half of the season comes crashing together.

Synopsis

A visibly shaken up Rick tries to contact the snipers surrounding the Sanctuary but gets no response; they have all been taken out.

In a flashback, Rick and Carl discuss Siddiq and the war with the Saviors. Carl reiterates that hope, whether for Siddiq's survival, or for the new world after the war, is not enough on its own. He implores his father to focus on what things can be after, not on killing as many of the Saviors as possible, but on working together for a better life.

In the present, Rick leads the Scavengers to the Sanctuary only to discover piles of dead walkers. Before they can investigate further, Savior lookouts open fire. As Rick takes cover, he is abandoned by Jadis and the Scavengers, but is rescued by Carol and Jerry. As they drive away, the three decide to split up and warn the communities.

Elsewhere, Enid and Aaron are on their way to Oceanside, and Aaron mentions how he and Eric used to take road trips to find people to bring to Alexandria. They discuss the risks concerning the people of Oceanside, decide to bring them a gift, and drive off to Roanoke Way Distillery.

In Alexandria, the residents prepare for the planned final assault on the Sanctuary. Michonne and Daryl talk about the situation. Daryl is confident that the Saviors will surrender. At the same time, Carl sits alone in a room in contemplation. He writes a letter to Rick and upon sifting through a pile of papers, finds 'just survive somehow' written on a page. Rosita and Tara unload some equipment recovered from the Savior warehouse.

Aaron and Enid, having found a truck marked 'Roanoke Way Distillery', stop and wait for people from Oceanside. After nightfall, Aaron sees a figure in the dark and both go to check it out. Aaron is attacked, but Enid shoots the attacker dead, who turns out to be Natania. They are quickly surrounded by the women of Oceanside, and a distraught Cyndie breaks down over the body of her grandmother.

Back in Alexandria, with the townspeople ready to begin the final offensive, Michonne finds Carl bringing supplies to a sewage entrance under cover of darkness. Carl tells her that the items are meant for Siddiq. The duo's conversation is interrupted by Negan who, having had the lookouts silently taken out, bangs Lucille against the safeheaven's gates and offers them a deal over a loudspeaker: either the people of Alexandria can line up in front of their homes, decide who's going to be the offering for Lucille, have Rick killed in front of everyone and then everyone can move on with their lives, or the Saviors will bomb the safezone with grenade launchers. Negan gives the survivors three minutes for them to decide. Meanwhile, on his way to the Hilltop, Jerry's vehicle is impacted by an incoming vehicle.

At the Kingdom, Ezekiel is reading a note left by Jerry explaining his decision to join the Alexandrians for the final push and urging Ezekiel to join him. Sitting next to his throne and holding Shiva's leash, he hears a truck slamming through the town's gates, and escapes his throne room as Saviors pour in through the doors.

Maggie, Jesus, and a large convoy of Hilltop residents are heading presumably towards the Sanctuary to meet up with the Alexandrians in the hopes that the Saviors will surrender. Maggie spots a fallen log which has blocked the road. Jesus assures her that trees can do that, but Maggie is skeptical and quickly realises that the Saviors are responsible. Maggie radios to the back of the convoy and tells them to turn around. No response is given as the Saviors apprehend the convoy, and a truck parks in front of Maggie's car. From inside, it is revealed that Jerry was captured by the Saviors and is badly injured. He is then dragged outside along with a wooden box. Simon jumps out of the truck and states what a "damn nice night" it is.

At Alexandria, Carl and the other survivors gather supplies for their escape; the plan is to use a decoy to make it seem like they are heading out into the woods. The decoy will then spring a trap halfway to the quarry. Meanwhile, the others will hide in the sewers and join them later. Tara suggests that they fight the Saviors, but Rosita denies this, saying they will another time. Carl insists that letting the Saviors have Alexandria temporarily is necessary. As the others depart, Carl heads to the gate.

At the Kingdom, Gavin and a force of well over a dozen Saviors have gathered up the citizens for an announcement. Gavin expresses his regret that he has to enforce Savior rule by force. He proclaims that the Kingdom and whatever they produce are now property of Negan, all able-bodied residents will be taken to the Sanctuary to see to its repair and refurbishment, and announces that his men will make the Kingdom their home due to the destruction of their former residence.

Back on the road, Simon orders Maggie and her convoy to give up their firearms to the Saviors or else Jerry and everyone else will be shot. 

As three minutes have passed, Negan and over two dozen Saviors are preparing to torch Alexandria to the ground, but Negan is interrupted by Carl who tries to defuse the situation. He says that there are children and his sister taking refuge at the town; however, Negan states that they also have young people at the Sanctuary, as well as a baby at an outpost whose fate Negan is wondering about. Carl offers his life as a punishment in the hopes that it would stop the Saviors from attacking. Negan is stunned and asks Carl if he wants to die, to which he replies he doesn't, but will, and is willing to give up his life if it means less blood will be shed.

As Negan and Carl are having their emotional conversation, Daryl leads a convoy of trucks, acting as a decoy, smashing the walls at the back of the safezone and through a roadblock of vehicles set up by Dwight, Laura, and other Saviors who subsequently chase the convoy.

Carl takes the distraction to his advantage and runs off, with Negan cursing out the boy and ordering his men to begin the bombardment. As buildings explode around him, Carl covers his escape with a trail of smoke bombs, and watches as Gabriel's church is torn apart by an explosion.

At the Kingdom, Gavin asks about the whereabouts of Ezekiel and demands to know his whereabouts from the citizens. He grows increasingly exasperated by the silence of the crowd. He pleads with the Kingdommers to cooperate, telling them that he doesn't want to use violence, especially in front of the children. He warns that if Ezekiel doesn't give himself up or isn't found in five minutes, the Saviors will begin to execute the hostages in "Negan's way", which he says says he does not want to happen.

Maggie asks Simon how the Saviors managed to escape their predicament. Simon doesn't repond directly, but eventually explains that it was Eugene who made it all happen as music begins to play from a distance, stating he was skeptical about the man at the beginning but saw that Eugene proved himself worthy in the end. Simon explains that the Saviors want to transform the Kingdom and Alexandria into new outposts to replace the ones they lost, with the Hilltop retaining a semblance of autonomy, acting as the primary source of raw materials and food. He then gives Maggie two choices. Either the Saviors kill Jerry on his knees, drag Maggie to the Hilltop in the wooden box (which the Saviors have made sure won't suffocate whoever is in it), kill Maggie in front of everyone, place her head in front of the Sanctuary as a warning to other troublemakers, and finally the Saviors lead the walker herd to the Hilltop and pull off the same trick Rick and Maggie's people tried to do against the Saviors; or, Maggie and her convoy can head back to the Hilltop, unharmed, but with the cost of one of their people's lives. Simon then shoots one of Maggie's people in the head and demands her to make a choice, to which Maggie in distress agrees, so that the Saviors won't have to do anything. Before the Saviors depart, Maggie asks Simon for the wooden box to transport Neil back to Hilltop for burial. Simon grants the request.

Eugene wakes up in the middle of the night and downs a shot of wine, before breaking down into tears.

As the Saviors continue their bombardment, Carl and other Alexandrians release smoke grenades throughout the dark streets to provide cover as they flee. Shell-shocked, he takes a moment to catch his breath beside one of the residences, but hears a window break, and escapes just in time as the building and others nearby explode. 

Outside Alexandria, Michonne, Daryl, Tara, and Rosita enact the plan and hide along the road, guns at the ready, their vehicles abandoned in the road. Rosita reassures Daryl that his actions were not responsible for the Saviors' escape, and even if they were, it was just a mistake. As Saviors arrive on the scene, Daryl throws a smoke grenade to obscure their vision. .

Dwight and Laura see the smoke in the road. Despite Laura's protests, Dwight leads the Saviors toward the smoke, knowing that this will give the  Alexandrians a significant advantage. Michonne's group opens fire on the Saviors. After taking cover and seeing the fight heading towards a stalemate, Dwight takes action, joining the Alexandrians and gunning down most of the remaining Saviors. Laura catches Dwight in the act of betrayal and shoots him in the arm but is forced to make a hasty escape.

Negan's troops smash their way through Alexandria's gates. He orders the Saviors to capture Carl alive, destroy every other house but Rick's, and send Rick to him when he arrives. He elaborates that he will be making spaghetti at Rick's house while waiting. Carl evades capture and descends into the sewers.

Meanwhile, at the Sanctuary's infirmary, Eugene agrees to help Gabriel and Dr. Carson escape. He informs them that the guard at the north gate is severely ill after being slipped a laxative pill. Eugene then gives them a set of keys to a car parked nearby. Gabriel tell him he is doing the right thing, but Eugene disagrees, declaring such a claim to be entirely subjective. Gabriel retorts that it is not, and that Eugene is indeed doing the right thing. Eugene makes it clear that he is doing this to soothe his conscience and refuses the chance to join the two in returning to his old friends.

At the Kingdom, Ezekiel starts a fire in order to distract Gavin and the Saviors. He commandeers a bus and parks it in between the Kingdommers and Saviors, allowing the residents to flee out the gates. Carol arrives at the community and tells Nabila to get everyone to her safe house two miles away. Once his community members are safely outside the perimeter, Ezekiel locks the gate from the inside. He turns and surrenders to Gavin.

Maggie and her convoy return to the Hilltop. Furious, Maggie kills one of the imprisoned Saviors then orders Jesus to fortify the walls, increase their guards and bury Neil, and says that all remaining residents will begin tending crops the next day. She declares that the Hilltop will be the last stand of this war.

In the aftermath of the firefight, Michonne, Daryl, Tara, and Rosita find Dwight hiding behind a car. he tells them that he allowed them to easily escape Alexandria and drove the Saviors into their trap. Still guilty, Daryl asks Dwight if his improvised plan allowed the Saviors to escape the Sanctuary. Dwight tells them it was Eugene who helped the Saviors escape. He asks them to spare his life and explains that he can still help them defeat the Saviors as he knows how they operate. They decide to let him live.

Maggie puts the dead Savior's body in the coffin-like box and scrawls a message on the cover: "We have 38 more. Stand down." She instructs Kal to leave the coffin where the Saviors will find it.

Having captured Ezekiel, Gavin laments that the working relationship they had is over, and that many more people will now die because of the rebellion. He says that Ezekiel will simply have to swallow it as he does. Gavin tells Ezekiel that the Saviors are going to put his dead body on the Sanctuary fence for all his people to see. Morgan listens from outside the Kingdom wall, unseen, as they prepare to leave.

Daryl, Tara, Rosita, and Dwight descend into the sewers as Alexandria burns. Michonne remains above ground. Rick arrives at Alexandria and sees the town in flames. He heads towards his house in search of Carl, Judith, and Michonne. Negan ambushes him, catching him by surprise and hitting him in the abdomen and arm with Lucille. Rick dodges subsequent blows as Negan tells him he will torture Rick before he kills him. To Rick's anger, Negan claims he will train Carl to be one of his lieutenants. They exchange punches but Rick is tackled to the ground. He gains the upper hand by grabbing a piece of metal and striking Negan in the face, knocking him on his back. He grabs Lucille and begins hitting Negan with her, which enrages him to the point he is able to knock Rick back. Rick grabs his gun from the floor but is unable to draw it quickly enough as he gets pushed out a window, before fleeing down the road.

In the streets, Michonne is assaulted by a Savior who claims that everyone is dead. She savagely slays him with her katana, releasing her anger with each blow. Rick finds her, calms her, and asks where the others are.

Rick and Michonne descend into the sewers, joining the surviving Alexandrians in the darkness. Among them is Siddiq. They find Carl, laying on the cold, hard floor, and looking sweaty and tired. Carl lifts his shirt, showing Rick an unmistakable bite on his abdomen, explaining that it happened as he helped Siddiq. Rick and Michonne reel in horror as reality sets in.

Other Cast

​Co-Stars

Uncredited

Deaths

Trivia

  • First appearance of D.J.
  • First appearance of Norris.
  • Last appearance of Natania.
  • Last appearence of Neil.
  • Last appearance of Dean. (Alive)
  • This episode marks Chandler Riggs' 75th appearance on the show.
  • This episode is 88 minutes long, with commercials, according to AMC's schedule.
    • It is the fifth extended episode this season and the twenty-third overall.
    • It is the second mid-season finale to be extended, the first being "Hearts Still Beating".
  • This episode marks the first time that Rick and Daryl have appeared in all (8) episodes of an entire half season of the show ever since Season 2.
  • This is the first episode that has the appearance of residents from all of the communities: Alexandria, Hilltop, The Kingdom, The Saviors, Oceanside, and The Scavengers.
  • References to previous events are made in this episode:
    • In a flashback, Carl tells Rick "If you care, you do something; you don't just... hope." This is a callback to when Carl witnessed Rick telling Deanna "You want to live? You want [Alexandria] to stay standing? [...] Things don't get better because you want them to. [...] If you don't fight, you die." in "Try".
    • Carl holds a piece of paper reading "Just Survive Somehow". This is a reference to "JSS" and Enid's motto throughout it.
      • It could also be a reference to when Carl told Enid "Just survive somehow..." when he locked her in a closet in "Last Day on Earth".
    • Carl's bite is a callback to the deaths of Andrea, Jim, and Bob Stookey; both Carl and Andrea revealed their bites to Rick and Michonne when they are discovered suffering from a fever; Carl and Jim were both bitten on their abdomens; and Carl and Bob both hid their bites from the group.
      • Similarly to Andrea's death in "Welcome to the Tombs", Carl reveals a bite he's gotten, moments before the camera starts moving backwards from the spot.
    • Carl sits in a room where a thin mattress can be seen. This is a reference to the events in "Service", when The Saviors came and took away all of the beds in Alexandria.
    • The negotiation that Carl tried to do with Negan not to get Alexandria destroyed resembles the events in "Too Far Gone", where Rick tried to negotiate with The Governor not to take over without resorting to violence; both antagonists seemed to think about it for a moment before eventually ignoring the suggestions and proceeding to destroy their homes.
      • The difference is Negan ignoring Carl's suggestion was due him realizing that Carl's speech was only a distraction to allow his friends to escape rather than genuine attempts at a truce.
    • Negan tells each of Alexandria residents to prepare for an apology and even accepts the creative ones like "singing a song". This is the reference to him making Carl sing a song for him in "Sing Me a Song".
    • Simon puts a coffin in front of Maggie's car and threatens to put her in it, where she won't "suffocate like her friend". This is a reference to what it is believed by The Saviors of how Sasha died in "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life".
    • Rick entering a house in Alexandria and whispering for Carl, Judith and Michonne is a reference to when Rick did something similar in "Days Gone Bye" when he was desperately looking for Carl and Lori.
    • Gavin telling the Kingdom that the Saviors will "hang their hats" at the Kingdom while the Sanctuary is rebuilt is a callback to when the Lead Savior told Daryl, Sasha Williams, and Abraham Ford that they will discuss who the Saviors are while they drive them back to Alexandria and "take a gander at where they hang their hats" in the episode "No Way Out".
  • It is revealed in this episode that Carl got bitten on his lower torso by a walker in "The King, the Widow, and Rick" when he was fighting walkers with Siddiq.
  • It has been confirmed by Scott M. Gimple and Chandler Riggs himself that Carl will die in the next episode.
    • This marks the first time ever that the show runners and actors have confirmed a character's death prior to it happening on screen.
      • This also marks the second time that a character was revealed to have something go wrong which results in that character's death in a later episode. The first being Bob when it was revealed that he was bitten but he died one episode later.
        • Coincidently enough, both times for "something to go wrong" were both about fatal walker bites.
  • Negan's attack and bombing of Alexandria is adapted from Issue 119 and Issue 120 from the Comic Series.
  • Dwight drawing his pistol and killing his own Saviors as well reminding Daryl he's on Alexandria's side and that he needs to be trusted is adapted from Issue 120.
  • Enid killing Natania while she was about to kill someone else was foreshadowed in "Something They Need", when she snuck up behind her ready to shoot her when she was holding Tara hostage.
    • This is also the first time Enid is shown killing a living person.
  • Daryl reclaims his Wing-Vest from Dwight which he hasn't worn since "East".
  • This episode's title comes from Carl's speech to Rick about being merciful and doing the right thing, even if it's easier not to.
    • Carl's speech was inspired by Lori's last words to him in "Killer Within": You gotta do what's right. Promise me you'll always do what's right. It's so easy to do the wrong thing in this world, so if it feels wrong, don't do it, if it feels easy don't do it, don't let the world spoil you.
  • This episode continues the tradition of killing off a female character in the mid-season finale with the death of Natania.
  • This is the first mid-season finale since "Made to Suffer" to feature no main character deaths.

Goofs/Errors

  • This Savior was among those captured at the satellite station in "The Damned", yet he was seen among Negan's men in this episode.
    • Additionally, this Savior was captured at the satellite station in "The Damned", but was later seen with Simon's crew unloading the coffin.
  • The Savior in the very last car of Simon's convoy gets stuck in the car as the passenger door would not open. The episode aired the take that had the extra stuck in his car versus the other takes where he was able to get out successfully.
Episodes of The Walking Dead
Season 1 "Days Gone Bye" • "Guts" • "Tell It to the Frogs" • "Vatos" • "Wildfire" • "TS-19"
Season 2 "What Lies Ahead" • "Bloodletting" • "Save the Last One" • "Cherokee Rose" • "Chupacabra" • "Secrets" • "Pretty Much Dead Already" • "Nebraska" • "Triggerfinger" • "18 Miles Out" • "Judge, Jury, Executioner" • "Better Angels" • "Beside the Dying Fire"
Season 3 "Seed" • "Sick" • "Walk With Me" • "Killer Within" • "Say the Word" • "Hounded" • "When the Dead Come Knocking" • "Made to Suffer" • "The Suicide King" • "Home" • "I Ain't a Judas" • "Clear" • "Arrow on the Doorpost" • "Prey" • "This Sorrowful Life" • "Welcome to the Tombs"
Season 4 "30 Days Without An Accident" • "Infected" • "Isolation" • "Indifference" • "Internment" • "Live Bait" • "Dead Weight" • "Too Far Gone" • "After" • "Inmates" • "Claimed" • "Still" • "Alone" • "The Grove" • "Us" • "A"
Season 5 "No Sanctuary" • "Strangers" • "Four Walls and a Roof" • "Slabtown" • "Self Help" • "Consumed" • "Crossed" • "Coda" • "What Happened and What's Going On" • "Them" • "The Distance" • "Remember" • "Forget" • "Spend" • "Try" • "Conquer"
Season 6 "First Time Again" • "JSS" • "Thank You" • "Here's Not Here" • "Now" • "Always Accountable" • "Heads Up" • "Start to Finish" • "No Way Out" • "The Next World" • "Knots Untie" • "Not Tomorrow Yet" • "The Same Boat" • "Twice as Far" • "East" • "Last Day on Earth"
Season 7 "The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be" • "The Well • "The Cell" • "Service" • "Go Getters" • "Swear" • "Sing Me a Song" • "Hearts Still Beating" • "Rock in the Road" • "New Best Friends" • "Hostiles and Calamities" • "Say Yes" • "Bury Me Here" • "The Other Side" • "Something They Need" • "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life"
Season 8 "Mercy" • "The Damned" • "Monsters" • "Some Guy" • "The Big Scary U" • "The King, the Widow, and Rick" • "Time for After" • "How It's Gotta Be" • "Honor" • "The Lost and the Plunderers" • "Dead or Alive Or" • "The Key" • "Do Not Send Us Astray" • "Still Gotta Mean Something" • "Worth" • "Wrath"
Season 9 "A New Beginning" • "The Bridge" • "Warning Signs" • "The Obliged" • "What Comes After" • "Who Are You Now" • "Stradivarius" • "Evolution"