[Spoiler Alert: Do not read ahead unless you've watched this week's midseason finale of The Walking Dead. You have been warned.]
So, Walking Dead fans, the big, horrible, shocking death in the midseason finale is …
OK, not yet, anyway.
But a biggie is coming, and likely sooner rather than later.
The closing moments reveal that someone close to Rick's heart took a walker chomp. But as far as Negan swinging the bat on one of the big three — well, Ezekiel, Maggie and Rick, thus far, are still breathing.
I doubt I’m the only TWD fan who thinks that, with ninety minutes to work with, a little more ... something ... could have happened. But the long and short of it is that the Saviors indeed got out of the zombie-besieged compound, where they set about dividing and conquering to dole out retribution on each leg of the AHK.
The reactions on the internet were intense.
Negan himself took Alexandria, because of course he did. Rick’s not home — still on his way back from his failed attempt to lead the Scavengers to the Sanctuary and secure victory. That leaves the newly peacenik Carl to lead the show. And what the Alexandrians thought was mission to seal the deal that Daryl and Tara began, instead becomes a desperate mission to escape Negan’s men, who promptly started lobbing bombs and blowing Alexandria to bits, house by house.
That basically goes down with Carl standing atop the fence, trying to talk some notion of peace into a surprised and admiring Negan who tells the lad that he has what it takes to lead in times like these, what with killing his own mom and all. If someone in Alexandria must die in retaliation, Carl says, make it him. He doesn’t want to die. But he will. He’s kinda buying time for the rest of the Alexandrians to load up the trucks and head out, but he’s also speaking truth, which we’ll find out later. Then he leaps down to join the others, which leads to the best line of the night. Figuring out that he was played, Negan says, “I thought we were having a moment, you little asshole.”
Teenagers, Negan. They rarely give you moments.
Simon was sent to manage Maggie and the Hilltop, finding Maggie on a road trip with Jesus and two other Hilltoppers. They surround the vehicle, pulling a truck in front and opening the back to reveal a badly beaten Jerry. The Hilltoppers have been chosen to survive because they’re very good providers. Now they can fork over their guns, go home nicely … or Jerry can get it. And then Maggie will be taken back to Negan in the handy wooden coffin they’ve propped on the hood of the car to eventually become a point-making fence decoration. Maggie isn’t quite as compliant as Simon would like, so poor backseat Neal gets it. But he does let her keep the box as a souvenir/place to bury Neal.
She plans to put a corpse in there. Just not Neal’s. Back at the Hilltop, she heads straight for the pen of Saviors, selects nice, big, strapping Dean and shoots him. With his body in the box, she closes the lid, gets out a sharpie and writes a message: “I have 38 more. Stand down.”
Dwight and Laura … well, not sure where specifically they were being dispatched, but Dwight uses the opportunity to lead his contingent into a trap set by Daryl and crew. Some parts of plan are still working, anyway.
When enough Saviors are mowed down, D turns and fires on them, too. But Laura survived the barrage of gunfire long enough to clip Dwight in the shoulder and chew him out, before Daryl comes to his rescue. And takes back his vest, thank you very much.
The Kingdom is left to Gavin. They’re good folks, too. Gavin likes them. He’s still very, very sorry about Ben. So, if they just turn over the King and go back to being good providers … no? Not happening?
Meanwhile, Ezekiel’s taking matters into his own hands. Eluding the Saviors searching for him, he secures a bus and tells Carol to save the others like she saved him, turning himself over to Gavin while they make their escape. D’aw! We knew you had it in you, E. We knew it. And still you smile!
Aaron learns the hard way not to let Enid drive when the young’un takes the long way to wherever they’re going and lands them in an ambush by the women of Oceanside, the all-female settlement Tara stumbled into last season. Probably shouldn’t let her tote a gun, either, because when Grandma Natania treats Aaron a bit roughly, Enid shoots her dead. I don’t think this is going to go far in convincing them to join what’s left of the Grimes/Greene army.
When Rick finally arrives at Alexandria, he finds it burning. But what the hell, may as well check to see if anyone is hanging out at home, am I right? Someone’s there, alright, but it’s Negan. Bellowing like bulls, the two launch themselves at each other, with Rick briefly getting his hands on the bat. “Don’t you touch her!” Negan cries, momentarily off his game. It gives Rick a chance to escape through a window, where he soon locates Michonne, making chiffonade of a Savior who tried to take her down.
Back at the Sanctuary, poor Eugene is having increasing trouble drinking away his misery. He opts for salvation instead. Strapping a light on his noggin, he heads to Dr. Carson’s office, finding the good doctor and a barely alive Gabriel. He won’t go with them, but he may “accidentally” give them the tools they need to escape. Maybe he’s seen the error of his ways, but he’s also not foolish enough to think that forgiveness awaits. Or that he deserves it, if it would. But doing this good might earn him one decent night’s sleep for the effort.
Here’s the part where we learn why Carl was so willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the others: He’s a goner anyway. A walker chomped him on the ribs a few episodes back when he and Siddiq encountered them in the woods.
Rick makes the discovery as Michonne leads him through the sewer in which the now-homeless Alexandrians have taken refuge, ticking off everyone who is accounted for. There’s Daryl and Tara and Rosita and Dwight. Dwight? Well, anyway, there’s Judith. And Siddiq. “I brought him here,” Carl tells his dad. Rick turns to his son, who is pale as paste and clearly not faring well. Carl lifts his shirt, peels down his bandage and reveals the bloody wound.
And suddenly we know exactly whose grave Rick was likely crying over back in the season opener. Those dreams of domestic bliss gave way to a father’s worst nightmare.
On the TWD after show Talking Dead, executive producer Scott Gimple said Carl’s story hasn’t ended in the sewer, so we’ll likely see him the midseason premiere on Feb. 25. But those of you who actually haven’t been rooting for the underused little pudding-eater’s demise since he stopped being Shane’s little hat-wearin’ buckaroo—looks like it’ll take more than hope for that to happen.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, Feb. 25 at 9/8c on AMC.