It all ends here! Until next season, of course. The Walking Dead wrapped up its relentless bummer of an eighth season on Sunday April 15, bringing the conflict between Saviors and survivors to a head — no, but for real this time. The all-out war came to an all-out end, with a few surprises along the way. Here’s everything that happened in the explosive finale.
Ready to Rumble
After a flashback to a happier time — when Carl was young, and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was a clean-shaven good old boy in a nicely-pressed sheriff’s uniform — we started with a catch-up to the current moment at the Hilltop, where everyone was a lot grimier and (in some cases) substantially less sane. Morgan (Lennie James) was still coming undone, telling Rick, “We are worse than we were. However, he also insisted on taking part in the battle to come. Bringing an obviously-hallucinating, clearly-unhinged person along on your confrontation to end all confrontations? What could go wrong?
Negan’s Nefarious Plan
Thanks to a bout of villainous monologue by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) on the way to their battle rendezvous, we knew his play for ultimate power was all going according to plan. Rick and the Hilltoppers took out a decoy gang of Saviors and headed straight into a trap, while a surprise contingent of enemy forces rolled in at the Hilltop. But just when the Grimes gang found themselves surrounded by a Savior army, a miracle occured: all the guns misfired! Eugene (Josh McDermitt), who had thoroughly convinced us of his absolute moral delinquency, turned out to be playing the longest of long games. What followed was a series of surprises: the Savior prisoners joined forces with Tara (Alanna Masterson); the Oceanside gang showed up with Molotov cocktails; Morgan actually chose not to kill someone; and Rick, in a final confrontation with Negan, did the expected thing and slit his throat … but then turned to Siddiq.
“Save him,” he said.
We then finally caught up to the mysterious “red eye Rick” moment that’s been teased throughout the season. “My mercy prevails over my wrath,” Rick said, and yes, it did.
Instead of a death sentence, Negan will get life in prison, serving as an example to others as the Hilltop rebuilds a real society. (Somehow, you can repair a slit throat.) Carl would be proud — but he’d also face some dangerous dissent. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) was last seen plotting long-term revenge against Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) for letting Negan live, along with Jesus (Tom Payne) and Daryl (Norman Reedus), who had his share of friction with the sheriff this season – although he also let Dwight go, so perhaps he’s conflicted? Morgan, however, was done with the Hilltop, fleeing at the end of the episode (to Fear the Walking Dead, in fact).
Either way, this hard-won moment of grace amid the zombie apocalypse can only last so long. Will the peace between survivors and Saviors hold? Will the Hilltop use their binder full of medieval infrastructure plans to become a thriving metropolis? Will someone in the writers’ room finally remember that Maggie is pregnant? We’ll find out in season 9.
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