The eighth season of The Walking Dead came to an end with “Wrath”, which also wrapped up the two season’s long struggle between Rick and Negan’s groups. I wouldn’t call this season finale one of the show’s best, or even one that packed in a ton of exciting moments, but it did finally move the show and its characters past the Negan bit, which should allow the writers and cast to move on to new plot lines in Season 9 and beyond. Plus, we got a scene that sets up at least one intriguing plot thread moving forward, so after nearly 2.5 years of the Negan/Saviors plot line, I’m ready for a new direction for the show’s world and characters.
While this finale wasn’t as shocking as those featured in past seasons, it did still offer up seven memorable standout moments, which I flesh out below. Some of very basic but important moments, while others either tied up plot threads from the past, or spawned new ones for the future. The moments are mostly in chronological order, so there is no ranking per se.
1. Eugene’s Redemption
I’m not going to lie, but I was genuinely surprised by Eugene’s actions in the finale. You have to give credit to Josh McDermitt, who played Eugene’s betrayal perfectly throughout this entire season, as well as last season. He made it believable that the spineless Eugene had fully embraced being Negan, and that he was hellbent on eliminating his former friends.
It wasn’t until the standoff played out too long that I realized that Eugene had ended up taking Gabe’s advice and made faulty bullets that blew up in the Savior’s faces, effectively giving Rick’s group the win. I felt good for Eugene, and genuinely dug his move and now fully believe that he’s redeemed himself with Rick’s group, as well as fans.
2. Oceanside Cocktails
I’ll admit that the surprise arrival of the Oceanside ladies and Aaron was one of the more ridiculous moments in the finale, but I felt compelled to put it on this list because it paid off on a two season’s long plot thread. In the end the Oceanside attack wasn’t even needed considering that Tara and a group of armed Hilltoppers had the Saviors in their sights, but the thread had to be resolved, hence the reason for some firebombs being lobbed a bit too close to a wooden structure.
It’ll be interesting to see if Oceanside and Rick’s groups will become closer in Season 9, because I don’t think they’ll just go away, so be prepared to check in on them moving forward, or at least a few of them possibly joining Rick’s group.
3. Negan’s Downfall Follows the Comic Books
Rick and Negan squared off for the last time in this finale, and thanks to Rick baiting Negan into a truce, Negan got his throat slit, but ultimately was spared. Negan’s downfall played out nearly identical to how it went down in the comics, so even though Rick tricked Negan into getting close to him so he could slit his throat, he let Carl’s plea creep into his mind, which forced him to spare his life.
While I watched this play out I couldn’t help but think that Rick is the most evil mother fucker on the show, because this would have been two times this season he went back on his word, and in this instance he was using the wishes of his dead son to bait his foe, so if Rick did let Negan die, he would never have been able to have been redeemed as anything but a psychopath.
4. Rosita’s Punch
Alright, so this is a throw away type of moment, but it was such a fun exchange that it had to be on this list. Eugene and Rosita meet up after the fracas, and it’s clear that she is proud of his decision, but she doesn’t let him completely off the hook. She ends up popping him right in the jaw after they have a brief exchange about his trickery, to which she proclaims is only for him puking on her. Eugene then proceeds to call it a fair move, completing the fun little exchange that also served to bury the hatchet between these tow longtime compatriots.
5. Daryl Also Chooses Mercy
Like Rick did with his nemesis, Daryl also chose mercy when dealing with he and Dwight’s beef. He drove Dwight out to the woods, and it appeared as if he was going to execute him, but just as Dwight surrenders to him and is ready to be snuffed out, Daryl throws a pair of keys at him and tells him to scram. Best of all, Daryl wasn’t just banishing him, he was allowing him to go search for his wife, so I thought it was very big of Daryl to say, “Go find her” to one of his most hated adversaries.
6. Jadiss is Ann
This is another minor moment, but it was a moment. Towards the end of the episode Morgan goes on his spirit walk and ends up at the trash dump so he can be alone. He meets Jadiss there and tells her she’s allowed to go and live with Rick and Friends, and curiously she reveals that her actual name is Ann. Based on the exchange it appears that Morgan will be setting up shop at the trash dump to get away from it all, while Ann will be joining Rick’s group. I would expect that Ann will be a regular in Season 9, so I’m not opposed to learning more about Jadiss’ alter ego moving forward.
7. Maggie, Daryl, and Jesus Plot
In the closing moments of this episode it was revealed that a plan is already being put in place to either dispose Rick and Michonne as the de facto leaders of the Hilltop, Alexandria, etc, by none other than their closest allies. Maggie, Jesus, and Daryl all apparently didn’t like Rick’s choice to spare Negan, which I get for Maggie and Daryl, but not from Jesus. This is a guy that since we’ve known him has preached peace and harmony over violence, and even in this finale he was working to get Morgan back to just beating humans unconscious versus killing them. It just didn’t make any sense that Jesus would be mad at Rick for sparing Negan, when his whole platform has always been about sparing even the worst of us.
Like I said, Maggie’s disgust with Rick makes complete sense, even though she herself has spared Saviors, and so does Daryl’s, because he feels guilt over Glenn’s death, and he was held captive by Negan, so I get his hate. The Jesus aspect of this meeting just felt really out of place, so it’ll be interesting to see what these three get into, and if they’ll try to take Rick out, or subvert his new mercy approach to working with other survivor communities.
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