It’s all come down to this on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” Season 8. With the survivors headed right into Negan’s trap, the struggle to survive and dominate the new world came to a head as the war drew to a close.
The episode opens with spirits very high at the Hilltop as they believe they’re about to catch Negan and the Saviors by surprise. However, it was revealed at the end of last week’s episode that Negan planted the information as a false flag in order to lead Rick and the rest of the survivors into a trap.
Together, the intrepid heroes depart leaving most of the Hilltop behind.
Meanwhile, back at the Sanctuary, Negan is getting his men ready for the end of this conflict as well. He approaches Dwight, who is beaten and bloodied after being found out as a traitor, to dress him down with the fact that he was once a respected member of the community there.
“Now… you don’t have a damn thing,” he says.
Eugene comes in and explains that he personally quality control checked all the ammunition he made the Saviors for this big finish. He even requested to be along for the ride to help with the tactics and ensure everything goes quick and smooth. He, Negan and Gabriel share a ride together after the leader tells the priest he has some confessing to do.
Negan tells Gabriel that he’s set up a roadblock for Rick to kill some of the Saviors as a way to sell his evil plan. Rick finds a new map and figures out that a trap was set, but that’s all still going according to Negan’s plan, meaning the heroes are in for a world of hurt. Realizing that Negan has the upper hand, Father Gabriel makes a half-hearted attempt at escape by jumping out of the car.
Eugene of all people catches up with the blind priest as he was grappling with a walker. He tells Gabriel that his faith left him right at the time when he’ll need it most. Although Gabriel begs him to allow him to warn the others, Eugene keeps him at gunpoint until Negan catches up.
Finally, Negan launches his plan. Just when Rick and the gang are in an open field, he announces his presence on a loudspeaker. He explains that Eugene and Dwight were the people who trapped them and that they’ll all be executed on his mark -- that mark being the sound of Negan putting a bullet through Gabriel’s head.
Rick and company realize they’re about to die as Saviors emerge from the hills in all directions. However, when Negan finishes his countdown, Eugene proves once again that he’s the smartest man left in the world.
He rigged all the bullets to backfire, killing multiple Saviors as they tried to murder his friends. It seems that Rosita and Daryl’s attempted kidnapping had an impact on him after all.
With most of his men dead and a nasty bit of gun shrapnel in his right hand, Negan barely escapes as Dwight and Gabriel try to take him down. Realizing that the tide has shifted in their favor, Rick orders his people to finish off the Saviors while he personally runs down Negan. He pins him down with pistol fire behind a tree with decorative stained glass hanging from it and closes the distance to take the big man on one-on-one.
Sadly, even with a broken hand, Negan is more than a match for Rick, injuring him with his trusty bat Lucille. Just when Negan is about to deal a killing blow, Rick begs him to give him ten seconds to explain how the new world will be, for Carl. Negan steadies himself and listens as Rick explains that Carl wanted them to live in peace, which they can do now that Negan’s army is crippled.
As Negan’s eye tear, he slowly starts to lower his bat, as soon as he does, Rick quickly cuts his throat with a piece of glass.
“Look what you did,” Negan says through blood. “Carl didn’t know a damn thing.”
By this time, the survivors and their new Savior prisoners gathered around to watch as Rick ordered their doctor to save Negan’s life. Upon hearing this, Maggie has to be restrained as she screams that Negan has to die in order to make things right for the death of Glenn. She’s hysterical and demands his blood, but Rick knows he needs to go a different way.
In a powerful speech, he tells the prisoners to put their hands down and that he’ll allow them to go home so that the world can continue as it should, with the living fighting the dead, not each other.
“Negan is alive… But his way of doing things is over. Anyone who can’t live with that will pay the price. I promise you that. Any person here who would live in peace and fairness, who would find common ground… this world is yours, by right.”
Just like that, the war is over, and the world is on the mend. The episode cuts to Tara and Rosita bringing glass to help repair the windows of the Sanctuary, meeting with Negan’s wives to help repair the place. Dwight is brought out to the middle of the woods by Daryl, assuming his execution has finally come. Daryl, however, hands him keys to a car and tells him to go find his wife, and that if he ever showed his burnt face again, he’d be a dead man.
In a more ominous denouement to the conflict, Maggie meets with Jesus in a dark room of the Hilltop to explain that she’s not on board with what Rick did in leaving Negan alive.
“So we’re going to bide our time, wait for our moment… and then we’re going to show him,” Maggie says.
Daryl, emerging from the shadows, agrees.
The episode ends with Negan waking up inside Alexandria. Rick and Michonne tell him that he’s going to be a living example of what they’re rebuilding. A sign to everyone that this is a civilization, and if you try to make it the kind of world Negan did with his “saving,” you get locked away for the rest of your life. With the war finally over, Rick sets himself and the rest of the survivors on a path to rebirth. The question now becomes whether it will last.