Gene Page/AMC
April 08, 2018 at 10:15 PM EDT

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.)

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AMC’s zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
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