After weeks of build up. Weeks of pain, loss, vengeance, battles and attack plans, it has all lead to this moment. The final showdown between The Survivors and The Saviors. Rick versus Negan. The season finale of Season Eight.
At the start, we are treated to a flashback. Rick is remembering that day Carl spoke of in his letter. Walking hand-in-hand down that dirt path, green hills seen in the distance. The visuals help to recycle the voice of Carl from a few episodes back, asking for his father to work out a peace treaty with Negan.
We flash forward to present day. Both sides are preparing for the task at hand. As Rick and his Survivors follow the plan that Dwight leaked to them, Negan is taking joy in having created that fake plan. After confirming with Eugene on the production of ammunition for his fighters, the two load up Dwight and Gabriel into the car as they head for the set location. As Rick and his people move in on the location, thinking they have the jump on The Saviors, his crew once again hears the eerie whistle all around them. Negan displays a handcuffed Dwight and a gagged Gabriel, with Negan holding a gun to the latter’s head. As Negan gives the go-ahead, The Saviors raise their firearms at The Survivors and prepare to pull their respective firearm triggers.
It is here where we see Eugene’s masterful work in the ammunition he built for The Saviors, as each gun, including Negan’s, backfires and explodes in their hands. Injured and with numbers cut in half, Negan runs away as The Survivors are able to kill or capture every member. We even see Tara and the “Savior Turncoats” from Hilltop witness a surprise attack by Aaron and the women of Oceanside, as they launch Molotov Cocktails at fleeing Saviors. Rick is able to chase Negan down a hill toward a tree with hanging glass designs, one of which is broken by a rogue bullet from Rick’s gun. With ammo depleted, Negan gets the jump on an approaching Rick, knocking him to the ground and delivers some vicious hits to Rick’s side.
With Negan dead set on killing him, Rick asks for ten seconds to get through to Negan and reminds him of the things Carl said in his letter. This makes Negan hesitate slightly, almost appearing to break Negan emotionally, giving Rick just enough time to use a shard of broken class from the ground and swipe it across Negan’s neck. The blood pours out as a shocked Negan falls to the ground. Rick turns and sees his Survivors holding their hostages, all of them watching him. At this moment, Rick shocks them all by uttering two words:
Much to the inconsolable disappointment of Maggie, who has to be controlled by Michonne, Rick explains that it has to be this way. There has to be a peace, and that peace starts with allowing Negan to live. He tells all the remaining Saviors that they will be allowed to return to the Sanctuary and work to rebuild and create a better future; that the ways of Negan are over and will never be allowed again. That the world is there’s and that they must all work together to survive and make things better.
The separate communities head back to their homes. The Kingdom is reformed. Daryl allows Dwight to live, telling him to leave, never come back, find Denise and “go and make it right.” Rick and Michonne inform a recovering Negan that he will witness their peaceful rebirth from a cell, which will be his permanent living quarters. Morgan says his goodbye to Carol and decides to go off on his own, believing it to be better this way. He makes one stop on his departure: at the former Scavenger stronghold, where Jadis is now alone. He informs her that Rick has offered for her to come to Alexandria and be a part of their community. She accepts, revealing her real name to be Anne. As she collects her things, Morgan continues on his departure, heading into an unknown path (which will end up being the setting of Fear The Walking Dead).
While all seems well with the promise of a hopeful future, we were left with one eerie note. A dark moment inside the office at Hilltop. Maggie sits at her desk and speaks to Jesus of building up their community, strengthening the foundation. Once this is done, she seeks to punish Rick and Michonne for allowing Negan to live. From the shadows comes a voice of solidarity.
It is the voice of Daryl, crossbow in hand, fully supportive of Maggie’s decision for an eventual reckoning to come…