At times, it seemed like this day might never come. It seemed like the weeks would continue to drag along until neither Rick nor Negan remembered why they started fighting each other in the first place. But the time has come — the time for The Sanctuary to finally face off against everyone else in the last stand of this war. Was it worth the hype? Well…not really.
It was in the season 7 finale of The Walking Dead that both Rick and Negan finally said it was time for action after previous episodes teased a face-off between the two. Then season 7 proceeded with 15 episodes featuring more lead up to the showdown. After all that time, after all that teasing, after all that strung-out plot, did the finale satisfy? No, because it could’ve been a lot more.
In the end, the hour comes down to only a few things: remembrance of Carl, the walk-up to the finale, the twist, and the aftermath — with the latter being saved for next season. A brief flashback scene shows Rick and toddler Carl walking hand-in-hand down a dirt road. In the present, Rick walks spies himself in the mirror as he walks to the baby’s crib — the baby saved from the Savior outpost. Siddiq enters with a baby bottle, prompting another awkward exchange between the two, only this time Rick actually makes an effort. He asks how Carl died, something he wasn’t able to face before. Siddiq remembers his mother, who believed walkers were the souls of people trapped inside the bodies of monsters. In a way, he argues Carl died “paying respects to a woman he never knew” by killing the walkers. He further reminds Rick that when people die, all that’s left are their ideas.
Everyone else is preparing for war. Ezekiel and Jerry once again prove they need their own sitcom, Carol and Henry predict a victory, and Morgan is having another mental disturbance. Alden and the other reformed Saviors are walking back into the Hilltop after clearing out walkers for Maggie, but Morgan goes to attack them, believing they intend ill will. Henry tries to stop him, so Morgan turns on him inadvertently.
Again, he’s forced to face the horrors of his actions, but there’s so much going on in this moment already. Maggie’s making a side comment to Alden, reminding him that he and his people aren’t actually a part of Hilltop’s community. “You’re gonna be here, but you’re not us,” she says. Rick tries telling Morgan to maybe sit this one out, but he feels he needs to be on the battlefield and no one, for whatever reasons, feels the need to hold him back. He makes a nice speech about how they are both worse off now than they were before, and we cut to all of them walking toward the fight at hand.
The Sanctuary, meanwhile, is mobilizing. Dwight has been beaten and placed in a sweatsuit, marking the Sanctuary’s lowest laborers. Dwight is carted off to join their convoy because Negan has plans for him. The same goes for Gabriel, who will be on hand for when Negan makes his confession. As they drive toward their meeting point, we see Rick’s group making their way through the woods to take out one of Negan’s convoys. Morgan hallucinates a vision of a mutilated Jared as he plunges his staff into a surrendering Savior, but Jesus snaps him awake. The group finds a map off one of the bodies that gives away what they believe to be Negan’s true location, but Negan is explaining to Gabriel in the car that that too is also a trick to draw them into a trap.
Gabriel tries escaping by rolling out of the moving car, but he’s still blinded by his illness. He stumbles into trees and eventually a walker, and is quickly retrieved by the Saviors. Eugene seems ready to put a bullet through Gabriel’s head, but Negan wants to claim his life for his own.
Continuing their trek, Jesus tries to reach Morgan by proposing an alternate method for his madness: The sharpened end of his staff is the part reserved for the dead, the other, non-lethal edge will be reserved for the living. And that will make things better, he says. As the group walks into an open field, they spot a giant herd of walkers, one of the largest they’ve ever seen, off in the distance, reminding them of the true threat.
The Saviors are also rolling out. Some are heading to the Hilltop, where Tara is holding down the fort with Alden. They prepare for battle as Negan whistles into a megaphone around Rick’s location. They can’t yet see where their attackers are coming from, only that they appear to be in serious trouble. Through the megaphone, Negan mentions Dwight will be forced to watch their deaths, Eugene made today all possible, and Gabriel will be killed. (Recap continues on next page)