After a "fool-proof" plan of Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Tara's (Alanna Masterson) proved to be anything but and some crafty thinking on Eugene's (Josh McDermitt) part, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors staged a last-minute comeback by the end of The Walking Dead's Season 8 mid-season finale. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the coalition of the Kingdom, Hilltop and Alexandria were beaten down pretty hard but still not broken, driven underground by our newly emboldened bad guys. Instead of an ending, this year's mid-season finale of The Walking Dead served more as a beginning: the beginning of an all out final assault that will decide everyone's fate…as 'The Last Stand Begins':
With the start of the new year right around the corner and the AMC series expected to return for the second-half of its eighth season in February, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the most talked about scenes from the first eight episodes. In the season premiere 'Mercy," viewers were forced to ask themselves a vary uncomfortable question: what happens when a man of faith (Seth Gilliam's Gabriel) travelling a road to redemption meets "The Devil" (Negan) himself?
King Ezekiel's (Khary Payton) spirit, determination and leadership have led the Kingdom to victory over the Saviors time and again, even winning over a doubtful Carol (Melissa McBride) in the process. Sadly, what helps bring his people a sense of hope and of a future are also the same traits used later to bring the great "king" down:
The past comes back to haunt Rick in a big way, as Morales (Juan Pareja) returns from the first season as a member of the Saviors and uses his "captive audience" to explain to Rick how he is in no position to take any kind of "moral high ground" when it comes to the Saviors:
After a devastating attack on the Kingdom's forces by the Saviors and some high-power weaponry, we see two examples of the heroism that King Ezekiel inspires in those that he leads. In the first clip, Carol shifts into full-on "Carol mode" to shut down that threat before the Saviors are able to use it on anyone else. In the second clip, we learn a painfully tragic truth: that with great love can come great sacrifice:
If you're a reader of the comic book series, then what you heard here probably sounded pretty familiar to you; but for fans of the series, it was a look at a side of Negan they had never seen before now. Now whether or not he's telling the truth to Gabriel, we don't know… but it feels like it's real (and extra points to the visual creative crew for giving the scene a confessional vibe to it with the lighting and camera angles):
I know this season was all about "the serious," but there was something particularly '80's action movie-enjoyable about this entire sequence (including the battle in the building just prior) with Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rosita (Christian Serratos). As we see several times during the season, it's a last-minute "Hail Mary" in the form of Daryl and Tara that ends up saving the day; putting an end to the Saviors' plan to use the sound truck to lure away the walkers. Rosita deserves overkill bonus points for one-upping Daryl by using her own shoulder canon on the bad guy…note that I emphasized bad guy. Singular.
While most people on both sides of "All Out War" are elbow deep in "the now," Rick is someone who always thinks beyond the endgame. He knows that the war's going to end and has some sense of how it's going to end, So when he offers Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and the Scavengers another opportunity as an alliance, it's less about needing them to help put an end to Negan than it is about establishing relations with them. Rick knows that they will need everyone involved and committed if they're to make what comes out of this something sustainable.
In every war there are causalities, and this time would be no different. We've watched Carl (Chandler Riggs) grow from a boy to a man on our screens, so his revealing of the bite was a punch to the kidneys that you knew was coming but still couldn't prepare yourself for. Carl proved to be just like his old man in the end: a true leader and hero who saved lives and found a way to "just survive somehow" for so long. As for what role his final days will play in bringing an end to the conflict, that remains to be seen… but it could just be the one thing that thaws the hate between two men.
Here is AMC's official synopsis for The Walking Dead Season 8:
"Last year, Rick Grimes and his group of survivors were confronted with their deadliest challenge yet. With the comfort of Alexandria, they let their guard down, only to be reminded how brutal the world they live in can be. The introduction of Negan and the Saviors broke our group.
Feeling powerless under Negan's rules and demands, Rick advocated the group play along. But seeing that Negan couldn't be reasoned with, Rick began rallying together other communities affected by the Saviors. And with the support of the Hilltop and Kingdom, they finally have enough fire power to contest the Saviors.
This year, Rick brings 'All Out War' to Negan and his forces. The Saviors are larger, better-equipped, and ruthless — but Rick and the unified communities are fighting for the promise of a brighter future. The battle lines are drawn as they launch into a kinetic, action-packed offensive.
Up until now, survival has been the focus of Rick and our group, but it's not enough. They have to fight to take back their freedom so that they can live. So that they can rebuild. As with any battle, there will be losses. Casualties. But with Rick leading the Alexandrian forces, Maggie leading the Hilltop, and King Ezekiel leading the Kingdom — Negan and the Saviors' grip on this world may finally be coming to an end."
The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan), Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene), Danai Gurira (Michonne), Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier), Lennie James (Morgan Jones), Seth Gilliam (Father Gabriel Stokes), Alanna Masterson (Tara Chambler), Khary Payton (King Ezekiel), and Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes); with Gale Anne Hurd, Greg Nicotero, David Alpert, showrunner Scott M. Gimple and franchise creator Robert Kirkman serving as executive producers.