Grab your hankies, grab your support animals, grab your vino. You’re going to need them all. The Walking Dead mid-season finale is upon us and it promises to be rough. The Alexandria, Hilltop and Kingdom alliance has been waging war on Negan for what feels like centuries. There have been some big wins. There have been some even bigger losses. And they’ve all lead up to the final stage of Rick’s plan. Unfortunately, even the best laid plans can come undone. Rick learned that the hard way when he arrived at the Sanctuary, Scavengers in tow, to find his snipers butchered, the walker horde extinguished and the Saviors gone. In a single instant, Rick plummeted from conquering hero to worried father. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the first stop on Negan’s revenge tour.
Rick desperately tries to make contact with his battalions, searching for any sign of life. The airwaves are dead. He leads Jadis and the Scavengers to the Sanctuary courtyard, trying to make sense of the destruction. When machine gun fire rings out, Rick jumps to safety. The Scavengers decide the change in circumstances aren’t in their favor and flee. Rick is abandoned, cornered and confused. But in this war, he never fights alone. Carol and Jerry arrive to ferry him away from danger. Their first order of business: warning the others. They separate to cover more ground, determined and stoic. Alexandria. Hilltop. The Kingdom. Alexandria. Hilltop. The Kingdom. Alexandria. Hilltop. The Kingd… In a flash of lights, Jerry is sideswiped. The Three Musketeers are down to two.
Aaron and Enid head to Oceanside in what is most likely a fool’s errand. Before barging into unwelcome territory, they spend a night in the woods. Aaron wakes to the sight of someone lurking in the shadows. While investigating, Enid hears him attacked and shoots blindly. The Oceanside warriors surround them and Cyndie cries over her grandmother’s lifeless corpse. This definitely isn’t the entrance Aaron and Enid planned.
Daryl and Tara have returned to Alexandria, thinking their plan to weaken the Saviors worked. As far as Alexandria is concerned, the war is about to end. The sun is shining. The mood is light. Alexandria enjoys a day in the life, made all the more poignant because only we know the terror headed their way. Without warning, Negan pounds on the gates, demanding entrance. Everyone freezes in fear. This isn’t supposed to happen. The plan was working. While Negan counts down three minutes until he launches bombs, Carl shifts into action. He sends a group to the quarry to create a false escape trail and hides everyone else. As Negan blathers on about the type of apology performance he wants. Carl takes complete control of Alexandria. This is his show and they’re doing it his way.
King Ezekiel sits on his stage, wrapped in Shiva’s chains, clutching a farewell letter from Jerry. His pity party is rudely interrupted by the Saviors. While Ezekiel hides in the theater, Gavin explains the new Kingdom rules: Everything and everyone now belong to Negan. Anything they grow goes to Negan. Anyone who can work, works for Negan. And the Saviors who previously lived at the demolished outposts will be moving into the Kingdom. The only outstanding issue is capturing the King. But Ezekiel isn’t making that easy. The threat to his people has reinvigorated the King. He sets off a huge explosion that pulls the Saviors’ attention. The distraction allows the Kingdom residents to flee outside the gates. They pass Carol running towards the Kingdom, looking for the King. As she nears the gate, she sees Ezekiel. He tells her to save his people. “Like you saved me.” He uses Shiva’s chains to lock himself, and the Saviors, inside the gates.
Maggie and Jesus, unaware that The Plan has been rendered moot, lead a convoy to the Sanctuary. A tree in the road warns Maggie that something is amiss. Simon pulls up in a truck and unloads a captive Jerry and an empty casket. It’s time for Savior Theater 101. With a gun to Jerry’s head as leverage, the Saviors go car to car, confiscating weapons. Simon informs Maggie that the Kingdom and Alexandria are being absorbed by the Saviors. The Hilltop will be left unmolested, as long as they continue to provide. And behave. But at least one person has to die. Simon randomly shoots one of Maggie’s passengers. With his blood dripping down the back of her neck, Maggie shakes in anger and fear. Simon heads towards Jerry, willing to take his life if Maggie needs another lesson. She doesn’t. She agrees to Simon’s terms. All she wants in return is the casket to bury her passenger in.
With time ticking down, Negan cries out for Rick. Carl answers the call. Negan loves him some Carl. Carl tries to reason with him but Negan thinks punishment is more in line. So Carl offers his own life. Negan gazes at him, half in admiration, half in stupification. Carl knows his death is inevitable (this IS the zombie apocalypse after all) so he’s willing to sacrifice to save his family. Outside the walls, Dwight purposefully allows several Alexandria trucks to escape and lead a group of Saviors in pursuit. Negan, furious that Carl was distracting him so others could flee, starts an all-out bombing assault. As houses burst into flames, Carl limps throughout Alexandria, setting off smoke bombs and dodging explosions. The Saviors breach the walls but Carl is able to elude them through the smoke. He takes one last look at his burning home and disappears into the sewer.
The Alexandria A Team (Tara, Rosita, Daryl, and Michonne) lie in wait for their Savior prey. Tara tells Daryl that it’s not their fault the Saviors escaped. Rosita philosophizes that things might have turned out the same no matter what anyone did. Michonne just wants action. Dwight leads his group of Saviors right into their trap. A gun fight erupts, aided by Dwight. He can no longer deny his complicity. The only survivor is his second in command. She shoots him in the arm and demands he stop the battle. But it’s too late for that. He’s no longer Negan. He no longer kneels. As soon as it’s clear, Daryl and Tara arrive with weapons drawn on Dwight. He informs them that his cover is blown. He can’t return to the Saviors. He wants to continue helping them. He wants Negan dead. They can settle their beefs once that’s done. Daryl rips his vest off of Dwight and storms away. Rosita helps him to his feet.
It’s midnight and Eugene stares at his clock. Wine is no longer strong enough to help him sleep. The blood on his hands lies heavy on his heart. He stumbles to the infirmary to tell Father Gabriel he’ll support his mission to get the doctor back to the Hilltop, as foolhardy as he thinks it is. He fed the North gate guard laxative-laced coffee and gives them keys to a waiting vehicle. Gabriel tells him to come, that the group will forgive him. Eugene isn’t interested. He only helped in the hopes that it will finally allow him to sleep.
Maggie is out of the car the minute they arrive at the Hilltop. She marches directly to the prison. She selects the Savior that tried to kill Jesus and shoots him in the head. It doesn’t make up for the man they lost but it’s a start. She orders more guards, stronger walls and a return to farming. They need to be ready to support any allies that need help. She fills Simon’s casket with the dead Savior and pens a note on top: We have 38 more. Stand Down. It’s up to Hilltop to make the last stand and Maggie’s precisely the woman for the job.
While Tara, Rosita, Daryl, and Dwight crawl into the sewer, the Saviors continue to blow up Alexandria. Michonne refuses to join the others. She has a dangerous look in her eyes. Rick finally makes it back to Alexandria and heads directly to his house to search for his family. Negan welcomes Rick home with with a little help from Lucille. They wrestle and tussle. Rick momentarily gets the upper hand and grabs Lucille. Negan acts like a jealous lover. Rick has had enough so he jumps out of a window and flees into the night. Michonne kills walkers and Saviors indiscriminately, the way Rick did after Carl lost his eye. Rick finds her and pulls her out of her mania.
Michonne leads Rick into the sewer and he sees all of the survivors. Including Siddiq. Carl explains that he searched out his new friend and brought him to Alexandria. And that’s when it happened. Carl shows Rick his walker bite. I knew he was shook after his close call with Siddiq but I guess it was more than that. Carl is resigned to his fate but Michonne drops to her knees and shakes. Rick stares at him with tears in his eyes. I’m bawling like a baby. And that’s where we end things.
Feel free to share your feelings in comments. This is your TWD home. The Walking Dead returns on February 25, 2018. I’ll be waiting…