'The Walking Dead' Episode 15: Negan's Latest Victim Is? (RECAP)
[Spoiler Alert: Do not read even a little tiny bit ahead unless you've watched the April 8 episode of The Walking Dead, "Worth." You have been warned.]
To paraphrase Stefon, Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead had everything. Vomit. A death match. Macaroni and cheese. Mud wrestling. The voice of Carl. Memories of Grandpa. Jerry toting a baby. Zombie Simon. A near-historic amount of bad decision making (see also: Zombie Simon).
In the end—and per the usual—Season 8's penultimate episode leaves me desperately wondering how the writers are going to tie this thing up in a way that EP Scott Gimple swears will satisfyingly end the All Out War storyline.
Aaron's still out there starving himself in the name of winning over Oceanside and death-dropping—I learned that word from a ferociously awful Dance Moms episode—into the mud. Who knows that Jadis is up to? Or Georgie and Co. Rick may be leaning toward peace. Negan is definitely leaning toward extermination. And Dwight possibly facilitated the latter ... but I don't think so.
In any case, we start out with Rick, who is still reading Carl's missive come morning while sitting in the sunlight, mulling his son's voiceover-ed words and watching Michonne and Jerry tend Grace and Judith.
Carl’s letter entails a raft of happy childhood memories, none happier than being a 3-year-old going for strolls while holding onto to Papa’s hand. He felt safe. The kind of safety he wished for his dad. The kind of safety that's likely not possible now, even though Carl insists Rick has to try. To spare the everyday folks working in the Sanctuary. To make peace with Negan and return the world to jobs and school and Friday-night pizza and strolls.
Meanwhile, at the Sanctuary, Gregory is, indeed, back in the fold, trading manly assertions with Simon that get him knocked face-first to the floor. But he does win the T-shirt of the Episode slogan contest thanks to "Juice and Momentum." That's the combo Gregory says will win the war. And also, he is the juice. Simon begs to differ, but he will let Gregory live, 'long as he can produce a decent of coffee. So that's nice.
At Eugene’s bullet-making outpost, he’s very busy grossing out the wives with his recipe for boxed mac and cheese with garlic-sautéed sardines and grossing me out worse by smacking his food. A still-ailing, weepy and navel-gazing Gabriel tries to pull a fast one by giving wonky bullets the thumbs up, which gets him kicked off the line while Eugene heads out to blow off some macaroni-and-rage energy by firing a few rounds to test the goods.
Rosita and Daryl are waiting for him. Instead of wiping the place out, like Rosita said they should in last week's episode, they take their old pal captive and march him back toward Hilltop.
Meantime, Negan makes himself known to Dwight, interrupting D's smoke with a request to help him a shove a dumpster around and a little lecture about not saving Negan from Rick.
It ends with an equal parts odd and menacing request to put out the cig, only half-smoked, by the dumpster and assurance that Dwight will remember this talk. Me, too ... long enough to bump Dwight even further up in my TWD death pool. Dwight kinda looks like he's bumping Dwight further up in his TWD death pool, too.
Time to play Simon 'Splains! In a meeting of the higher-ups—and as Negan alcohol-swabs the gore from Lucille,—Simon mea culpas to what went down at the Hilltop, but says nothing about the Heaps massacre or proclaiming himself Negan 2.0 to anyone who would listen. Then we get a little backstory on Simon and, via that, on Oceanside.
Apparently, before he teamed up with Negan, Simon led the massacre of an entire community's men and boys (a ha!). Negan says it's the work of a demented, broken, goddamned ghoul.
(Yes, but he's my favorite demented, broken, goddamned ghoul, Negan, so don't kill him. I'm seriously running out of people I like on this show.)
Anyway, Negan says he polished Simon up and thought it was going well ... until now. So, time for Simon to get on his knees.
Well, huh. The guy might be a demented, broken, goddamned ghoul, but he's not one that's going to whimper and plead for his life. In fact, he doesn't look worried at all. More like ... annoyed. And just like that, he's forgiven. It doesn't make sense ... until later.
Negan’s new plan is to encircle Hilltop with fluffy, nimble outposts fortified with Eugene’s bullets. As the Hilltoppers venture out for supplies, they will be picked off like gophers. Bullet-riddled on the outside; starved unto their maker or into full cooperation on the inside. Yummy.
Simon admires the plan's "testicular heft," but he looks a little put out when only Dwight is kept after school. That's for another lecture that cloaks compliments in menace, and D looks like he knows it.
On the march, Eugene tries to explain his Eugene-ness to Rosita, who tucks her gun under his chin and tells him that he's responsible for every person who has died since he helped the Saviors out of the sanctuary. He'll live alright, but they plan to turn him into an intellectual slave. Eat, sleep and teach them stuff. Make something good of his pathetic life. Eugene's expression morphs from nauseated to livid.
Speaking of nauseated, it was forgone conclusion that Simon would die at Negan’s hand in this episode.
What I didn’t expect, and can't exactly accept, is that the guy—a fairly savvy bugger to this point—would a) get a pass for some pretty major transgressions and b) rather than bide his time, toe the line and salve some wounds, plan a spanking fresh mutiny he'll coordinate right out in the open. But, sure enough, he does.
And while we're on the subject of ridiculata, in a serious contender for Eye-roll of the Season, a small herd of walkers wanders into Dwight, Rosita and Daryl's path. While Daryl’s taking them out and Rosita is helpfully staring into the nether, Eugene uses the opportunity to ram his fingers down his throat and vomit mac-and-sards all over Rosita.
While she does about 1/1,000,000th of the grossing out that I would have, he makes a break for it with all the speed and agility of a 90-year-old grandma, ducking through a hole in fence while Rosita wastes some ammo shooting up the boards, even though she could run him down in a second.
And then, he manages to burrow himself, hands tied, into an ash pile without giving any indication that his footprints did some turnaroundsies or that baby-fine ash had been 250-pounds-worth-of-man disturbed. Rosie and Daryl just run right on by. Pfffft!
And on the subject of pffft!, here's where Aaron guzzles rain in a sunny downpour, mud wrestles with walkers (who must have had a big lunch since they mostly just want to tickle his ankles and rahr in his face) and makes Abby Lee Miller proud with that kerplunk in the dirt.
Also, even though zombies no longer have brains, you can apparently slam their heads into something and knock them unconscious anyway, so there's some knowledge. Long and short, Aaron's in a pickle, the Oceansiders find him passed out in the mud and he gives them an impassioned speech about coming out of the darkness and into the fight. And then he passes out again. Poor Aaron.
Let the Dumpster Mutiny begin. Right outside, where Negan has a clear shot at all of the mutineers. Before that happens, Simon warns the assemblage that there will be no bailing out now. Negan's death will be quick, quiet and respectful. Also, Dwight, you kill him.
Or not. Because Negan's been hiding behind the dumpster the whole time. He counts three and everyone takes a bullet but Simon, Dwight and Gregory.This is why Simon was spared Lucille—to flush out all of the rats. At long last, Simon looks alarmed. He lunges for Dwight, who tells him he knew who would win. Starting now.
Negan tells Simon he knows about the Heapsters. But he still doesn't bash Simon's head. In Negan's world, if you want to be the man, you must best The Man, so a death match, it is. Mano-a-mano. Simo-a-Nego, with the entire Sanctuary as audience.
Simon's feeling confident. Says everyone should get back to work preserving the Sanctuary, once he's cleaned up this little mess. And then Negan crushes his windpipe. But not before making sure the last thing he hears is that the AHK always knows there is a loophole. Well, and calling him an asshole.
Dwight takes advantage of the tussle to give Gregory his recreated map of Negan's plan and car keys with which to deliver it. I can't believe there is any way in the fires of hell that Dwight would do that, but I guess he really hasn't spent much time dabbling in the Hilltop negotiations, so maybe he doesn't know so much about Gregory. Greg does deliver the goods; however, Maggie, Rick and Michonne give no clue how they'll react to the intel.
Meanwhile, Negan's walking Dwight home after the victory, talking about what a shame it is about Simon and how Dwight's the natural man for second-in-command.
Then Negan reveals his hand. "I'll help you settle this thing with Rick," Dwight says, even though "settle" may not mean "win." Doesn't matter anyway. "Don't sell yourself short, D," Negan says. "You already have." And that's when I start to suspect that Negan knew about both men and their plans even before Dwight helped him move the dumpster.
See, it wasn’t Gregory that Dwight picked up by the side of the road. It was neck-tattooed Laura, who is now chilling out in Dwight's room, waiting for her big reveal. It's a doozy. As Negan and armed guards block the doorway, Laura says that getting back to the sanctuary to rat out the rat is what kept her alive.
But that's not the worst news Dwight gets. Seems Negan knew Dwight would get his map into Rick's hands—though he's surprised he used Gregory to do it. And now Dwight will figure prominently into the actual plan. But there's something about Dwight's expression that tells me Negan's not the only one who wasn't fooled.
Eugene makes it safely back to his outpost because gosh darn, why would Rosita and Daryl think he'd head back THERE and head him off at the pass? The lady Savior that looks like the offspring of Anne Bancroft and Joan Crawford—I will call her Anne Bancrawford—tells him Negan's alive and well, has a plan and it's time to redouble their efforts on making those bullets. Time to do something useful with their pathetic lives.
Ohhhhh! Simon! You do make an adorable fence-zombie. One that still runs its mouth, even though all that comes out now is dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. And though I shall mourn your death now and forever, Negan hanging out and watching the world go by while you dah-dah-dah is kinda a kick in the pants.
Then Michonne rings in on the walkie. She wants to read Negan Carl's letter. Even though Michonne looks like she's reading the new Constitution and the same plinky, sentimental music plays, the missive isn't as touching as I hoped. Start over. Be nice to my dad. Forgiveness is possible. No mention of Codger or birthday cakes or the cow at the fence.
Negan is unmoved. No getting out of it now, he tells Michonne. Surrender is off the table. Winning is now about killing. That's starting over—not peace and cooperation. So ... Rick is now Negan and Negan is Rick? Given how well being Rick was working for Rick, maybe we still got a dog in this fight after all!
Here's what I think. When we saw Rick way back in the midseason opener, bereft and crying by the tree, his bloodied hand isn't actually injured. It's literally all the Blood On His Hands.
Whatever goes down in next week's finale ain't going to be pretty, but he is going to survive it. And whomever we do lose is going to be memorable. Someone or someones into whose blood he is willing to dip his hands, for love or for loathing.
As for Dwight's map, well, the guy's gotten by far too long, in too many camps, to get fooled by this one. At least I think so. The map was folded and stayed that way. There must be something else hiding in there besides what we've seen. And yes, you can mock me mercilessly when I am proved wrong. But I don't think I will be.
And Eugene? Nah, I don't believe that Daryl and Rosita are dumb enough to lose him on the trail. Rather, I think it's a case of "fool me twice." That they are starting fresh and revising the plan. Let him and his ranks make the bullets, then ... as Rosita suggested originally ... take some bullets, leaving their stash for the AHK. Again ... have at me if I'm wrong.
But either way, send me some sorghum pancakes, won't you? Cause mama feels baaad about Simon!
The Walking Dead Season 8 finale premieres Sunday, April 15, at 9/8c on AMC, followed immediately by the Season 4 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead.