The Walking Dead season 8 episode 16 review: Wrath


The Walking Dead’s season 8 finale offered us a (quick) all-out war. We saw mercy and redemption, and perhaps the start of a new community.

On the season finale of The Walking Dead, we saw the culmination of several character’s stories plus some much-needed closure to the violence and anger that’s dominated honestly the past few seasons. While the finale’s battle was not as action-packed as this season’s build-up previewed it to be, we still witnessed epic plays by both sides, including a fantastic “kablooey” trick by Eugene.

Before we dive into the meat of the episode — Rick and Negan’s final battle — we can touch on a few other characters whose stories came full circle.

Eugene’s comeback

He tricked us again! Eugene made everyone think he’d gone full Negan, treating his bullet makers like scum, even Gabriel who was sick and going blind. He also made one disgusting version of a lunch (sardine mac n’ cheese) and proceeded to puke all over Rosita with it. Just… no.

Eugene redeemed himself though, by helping to take out nearly all the Saviors with faulty bullets. We could have seen this coming from when the finale’s preview reminded us Gabriel had making faulty bullets, in hopes to deter the Saviors’ plans. We also can’t forget just how good Eugene is at playing multiple sides at once, working his coward card to lie and stay alive.

He also always has had a soft spot for his former friends (who he also tricked), especially Abraham and Rosita. So when Rosita told Eugene he’d never done anything useful and was pretty much pathetic — that hit him right in the feels. At that point, it seemed Rosita’s vicious words turned Eugene even further towards the dark side. Instead, he realized he could do something important — he could save his old friends.

Ultimately, no one figured out the bullets they were making at the Sanctuary were fake, and Negan only tested out a few before they headed out. So when the Saviors went to attack Rick and the others from Hilltop, their guns peeled back Elmer Fudd-style. What a comeback, Eugene. Just please, never ever make your sardine mac n’ cheese again. Ever.

Saviors can be saved

One of the less focused on but poignant parts of tonight’s finale was the Saviors can be saved, and in turn save others. From ex-Saviors at Hilltop helping Tara fight against their former brethren, to the redeemed Saviors working with their new Hilltop allies to rebuild the Sanctuary, we got a glimpse of what a future looks like for the once villainous community.

We also need to address sexy Savior Alden who is definitely making moves on Maggie. He’s made it clear to the Hilltop’s lead lady he wants to be forgiven, and more specifically wants her to forgive him… and maybe give him a chance to get close.

While this could make for one very interesting couple, this could be pushing things too far. As we saw tonight, Maggie is still very damaged and angry over Glenn’s death. Getting with a Savior is likely the last thing she’d do.

Morgan’s sendoff

By now, it’s no secret Morgan is heading off to Fear the Walking Dead. Tonight, we saw several reasons why it is time for him to go off on his own and hopefully seek therapy. The guy nearly knocked out Henry when having an episode at Hilltop, and was ready to go full Rambo during the big battle with the Saviors.

Now, as much as Jesus is a sweet, lovable face who could sweet talk many into doing the right thing — his interaction with Morgan seemed… fake. Really fake. He simply told Morgan to use the sharp end of his stick to kill walkers, and the blunt end to knock out the living. Morgan listened. Yea… That’s supposedly all it took to calm him and his hallucinations down?

At the end of “Wrath,” Morgan meets up with Jadis — who reveals her actual name is Anne — to notify her she can join Rick and the others now that the Saviors have been defeated. However, he decides to stay at the Heap, to gather himself and his thoughts before he moves on. We’ll see ya on Fear, Morgan.

An end to Rick and Negan’s war

Let’s get to the meat of this episode. What we all came here for. Rick vs. Negan.

The start of the episode foreshadowed that Rick could possibly be finding his way to respecting Carl’s dying wish — to find peace for the communities. Siddiq is offered a chance, finally, to apologize to Rick for what happened to Carl, and to explain how his son was actually bitten. Siddiq says Carl was trying to honor Siddiq’s mother, who believed killing walkers could free their souls.

In the season premiere, aptly titled “Mercy,” Siddiq reveals a Koran-inspired mantra, “May my mercy prevail over my wrath.” It was used then to prove he was peaceful, merciful — not the angry, vengeful soul so many of our characters have become (at times). The line and Siddiq’s mother’s idea of saving walkers influenced Carl heavily. Ultimately, Carl was bitten and ended up dying because he wanted to honor Siddiq’s mother. That, in turn, impacted Rick and Negan, who both saw the boy as the future — now what that “future” was likely differed between them. But the two absolutely cared about Carl, and his death broke something in each of them.

Fast-forward to tonight’s finale, and we see what all those previews of Rick injured beneath a tree with stained-glass windows were about. Rick is out of bullets, and Negan is ready to kill him with his big ol’ bat. Rick pleads for just 10 seconds to explain how the two and their communities can live in peace; Negan sort of obliges and this is his big mistake. Rick says Carl’s vision was for everyone to get along, to make peace and live together happily-ever-after style. The two foes get uh — very, very close — to each other’s faces. Tears build up in their eyes. Uh, guys, you were about to kill each other a second ago and now it looks like you want to hug and make up?

Nope, Rick takes Negan’s moment of vulnerability and slashes a knife across his throat. Negan gets out one last line, “Look what you did. Carl didn’t know a damn thing.”

Negan survives though because Rick is able to show mercy. Mercy, the one thing that has been foreshadowed and harped on over and over and over this season. Rick asks Siddiq to save Negan, as he turns to both Saviors and his people alike, telling everyone they’re in it together. (But uh, if you cross me, I will go full-rage-Rick on you.)

Maggie screamed at Rick for his choice, saying he has to finish things for Glenn. Rick denies her pleas to kill him, again urging that this is how they will grow and better themselves.

Post-epic battle, Rick sits beneath that special tree with stained-glass windows (why does this tree have windows tied to it?!), repeating Siddiq’s mantra with a more definitive tone. “My mercy prevailed over my wrath,” he says, chuckling a bit.

Killing Negan would have been easy, and the war would certainly be over. But Rick, finally understanding the reasons his son fought so hard for good, showed mercy to Negan. There are plans for Negan still, but it’ll be Rick who calls the shots as to how and why the former Sanctuary leader stays alive. We see that plan is gonna be Negan living behind bars, reflecting on all the bad he did while he sees Rick’s community and plans for a better tomorrow flourish.

The aftermath and a trio’s plan to turn against Rick

For comic fans, we saw this ending coming — even if we weren’t sure how or when it’d happen. What we did not expect was a few other supposedly loyal friends of Rick planning to turn against him.

Despite Rick wanting to create a better place (finally), some of his closest friends look like they’re not at all happy with the decision — Maggie, Jesus and Daryl.

Maggie has obvious reasons for hating Rick for not killing Negan outright. Daryl, who almost killed Dwight but let him go, also has obvious reasons. He was tortured endlessly, so yea, he wants Negan dead. Jesus was a bit of a surprise. Perhaps he was there to try and reason with Maggie. Or maybe he was so hurt and angered by Rick’s decision that sure, he’ll get in on the plan as well to take Negan out.

Could the once-reasonable and moral leader of Hilltop be gone for good? We hope the show doesn’t turn her into a complete villain, but things are not looking good right about now. (Plus this is a key reason fans would want to tune in next season.)

As this fan sees it, we saw a lot of stories either conclude or offer interesting developments for next season. But we hope next season doesn’t continue on old TWD tropes. Maybe Maggie does turn against Rick, causing many to choose sides between the old leader and Widow Rhee. Maybe that helicopter Jadis was looking out for makes an appearance again, along with a whole new community.

Or maybe something much more terrifying is coming for everyone — those who walk and whisper amongst the dead.

Related Story: Walking Dead showrunner says expect a ‘very different vibe’ next season

Undead Afterthoughts

  • Gabriel can see! Gabriel can see! Praise be, Gabriel can see!
  • Oh, hey Oceanside. Thanks for showing up for like 5 seconds, making all of those episodes with your crew meaningful (major question mark).
  • Negan better not lose his voice because of that neck wound. We know he’ll offer all the sass, even if he’s behind bars.
  • Cooorraalll’s dreams are coming true. Even if he isn’t around to see it. Let’s just hope Maggie doesn’t muck it up.
  • Speaking of Maggie? She was very Michael Corleone sitting behind that desk. “Don’t ask me about my business, Rick.”