'The Walking Dead' Season 8, Episode 15 recap: Negan returns to set things right in The Sanctuary

With just two more episodes before Season 8 of “The Walking Dead” comes to a close, things took shape in the penultimate episode, “Worth.” With the Saviors' loyalties split, Negan had to step in to retake control.

The episode opens with Rick finally reading his letter from Carl, which urges mercy on the Saviors once the war is done. Inside the mansion, Michonne stumbles upon Carl’s letter to Negan, which Rick had tucked away. Fans will remember that he informed Negan there was a note left for him, but he neglected to read it aloud.

Meanwhile, back at the newly-recaptured Sanctuary, Simon and Gregory are sitting together unpacking the loss they just suffered with their attack on The Hilltop. Gregory is trying to convince Simon, who seems to be running things in Negan’s absence, to keep him alive. It’s close, but Simon agrees despite the bad optics of leaving him unpunished for his bad intel. It turns out he’s got bigger plans that require manpower.

Elsewhere, Dwight steps outside to smoke and is confronted by Negan, who returned during last week's episode but told the guards to keep his arrival a secret. He asks him why he and Simon never went looking for him after Rick waylaid his approach to The Hilltop. Dwight, who has grown accustomed to lying on the fly thanks to his secret allegiance with The Hilltop, says that honoring the wishes of Negan’s appointed second in command felt like the right move to honor him. It seems Negan believes him, for now, but asks for a pledge of loyalty. He later confronts Simon for his decision to change the operation from infecting their enemies to killing them. Interestingly enough, he doesn’t reveal that he knows Simon also disobeyed his order to not kill the Scavengers.

Negan mentions that he was unsure about keeping Simon on as his No. 2 after seeing him kill men, women and children in the early days of taking the Sanctuary. Just when it looks like Lucille is going to take a big piece out of Simon’s skull, Negan shows restraint and keeps him alive. In fact, he makes him a big part of his next plan.

Negan reveals that he’s going to personally lead a team of 10 men to a establish new outposts that surround The Hilltop. He wants other teams doing the same thing nearby. The idea is to essentially trap the survivors inside The Hilltop and kill any who try to leave. If the operation the next day is successful, they’ll always have ammo nearby and will be able to use their limited resources to make it happen.

Simon pretends to be on board, but immediately pulls Dwight aside to reveal that he and the people who helped him kill the Scavengers are planning to make a move against Negan that night.

Meanwhile, at the bullet depot, Eugene is giving his workers a pep talk. As far as he knows, Simon is in charge and his bullet order is impossible to fill. He tells them that the only way to avoid his wrath is to make enough for whatever plan Simon has next so that he won’t notice how dangerously short they are. When he goes outside to test fire some rounds, Rosita and Daryl kidnap him. They tell him that their plan is to stick him in a hole at The Hilltop in case they need him. If he ever stopped being useful, he’d be executed.

Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes, Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 15 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

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Fortunately for him, a pack of walkers gives him the chance to escape and he’s able to outwit his captors and return to the depot. Once there, he learns of Negan's return and quickly informs everyone that he’s changed his mind and that they’ll work around the clock to meet the bullet order needed to kill his former allies and end the war. It seems Eugene has truly gone over to the Saviors.

Later that day, Simon meets up with Dwight, Gregory and the other traitors to strategize Negan’s assassination. Before they can put anything into motion, though, Negan comes out of hiding. He counts backwards from three and everyone except Dwight, Gregory and Simon are taken out by sharpshooters. It’s clear that Dwight sold Simon out to Negan.

Simon is told that he won’t be executed outright. Negan allows him to take his shot at beating him one-on-one for control of the group.

“You want to be the man, you have to beat the man,” he says. “If you can do that, then hell… you should be the man.”  

Inside, Simon gives a speech to the people he believes will be his new subjects. It’s cut short when he decides to sucker punch Negan. They fight and Negan quickly gets the upper hand. When it’s clear that Simon is going to lose, Dwight sneaks Gregory out of the crowd. He gives him car keys and tells him to give Negan’s plan details to Rick.

When the fight is over, Negan takes Dwight aside and, for his loyalty, offers him a chance to be his new No. 2. Dwight accepts and goes in his room to find Saviors there waiting for him. That’s when Negan’s biggest reveal is made.

In last week’s episode he picked up a mystery person on the side of the road. It was Laura, the one and only person that saw Dwight kill Saviors at the battle of Alexandria. Negan has known Dwight was a traitor since the moment he got back. His grand plan to siege The Hilltop was a sham. Thanks to the message Dwight sent Gregory away with, the survivors at The Hilltop are headed right into a trap.

Dwight, however, will not be executed. Negan says his plans for him are not done.

The episode ends with Negan taking a moment outside to himself when he gets a call on the walkie-talkie from Michonne. She wants to deliver Carl’s letter. As expected, it calls for Negan to end his conflicts, to give into his instinct that people are a resource and to build a new society based on that. However, unlike the last time he met with Rick and offered him a deal, he’s more resolute after his fight with Simon.

“There is no getting out of it now… I wouldn’t accept your surrender if you came to me on your knees,” he tells Michonne. “Winning isn’t about beating you, winning is about killing every last one of you. That is starting over... I never wanted this, Rick made this happen. You tell him that. No more talk.”