We’ve finally reached the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead season 8, and as Negan declares with the hour’s final line, “No more talk.” It’s time for action. On the other hand, that’s essentially what he said in the season 7 finale before we were fed a 16-episode story arc in what could’ve probably been told in 12 or even 10. Having felt toyed with all this time, color me less than optimistic that the forthcoming finale will be as Andrew Lincoln put it, “phenomenal.” I hope I’m wrong.
At the very least, Negan, the true Negan, the one who always seems to be two steps ahead of his prey, showed his face. He finally made it home with the mysterious guest he picked up on the road, and he’s cleaning house. Last week left us with a few lingering questions, and now we have some answers.
What did Carl write to Rick?
Okay, now Rick finally read his son’s letter. Sitting on the Hilltop porch, spying Michonne walking about the grounds with Judith and Jerry cradling the mystery baby extracted from the Savior outpost, he reads about Carl’s memories as a kid going on walks with his dad and the joys of everyday life before the outbreak. Chandler Riggs makes a brief return in voiceover to narrate these words, which urge Rick to find a way to strike peace. Rick doesn’t have to forget the sins of the past, the letter reads, but he can find a way to ensure they never happen again. Carl notes all the elderly people and children forced to live in The Sanctuary that will be slaughtered if Rick decides to go berserk raging through the Saviors. “You have to give them a way out,” Carl writes.
It’s worth noting Rick offered the Governor’s people a way out a few seasons ago, so, arguably, he could do it again. But this isn’t the same Rick and this isn’t the same villain. Just recalling the untamed energy in the room during the show’s season 8 panel at New York Comic Con, fans seem to be frothing at the mouth for Rick’s final face-off with Negan. The events of these past episodes have been teeing this up. So, sorry, Carl. Your vision of an apocalyptic utopia will probably have to wait.
Where did Gregory go after escaping Hilltop?
This man is a cockroach. The earth could be ravaged by a nuclear explosion and Gregory would still poke his bald spot out from the ashes. After slipping through the gate during the most recent attack at Hilltop, Gregory made his way to The Sanctuary, where he now sips whiskey with Simon. Negan’s former No. 2 claims he’s now taken control, and though these two have been friendly in the past, Simon says he can’t appear to be weak on Gregory’s failure to squash a rebellion amongst his own people. Naturally, Gregory, not fully realizing Simon’s animosity, starts shouting about how his best days can’t be over, he’s achieved too much, and he has “the juice.” So Simon knocks him down a peg (literally) and condemns him to coffee duty…for now.
But Gregory wasn’t Negan’s mysterious passenger.
Is Aaron still alive?
Yes, and he’s still trying to enlist the aid of Oceanside. Aaron has been living in the woods outside of the colony because he’s still not welcome. Can we blame the Oceansiders? Here’s someone from a colony who wronged them thrice — once when Tara revealed Oceanside’s location to Rick, a second when they came and forcibly took all of their weapons, and a third when Enid accidentally killed their matriarch. So Aaron is now suffering from dehydration, and the women of this land have been told to ignore him. They find him later, collapsed in the mud during a torrential downpour after surviving a walker attack. In his delirious state, he tells Oceanside that the source of all their problems continues to be Negan (also, Rick is another source, but we’re gonna forget that for now) and it won’t stop unless they fight. Now we wait for the inevitable moment they finally pick up what arms they have left and join the war against The Sanctuary. Although, it’d be pretty funny if after all this time, they were like, “Eh, we’re good.”
Side bar, Aaron’s attack in the woods was a glimmer of a cool concept: the rainfall and thick woods make it difficult for him to pinpoint where the walkers are coming from. The camera darts around to try and spot his attackers, coming from any given direction. I wish it had been scarier, but it was still effective. More scenes like this, please. (Recap continues on the next page.)
Do Rosita and Daryl take out Eugene?
No. As expected, they seem to make matters worse.
Eugene has fully embraced his corruption of power. He forces everyone holed up at his outpost to eat only his old college recipe for soggy mac ‘n’ cheese and badgers everyone to meet their bullet-making quotas. With the gooey cheese sauce spilling down the sides of his mouth, he’s now as disgusting on the outside as he is on the inside — which makes it all the more satisfying when he goes outside to test some of the bullets Gabriel has been actively trying to sabotage and finds Rosita and Daryl waiting for him. He physically cowers like a hunchback as they kill his guards and cart him off.
Though each threaten to kill Eugene for his constant jabbering, they plan to keep him alive, to force him to make more ammunition for the team he betrayed. Ultimately, they lose him. Eugene takes an opportunity presented by encroaching walkers to stick his fingers down his throat and projectile vomit his nasty snack all over Rosita. (Her face at the moment of impact was priceless.) He hobbles off while dodging her gunfire, and hides in an ash pile of burned bodies.
Eugene makes it back to his outpost with a reignited determination to kill all of his former friends.
How does Negan reprimand Simon?
Oh, Simon’s dead. Yeah, there’s no getting himself out of this one.
Negan first reveals himself to Dwight, who’s just trying to enjoy a cigarette, his one moment of joy in this miserable life these days. He toys with him: Negan asks Dwight if he remembers who he is (he says he does) and to remember this little chat for the future. Later, during a roundtable with his lieutenants, Simon is asking to be given a pass for turning the “infection” plan at Hilltop to “extermination.” Taking his time, Negan walks Simon down memory lane to the day he first helped take over what is now The Sanctuary. He tells Simon to get on his knees as he rests Lucille on his shoulder, but despite the foreboding background music, this isn’t the moment Negan kills him. That would be too quick and easy. Negan likes to play with his food.
So, he lets Simon go to Dwight and formulate a plan to kill Negan. They meet outside the next day with Gregory and a few more recruits for this planned coup, not knowing Dwight already tipped off Negan to Simon’s plan. That familiar whistle signals Negan’s presence and he commands his shooters, posted above, to shoot down everyone but Simon and Gregory. Negan brings up the Scavengers and how Simon disobeyed his orders by killing all of them. Still, Negan being Negan, he’s going to give Simon one shot to take over.
The Sanctuary’s residents gather in the warehouse in silence to watch Negan fight Simon. Whoever wins will be the new leader. Simon, obviously, doesn’t win. Negan strangles him until his throat snaps. Now, Simon exists as a walker chained to the gates surrounding The Sanctuary.
Who was Negan’s mystery passenger?
It was Laura, which means bad things for Dwight. On their ride back to The Sanctuary, she told Negan all about how Dwight attacked his own team, but she was able to get away and run on foot until she met back up with the bossman on the road. So Negan has one more surprise for Dwight.
During the roundtable, Negan laid out a plan to station snipers around the Hilltop and kill anyone who tries to escape. The goal was to keep them contained and perhaps starve them until they submitted. Dwight copied the map and the locations and wrote a note to Rick. As Simon was being murdered, he slipped away and had Gregory deliver the instructions to Rick at Hilltop. Gregory was all too happy to comply since his only advocate at The Sanctuary was being snuffed out before his eyes. Of course, Maggie immediately locked him up in the prisoner pen upon arrival and it was unclear whether Rick and co. believed the message they received.
After the business with Simon, Negan walks Dwight back to his room, declaring him his new No. 2. But Laura is waiting for them when he opens the door. Negan reveals he was counting on Dwight to relay his fake plan to Rick in order to lure his enemies into the line of fire. Dwight isn’t dead yet, though. “Oh, Dwighty boy. I have plans for you,” Negan teases.
What did Carl write to Negan?
Rick gave a brief synopsis of the letter over the walkie in a past episode. But Michonne, perhaps because this might be her last chance, now grabs Negan’s letter and goes up on the rooftop to read it to him in full over the walkie. Carl wonders if this, everything that’s happened so far, is what Negan truly wanted for himself. Carl believes that Negan believes he has to be the way that he is, but implores him to accept peace if Rick offers it. “The way out is working together, it’s forgiveness,” he writes.
Negan, however, decides there’s no getting out of this now. Before destroying the walkie entirely, he states, “No more talk.”
Of course, there are a few more questions going into the finale. Will we finally resolve what that other mystery vision is all about, the one where an injured Rick is sitting against a tree ornamented with stained glass? Will we find out who the heck Georgie is? (Probably not.) Will we learn what that mysterious helicopter — now spotted twice — is all about? (Definitely not.) Will the finale actually fulfill what has been strung out for the past couple seasons now? The jury is still out.