The Walking Dead's Season 8 finale, "Wrath," is the successor to the season premiere "Mercy." Both of their titles come from an Islamic hadith spoken by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in a flash-forward in the season premiere: "My mercy prevails over my wrath." The show finally caught up to the flash-forwards teased throughout the season, where a gut-shot, red-eyed Rick leans against a tree, seemingly having just finished something exhausting. And now we know what it all meant: Rick's militia defeated the Saviors in a cleverly anticlimactic battle that ended with Rick sparing Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) life by non-fatally slashing his throat. In a rarity for a major Walking Dead episode, not one significant character died.
Outgoing showrunner Scott Gimple's final episode (longtime co-executive producer Angela Kang will be taking over Season 9 as Gimple assumes the newly-created position of Chief Content Officer, overseeing the entire franchise) started with Rick's version of Carl's memory of walking hand-in-hand with young Carl (Chandler Riggs) and asking Siddiq (Avi Nash) to tell him how his son died. Siddiq recounted how he and Carl put down some walkers to free their souls, which is what Siddiq's mother believed. "He died honoring a woman he didn't even know," he said, philosophizing about how people who die leave something behind in the people they loved.
Of course fans lost it over this throwback pre-apocalypse image.
As the Hilltoppers plotted to walk into Negan's trap (though Daryl [Norman Reedus] suspected something fishy), paranoia overtook Morgan (Lennie James) and he knocked down and put his stick on Henry, prompting Rick to suggest he shouldn't come with. "We are worse than we were," Morgan responded, adding that giving those Saviors their word and then killing them was wrong. There's no going back to the way they were, "so let's just finish this." The gang then headed out into battle, Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) hand-in-hand.
Over at the Sanctuary, Dwight (Austin Amelio) was a prisoner in the place he used to help run and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) delivered his bullets to Negan. Negan took Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) in the car with him and Eugene and Laura (Lindsley Register), and confessed that he was sacrificing some of his own people by sending them out to a decoy roadblock that got attacked by Rick and his people. He explained that while Rick and his people thought they'd be encountering Negan, he'd be sending people to attack the Hilltop while getting the drop on Rick. But Rick realized it was a trap and sent them elsewhere, while Gabriel complicated things for Negan by jumping out of the car.
They quickly caught him — he's basically blind, after all — and Eugene put a gun in his face. Negan called dibs on the priest, and made it clear that this was his last day on Earth.
Jesus (Tom Payne) suggested that Morgan use one end of his stick for the dead and one for the living, which Carol (Melissa McBride) thought was a cool suggestion. Then the sound of Savior birdcalls filled the air. Negan was waiting.
The Saviors had them surrounded as Negan taunted them by saying that Eugene made their massacre possible by making the bullets, Dwight was going to watch them all die and Gabriel was about to get shot in the head. The Saviors lined up to open fire, and Every! Single! Gun! Malfunctioned! Eugene double-crossed the Saviors and made defective bullets that jammed the guns! He's still a good guy! He's Snape!
Eugene's former friend Rosita (Christian Serratos) picked some Saviors off of him. He puked on her last week, but they're gonna be cool again if they survive this. She did slug him in the face for the puke, though.
Over at the Hilltop, Aaron (Ross Marquand) and the Oceansiders showed up and Molotov cocktailed the attacking Saviors. Things were going well!
Ricks team finally having something positive happening But im sure the writers will ruin it, #twd— 🇺🇸Damien Fire 🔥 (@damienfire) April 16, 2018
Over at the field, Some Saviors surrendered, while Rick chased Negan to the prodigal tree. Negan admitted that the "eeny meeny miny moe thing" when he killed Glenn (Steven Yeun) Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) "was bulls---" and that he made the decision to not kill Rick in front of his son, but if he had, Carl would still be alive. Rick begged Negan to take ten seconds and talk about Carl. Rick said that Carl was right, there was another way. At first Negan said no, but then his eyes welled up with tears. He knew it, too.
Then Rick slashed his throat with a piece of broken glass.
I truly thought Rick was going to kill Negan but Carl made it different. He should've been there T-T. #TheWalkingDead #TheWalkingDeadSeasonFinale #TWD #WalkerStalker #FOX #AMC pic.twitter.com/bknD2jNxtO— Marielena Nuñez (@Sinaindira) April 16, 2018
Rick flashed back to walking with Carl and then came to and saw all his people watching him. He ordered Siddiq to save Negan, which caused Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to melt down and cry "it's not over 'til he's dead!"
Rick told the Saviors that it was over, but that for anyone who would work together and live in peace, the world was theirs by right, echoing what he said in the season premiere. He pointed to the enormous horde of walkers off in the distance (that's going to be a big problem in Season 9) and said that's the real enemy.
Rick sat at the tree, said "my mercy prevails over my wrath," and broke down in tears, finally mourning his boy. Savior defector Al told Maggie that he'd been reading the book Georgie left, and that he wanted to help build the projects it contained, which Maggie agreed to.
Daryl took Dwight out into the woods. Dwight was sorry for what he did, but was willing to accept his punishment. But rather than killing him, Daryl gave him the keys to a truck and told him to go away and never come back, but to "find her;" that is, his wife Sherry, who's out there somewhere. Dwight drove to his and Sherry's house and found that she'd left a note for him that said "Honeymoon (infinity symbol)."
Morgan gave his Kingdom armor to Carol to give to Henry, saying to tell him he'd be alright and went off on his own. He went to the junkyard and told Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) that Rick invited her to come live at the Hilltop, among people. Jadis revealed that her real name is Anne (cut!). Morgan said that he was going to stay at the Heap, though. It was from there that his journey to Fear the Walking Dead began.
Anne??? Bitch your name is Jadis #TWD— New Mrs. S (@itsakeishlife) April 16, 2018
Maggie told Jesus that he and Rick were right about sparing the Saviors, but not about Negan. So she and Daryl are going to bide their time, wait for the right moment, and then show Rick and Michonne that they were wrong. Uh-oh. Maggie looked like Michael Corleone there, and Daryl popping out of the shadows like a ghost was a weird, ominous touch.
Jesus...Maggie...Daryl... no. Just no. #TWD— вяιттαиу (@eanerynattirb) April 16, 2018
Rick and Michonne told Negan that they were going to keep him in a prison cell and that would live as evidence that they were making a civilization. "You, alive, is gonna help show people that things have changed," Rick said. He's cop, so he believes putting people in jail is the #1 sign of civilized society.
Father Gabriel went to the burned-out ruins of his church and thanked God and said that he understood. "I can see," he said, probably just metaphorically though.
The episode ended with Rick writing his own letter to Carl. "I forgot who I was," said Rick. "You made me remember."
Overall, the episode felt very final. It wrapped up every All Out War story and planted the seeds for what's to come. The Season 9 conflicts will be dealing with that giant horde off in the distance and Rick vs. Maggie (that is, if Lauren Cohan is back next season). In an interview with Deadline, Scott Gimple said that this episode is "sort of the end of a very long chapter of The Walking Dead;" that is, the first eight years. And that feels true.
But fans are mostly unhappy that Negan lived. Twitter reaction to the episode leaned negative.
The fight between Rick and Negan that we were waiting since 2 years, is a joke. 1 minute, and ridiculous. You promised us a great episode. It was slow as usual, no action. What happened? Eugene changed bullet. And that's it? #TWD #TheWalkingDead— Rhaegar (@Rhae_gar) April 16, 2018
Negan surviving is taken directly from the comics, and it was heavily teased throughout the season, so it's not like this switch came out of nowhere. But people still think the show should have deviated from the comics in the case, because they're tired of Negan.
So Negan dying is NOT something they could change but Carl dying IS something they could change. Theses damn writers. Negan should be DEAD since you already screwed the comics anyway! #TWD #TheWalkingDead— Warrior Lovers (@little_one63) April 16, 2018
Others mostly liked it, but still wanted Negan dead.
All Out War is over. Season 8 was unnecessarily heartbreaking in places but compared to a lot of the shows I've been around over the years? It's still top shelf. I'm not looking forward to Negan adding more conflict in #TWD 9 but...the Finale was pretty damned good. I'll take it.— trumpetnista (@trumpetnista) April 16, 2018
The Walking Dead will return for Season 9 in the fall.