A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 8 Finale: “Wrath”

Well, that was a war.

The episode begins with a flashback as Rick goes for a walk with a much younger Carl. In the present at the Hilltop, Siddiq enters Rick’s quarters with a bottle for Gracie. Rick asks Siddiq how Carl got bit. Siddiq instead tells Rick that he had to watch his mother die after she’d been bitten. He says that Carl was taking him back to the community, and he told Carl what his mother believed.

Carl wanted to show Siddiq that he could trust him, and that’s how it happened: he died paying respects to a woman that he never knew. Still, it was dangerous, and Siddiq didn’t think about that. All that’s left of the people we lose are their ideas. Rick thanks Siddiq for his words before leaving.

Outside, Henry asks Carol if she’ll return to the Kingdom when the war ends. He even promises not to run away again. Jerry, meanwhile, talks with Ezekiel, who believes that this might be the last day for some of their ranks. But Jerry is more optimistic than that.

The others look at Dwight’s map, though Michonne is skeptical on whether they can trust Gregory. Daryl believes that this could still be a setup. Carol goes to Morgan, who suddenly charges towards the open gate, when the Saviors, led by Alden, return. He ends up knocking down Henry in the process.

Turns out that Alden and the Saviors were just clearing the wall of walkers. Maggie tells Alden that he’ll be remaining at the Hilltop since the Saviors aren’t really theirs.

Morgan insists to Rick that he go on this mission. He then tells Rick that the two of them are worse than they were before. After all, Rick gave his word, but he of course broke it. They crossed into that because they’ve lost everything good. Morgan doesn’t get why it matters keeping others alive since they can’t go back to the way things were. So it’s time to finish. With that said, everyone leaves the Hilltop and heads for war.

At the Sanctuary, the Saviors also prepare for war. Except for Dwight, who is wearing a sack similar to the one that Daryl wore. Negan laments this, saying that Dwight was once respected among the Saviors, but not anymore.

Negan goes to Eugene, who tells him that the bullet deed is done. He hands Negan a gun to test out, and the bullets work as expected. Eugene also requested the ride-along in order to help speed this conflict along as soon as possible and finish this in one fell swoop. Negan hands some Saviors a map and tells Gabriel to head along with them.

Negan then confesses that the Saviors he’s sent out are marching to their deaths. On the car ride with Gabriel, Eugene, and Laura, he tells them that he doesn’t enjoy sacrificing Saviors, but some have to take one for the team. Indeed, the Saviors are put down by Rick and company. Negan tells Gabriel that Rick’s information came from a less than reliable source.

They’ll also find a map, thinking that’s where Negan will be. And that is the trap. But it’s the wrong information.

After Morgan takes out a Savior, he sees a hallucination of Jared, who mocks Morgan for his ‘no dying’ stance. He then asks if Morgan really thinks that he can kill his way out of this, as that won’t happen. Jesus snaps Morgan out of his funk. Ezekiel finds the aforementioned map that Negan mentioned.

Turns out some Saviors are gathering near a road. Rick, believing this is where Negan will be, radios to Maggie that this was indeed a trap.

Back in the car ride, Negan tells Gabriel that this isn’t about wanting to kill the others. So Gabriel opens a car door and flings himself out of the vehicle. This forces the Saviors to chase after him, although Gabriel’s vision still sucks, so it’s no surprise when he runs right into a walker that Laura soon kills. Eugene threatens to shoot Gabriel unless he complies, asking where his faith goes when he truly needs it.

But Negan wants dibs, so he slams Lucille into Gabriel’s stomach and reminds him that he didn’t want a fruitless death. But you can’t always get what you want. Gabriel is loaded back in the car.

Jesus, meanwhile, tries to talk some sense into Morgan, saying that it’s not safe for him to kill in order to keep people alive. He says that Morgan can stop people without killing them. He proposes that the sharp end of Morgan’s stick be used for the dead and the blunt end for the living.

Over at the Hilltop, Kal spots some approaching Saviors…

Rick and company continue in the open field until they hear the familiar Savior whistle. Rick calls for Negan to step out and face him, but Negan tells Rick to pick a direction and run.

He’s also brought Eugene along, saying that he made this possible. Same for Dwight. Now Dwight will watch everyone die and live with it. Gabriel, though, will have to die as well. And once this is all over, there’s Rick.

Negan wants Rick again to accept how things work, so time to start. The firefight starts…or does it, as all of the Saviors’ guns suddenly backfire on them. As Negan realizes his betrayal, he gets in a brief scuffle with Dwight and Gabriel. He manages to ward them off and runs.

The Hilltop crew also heads into the woods, save for Gregory, who has been left inside the main house. Tara plans to slow down the Saviors, but Alden won’t let her do that alone. And though Tara has no intention of arming Alden, he and other Saviors still remain and decide to aid her.

After Eugene and Rosita open fire on three approaching Saviors- Regina among them- Morgan makes good on his word and puts down a Savior with a blunt end.

In the woods, Tara prepares to open fire on the Saviors, but they suddenly burst into flames through Molotov cocktails, courtesy of Oceanside. How nice of them.

Laura and her band of Saviors instantly surrender to the approaching survivors.

Rick chases after Negan and opens fire, but he’s soon out of ammo. As Rick approaches, Negan tackles him. He manages to slam Rick in his side with Lucille and tells Rick that he made a choice when they first met about who he killed- he just didn’t want to kill Rick in front of Carl. Had he done that, Carl might still be alive. But Rick is confident that Negan has already lost, even though Negan knows he’ll get out of this.

It’s just the two of them, but Negan is bigger and better. Rick wants just 10 seconds- for Carl- to tell Negan how he can make a better world. Okay, so Rick tells Negan that Carl said this doesn’t have to be about fighting. As Negan stops, Rick goes in and slices across Negan’s throat. As he bleeds, Negan says that Carl really didn’t know a damn thing at all.

Rick again flashes back to walking with young Carl before we end up in the present as Rick tells Siddiq to save Negan. Maggie is, of course, livid, but Rick is adamant that Negan has to live. Still, Rick says, there has to be something more. He tells the Saviors to lower their hands. They’ll all go home now. Negan is alive, but his way of doing things is over. Anyone who can’t accept that will pay the price.

But anyone who would live in peace and fairness, find common ground, this world is theirs by right. The dead is still coming for them unless they stand together. So everyone goes home and the new world begins. All this is just what was. There has to be something after, though.

Rosita asks Eugene what happened to the guns and he confirms that he sabotaged them during the bullet-making process. Plus, partially due to some things that Rosita said to him before he vomited on her. Rosita does still punch him for the puke, though. That’s fair.

Morgan, meanwhile, hands over all of his armor to Carol to give to Henry. Where he’s going, he won’t need it anymore.

We end up with Rick resting against the tree because, you know, we got a glimpse of it earlier and have to follow up on that.

At the Hilltop, Alden tells Maggie that some of the Saviors are headed back to the Sanctuary to make something of it. Alden, though, was never meant to be there. He saw the plans for the future and wants to help build things, as that’s what he wants to do with his life- a life that Maggie’s given him. Maggie agrees.

Speaking of, life at the Sanctuary undergoes a change as Rosita and Tara show up to help with repairs.

Daryl brings Dwight to an empty spot in the woods. Dwight knows why he’s here and is ready to die. After what he did to Denise, Daryl, and so many others, he knew that he’d have to pay for what he did, and he should. He got to see Negan taken down, and that’s enough for him. There’s no going back for him anymore.

As Dwight drops to his knees, he apologizes to Daryl for all he’s done, but rather than kill him, he gives Dwight a key to the car. He tells him to leave and never return. If Dwight returns, Daryl will kill him. As for now, Dwight’s to go out into the world, find Sherry, and make things right.

So before Morgan heads off to Fear, he heads to the Junkyard. He’s granted entry by Jadis and tells her that Rick said he can return to the community if she’d like. As Rick is trying to build something, he’ll need as much help as possible to prove that things can change. Plus, Jadis won’t want to be alone. To Morgan, everything is about people.

Jadis then reveals her real name: Anne. As she prepares to leave, thinking Morgan will come with her, Morgan tells her that he wants to be alone and has no intention of returning.

Dwight returns to the old home and finds a note waiting for him- it reads ‘Honeymoon’ and has the infinity symbol on it.

While Ezekiel and company return to the Kingdom, life is almost back to normal at the Hilltop. Almost. Maggie tells Jesus that he was right about saving the Saviors at the Satellite post. She doesn’t regret what she did and admits that Rick was right about letting the Saviors live…but not about keeping Negan alive. They have to make this place work better than before for the people who live there.

They need their strength and the ability to better defend themselves. But Rick was wrong, as was Michonne. So Maggie will bide her time, wait for the moment, and then show him. Daryl agrees.

Negan awakens as Michonne tells him that they’re going to make him watch. This isn’t about who he killed, Rick says. This is about what he did to so many people, how he made them live for him. Carl pictured something bigger and better for the world. Negan will be a part of that new world as an example of what this can be. Negan won’t be hurt or killed.

Instead, he’ll rot in a cell for the rest of his life. He’ll see life thrive and will see that he was wrong. Things will change. Keeping him alive is a better way. So after all this, perhaps he can be good for something.

Gabriel returns to his burned out congregation, drops to his knees, and thanks the Father. He now knows. After being given so much, his sight is regained.

Rick then talks to Carl thanking him for making him remember. He knows that feeling of walking with Carl one day. They were side-by-side as Carl brought everyone to the new world. Carl showed Rick that new world and made it real. Rick sees that now. And with, the finale to the All Out War and eight season of The Walking Dead comes to a close.

Okay, this is interesting. “Wrath” does tie up the All Out War with the Saviors stuff in a nice little bow with a conflict in an open field that ends with Negan’s downfall. It sets up the dawn of a new world in what feels like a very series finale moment, and best of all for the survivors, they did not lose one of their ranks. Sound terrific.

It’s not. I’ll get to my negatives in a second, but right now, I will say that I did enjoy the episode. Not as a whole, but there were a lot of moments that I did appreciate throughout.

Indeed, even though he’s dead, Carl is still very present in this finale from how Rick’s outlook on the world has changed. He’s still a killer, and Morgan points out his actions against the Saviors at the bar, but Rick wants to make things right. He promised Carl that he would make that world for his son. He can’t do that if one of his first actions when the war ends is taking Negan’s life.

Yes, Rick has every reason in the world to want Negan dead, but there’s a better way in his mind. And really, given how Negan ruled, it’s a much more satisfying punishment for Rick and Michonne that Negan instead live out the rest of his days seeing civilization develop for the better. And rather than keeping people under his thumb anymore, all Negan can do is watch.

It was nice to see that, in the end, Eugene was playing the long game and went under deep, deep cover to screw over the Saviors in the end. He had to do some bad things, but all for the sake of keeping up his cover. It’s like how Aqualad ‘killed’ Artemis during his deep cover mission on Young Justice, and I’m not just saying that since Khary Payton voices Aqualad on that show. Okay, maybe I am.

But it was a surprising, if not quick, moment to see so many of the Saviors go down when their bullets backfired, when it looked like the momentum and advantage were on their side.

And though it remains to be seen how this will develop, particularly since Lauren Cohan is still in negotiations with AMC regarding her pay, I am curious to see how this schism between Maggie and Rick will grow. Maggie has even more of a reason than Rick to want Negan dead. And just when it seems like she might get her wish, Rick denies that by telling Siddiq to save his life.

There was some great acting on Cohan’s part when she rages at Rick for not finishing this by killing Negan. While I don’t think this is going to lead into The Walking Dead: Civil War, I imagine that the most we’ll get is some friction between Maggie and Rick. And while it looks like Jesus is on board, I think that, given his outlook on life, I think he’s just going along as a front and may try to talk Maggie out of this.

Though since the survivors had their guns when the fighting ended, someone could’ve easily just popped Negan off from afar. Sure, you run the risk of hitting Siddiq or Jerry, too, but the option was there.

And I’m not sure why Daryl would be on board for this, unless he’s also putting up a front. After all, he just spared Dwight’s life, even though he’s been itching to kill him this entire season. Now he’s giving him a chance to find Sherry and get his life back together. He’s redeemed himself. So it’s odd that Daryl would be fine sparing Dwight, but is ready to join Maggie in ‘showing’ Rick and Michonne, whatever that means.

This being the culmination of everything that’s been building since Abraham, Sasha, and Daryl ran into the Saviors on the road, since Negan’s introduction, did not have the epic feeling of finality that one would expect from an All Out War. There have been skirmishes throughout the season, but with everything ending here, it felt very lackluster in execution.

If I could sum up this finale in a word, it would be ‘underwhelming.’ In that nothing here felt grand in scale. There were character moments, but nothing big or grandiose about what should have been a larger finish for this conflict between the survivors and the Saviors. Whether that’s a result of the show’s budget, it’s disappointing that this showdown ends in a field of all places.

There’s no tension here, even though that should very much be the case with the fighting coming to an end here.

Let’s flash back to “Last Day on Earth.” While I still detest the cliffhanger ending to Season Six, one thing that episode had throughout was tension. And from the moment that Rick and company were surrounded by the Saviors in the woods, we got some of the series’ most tense moments. The cliffhanger is what brings that momentum to a screeching halt, but there was well built-up momentum and dread.

That’s not the case here. We see everyone prepping for war, as they’ve done several times this season, and when everyone hears the Saviors’ whistle from all around, I don’t get any of the dread that I felt when everyone was surrounded in the woods. There’s no fear or menace.

More than that…all of the survivors walked out of this unscathed? For real? Hell, I think Ezekiel lost more Kingdom followers in one episode. This season, we’ve lost…Eric? Francine? Tobin? All side characters who only had a bit to do. Carl wasn’t a victim of the war. That came from him helping Siddiq. And still, no one among the good guys bites the dust? Hell, Gabriel even gets his sight restored.

It’s like everything turned out for the best for Rick and company, which is disappointing because I’d expect at least one casualty.

Plus, the Oceanside women show up as expected to throw Molotov cocktails. They hit their targets, so apparently Tara seems to be the only person they have trouble hitting. Also, Tara and Alden probably would’ve taken out the approaching Saviors anyway. We don’t even see the groups exchange words. Them showing up just felt like the episode had to put them here as a payoff to Aaron being with them.

I’m curious who ends up being the de facto leader at the Sanctuary. With Dwight gone for now, could it be Laura? The only other noteworthy Savior with a name is Arat, who isn’t the finale. And Simon’s gone, so by default, Laura seems like the logical choice to lead the Saviors. In what direction, though, that remains to be seen.

And no F-bombs! Come on, guys. Fear the Walking Dead has twice now gotten to say ‘fuck,’ but the main show, at the end of the war in a final fight between Rick and Negan, still doesn’t give us the F-bomb. I can’t imagine why, especially when the show apparently can now use the word.

This finale bothers me. It feels like the polar opposite of how Season Six ended. While that episode had great tension and buildup throughout with an unsatisfying ending, this final fight has been building since Season Six, but the tiny skirmishes and, ultimately, this last stand had no sense of tension at all. There was great acting, but I never feared for the survivors as they did when they were on their knees before Negan.

Like “Last Day on Earth,” “Wrath” isn’t a terrible episode. It’s just a disappointing finish for an equally middling season. Again, the key word on my mind is underwhelming. Not that this was bad, just that it wasn’t great. And for so much conflict we’ve had between Rick and Negan, to end on a whimper instead of a glorious, triumphant moment is unfortunate.

With that said, there’s still plenty of potential as we look ahead to Season Nine with Angela Kang stepping in as showrunner. How will these communities work together going forward? Will Rick truly make Carl’s dream of a new world a reality? Will Dwight reunite with Sherry? Can the Saviors be trusted to reform? When will Negan see the light of day again? What to make of Maggie biding her time to show Rick?

And where the hell is Heath?

Here’s hoping we find out the answers to all this and more as we look forward to what should be a bright, new beginning when we return for Season Nine. See you then.

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