In The Walking Dead season 8 finale recap, Rick and the survivors face off with Negan and the Saviors one last time as the war finally comes to an end…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
“Let my mercy prevail over my wrath”
Those were the words that echoed throughout The Walking Dead season 8 with the premiere episode titled ‘Mercy’ and Sunday night’s finale titled ‘Wrath’ as the war between the survivors and the Saviors finally came to a close.
Last week saw Negan give up on his hope to convert Rick and the other survivors into his way of thinking and instead opted to just wipe them all off the face of the Earth and start over again.
As we pick up in the season 8 finale, Negan is preparing to launch his final attack after setting a trap for Rick and his people. Maggie is getting the Hilltop ready for an invasion and Eugene is delivering on his promise to provide ammunition for the battle ahead.
As for Rick, he’s thinking back to a time when his son Carl was still alive, the two of them walking alone on an old dirt road, back when things were so much simpler. Rick has been suffering through his grief in the wake of Carl’s death but did his son finally reach him when it came time to end this war?
At the very start of the episode, Rick finally talked to Siddiq about what led to Carl’s death and he heard how his son was bitten while trying to save somebody else. Rick’s reaction is muted but does that mean he’s convinced that there has to be something after this war is finished or he’s not going to take the same chances that Carl did prior to his death?
Let’s find out as we recap The Walking Dead season 8 finale titled ‘Wrath’…
Let’s Go To War
Final preparations are being made in what will be the last battle between the survivors and the Saviors. Rick, Maggie and the rest of the leadership between the communities are setting up their strategy after receiving a map from Dwight that laid out where the Saviors would be posted including Negan’s location during this attack.
Of course no one can be sure if Dwight should be trusted, which leads Rick to the idea that perhaps they should scout out one location to ensure the Saviors are actually where they are supposed to be before launching an offensive.
As for Morgan, he’s still hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t there, even going as far as nearly clubbing his little buddy Henry while struggling to tell what’s real and what’s not. Carol is doing her best to bring Morgan back from the brink but he’s definitely teetering on the edge. When Rick suggests that perhaps Morgan stay behind, he prefers to finish what they started and then be done with it. Remember how Rick used Morgan as an instrument of destruction just a couple of weeks ago when he took out his rage on the Saviors who escaped the Hilltop and then tried to surrender.
Back at the Sanctuary, Negan meets with his bullet maker Eugene, who has delivered the ammunition required of him for this fight that will wipe out Rick and the rest of the survivors. Negan even gets the test run by firing some bullets into a dummy he has marked as ‘Rick’ and he’s proud to see Eugene come through for him in the clutch.
Negan then sends out his scouting party along with a map of the locations where the rest of the Saviors will be posted as he prepares his lead car with Eugene, Laura and Father Gabriel.
Negan is excited to spring his trap and wipe out Rick and the rest of his cohorts once and for all to put an end to this fighting. He also reveals that the scouting party he sent ahead were nothing more than sacrificial lambs who he set up for Rick and the rest to ambush so that they’d believe the rest of the map they received was accurate.
Sure enough, Rick, Michonne and the rest of the army from the Hilltop open fire and lay waste to the Saviors setting up a roadblock. Rick believes that this confirms all the plans laid out by Dwight on the map and their next mission is to seek and destroy Negan once and for all.
Best Laid Plans
On the way to the ambush as Negan continues to spout off all the ways he’s going to destroy Rick and the rest of his people, Father Gabriel takes advantage of a moment when the car has to slow down to avoid a walker and he flees the vehicle. Eugene is actually the first person to give chase and he finally catches up to him before putting a gun to Gabriel’s head asking where is his faith now that he needs it?
Negan eventually arrives, stops Eugene from killing Gabriel and demands he’s loaded back into the car because they need a witness for what’s about to unfold.
Following the directions of the map, Rick and the rest of the soldiers from the other communities are walking along a hillside when they spot something rather frightful — the biggest herd of the undead that they’ve ever seen — but that’s a problem for tomorrow and right now they’ve got a fight to finish. That herd may just be a hint for what’s coming next season, however, so stay tuned for that later.
Along the way, Jesus tries to help Morgan when he suggests that it’s not too late to adopt his previous philosophy where all lives matter and maybe it’s time to save some people rather than killing everybody. Jesus suggests that the sharp end of Morgan’s bo staff will be for the dead and the blunt end will be for the living.
As for Rick, he leads his people into the area where Negan is supposed to be camped out but when they arrive, there’s nobody there.
A moment later that eerie whistling sound rings out from behind the tree line. It’s the same sound that precipitated Negan’s arrival and the death of both Glenn and Abraham. Once the whistling dies down, a loud speaker turns on and it’s Negan’s voice offering Rick an update on their current predicament.
Negan explains how this was all a trap set up by him after finding out Dwight was a traitor. He received the ammunition he needed from Eugene that would allow him to finish the war and by the time this is all over even Father Gabriel would be dead. The rest of the Saviors then spring up from their hidden outposts, surrounding Rick and the survivors from elevated positions with guns drawn. This is a firing line that will wipe out anybody and everybody standing in that field.
Negan decides to launch the offensive by finishing off Father Gabriel but when he pulls the trigger, his gun backfires and explodes. When the rest of the saviors fire their guns, the same thing happens as almost all of them are knocked down or killed from the explosions from the backfire in their weapons.
It turns out Eugene rigged all the ammunition to backfire, effectively defeating the Saviors with one pull of the trigger and Negan is dumbfounded how this could happen to him.
Dwight takes the opening to tackle Negan to create a diversion as Rick and the rest of the survivors prepare to finish this fight once and for all.
Negan is forced to run away while the rest of the Saviors throw their hands in the air to signify a surrender. Meanwhile, Rick gives chase to find Negan to ensure this war really is dead and buried after today.
Back at the Hilltop as the Saviors are about to attack, Tara leads the people out of the back into the woods to make their escape rather than get into a fire fight that would destroy their homes. Tara goes back to offer some resistance and she even gets some additional help from the Savior converts, who were prisoners just a few weeks ago until they decided to become part of the Hilltop community.
Just as the Saviors were approaching the Hilltop walls, a giant explosion rings out and Tara looks off to the distance and she sees the women from the Oceanside have arrived with Molotov cocktails to fire back at their oppressors. The fight doesn’t last very long as Aaron and the women from Oceanside quickly destroy the last remnants of the Savior army sent to dismantle the Hilltop.
Back at the site of the final fight, Rick chases down Negan, who really is the last man standing after his attack when awry. Negan’s hand is mangled from the backfired gun but he still has Lucille and Rick runs out of bullets trying to fire at him from afar.
When Rick finally gets to Negan, he’s thumped to the stomach with a shot from Lucille as he drops to the ground. Negan continues to beat on Rick, enraged at how his plans have all backfired and while he may still be alive, he’s been defeated.
In the midst of the beating, Negan decides to tell Rick that when they first met at that lineup that he never allowed his selection of the people who would die to be random. It turns out, Negan didn’t want to kill a father in front of his son so he allowed Rick to live. Negan then suggests that perhaps if he had killed Rick all those months ago that maybe Carl would still be alive.
Just before striking the final blow, Rick asks for 10 seconds to try and convince Negan that there can be a better way and he begs for Carl’s sake. Negan begins his countdown and Rick tries to explain how Carl wanted them to find a peace so that they could work together and reach a common ground for the benefit of everybody involved. Before Negan can count to six, Rick reaches up with a shard from a broken stained glass window that was shattered from his gunfire and he slices it across Negan’s neck.
Negan drops Lucille and he falls to the ground as blood spurts from his neck like a geyser.
The fight is finally over. Negan has been defeated.
Rick then addresses the rest of the people who have descended upon the field where the final fight took place. He tells the Saviors to put their hands down because they aren’t going to be prisoners. Instead, Rick says that Negan’s way of doing things is finished. They are going to start over with a goal of creating a new world where everybody survives and they live to help each other rather than kill one another.
Rick even orders Siddiq to save Negan, who was wounded but not killed from the cut across his neck. Maggie cries out in horror at the suggestion that Negan should live as she wants revenge for Glenn’s death. Rick won’t allow it, however, because if they are going to create a better place for the future, wrath can’t prevail over mercy.
As for Eugene, he comes clean that he rigged the ammunition to backfire on the Saviors after Rosita convinced him that the world was better off without Negan in charge. She still slugs him across the jaw for vomiting on her an episode ago.
In the days and weeks following the final battle, everybody is starting to put the pieces back together.
Tara is leading supply runs to the Sanctuary where the people there are learning to survive without Negan’s tyrannical rule. The Kingdom is being reassembled with King Ezekiel and Jerry leading the way. Alexandria is event being cobbled back together again with Father Gabriel cleaning up the rubble of his church while houses are being salvaged and saved.
As for Dwight, he’s taken into the middle of the woods by Daryl without anyone else around. Dwight believes he’s been taken there to be killed so he confesses his regret for killing Denise and turning on Daryl so long ago when he first stole his motorcycle while trying to escape Negan the first time.
Rather than kill him, Daryl tosses the keys to his truck to Dwight and tells him to leave right now and never turn back. If Dwight ever returns to this area, Daryl will kill him. Daryl then suggests that Dwight go after his wife Sherry, who disappeared quite some time ago.
Dwight follows Daryl’s orders as he returns to the house that was going to be the rendezvous spot with Sherry. There he finds a note addressed to him with the word ‘honeymoon’ written inside. Dwight smiles and laughs because it seems that his wife has given him the clue he needs to be reunited with her.
Meanwhile, Morgan gives up his body armor, handing it over to Carol and asking her to deliver it to Henry. He can’t come back with her but he will try to find a new way in the world. Morgan then arrives at the trash heap where he finds Jadis all alone. He tells her that she’s been invited to join the Alexandrian community and she responds by asking him to call her ‘Anne’.
Jadis goes to gather her things to return to Alexandria but Morgan tells her that he can’t go with her. Morgan says he needs to be alone for now, which will obviously lead to his eventual arrival on ‘Fear the Walking Dead’.
As for Negan, he’s recovering in a hospital bed with his hands cuffed to the railings, his throat still recovering from being slashed in the fight with Rick. As he wakes up, Rick and Michonne are there to lay out the rules for him.
This is the new world order — one where even he will have a place to serve as an example by rotting away for the rest of his life behind bars. By saving his life, Rick believes he’s shown his people a better way to move forward, one that doesn’t require everybody to be murdered to settle their differences.
Carl saw a better future for everybody involved in this fight and Rick is now determined to honor his son’s wishes by trying to make this a world worth fighting for again.
It turns out that not everybody is satisfied with Rick’s solution for the Negan problem.
In fact, Maggie lays out in explicit detail how she believes that Rick and Michonne are misguided and traitors to her husband’s memory by allowing Negan to live. Maggie will help rebuild the communities but she will also be biding her time until she can finally exact revenge on the man responsible for killing her husband. Maggie won’t be alone either as she lays out her plans to Jesus and it turns out Daryl is also lurking in the shadows, agreeing that the only way they can move forward is if Negan is dead.
Up to this point in The Walking Dead, the fight has been against outside forces but now Rick’s greatest enemy may be coming from within his own walls.
As a teaser for next season, the giant herd that was seen and mentioned during this episode may lead into an encounter with the next big bad on The Walking Dead from a group known as ‘The Whisperers’. They are a group lead by a woman named Alpha, who helps command this gigantic herd of walkers by dressing her own people in the skins of the dead. There was also a rather foreboding image towards the end of the episode when Rick and the other survivors were standing in a field with a fence nearby. The fence becomes an infamous part of the fight with the Whisperers after Alpha mounts the heads of her enemies on those posts including several familiar faces that are still alive on the show.
The Walking Dead season 9 is expected to debut in October on AMC.