The Walking Dead 8.16

‘The Walking Dead’ 8.16 Recap: “It’s Not Over ‘Til He’s Dead”

‘The Walking Dead’ finally closed its disappointing eighth season with a big finale that exiting show-runner Scott Gimple promised would end the war with Negan in a way that will satisfy every fan who has ever watched the show. You knew that wouldn’t really happen, right?

The finale opens with everyone at the Hilltop feeling optimistic about their plan to kill Negan and win the war. The fact that such a cocky attitude has rarely worked out for them in the past doesn’t cross very many of their minds. Morgan, however, is still acting pretty batty and nearly hurts little Henry. He’s eager to get the battle over with.

Eugene delivers a full shipment of bullets to Negan on schedule and hands him a pistol to test them out. Negan fires several rounds into a dummy with the name “Rick” scrawled on its shirt and smiles his approval. Eugene asks that he be allowed to come along because he wants to see his former friends wiped out. Gee, he sure is super evil now, isn’t he?

For the first stage in his diabolical plan, Negan sends a small group of expendable Saviors to go build a roadblock, fully intending to sacrifice them in order to trick Rick into believing that the intel Gregory gave him was good. Negan confesses this to Gabriel while driving toward a different location. Gabriel jumps out of the moving car and runs off through the woods, but Eugene quickly recaptures him.

Rick’s small army take out the Savior roadblock crew without much fuss and indeed feel damned confident that they’re about to win the day. While trekking, they spot a gigantic herd of Walkers in the distance. (The show’s soft and grainy 16mm photography made this image very difficult to make out in AMC’s garbage quality cable broadcast on Comcast. I honestly only realized that it’s supposed to be a herd from the context of the dialogue.) I assume that’s meant to set up a storyline for next season.

While Rick and his best soldiers are away, a group of Saviors attack the Hilltop. Tara leads a retreat into the woods, but they’re saved when the Oceansiders show up wielding Molotov cocktails, sticks and pitchforks, which are somehow good enough to kill all the Saviors armed with guns. In fact, I don’t believe any of the Saviors fire a single shot. Because if they did, that might give away the big plot twist to follow…

When Rick and his squad reach an open field, they suddenly find themselves surrounded by the sound of the Saviors’ signature whistles. Speaking through a megaphone, Negan boasts, “I ambushed your ambush with an even bigger ambush!” Negan drags out Dwight in order to force him to watch the impending slaughter. He also announces that he’s going to murder Gabriel.

As Negan counts down from Three and barks out his order to attack, every single one of the Saviors’ guns backfires and explodes. The shrapnel kills a significant number of them right off the bat. Negan’s hand is injured. He looks to Eugene and immediately recognizes the betrayal. Before he can do anything, Gabriel punches Negan, then he and Eugene run.

Rick orders his people to charge and attack. The battle is short. They kill a lot of Saviors. Many others surrender, including Negan’s lieutenant Laura (the one who ratted out Dwight).

Rick is injured in his side (or the fighting tears open an old injury), but chases after Negan anyway. He follows him to a tree with some panes of stained glass inexplicably hanging from its branches. Rick shoots a few times but runs out of bullets. He and Negan commence dueling with fisticuffs. Despite his hand injury, Negan gets the better of Rick and beats him down. Rick then begs for peace, because that’s what Carl wanted. He says he only needs ten seconds to make his case. Negan pauses, and in those seconds Rick grabs a jagged piece of glass and slashes Negan’s throat. Gurgling, “Carl didn’t know a damn thing,” Negan collapses to the ground… dead?

Seemingly all of the Alexandrians and Hilltoppers are standing just feet away, watching this entire exchange. (All of them were willing to stand back and let Negan kill Rick?) Rick orders Siddiq to save Negan. Maggie screams her disapproval. She demands that Negan must die for what he did to Glenn, but Rick already has other plans. He tells everyone – Alexandrian, Hilltopper and Savior alike – to go home, speechifying about how this is the start of a new world, and they can either get on board with it or die.

Eugene explains how he tampered with the bullets to cause them all to misfire. Rosita punches him in the face for puking on her, but has obviously forgiven him for everything else. A wounded and bleary-eyed Rick sits beside the tree and cries, catching us up to the flash-forwards that started the season.

Picking Up the Pieces

The Hilltop rebuilds again. The ex-Savior named Alden asks Maggie if he can stay to help. Tara and a group of Alexandrians go to the Sanctuary to assist their former enemies (including Laura) to rebuild there as well.

Daryl drives Dwight out to the woods, seemingly to kill him like he swore he would after the battle was over. Dwight apologizes for everything he’s done and says that he’s ready to die. Instead, Daryl gives him the keys to a car and tells him to leave and never come back. We next see Dwight at the secret rendezvous house he shared with his wife. He finds a cryptic note she left for him there which appears to confirm that she’s waiting for him somewhere else.

Morgan visits Jadis at the dump and tells her that she’s free to join the community at the Hilltop if she’d like. Jadis reveals that her real name is Anne. As she leaves, Morgan stays, saying that he needs some time alone to get his head straight.

Maggie meets in secret with Jesus to talk about what a poor decision it was that Rick didn’t kill Negan. They conspiratorially plot a power play against Rick and Michonne. Daryl steps in from the shadows and says that he’s also on-board.

Negan survives. Rick and Michonne lecture him about how he will be kept alive and forced to watch the world start over without him. He’ll rot in a cell, his life serving as a reminder to others about how bad things used to be and an example of what happens to tyrants.

Garbriel gets his faith back and his sight returns with it.

The episode ends with Rick writing a letter to his dead son Carl, thanking him for showing him that another way was possible.

Episode Verdict

This season was a pretty big mess. I don’t feel it can be argued otherwise. The finale attempts to tie together a bunch of contradictory ideas (including Rick’s blood-lust for Negan and Carl’s preaching about making peace and finding a better path) and wrap them up in a neat bow. I don’t find it particularly satisfying.

The plot twist with Eugene’s triple-cross is very predictable. I saw that coming from the day he became a Savior. (I wrote a full year ago that I thought Eugene was playing an angle and would redeem himself later.) The specifics of his bullet tampering were obvious as soon as he caught Gabriel botching his bullet production last week. It really strains credibility that Negan believed shooting three bullets from a single pistol was all the testing he needed, and not a single other Savior attempted to fire a round until the battle started – much less that literally all the bullets would misfire exactly according to Eugene’s plan.

The Oceansider stuff is so contrived that the episode makes a point of spending only a bare minimum of time getting it over with. That entire story thread could have been excised from the season with negligible impact.

The writing for the Jesus character is also terribly sloppy. He spends most of the episode lecturing Morgan about how he doesn’t need to kill anymore, even as all of their friends around them are killing Saviors left and right. Then, at the end of the episode. Jesus inexplicably plots with Maggie to murder Negan. It feels like, from scene to scene, completely different teams of writers are scripting this character with none of them ever consulting the others.

I fully agree with Maggie that Rick’s decision to spare Negan’s life was bullshit. It’s just a lame excuse to keep the character around for another season so that he can get out and cause trouble again. We don’t need that. It also seems like a really stupid idea to instantly make peace with all the other Saviors and simply trust that they’ll behave themselves from now on. A lot of these people were full-on psychopaths who enjoyed murdering anyone they considered inferior. That’s not something that can be shrugged off.

With Scott Gimple stepping down as show-runner, I’m trying to hold onto hope that his replacement will breathe some fresh life into the series next season. That small measure of optimism is fleeting, unfortunately. The show’s going to need to work really hard to course-correct after the past two dreary seasons.

22 comments

  1. Joshua P. Christie

    The season 4 Fear The Walking Dead premiere was superior to this horrible finale. The difference in production, writing, acting, and overall realism were like night and day. When Season 3 of Fear started, I was over the show and was only going to give it a 2-3 episode leash to redeem itself and not only did it wind up having the best season of its’ run, but it had a better season than The Walking Dead has had since season 5. Even with a change in showrunners, it appears Fear is picking up (even with a time jump to accommodate the Morgan crossover) with the same quality it ended with last season. With that said, The Walking Dead now has the same 2-3 episode leash next season that Fear once had. Here is hoping Angela Kang can bring this show back around because the damage to all of these characters is almost beyond repair at this point.

  2. genesim

    Boy the Oceanside gets a lot of criticism, and not just here. I like how it was handled. I think a few episodes is not a lot of time to spend on a group, but lest we forget, people on fire from a surprise attack tend to not shoot at all. Tara and her group were a perfect distraction. That is how it works, even if Tara didn’t know it (I thought up to the last minute that she would be gunned down, I was expecting anything and that is why it worked for me).

    I went to the movie theater and saw the double feature and found it a pretty enjoyable experience. Seeing it with an audience and the reaction was something I will never forget. That was almost as fun to me, as the entire series. That and getting a nifty vinyl/plastic stack of posters….I digress.

    There is a lot of hate for Negan and the Saviors, a lot. So much that one forgets Rick and the teams murdering ways. Ok, Negan bashed a few skulls I get it, but have we forgotten the tons of Saviors stabbed in their sleep right before? Oh Daryl you are smoking mad at Dwight for killing Denise, but have we forgotten about the ton of Saviors killed right before? Do I blame Rick and the group, no, but I also understand Saviors being a little peeved about complete and utter gun downs all the way back to the rocket launcher incident up to the Carol and Maggie massacre (again, I understand it, but facts are facts). So what does Negan do in response, he kills 2 people. Yeah, it was brutal but two compared to 30+ (I have never bothered to count, but it is a mess). It is their world and how they survived vs Negan’s world. I wouldn’t mind some more Savior flashbacks in the season to come. The story of Simon would be awesome to me.

    This reminds me of many fans being so mad at Henry wanting to kill a person that killed his brother (or rather how he went about it). Henry only wanted one person, and while it wasn’t handled well (but handled like a kid would do that hasn’t the mind to make informed decisions), it wasn’t handled any worse than the several decisions that Daryl made that caused tons of people to be captured and arguably the whole mess that led up to the Negan bashing scene. Of course people like Daryl so they forget that stuff (not saying you did Josh).

    I think the show from the very beginning illustrated many times over that people make decisions that cause them issues, but than turn into other things later that could be good or bad. I stand strong that there are no “bad” decisions, just some better than others. Rick could not have truly known that scouting ahead while leaving Sophia and leaving her in the root overgrowth would lead her to be a walker anymore than grabbing her up and running back couldn’t cause them both to be killed because he wasn’t more cautious by not scouting around. Of course Rick is always scouting for other things and not necessarily looking out for the safety of one child, but I digress.

    So after laying that down, I come back to the episode at hand. So the Saviors haven’t fired one shot before the Eugene sabotage. We don’t know this. We aren’t showed it, but when it comes to the mind of Eugene and who he arms with real bullets, we will never know. I don’t find it very important anymore than I feel it is important to discuss every single incident on LOST where people are seething mad that everything isn’t explained to them (I always liked the prologue where the creators say…ok we will discuss Polar Bears if that makes ya happy!). The key is that Eugene somehow, some way gets them to line up and gets them there with his bullets. Negan has created an army that follows his orders, and anyone else gets burned. No one fires a shot unless Negan says, isn’t that what you get when you have blind leadership that is based on terror and fear and burned up faces to boot? Negan’s faith in Eugene makes him blind to what can cause him to be killed. Has Negan showed this time and time again? As much as I hate the dude for killing our “heroes”, I actually found him very likeable for the amount of times he didn’t kill people that I thought he would have. Rosita and Carl are prime examples, and both argueably did way more to risk his life.

    I think people put way to much stock in looks or actions and don’t think it through. Example, why is everyone just watching Rick and Negan? Man when it came to that match up, there is no way I am touching it. This has been coming for a long time and to mess with that, would be like jumping in the ring and getting in between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant at WMIII. I believe that Maggie was a calculator and was so mad at Rick up to that point, that she was willing to sacrifice him to find out if he would do right. Her being the leader and the first one to scream is obviously the reason why no one fired. There are 3 leaders (Michonne being like a first lady warrior) and they call the shots. Maggie saying “hold” is not implausable, considering the history, it was likely. If Michonne hadn’t of held her back (which is no doubt a big cause of her anger) she would have stabbed the man herself. Also lest we forget, the battle was still going on behind them. The surrenders that were happening were not but moments behind. As the Eugene shooting scene explanation earlier, I choose to be amused by how it could happen and not read into it as if it has to be explained. Which man lives changes their history forever, there are going to be spectators….plus Negan was dead meat anyway, no matter what.

    Finally, just like with Jesus smiling or explaining to Morgan. It is overthinking. Jesus giving advice to Morgan was for Morgan’s well being, not anyone else’s. In many way, Jesus and Morgan were the same kind of people except Jesus knows he can’t save the world…but he can save one man at a time. I love his character and was a step in the direction of helping Morgan. Of course it also sets in motion of what causes him to leave. But just like a smile to Maggie, people will read so much into it and think they know. Jesus smiling…let me take a stab at it. Perhaps he thought Maggie was right, perhaps he was amused at Maggie’s anger, perhaps he though Maggie should replace Rick, perhaps he can’t wait to tell Rick, perhaps he knows Maggie won’t last because of tacking another job, perhaps he ate some good meal and let ripped a good one…we will have to wait until next season on that. Just like Eugene and you seeing it all before. There were many that didn’t. Does that make them stupid? Or perhaps like me, maybe they aren’t watching the show with arms folded.

    I once made the argument that to truly appreciate a great movie you must let it take you in. I swear I watch Psycho 150 times, but I am always terrified at the end because I let it take me there. The same holds true for the Eugene scene. While I pictured a double cross, I didn’t know how it would happen anymore than I would know how a double cross recovery against Rick could happen. I was facinated by it, and when their hands exploded for a split second I thought of an ambush. For a split second I thought…oh crap…wait a minute…oh Eugene! That is what I wanted to feel because I let it take me there. I let down my guard, and let it wash over me, because I owed this series that. I enjoyed it from very early on (2nd seasons), and I wish I would have seen it from the beginning on.

    Looking forward to next season, and also looking forward to Fear.

    As for writers, maybe a new reviewer as well. Of course like with Walking Dead, Josh you have been fun to read so I can take it either way.

    Oh and finally you notice Daryl letting Dwight off the hook. Hypocricy much? Or is that Daryl and the show all along. I take the latter.

    Walking Dead no more needs repaired, then it did from the early seasons. It is still a very good show in this viewer’s opinion. I loved this season.

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        Changing reviewers will not change the fact that the show is in clear artistic decline.

        If what you want is a cheerleader who will gloss over all the show’s faults and praise even its worst episodes, that’s what The Talking Dead is for.

  3. genesim

    Oh c’mon Josh. I respectfully say there is a world of difference between “cheer leading” and simple criticism and being open to those that oppose it. You have an opinion of what is an “artistic decline”, don’t make that anymore than it is. A fresh set of eyes was a hypothetical, but not necessarily my wish. It was to make a point.

    The viewership is still quite strong and while you have dismissed the point about DVR viewership being near the top and changing reported numbers, it still doesn’t warrant some of the obvious slant toward late show hate vs an assessment based on honest to goodness history.

    Everyone thinks they are a better writer, I get that, but I think I made some valid points and I am not simply “cheer leading” anymore than you are just hating on the show. You make some valid criticism, but there is quite a bit that can be easily challenged as nitpicking to the point of making fingers bleed. I hope this has been taken as constructive because that is how it was meant to be.

    • cardpetree

      Dude, the show sucks now and it has for several seasons. I can’t even remember what season I stopped watching. Just deal with it.

      • genesim

        Hey Josh, for an example of non-constructive see above. It reminds me of people that complain about their compressed to heck tv broadcast. How is that for hate. I look at the whole thing like a preview until one gets the vastly superior bluray set anyway. The Simon episodes were simply awesome and to stop watching things like that and then post on here is the audience that you are feeding. Now that is cheer leading.

        If anyone can shoot down my examples I am all ears. Discussion is way more interesting than just slapping something down on the table and then expect everyone to admire as if it is gold.

        • cardpetree

          It’s a shame cause it used to be a great show and I really used to look forward to watching it on Sunday nights.

          • genesim

            How can you look forward to something you stopped watching? Let me get this straight, I stopped watching..because it sucks…uh but you don’t know that for sure, because you haven’t seen it.

            The show is fine for people that invest without their arms folded. I am a big fan of the show from season 2 and my wife is a super fan from season 1. We both love Zombies and there is no question that it is still one of the best around. The finale was awesome for people that don’t have the “must impress me with what I think it should be” attitude.

            I felt like it was a touching ending and it was bold just like the show has always been. Season 7 Tiger scene was frickin’ epic and that is the truth. You missed it buddy, and you missed a lot since then. If you haven’t been watching FTWD even more so. My wife and I have recently marathon the whole thing with all extras too. What an incredible ride. I love all the great background that went into this epic show that still boasts 11-13 million audience with DVR’s factored in. Sucks for those that missed out.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            Although the show still tops the cable ratings in comparison to its competition, the steady downward trend with no sign of stabilizing is certainly troubling for the network. A declining number of viewers affects the ad rates they can charge.

            Don’t kid yourself about this. The suits at AMC are very disappointed with the ratings for the finale (the show’s lowest since Season 2) and are going to have some very stern talks with the new show-runner and the rest of her producers about what is expected of them next year.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            I once chided one of our former recappers for giving up on this show after the Season 3 finale, pointing out that he missed some damn good television afterward. At this point, though… No, I would not say that someone who dropped out a couple seasons ago has missed much important since then. The writers ran out of ideas a long time ago and are stuck repeating the same cycles over and over again, each time dumbed down a little more.

          • cardpetree

            “How can you look forward to something you stopped watching?”

            I forced myself to watch a couple of boring seasons before I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. Even then I wasn’t watching on Sunday nights but on the DVR several days later. Even after that I would try to pop in to see if there were any interesting story lines and it was always a complete snooze fest.

  4. genesim

    I guess we will always differ on this one, because the Kingdom story was most excellent and the Morgan and Carol stories were some of the best the show ever seen. Hyperbole, no, just calling as I see it. Henry and his brother Benjamin are prime examples of Carol is struggling with doing the right thing after losing the two girls. That is story building and not running out of ideas. I especially like that Henry actor is Sofia’s brother and that story arch is just awesome.

    To disregard the truly epic battle of season 7 and saying not much was misssed?? say what?? There was nothing cyclic about that, and when Sheeva went down, I was actually sad over a darn tiger. That is good story telling. Perhaps you need to re-watch some episodes because the Morgan “Here not Here” episode in season 6 was without question one of the best episodes of the entire series. When you say same cylces over and over…do you mean themes to enhance stories? Yeah not following this one.

    But all that aside, I have no doubt the bean counters will try to screw it all up, and the ultimate demise from that crap (that you seem to applaud) is just terrible. This is season 7 for crying out loud. Most shows see diminishing numbers after being around that long. A story about walking zombies, I am surprised it wasn’t cancelled long ago.

    Now all that said, I fail to see this ratings free fall you have projected as if it is true. The viewership when counting DVR’s is averaging now around 11.9 without the season finale figured in.

    The Walking Dead Season 3 averaged 10.8. Are you just looking at viewership of households that tuned in? Man things have changed, and the viewers are no longer seriously considered that way. The Walking Dead is the 2nd most DVR’d program of 2017. Why are you just ignoring all that data? This free fall in viewership that you think is going to bankrupt the program sure isn’t reflected in the actual facts. Season 5 was a great season. No question. People still talk about the execution of Pete in the Alexandria story. It was a great great season among many of them.

    When the final numbers come in on Season 8, I would not be surprised at all if it even beats 4, 6, and 7. It is mathematically still possible. But make no mistake, more people have watched Season 8 than Seasons 1, 2, and 3 and that is saying a lot, because those too were well written seasons.

  5. genesim

    I just read up on season finale and with DVR sales (minus movie theater sales which by the way, where I saw it, the movie was packed AND they had to make a second showing that also sold out) it’s total viewership was 12+ million.

    Hmm, this free fall is not following. That is still more than most football game viewer ships, and if you add in delayed Netflix viewers, piracy, and Itunes, yeah not seeing the point at all.

    The Walking Dead only loses when compared with itself, and as I illustrated that is really only a 4,6, and 7. With Fear the Walking Dead on the upward swing, I am not seeing this total decline at all. Matter of fact, Talking Dead averages 4.4 million and that is more than most shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. Say what??? What a great time for great tv if that floats your boat.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      All this talk about great DVR numbers is a red herring. Neither the network nor the advertisers care about DVR viewers. Broadcast TV shows are advertisement delivery vehicles by design, and DVR viewers skip the ads. The only numbers that matter in ratings are the viewers who watch live. Those numbers are in a steep decline for this show.

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        Also, the fact that a huge chunk of the viewing audience for this series no longer consider it Day 1 appointment viewing, and are content to let it sit on the DVR for a few days while they catch up with other, more important shows first, says a lot about how even longtime fans are losing interest in the current storylines.

  6. genesim

    OR perhaps viewers are saddled with paying bills working longer hours. The economy plays a huge role in what once was vs now.

    I don’t think for a second that DVR audience should be dismissed as if they aren’t important. The key is continued success of roping in viewers, no matter when they get them.

    The Walking Dead is in no real trouble and remains one the most popular shows of the new age. Maybe next to Roseanne perhaps, but compared with say Game of Thrones, there are no signs of these advertisers jumping ship. They would be fools to even think about it.

    DVR and paay as you go is the new way. Where do you get that viewers are watching something else in place of the Walking Dead? It is still one of the top rated shows and has most competition tripled in numbers. People buy subscription services that aren’t even accounted in the viewing numbers because they are not live tv. That is a fact.

    Also when it comes to DVR you do realize that most people don’t fast forward according to recent studies. Only about 5 to 8% of commercials don’t get watched. If Walking Dead is losing out to live shows, I sure want to see it, because according to numbers ALL TV SHOWS are down in live broadcast because people are jumping to Netflix and Amazon to see shows.

    Of course in your sky is falling scenario you are ignoring the competition that is seeing even less numbers and people not DVR’ing the content. Remember, The Walking Dead is near the top there, and that is saying something.

    Programs being paid for by ads is very important, but subscription services taking hold of used to be live TV watchers are also important and you don’t seem to factor that in at all.

  7. genesim

    Look, my point to all of this, is not to prove viewership decline with the obvious decline of cable services in general (and you cannot deny this at all as families find more and more reasons to cut the cord), but the main reason, and the absolute main reason is the limitation of the genre to begin with.

    When Walking Dead was sustaining 15-17 million viewers, that kind of popularity was simply not going to last, and it would be foolish to ever think it would. Joe public has the attention span of a flea let alone the ability to put together complicated stories like that have been presented in these final couple of seasons.

    It is like I stated on the OPPO thread, they are “renters” and their bloated numbers cannot be taken seriously. If the Walking Dead even settled to a healthy 5 to 7 million audience permanently it would not be the end of the show by a long shot. The viewership is healthy, and it is astronomical compared with the limitations of the genre.

    All I can say to this discussion is wait and see. I think there are at least 5 more seasons of incredible success if they want it. I believe the writers when they say they plan to go to 20 seasons. I hope so as long as it is as good as it has been. I enjoy the show, so shoot me for it.

  8. goran

    In less than a year and a half the show went from 8.7 to 2.6 points in the demo. That’s a huge drop, no matter how you try to spin it. And Josh was right to point out the various stupidities that the writers have come up with in the last few seasons.

    Even though there’s a new showrunner for next season, it should be pointed out that Gimple is still gonna be the guy in charge of the whole franchise. And the new showrunner, Angela Kang, recently wrote that silly episode where the kid let everyone out of the cage, so I don’t know if this change will make that much of a difference, unless, of course, the writers have realized what they’ve done to the show. But if they think that they’ve been doing a great job over the past 3-4 seasons, the quality won’t improve.

  9. genesim

    There was nothing “silly” about what a child does in regards to having bad judgement. Though I covered this ad nauseum before.

    The facts are that this kind of thinking will get suits involved and then things will really get screwed up.

    Demographic points are about as useless as exit polls.

    The Walking Dead is doing just fine in the economic ladscape. If anything is in freefall it is tv in genetal, and not just TWD (which again acccording to FACTS is actually ahead of other seasons, not behind).

    However to address the point, “renter” audiences simply cannot handle dark stories and Glenn dying made lots of people jump ship….stupid IMHO, but it is what it is. Good riddance.

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