I can’t believe it’s come to this. The season finale of The Walking Dead? How can that be? It feels like only yesterday that I was counting down to Valentine’s Day so I could see my favorite zombie killers again. A lot happened this season. We started off with a cowering, broken Rick. Morgan and Carol found their way to the Kingdom. Daryl was locked up at the Sanctuary but that wasn’t enough for Negan. He needed to take his brutality right into the middle of Alexandria (and confiscate all of their guns while he was there).
Thanks to Jesus, life at Hilltop was good for Maggie and Sasha, despite Gregory’s best efforts to throw them to the wolves (or, in this case, the Saviors). Tara found herself in an Amazonian wonderland at Oceanside. When Carl tried to assassinate Negan, we expected the worst. Instead of killing him (or making his father cut off his arm), Negan tried to adopt him. He saw something in the “future serial killer” he liked. By the mid-season finale, the group started to come back together. Daryl escaped. Factions at the Kingdom were tired of Savior subjugation. Negan killed Spencer and Olivia. And Richonne reunited with a firm dictate to take their lives back.
In the second half of the season, Rick started building an army. The untrained Hilltop farmers were willing to follow Maggie anywhere but King Ezekiel didn’t want to risk any Kingdom lives. Luckily, the Alexandrians were kidnapped by a strange new group, the Scavengers, who appreciated Rick’s moxie and were willing to help for a price: guns. Lots and lots of guns. Negan added to his numbers too, by taking Eugene and turning him into a Savior. Or a mole. With Eugene it’s hard to tell. Michonne almost lost Rick and the very thought made her want to give up completely.
Peaceful Morgan couldn’t survive the loss of his surrogate son so Warrior Morgan was reborn. It’s time to Clear again. Sasha and Rosita decided to attempt their own Negan assassination. At the last minute, Sasha cut Rosita out of the deal. She thought she was saving her friend but Rosita only saw it as betrayal. Sasha got captured and tried to trick Eugene into giving her a weapon to finish her mission. The suicide pill he supplied wasn’t what she had in mind. Rick and Tara couldn’t convince Oceanside to fight with them but at least they got the weapons they needed for the big showdown. And Gregory, feeling his power at Hilltop threatened, decided he needed Savior intervention to deal with Maggie.
Is tonight the beginning of the end for Negan? We can only hope. We open with Sasha waking up in Abraham’s arms, Bobby Ewing style. She tries to stop Abraham from going on his final, fatal mission before she’s dragged back to her reality: a prison cell and Negan. Sometimes a dream is just a dream, Sasha. Only Eugene’s little pill can really bring back your man.
Daryl and Tara try to not kill Dwight. It’s hard. Dwight stares Daryl right in the eyes and reminds him of the man he first met. With Sherry is free, Negan has no control over him anymore. He wants to help While Tara chants, “Do it! Do it!” Daryl makes his decision. No one trusts Dwight but they all trust Daryl. Dwight lives. Dwight warns them that Saviors are coming the next day. They should kill them, have Dwight cover it up and drive right into the Sanctuary as undercover Saviors. They could slowly work their way thru the Savior compounds, killing or freeing them, depending of their level of Negan-ness. Rick is intrigued. It’s a grassroots war.
Negan lays out his plan to Sasha. If she helps him quell Rick’s rebellion, he’ll only kill three people. Sasha is horrified. She’s willing to die but she can’t risk anyone else. She bargains him down to one death. And, as smart as he is, he doesn’t realize that the death she’s talking about is his own. His or hers. They’re the only lives she’s willing to gamble.
Maggie and Jesus have a powwow. Rick wants Hillside to stay out of the fighting so they can act as a safe haven for the Saviors. Yeah, safe like a Venus Flytrap. Maggie’s biggest concern is the missing Gregory. She knows he might be spilling his guts to the Saviors as they speak. Maybe their best bet is to join the war. Judith pulls their attention away. What option will keep her, and her future, safe? Only Maggie can make that call.
Carol and her team of Kingdom fighters come across a shopping cart blockade. Morgan is hoping to use Richard’s tricks against the Saviors. Carol doesn’t like his lone wolf routine. Anything he does could come back on the Kingdom. King Ezekiel asks Morgan to join him in the fight against the dragon with many heads. If anything can bring Morgan out of his fugue state, it’s Ezekiel’s Shakespearean appeals. It works, at least for now.
The Scavengers arrive at Alexandria in garbage trucks and one bikes, looking like Miss Gulch from the Wizard of Oz. Jadis informs Michonne she plans to lay with Rick after the fighting ends. Way to make friends, lady. While the Saviors encounter Dwight-created obstacles on their way to Alexandria, the Alexandrians rig truck bombs and build blockades. The Scavengers mostly watch. Their credo is don’t bother. Must be nice.
Scavengers outside the gates use a secret language played on drinking straws to warn that the Saviors are near. Rick ensures that everyone is in position. What they weren’t expecting was Eugene leading the Savior battalion, calling out for their surrender over the loudspeaker. It shakes them a bit. Rick asks for Negan and it reminds Eugene how little he’s valued at Alexandria. It’s the final nail in his conversion coffin. “I’m Negan,” he informs them. Rosita’s hand twitches on the bomb detonator. She looks to Rick for confirmation. He doesn’t want to kill Eugene but they have to stick to the plan. He nods, she presses and they all duck. And wait. There’s no explosion. Instead, the Scavengers turn their guns on the Alexandrians. This war isn’t going as planned.
Negan starts strutting and taunting Rick. Rick reminds Jadis they had a deal. She’s nonplussed. They did but then she made a better deal. Negan tries to shame Rick for almost killing Eugene. He understand why they’d target the Saviors but one of their own? Then they bring out a casket. It’s Sasha and she’s alive. For now. Negan wants all of their guns, all of their lemonade, someone of Rick’s choosing for Lucille, Daryl and the pooltable in exchange for Sasha’s life. Ricks asks to see Sasha. Negan is overjoyed. This is all part of his plan. He opens the casket and is attacked by walker Sasha. It seems she found a way to use Eugene’s little pill against Negan after all.
In the chaos, the Alexandrians attack the Scavengers. Once they gain some level of control, they turn on the Saviors. Jadis keeps her gun trained firmly on Rick. He tries to negotiate a new deal but she’s not interested. She shoots his hip and tosses his off the top of the gate. No more up, up, up for Rick. A Savior pulls Sasha off of Negan before she can do harm to anything more than his ego. That alone is a big hit. He calls out for Plan B.
The Alexandrians are outnumbered. Jadis parades Rick through town and delivers him to Negan. Carl is already there, on his knees. Rick is forced down next to him. This is starting to look too familiar. Jadis asks for her reward but Negan decides to offer a lower price. She doesn’t seem as impressed with his negotiation skills as she was with Rick’s. When she agrees to the lower amount, I question her loyalty. Negan thinks he pulled a fast one but I think he just lost the Scavengers. And he’s too consumed with torturing Rick to notice.
Negan does his whole, “Aw shucks, I hate to have to do this” routine. He likes Carl. He doesn’t want to kill him. This is all Rick’s fault, really. Carl isn’t scared. He warns Negan he won’t win. Rick looks around and sees his fellow Alexandrians in chains. A woman they think is Michonne plunges to her death. This is pretty much the worst outcome they could have foreseen. Negan makes sure Rick feels it all but it doesn’t break him. Not this time. He tells Negan to do whatever he wants. Rick is still going to kill him. “You’re all already dead.”
Negan removes Carl’s hat and is about to swing when Shiva flies through the air and attacks the Saviors. Cat power! The Saviors react in terror. They’ve dealt with the depths of human depravity but no one could have anticipated a tiger. The Kingdom rides in on horses and scatters the Saviors. King Ezekiel informs them, “Alexandria will not fall! Not on this day!” Rick looks up to find a gun pointed at his head. Before the Savior can follow through, Maggie shoots him. Hillside to the rescue!
Alexandria, Hillside and the Kingdom fight the Saviors. This is actually happening. The war is afoot. I don’t particularly like violence but I have to admit I’m enjoying this. The Scavengers shoot off a flare gun and disappear. The Saviors flee. Negan flips them off as he drives away but I’d call this a victory for the good guys.
Rick and Carl run over to Michonne’s body. As I suspected, it’s the woman she was fighting. If they do it together, they always win. They find Michonne, battered and bruised. She tries to tell him they’ll win. He assures her it’s true. “We are. We will.”
At the Sanctuary, Negan assembles his top men: Simon, Dwight and Eugene. He’s angry and Lucille is hungry. He asks Eugene how Sasha died. He hypothesizes she ran out of air in the casket. Negan gets up in his face. “Maybe.” But he has more important things to think about. He turns to the Savior multitudes. “We are going to war!”
The survivors patrol Alexandria. Jesus and Maggie find walker sasha and put her down. Carol sits with Morgan. He’s not alone but not not alone. Daryl finds one of Dwight’s carvings. It has a message that reads: didn’t know. It’s one less worry to keep Daryl up at night. King Ezekiel, Rick and Maggie address their followers as a united front. Maggie tells Rick that all of them coming together was preordained. It started with Glenn helping Rick, a total stranger, and grew to this moment now. “Not as strangers. As family.”
And that’s how they leave us for the next five or six months. It’s been a great ride. I appreciate everyone who came along with me. Let’s have one last chat and then I’ll see you in the funny pages…