But now the real work begins, as The Walking Dead wraps up on the epic confrontation between Rick and Negan as these two forces finally collide and in the wake of it all — a new world is left to explore, or are Rick’s troubles only beginning? Spoilers Ahead!
It was inevitable that the war would have to come to an end. After all in the world of the hit AMC Original Series The Walking Dead in order to survive in the post-apocalyptic dead-will-eat-you-alive landscape, something has got to give, and as Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) had come to learn the price was just getting to high. After losing his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), bringing down his arch-nemesis Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) had taken on an entirely new significance. Before passing Carl had challenged both men to find peace, put aside their strife, and make a new world.
Though Negan was convinced the only way that this was all going to end was by ultimately bringing the wrath of the Saviors down upon Rick, Maggie. Attacking the Hilltop, while tricking Rick and his allies into an ambush that would cut them all down to size. Even the best laid plans. It looked like Negan had the upper hand, having uncovered the traitor in his midst and using Eugene against his one-time allies. Eugene in fact made good on his promise to deliver the necessary bullets that would be used against Darrel, Rosita in an outnumbered blood bath.
In a surprising turn of events Eugene (Josh McDermitt) made good with fans and turned the tables on Negan and the Saviors by blowing most of the army apart with booby-trapped bullets that backfired. In the confusion our heroes took out most of the remaining Saviors and spared the ones that gave up, as Negan made a hasty retreat. Rick chased after the deserter and as the pair finally confronted one another, Rick attempted to appeal to Negan one last time and evoked Carl’s final message that the pair try to find some peace.
For a minute it looked as if Rick might have made a breakthrough, but in an instant he slashes the defenseless Negan across the throat, in front of the assembled group. Rick demands that they start fresh — put everything side — and mend their way. He tells the captured members of the Saviors army to put down their arms and work with them to build a new tomorrow, and then asks that the resident medic tend to Negan’s wounds, which incites Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to fury who wants to see Negan die. Michonne (Danai Gurira) takes a hold of Maggie as she cries.
Endings and Beginnings
Making good on his word Rick and the group begin to set things right. The survivors assist in rebuilding the Sanctuary, the one-time fortress headquarters that Negan operated out of as the members of The Kingdom and Hilltop work to reestablish their homesteads. Rick and Michonne reside over a hospitalized Negan promising that he’ll watch they’ve all survive and prosper together going forward, but that Negan will not be a part of it. Instead he’ll watch from a prison cell as the communities all come together.
It’s a finale that takes a page from the graphic novel. Negan is also jailed by his captors, but Carl who did not die in the books, spends a lot of time with Negan, and Rick also turns to his incarcerated foe for advice from time to time, until a new threat emerges that forces them to stand side-by-side. Ultimately in the graphic novels, Rick and Negan find a mutual respect for one another, but Rick is forced to exile him because of his past crime against the community including the murder of Maggie’s husband Glenn.
With one arc coming to a close, fans are now eager to imagine what comes next, and perhaps clues about the next adversary our heroes will face have been hinted at in the season’s finale. A herd of walkers is seen in the distance perhaps making their way across the country side as our heroes traverse a hill marked with border posts. Are the “Whisperers” perhaps hiding amidst that group of undead? The dastardly tribe that appear in the books actually survive by wearing the skin of the dying and survey their territory from this vantage. Has our group entered into their territory?
One person who may never know what looms on the horizon is Morgan (Lennie James) who decides that he needs to isolate himself from the group after suffering traumatically over the last several weeks during the battle with the Saviors. Morgan hands off his battle armor and enters the junkyard where he attempts to cultivate some solitude, but unfortunately the proximity to his former allies proves too much, as Rick and several others continue to encroach upon Morgan’s space. With little other choice and little warning Morgan packs his things and runs away.
The Devil Inside
Not everyone is satisfied with the outcome of the events, especially Maggie who feels that Rick and Michonne have betrayed her by letting Negan live as their prisoner. The widow vows that she will bide her time, but when the moment comes she will strike, and she’s not alone. Daryl (Norman Reedus) agrees with Maggie especially that Rick and Michonne must also be held responsible for their decision, and when their time comes, he will stand with Maggie and do what they feel is the just thing.
Season 8 of The Walking Dead proved the most expansive of the entire series run, as Rick and his band defended their stake in this all new world. Terrorized for an entire season by the threat of Negan and his band of Saviors, it was encouraging to see them all rise to the occasion, but if Season 8 proved anything, it proved the most transformative for all the characters as new layers and dimensions were revealed on both the side of the angels and the devils. When Carl finally met his heroic end, it changed the direction of the narrative completely.
The passing of this longtime favorite character will undoubtedly have repercussions into the following season of the series, and with Morgan trekking out to follow a new path, one that has lead him right over into the spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead how long before the two worlds converge upon one another? Already Morgan’s crossover west has introduced some new faces to the cast and set Morgan on an interestingly undetermined trajectory. A character that is only looking for some peace and quiet has ventured into a chaotic new wilderness full of wild cards.