SEASON 8: EPISODE 16
So that's that then for another six months or so. And after two seasons of watching Rick and the gang fight it out with Negan and the saviours, my overriding feeling after the finale is one of relief. It's no secret that the viewing figures for The Walking Dead have been falling away on a gradual but constant basis for a few series now – and whilst I have my issues with the show (who hasn't), I'm not about to throw the towel in just yet. I've watched it for eight seasons at this point and am accepting of the fact that some series will be better than others. Like most viewers, I think that the last two series have possibly been the weakest of any but I am quietly hopeful of the post-saviour future of season 9.
Walking Dead finales (and mid-season finales) have commonly been characterised by the loss of a big character – or in some cases, several. In this respect, the finale felt rather anti-climactic. Apart from a bunch of trigger happy saviours who either shot themselves or got picked off by the onrushing forces of Rick/Maggie – we didn't actually lose anyone of any note. I won't lie, I was a little disappointed by that fact. One of the things that The Walking Dead really needs to do in my opinion is shed some dead weight. There are quite a few of quite average characters in the show now and I'd be quite happy to see a couple of them sacrificed for the greater good (the greater good being more screen time with Daryl or Maggie).
For a brief moment it seemed as if we would get a big death. Rick and Negan have had several fights before and once again it looked as if Neegs would come out on top. However Rick's mention of his son momentarily lowered his enemy's defences and the result was a seemingly fatal neck slashing. However those who have been trying to figure out how this series would end probably won't have been too surprised at Rick's decision to save his life. One of the justified criticisms of the show over the last few years has been too much introspection and pondering and Rick's journey from someone willing to lie and murder and do whatever he can to kill his enemies has seen him at odds with various members of his group and most importantly, his son Carl. Carl's legacy was always going to be the effect on his father and so it proved in the latter half of the episode. Rick's outlook has changed. He has rid himself of his overriding need for vengeance and violence and has switched his attention to building something for the future. And part of that new civilisation includes incarcerating Negan, and not killing him.
Of course Maggie was seething when Rick made the call to spare Negan's life. Rick may be able to be a bit more objective but Maggie lost her husband and the father of her child, so it's little wonder that she wants blood. If Negan had killed Carl himself (or Michonne) then I'm not sure he'd have been quite so merciful or pragmatic. The troubling thing for audiences is the idea that Maggie could conspire to plot against Rick at the speed and in the manner that she did. It may prove to be an interesting story thread in series 9 but come on, are we really supposed to believe that Maggie, Daryl and Jesus would consider harming Rick or Michonne just to get at Negan. I'm not buying it and I don't think many other will either.
Eugene provided the biggest WTF moment of the episode and I genuinely called it about 5 seconds before it happened. I mean, it was a guess but an educated one at least! Eugene's bond with Abraham and his innate sense of goodness (despite his apparent patheticness) meant that there were no guarantees that he would really side with Negan when the chips were down. Daryl also managed to survive somehow and got to drive off into the sunset to look for his wife. I doubt we'll see him again, which is a shame – because he was certainly an interesting and divisive character.
The episode didn't really do too much in the way of setting up things to come. Negan's imprisonment is obviously going to play some part in things to come but there are other questions that need to be answered. Are we done with the oceanside crew? What's the deal with that helicopter? Will Maggie actually ever look like she's pregnant? Fans of the comic books may well have a few theories of their own, but I'm relatively content to switch off until October and tune in to see where we go from here.