Is ‘The Walking Dead’ Headed Toward An Anticlimactic Finale?


After 40 episodes and two and a half years, wouldn’t it be ironic if The All Out War ended not with a bang, but a whimper? Or maybe not a whimper, exactly, but a truce? That’s what The Walking Dead seems to be preparing us for with the events in the latest episode, “Still Gotta Mean Something.”

The last 37 episodes have been brutal. Negan murdered Glenn and Abraham, he killed Spencer and Olivia in cold blood. He killed Emmet Carson, he chased away Sherry, and he was basically responsible for the death of Sasha. The Saviors under his command killed Denise, and Tobin, and Benjamin, and countless other Scavengers, Alexandrians, Hilltoppers, Oceansiders, and Kingdommers. Negan has also completely terrorized and humiliated dozens more, including Rick and Daryl. And yet, after all of that, The Walking Dead is not only moving toward a possible armistice but trying to make Negan out to be the “good guy” because he didn’t actually order the deaths of all the Scavengers.

Consider the evidence: Carl’s death was not exactly a call-to-arms. Carl, instead, inspired them all to find peace. “It’s gotta stop. It’s not supposed to be like this. I know it can be better,” he told his father as he lay dying. Since the midseason premiere, characters have been softening left and right. Tara has warmed up to Dwight. Maggie agreed to let some of the Savior hostages fight for The Hilltop. Both Carol and Ezekiel tried to talk Morgan out of killing Gavin, and Carol would not go with Morgan to help him kill the escaped Saviors. Michonne helped convince Enid and Maggie to treat the Savior hostages better. Jadis eased up on Negan and released him, and “good guy” Negan has already made overtures to Rick, asking him to join The Saviors instead of fighting against them.

For sure, there are still holdouts. Daryl won’t let his grudge against Dwight go, and in this week’s episode, both Morgan and Rick demonstrated that they were absolutely not ready to give up the fight. However, Tara’s little speech to Daryl in this week’s episode began his thawing process. “Do what you gotta do, but know it’s just for you. I’m out.”

Meanwhile, Michonne is working on Rick. Rick finally read his letter from Carl, and it’s probably going to take all the fight out of him. Confronted with Negan again, Rick will find himself not firing bullets at his foe, but beneath a tree muttering, “May my mercy prevail over my wrath.” That’s not a war cry. That’s Rick trying to talk himself out of killing his arch-nemesis.

Meanwhile, Henry’s return is only going to soften The Hilltop Community even more. They thought they lost him, and unlike when Carol lost Sophia, this time Henry was returned to them, unharmed. Is anyone going to be anxious about putting him back in harm’s way? Elsewhere, Eugene and Father Gabriel are working for the Saviors. Are they really gung-ho about manufacturing bullets that will kill their friends?

Indeed, almost everyone except for Morgan and Simon seems to have lost their bloodthirst, their quests for revenge. However, Morgan — as we already know — is leaving (Rick may boot him for the same reasons he booted Carol seasons ago), and Simon is not long for this world. Simon is the only guy Negan is interested in killing now.

The All Out War is not over, but the fighting seems to be winding down. If Rosita and Daryl take out Eugene’s munitions operation, no one is going to have any bullets left with which to fight, anyway.

Ultimately, I don’t think the final two episodes will be about the War between The Hilltop and The Saviors. The final two episodes will be about The Saviors cleaning house and getting rid of the rotten apples. Meanwhile, for The Hilltop, it will be about cohering around a strategy for peace, about executing Carl’s vision of the future. Save for Simon and the collateral damage in the destruction of the munitions operation, I don’t think we’re going to see a lot more bloodshed in these final two episodes. The All-Out War is no longer about killing each other; it’s about who is going to take control when all the communities finally merge: Rick or Negan?

That’s not another battle. That’s a negotiation.

Additional Thoughts

— When Jadis lost her community, she dropped the act. Ezekiel has lost most of his people, and he’s no longer in charge at The Hilltop, so I think maybe it’s time he dropped the act, too.

— Speaking of Jadis: Besides letting Negan go in this episode, we also learn that she packed a bag and was ready to leave. That helicopter isn’t a death machine. It’s transportation to another community, perhaps the future location of The Walking Dead.

— The show really wants to create a mystery around the passenger Negan picked up at the end of the episode, but we’re pretty sure we know exactly who that is, and it’s going to create a hell of a mess for Dwight.

— Way to take the wrong message away from the return of Henry, Morgan! Everyone else was stoked to see Henry back, and all Morgan could do was brag about killing the guy who killed Henry’s brother, Benjamin. It was awkward.

— Big shout out to Melissa McBride, who finally got to do some acting again this week, and she crushed it, per usual, circling back to her daughter Sophia in big monologue with Ezekiel.

— The worst thing about Rick and Morgan killing all of those Saviors after promising to save them is that them being bad guys took a lot of the satisfaction out of Gavin’s death.

— Here’s a preview for next week’s episode, and I think the thing I’m most excited about here is the return of Aaron, who has been absense since the midseason premiere. I have no idea why this show insists on backburning Aaron and Jesus.