By: Casey Johnston (@DarthHockey)
WARNING: There are spoilers ahead for the latest episode of The Walking Dead.
A Plot: The Ambush
I have to hand it to the writers for the way they built up the tension of this final confrontation. Coming out of last week’s episode where we learned that Negan had sent false intel to Rick, I thought this would be a drawn-out battle that ended with Negan having the upper hand as we waited until October to find out the fates of the communities. That wasn’t the case and I’m glad because I was dreading that type of ending. Instead, we got a nice conclusion to a two and half season arc that wasn’t exactly popular with fans but I enjoyed it. It ended in the perfect way, with Negan defeated but alive and Rick retaining his humanity. They even managed to set-up the inevitable confrontation with Maggie for Rick’s decision to keep Negan alive.
The best part of the ambush sequence was the revelation that Eugene had sabotaged the Saviors’ bullets. From the moment all their guns exploded in their hands I went through a flurry of thoughts. At first, I thought this was Rick’s plan from the moment he realized Eugene could make bullets and the writers were just playing a really long con. Then I came to the conclusion that Eugene had a change of heart at some point, which ended up being the case. I don’t know how long the writers had this planned but they did a fantastic job of making us hate Eugene. For the past season and a half, he seemingly bought into Negan’s vision of the world without even putting up a fight. That’s consistent with the character; he’s a weasel but he’s a weasel who knows how to survive by making himself indispensable to the toughest people who can keep him alive. So, everything we heard from him previously about Negan being the one who would come out on top was the truth as he saw it. That’s what makes this move by him so beautiful. Negan had Rick pinned down and was going to win. Eugene went against his most basic instinct and sabotaged the Saviors so the rest of communities could survive and end the war.
B Plot: What Comes Next
After the fall of the Saviors, the writers gave us some clues as to what next season will look like. Carl’s vision of all the communities living in peace looks to be realized. The remaining Saviors understand they’re defeated and they’re working to rebuild their community into something that can be useful to everyone else. The Kingdom, Hilltop, and Alexandria are also working to rebuild. This tells me that next season will partially focus on how these communities all learn to work together to build a more secure world.
Of course, the biggest clue to next season’s conflict came from the Hilltop. Understandably, Maggie is not happy that Rick unilaterally decided to keep Negan alive. Ever since Glenn was brutally murdered by Negan, Maggie has been out for blood. We learned that her plan is to rebuild the Hilltop community and her forces while biding her time until she can show Rick what a mistake he made. We also learned that she has the support of Daryl and possibly Jesus.
I’m sure there are multiple ways we can read into this but I can’t see how this does anything but tease an impending conflict between Maggie and Rick. Something The Walking Dead has always lacked is conflict within the main group. Characters have always had their differences but until now there has never been a moment where the group split to the point that members were actively fighting each other. I don’t think this will be a long conflict or even one that arises immediately next season, but it will be an interesting fight.
I’m glad I didn’t spend any time guessing what was up with that helicopter, and I’m not going to start now because I wouldn’t be surprised if we never get an answer to it.
Thanks for reading!