Spoiler Warning for Season 8, Episode 15 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed.
The conflict among the Saviors hits a climax as betrayals are shattered and secrets come to the surface in a somewhat lackluster penultimate episode. Coming off of several strong chapters of the All Out War story arc, this episode is oddly balanced and paced, spending a significant amount of time at the Sanctuary while also bouncing around to other storylines. Issues aside, there are several incredible moments of plot progression, excellent emotions and moving performances that help to set the stage for the Season 8 Finale.
The opening scene is quite possibly the best part of the episode, mostly because it is precisely what it needs to be. Ever since “How It’s Gotta Be,” viewers have been filled with emotion waiting for the letters that Carl wrote to be read. Following his talk with Michonne last episode, Rick decides that it is finally time for him to read his letter…and it sure is emotional. Via voice-over from Chandler Riggs as Carl, the memories of his childhood are shared, and mentions of Rick being shot at the very start of the series are made as the final words from a son to his father are read; Carl makes it clear that peace with the Saviors and Negan won’t be easy, but that it is the only way to assure that they survive in the end, both physically and mentally. Carl explains the safety he felt when he was with father, and expresses his desire for Rick to feel that same safety. There’s also a mention made about the innocent people that are part of the Saviors, most of which are just trying to survive themselves and don’t necessarily believe in Negan’s style of leadership.
Much like the vision that was shown in “Honor,” Carl paints a picture of the “larger world” that Jesus introduced them to, one where all of the communities are working together for a better future. Carl truly believed that life can return to some sense of normalcy if they can lay down their weapons and stop fighting. While the letter is being read, shots of life around the Hilltop are shown; Jerry carries baby Gracie around, Michonne plays with Judith, Eduardo relieves Kal at a lookout post and the prisoners work on a shelter. If all types of people from Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom can come together, what’s stopping the “good” Saviors from coming around and being part of the future they’re all building? Michonne gives Rick a smile, showing that she is relieved that he finally decided to read the letter; it’s worth noting that contents of Michonne’s letter, nor Enid’s, are currently known, but hopefully they will also be read at some point in the future. Negan’s letter comes back into play this episode as Michonne decides to take it from the drawer that Rick stashed it in. Since Carl’s death, Michonne has been fully committed to following through on his wishes and this is just another way she is paying tribute to his sacrifice.
One of the most underrated duos of the past two seasons has been Gregory and Simon, both of whom have this engrossing back-and-forth that makes for a unique and hilarious dynamic. Following his escape from the prisoner pen at the Hilltop, Gregory returns to the Sanctuary and once again tries to make himself useful. Simon expresses his anger at Gregory’s failure to knock his people back in line prior to the initial battle of All Out War in “Mercy.” It’s also revealed to Gregory that Negan is missing and presumed dead, leaving Simon in charge of the Saviors; this seems to be good news to Gregory, but Simon has other plans and threatens to kill the former Hilltop leader for his flippant nature. In a rather surprising turn, Gregory actually stands up for himself and refuses to go down without a figh, claiming that he has been through too much just for it all to end without a point. Instead of just killing him, Simon decides to give Gregory another chance to prove himself and help in the transition of leadership at the Sanctuary. The problem is…Negan has returned to throw a wrench in things. Outside of the Sanctuary, Dwight takes a smoke break and is stunned to find Negan alive and well. The two have a talk and it is clear that something is being planned between the two in secrecy. In midst of a war, the inner turmoil of the villain group makes for some seriously tense television, especially considering the viewer is aware of many of the secrets at play.
Simon’s plans are turned upside down when he is called into a meeting with Negan, along with the other Savior lieutenants. There is a clear look of shock and disappointment on Simon’s face as Negan menacingly cleans off Lucille (who is looking remarkably well after everything she went through the past few episodes) and brings the events of “The Key” and after into question; Negan is especially angry over the fact that the Hilltop attack wasn’t a complete success and that Simon fled from the scene before making sure the job was done. There is also a wild revelation made as Negan mentions the days before he took charge of the Saviors, specifically when Simon gunned down all of the men and boys of a “settlement.” While it isn’t explicitly stated, this is essentially direct confirmation that Simon is the one who killed the men of the Oceanside community before they relocated to their current location. This is an excellent way to bind the storylines together and provides an explanation for why the survivors of Oceanside are so weary to become involved. The killing of the Scavengers provides Negan with enough proof that Simon has been “backsliding” and that he needs to be dealt with. Negan orders Simon to get on his knees and it seems as though he will be the next victim of a Lucille beating. This turns out to be a test and Negan “forgives” Simon before letting him in on a plan to surround the Hilltop and end the conflict once and for all. Dwight is also present for the meeting and pays close attention to the plans. This entire scene is insanely intense and really plays up the theme of betrayal that has been especially prevalent this season among the Saviors.
A problematic aspect of this season has been the under-utilization of Oceanside, especially following the death of Natania. This episode finds Cyndie, Rachel, Beatrice and Kathy heading out to go fishing whilst discussing the fact that Aaron has been creeping around their community. A walker crosses their path and Aaron dispatches it before collapsing to the ground, clearly exhausted, dehydrated and starved. Triggerfinger Rachel once again proposes that they just kill him, but Cyndie stone-coldly states that he made his decision to stick around, so he can die on his own. A rainstorm creates a harsh environment for Aaron to face off against a handful of walkers. He’s struggles to kill the walkers, but manages to successfully defend himself from the undead; he kills the last walker by bashing its head in with a stick, looking similar to Negan and Lucille. After falling asleep, Aaron wakes up to find himself surrounded by the Oceanside women. He gives an impassioned speech to them about the fact that his people aren’t responsible for Natania’s death, but rather it is the Saviors to blame. He places the blame of everything that Oceanside has gone through on the Saviors, stating that there is no moving forward until they are dead. It’s not exactly clear what effect this will have on the women, but Aaron deserves to be praised for be so determined and selfless. The camera does focus in on Cyndie’s face, hinting that she may be on the verge of changing her mind and leading her people into battle.
A major player of this episode is none other than Eugene, who really shifts to his darkest side yet as he continues to manage his bullet factory outpost. He concocts a recipe with Frankie and Tanya before giving orders to the workers that have been transported to his outpost and are now assisting in the sorting and manufacturing of the bullets. Father Gabriel is still on the line, but a coughing fit sends Eugene into a power trip as he lambastes the sickly priest for possibly spreading the infection that he caught earlier this season. He also points out that one of the bullets Gabriel was in charge of turned out to be defective; Eugene accuses Gabriel of intentionally sabotaging the Savior operation, but it’s clear that there is no ill-will on Gabriel’s part. He flat out says that he doesn’t want his people to die, but that he also doesn’t want to die himself. There is a really powerful moment wherein Gabriel mentions that he might not be any better now than when he locked his parishioners out of his church; the fact that he is so torn up about the possibility of him contributing to deaths of his own people now shows that he has grown exponentially since the days of his darker past. Father Gabriel is a prime example of the excellent character development in “The Walking Dead,” showing that even people with muddied history can still find a way forward to redemption.
Eugene really hasn’t been part of much of the story involving his “former traveling companions” lately, but this episode finds him back with two of them. Eugene heads outside to test some of the bullets when suddenly his two Saviors guards are killed by Rosita and Daryl. They drag him away from the outpost with plans on bringing him to the Hilltop. While walking, Eugene expresses his belief that they are only keeping him alive because of their shared history; this causes Daryl to snap and threaten to cut out his tongue, but Rosita ultimately stops him. He also brings up the fact that he saved Rosita’s life back in “Hearts Still Beating,” when she shot at Negan leading Eugene to confess to making the bullet. She doesn’t want to listen to Eugene’s bullshit either, and she later pulls a gun on him after he boasts about how well the Saviors have been treating him and that Rick is the one responsible for the conflict. While holding him at gunpoint, Rosita unleashes a torrent of insults at Eugene, claiming that he destroyed the only friendships that he ever had; she also tells him that they are only keeping him alive because of his knowledge and that they will lock him away so that he can work for them. There is a lot of pain in Rosita’s eyes and the hurt and betrayal that she feels is totally visceral, especially considering the viewer can relate to this; the audience trusted Eugene and he has repeatedly destroyed all of the empathy he has gained. It’s a vicious cycle and it is weighing heavily on Rosita.
The award for the most overly dramatic character of the episode definitely goes to Eugene. While transporting him back to the Hilltop, Daryl and Rosita stop to take down some walkers. Eugene sees this as a moment to escape and sticks his fingers down his throat, forcing him to projectile vomit all over Rosita. While she is distracted, he flees from the area and ends up hiding under a mound of what appears to be cremated human remains. While searching, Rosita flat out tells Daryl to shoot him if they find him, showing that she views Eugene as being beyond redemption. Eugene may be a coward, but he is also resourceful and knows how to get himself out of a sticky situation; for further proof of this, think back to “Twice As Far” when he bit Dwight’s dick to free himself and his friends. Eugene returns to the outpost and speaks with Regina, who relays the plans that Negan has for finishing the war. The Saviors will need a large amount of bullets, so Eugene pushes his workers to finish their order by the next morning. Gabriel is brought back onto the assembly line, but is given an ultimatum: help or cry and die. Eugene has more confidence than ever in this scene as he gives commands and leads with an iron fist; he has stakes in this war, being a crucial asset that Negan needs to finish the battle. The question remains, has Eugene fully turned his back on his friends? Is he playing an angle and secretly working to sabotage the operation? What would Abraham think of were Eugene is right now?
The tide turns at the Sanctuary as Simon holds a secret meeting to discuss plans to kill Negan (for some reason he holds this “secret” meeting completely out in the open). Savior Gary, Gregory and others are present as Simon explains that Negan deserves to die in a respectful and quiet way, even offering to allow Dwight to be the one to kill him. An eerie whistle breaks up the meeting as Negan steps forward and gives a signal, leading to everyone except Simon, Gregory and Dwight to be gunned down. Negan thanks Dwight for being a whistle-blower, prompting Simon to pounce at his former companion. For whatever reason, Negan offers Simon a final chance to prove himself in the most Savior way possible: a one-on-one fight in the middle of the Sanctuary. With all of the Sanctuary residents surrounding them, Simon and Negan throw punches at one another, showing that they are both incredibly capable fighters. As Negan gets the upper-hand, Dwight pulls Gregory away, realizing that he might not be safe among the Saviors anymore; Dwight hands Gregory the plans that Negan has for the final strike against the Hilltop, urging him to get them to Rick. Negan stands above Simon and delivers a final fatal blow, strangling him to death and putting an end to his right-hand man. The fight choreography isn’t exactly the best, looking like a rather generic television brawl. Still, this scene is incredibly reminiscent to the final showdown between Rick and Shane in Season 2’s “Better Angels,” as well as the duel between The Governor and Merle in Season 3’s “This Sorrowful Life”; each of these are examples of leaders being forced to take down their second-in-command after realizing that they are just too far gone.
The twists and turns at the Sanctuary aren’t quite over. While walking through the halls, Negan talks to Dwight about how shitty the situation with Simon turned out to be. He expresses his gratitude toward Dwight and even offers him a promotion, which Dwight gladly accepts and states that he will help end Rick and the others. Negan motions for Dwight to enter his room, which he complies and is shocked to find Laura waiting for him. Dwight panics as he realizes what is happening: he has been exposed. The cover is blown as Laura angrily explains what happened the night of the attack on Alexandria, including Dwight killing the Saviors and her own escape. Negan picked her up last episode and has been aware of the betrayal ever since, but was playing along to gain an advantage; the plans that Dwight sent to the Hilltop are revealed to be a trap that Rick’s group are going to walk into. Dwight facing the consequences of his betrayal is chilling to watch, especially when Negan pokes the bear even further by figuring out that he also likely lied about killing Sherry.
The final stage of All Out War is put into motion as Gregory arrives at the Hilltop with the plans that Dwight sent. While Gregory is thrown back into the prisoner pen, the plans are handed over to Maggie, who speaks with Rick and Michonne. Negan stands outside of the Sanctuary as Walker Simon is chained to the fence; Michonne radios Negan and reads the letter that Carl left for him, urging him to accept the peace that Rick hopefully offers him. There is so much maturity in what Carl says to Negan, showing that the fighting is ultimately pointless and is basically mutually assured destruction. Negan isn’t standing down though; he’s ready to finish things, killing everyone he has to in the process. While it makes perfect sense that some of his beliefs may have changed, isn’t Negan’s outlook that “people are a resource”? Is he really planning on killing everyone at the Hilltop? If so, is this not exactly what Simon had previously proposed? Regardless, it is worth noting that there seems to be a bit of emotion as Negan hears Carl’s words. He is somewhat affected by Carl’s death, even if he won’t fully admit that to everyone.
— The Walking Dead World (@TWalkingDWorld) April 9, 2018
“Worth” isn’t the best or the worst episode of Season 8. It mostly serves as a wrapping up of storylines and a bridge to the Season Finale. Some aspects of the episode, including the death of Simon and Oceanside, are slightly underwhelming. Simon’s death does shake things up, but it would have been far more rewarding to have a member of Rick’s group kill him or for it to at least be on screen more prominently. Certain points of this episode do feel as though the wheels are spinning until the season reaches the finale, but that is an issue that has always been present in the series. The positives of this episode do include the interactions between Eugene, Rosita and Daryl, the reading of Carl’s letters and the secrets and lies at the Sanctuary. This episode features some stellar performances from Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Ross Marquand and Austin Amelio. The standout of the episode is Steven Ogg, who gives his final performance in the series as Simon, a menacing and lovable villain since his introduction in the terrifying Season 6 Finale “Last Day on Earth.” With just one episode remaining, how will All Out War conclude? Will Negan be kept alive or will the conflict spill over into Season 9? What will become of Dwight? Will Oceanside and Aaron arrive to help finish the war? Will there be any more casualties before it’s all said and done?
Be sure to tune into the Season 8 Finale of “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m., immediately followed by the Season 4 Premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead” at 10:10 p.m. on AMC.