Did Rick Kill Negan in ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 8 Finale? (RECAP)

Spoiler Alert
Gene Page/AMC

[Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers about the Season 8 finale of The Walking Dead. Read no further if you don’t want to know]

Aw. Eugene! You saved the day, ya big lug. Mostly to save yourself, but still. You did something useful with your pathetic life!

And that is how The Walking Dead‘s All Out War came to an end. With the AHKers trapped in a grassy knoll and surrounded by Saviors a la Game of Thrones, Eugene’s exploding bullets—courtesy of Gabriel’s stealth idea—took out damn near everyone who pulled a trigger and gave peace a chance.

Well, except for Maggie who’s not feeling very peaceful right now.

But let’s start at the beginning. In more way than one. That would be a clean-shaven sheriff Rick, strolling a country lane with teeny, tiny Carl. What we’re supposed to be working toward.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick (Gene Page/AMC)

In real time, Rick’s tucking in a napping Gracie and seeking some clarity from Siddiq, who brings the baby a bottle. How exactly did Carl die? Siddiq shares. On their way back to Alexandria, Siddiq was telling Carl about how his mother believed there were souls, nay, people!, trapped within the monsters. But the monsters came anyway.

“He died paying respects to a woman he never knew,” Siddiq says sadly. Then he reminds Rick of something key: “All that’s left of the people we lose, all that’s theirs, is their ideas.”

Meanwhile, at the Hilltop, Henry’s feeling confident, Ezekiel can’t match Jerry’s enthusiasm and the rest are plotting and planning, discussing whether Dwight and the map are on the up-and-up.

Morgan, meanwhile, is losing it in his patented Morgan way. So much so, that he knocks a stunned Henry to the ground, blaming his actions on the returning Savior POWs.

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Eugene gets surprise visitors, Negan makes himself known, Gregory proves useful and Dwight encounters a face from the past.

Lead by Baby Heath Ledger, they were off doing the AHK a solid in shooing the dead from the fence, but Maggie says they’re still not part of the family. BHL likes you, Maggie. Let him.

Rick tries to convince Morgan to skip the fight, for obvious reasons. Morgan points out that Rick is no better off. What they did back at the abandoned bar—promising the Saviors salvation in exchange for loyalty and then offing them anyway? That was sick stuff. There’s no going back from all they have lost. But they might as well finish this, anyway.

Michonne and Rick head into battle holding hands.

Austin Amelio as Dwight (Gene Page/AMC)

At the Sanctuary, poor Dwight is now wearing the same beigey Scarlet Yellow Letter prisoner outfit Daryl wore back in the day. Negan tells him he used to have people’s respect. Now he has nothing.

Negan, however, has bullets, thanks to Eugene. He test fires a few and is happy with what he sees.

Eugene would like to, no needs to, ride along to see the fruits of his handiwork.

We know now why the notoriously squeamish fellow would like to witness a massacre, which makes me semi-sort-of forgive the part where there’s no way in hell Daryl and Rosita wouldn’t have returned to his factory to finish him off. Because they would have.

Negan wants Gabriel to come along, too. He’s got some stuff he wants to confess. Starting with that he’s sacrificing some of his own to fool Team Rick.

Thinking he can somehow outrun Negan and Eugene even though he has literal tunnel vision … and, you know, is Gabriel, Gabriel throws himself out of the car. Must warn the others (like he knows where they actually are. Pfffft.).

Eugene catches him in no time and says this: “Where did your faith go when you truly need it?” This will matter greatly in a little bit.

Negan catches up and taps our Father with the bat but doesn’t kill him.

Morgan, meanwhile, sees a dead Jared, but Jared being Jared and all, he has more to say than “you know what it is. Which is this: “You don’t die right? You ought to try it some time. You don’t think you can kill yourself out of not seeing everybody, do you? Not gonna happen.”

Dead Jared is only slightly less annoying that Jesus, the Paul Rovia one, who—though they are headed off to the showdown of their lifetimes—is beaming like they’re headed to summer camp and chatting up Morgan about stopping people without killing them. Use the bloody end for the dead and the other end for the living.

What in the hell are you talking about, Jesus? Whatever it is, it makes Carol like him.

In the meantime, some Saviors descend on Hilltop. Tara’s job to lead the charge to stop them.

Because a good thing to do when a whole lot of people are coming to kill you is head out into a depressed grassy area with nothing but God’s blue sky as your cover, that’s what Rick and Co. are up to.

They stop to admire a massive heard of walkers. And then, all around them, the hiiiiills are aliiiiiive with the sound of whistling. And then Negan’s echoing voice.

Negan thanks Eugene and Dwight for “making today possible.” And then the AHK is surrounded by a massive ring of Saviors. On Negan’s count, they fire on their quarry, but courtesy of Eugene’s Gabriel-abetted handiwork, blow their own brains and eyeballs out instead. Folks with hand guns—including Negan—just do themselves an injury.

That, people, is what our verbose double-double-crosser wanted to see. For his efforts, Rosita saves him right back.

Back at the Hilltop, the advancing Saviors go up in flames, courtesy of Aaron and his merry band of suddenly cooperative Oceansiders.

On the hill, Laura and the surviving Saviors take to their knees in surrender, while an injured Negan makes a run for it with Rick in pursuit. Fight! Fiiiiight!

As they scrap, Negan drops some knowledge on Rick about Glenn and Abe’s deaths. He says the eenie-meanie thing was hooey. He spared Rick so Carl didn’t have to watch his dad die. He regrets the decision now, though. Had Rick died, Carl might have lived.

And yeah, Negan’s down now, but he’s not out. “I’m bigger. I’m badder. And I have a bat.”

Rick asks for a ten second truce in the sacred name of Carl. Life doesn’t have to be an endless fight, he says. Peace could be a thing. Carl said. Negan says Carl was wrong. “No,” says Rick, “he was right.” And then he slashes Negan’s throat. Enough to shut him up, but not kill him.

Then he says the words that will set Season 9 in motion: “Save him.”

Maggie drops to her knees and loses her mind. “He can’t live,” she screams. “We can’t end it ’til he’s dead!” So shoot him, Maggie. Shoot him. He’s right there, you’re armed and no one will blame you. No? OK, keep wailing.

Rick is unmoved by the wailing. He tells the captive Saviors to put their hands down. Everyone is going home. Their own homes.

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Negan’s alive, but his way of doing things are over. Everyone in the assembly wants to live in peace and fairness now, he just knows it. The new world—the something after—begins here.

That seems epically dumb to me. Maybe we’re supposed to think that Negan’s dumpster deal last episode wiped out all the traitors, but surely the next Negan or Simon or Governor isn’t waiting in the wings. Or closer than Rick thinks. More about that in a minute.

First, a bit of clean-up. Rosita punches Eugene in the mouth “for the puke.” Morgan says sayonara.

Though the other POWs are going home, Baby Heath Ledger wants to stay with Maggie and make Georgie’s book real. She lets him. And Tara brings a bus full of helpers to aid Laura and the others in rebuilding the Sanctuary into a nice, tidy Home for Peaceful Saviors.

Lennie James as Morgan (Gene Page/AMC)

Then we finally revisit the opening scene of the season, Rick whispering that his mercy prevails over his wrath and finally crying for Carl.

Daryl’s not feeling quite so charitable … but not murderous either. He takes Dwight into the woods in an old pickup. Dwight thinks it’s for his execution and tells his executioner he’s fine with that. He got to see Negan taken down and that’s enough.

Daryl’s mercy prevails, too. He gives Dwight the keys to the truck, tells him to skedaddle and never come back. Penalty for doing so: Death.

But he ain’t that mad. “Go out there and make it right,” Daryl adds. “Find her.” Dwight doesn’t, at least not right away. But in Carol’s little house in the big woods, he finds a note addressed to him. It reads: “Honeymoon” with an infinity symbol. He smiles.

Meanwhile, lonesome Jadis—real name Anne—hears a tap at her door in the Heaps. It’s Morgan, with a message. Rick says she can come live at the Hilltop and help build the new world. She should go. Being with people is “everything that’s worth a damn.” Just not for him.

King and Henry and Jerry return to the Kingdom on horseback. Where the horses came from is anybody’s guess. But they sure make for a mighty royal, if not semi-ridiculous, moment.

The war may be over, but all is not well at the Hilltop.

Maggie and Jesus, the Paul Rovia one, are having a chat. Maggie says Rick was right about not killing the saviors, but not about Negan. And she’s not about to forgive him. They’ll build up the Hilltop into a thriving community, bide their time, wait for their moment, other clichés and then show Rick and Michonne the error of their ways. Daryl’s all about it, too.

Really?! You went through all of that to turn on your own same day?! Does that mean a full-blown overthrow? Or just killing Negan? Seems a little odd not to go just off the guy right now or have a come-to-Jesus—not the Paul Rovia one—with Rick rather than planning on mutiny in your own peaceful ranks. But what do I know?

Rick and Michonne, meanwhile, are hanging out with Negan in the infirmary. Telling him the error of his ways.

“This isn’t about who you killed,” Rick says. “We killed people too. This is about what you did to us. How you lived. How you made people live under you.” Got it. Killing, good. Being a bully, bad.

But anyway, Carl pictured something better and Negan is going to have a job in making that so. Which is rotting in cell as the poster boy for a better tomorrow. They won’t hurt anything but his feelings, which they will do by making him serve as witness to the better world they’re about to create and a reminder of the lousy past. Make something of his pathetic life, if you will.

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In the remnants of his burned out church, Gabriel has returned to his faith and his clerical collar. He tells God he gets it now. He suffered so under Pontius Negan so that he could help Eugene bring about the end of the Saviors. Got it. All good. He’s back in the fold.

We end with Rick, penning a letter to his lost boy.

He realizes now that he forgot who he was. Carl made him remember. The walk to the cows, as well. For the first time in his life, Rick knew who he was. Though they were walking side by side, the little feller was leading his dad someplace. Turns out, it was the new world.

“I see it,” Rick writes. “And I remember.”

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So what do you make of it, Walking Dead fans? Are the surviving Saviors really going quietly into that rebuilt Sanctuary? Will “Anne” be the Hilltop’s artist in residence? Will Rick and Michonne discover their newest, worst enemies are within their own fence, even while they’re keeping Negan as their pet?

Would a mother-to-be truly stage a mutiny in her child’s earliest moments? Or is that Season 14, when the kid’s in New World kindergarten and she needs something to fill her time? And what—or who—besides the enormous herd of walkers could be on the horizon?

With new showrunner Angela Kang taking over in Season 9, executive producer Scott Gimple promises a whole new feel to the show. If you’re like me—desperate to still love Sunday nights with the Dead, but weary of the “fight, fight and more fight” repetition, overpopulated universe and exasperating plot holes and lapses in logic—that could be very good news.

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Personally, I’m gunning for the Era of Maggie. Not as the “new governor” everyone seems so desperate to assign. But as a leader—a good one—the likes of which we’ve yet to see. Not looking too good right now, but a girl can hope.

So, pay Lauren Cohen what she’s so, so worth, Walking Dead. And give me something to love.