The Walking Dead season 8: Before the premiere, here's a recap of where characters stand
For seven seasons, The Walking Dead and its zombies have kept us hooked on to them like a sugar addict to Nutella’s chocolate-hazelnutty yumminess. Whether there’s a zombie cure or not, the TV version of Robert Kirkman's comic book adaptation about a group of survivors in a post-zombie apocalypse has us wrapped around its fingers as tightly as the barbed wire around Lucille. As always, there was plenty of action and gore in season 7, along with a fair bit of soul searching from our band of un-merry men and women. Let’s quickly catch up with the big sh*t that went down last season, and look at where everyone’s at, before season 8 premieres.
The big reveal: Negan killed Abraham
Megavillian Negan bashing someone’s skull was how season 6 ended. Speculations were rife — most people thought Glenn had faced Negan’s wrath via his wire-trimmed baseball bat Lucille; after all, Glenn dying would be true to the comics. And he had already survived a fake-death earlier in season 6 (remember the “trapped beneath the waste bin and disappeared for a few days” phase for Glenn?). Season 7’s first episode revealed to us that the particular skull Negan bashed as the closing scene of the previous season finale was Abraham’s, but because that angered Daryl who then punched Negan, fan favourite Glenn was done for as well. Yup, with Glenn’s death, Maggie is left husband-less, Rick is left protege-less, and the audience was left with a Steven-Yeun’s-adorable-smile-sized hole in our hearts. Not since Hershel’s death at the hands of the crazy Governor in season 4, have I felt so sickened by a main character’s death on The Walking Dead. Negan also taunted Rick and toyed with the idea of killing Carl, but Rick Grimes (in a move that was obviously very difficult for our alpha-male ex-deputy sheriff) agreed to feign loyalty to Negan. The whole thing was as depressing as it sounds, i.e. very! The only good thing that came out of the whole mess was that Steven Yeun went on to star in Okja, so yay?
The new faces: King Ezekiel, Shiva the tiger, the women at Oceanside, and the good-for-nothing Scavengers
The prettiest face ever on The Walking Dead (of Jesus, duh!) was introduced to us in season 6, but last season did manage to bring some interesting characters to the show as well.
One of them is King Ezekiel, a former zookeeper who now oversees the Kingdom and casually spouts sage-like advice to all his followers. With its warrior-like inhabitants, many of whom are thirsting for revenge against Negan and the Saviours, the Kingdom is also where Carol found herself last season when she took off from Alexandria after her “I’ve killed too many” epiphany (of course, Carol follows only the tune in her head, so she went off to live by herself in a cabin a little distance from the Kingdom). King Ezekiel’s biggest weapons aren’t his charisma or his rambling wisdom, or even his friendship with Carol — it’s his tiger Shiva (hey, why should Game of Thrones be the only hugely popular show spending a bucketload of money on animal CGI!). So far, I’d say Shiva has been underused, although he did make light lunch of a fair number of Saviours in the season finale.
Oceanside, a community of women and children that Tara got swept off to, and whose men have all been killed by the Saviours, could turn out to be a handy ally against the Saviours. They’ve all suffered at the hands of Negan’s gang, and aren’t completely averse to a well-thought out plan for revenge with Rick and Co.
The Scavengers, on the other hand, turned out as dirty and rotten as their makeshift home filled with what looks like scrap from everywhere in a 300-mile radius. They told Rick and his group to bring them weapons in exchange for their support against the Saviours, and then promptly backstabbed them when Negan and the Saviours attacked Alexandria. Trashy move, Scavengers.
The biggest threat: Negan, and a bunch of other “Negans”, and the zombies I guess?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan has said that fans are going to hate Negan even more after season 8 of The Walking Dead. And I believe him: he may be notorious for spilling the beans (Morgan recently unwittingly disclosed that his IRL partner Hilarie Burton is pregnant with their second child), but he doesn’t seem to lie. So, I believe him. Do I want to hate Negan even more than I did last season? Not particularly. More than anything, I want Rick and Co. to destroy Negan and all his minion namesakes (as a mark of their loyalty to him, Negan makes all the Saviours say that each one of them is “Negan.” I’m not necessarily calling him a narcissist, but, oh well). So yeah, I want to see all the Negans being destroyed, more than anything else on the show. Actually, come to think of it, what I really want to see is some freaking progress on the cure or some effort to find more survivors outside of Georgia, but since Kirkman has no intention of killing the golden egg laying chicken that is The Walking Dead without a cure in sight, that probably won’t happen for another eight or nine seasons at the very least! Until then, I’ll take a bunch of dead Negans!
Also, Lennie James (the actor who plays Morgan) said that the threat of the walkers is back and strong this season. Well, I mean, it is the a zombie apocalypse.
The alliance: Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom
Glenn and Abraham’s deaths, the sheer numbers of the Saviours, and the forceful and brutal dominance of Negan, meant that Rick Grimes was left as only a shadow of his tough-ass self last season. He informed the survivors at Alexandria that he was no longer their leader, and that they should all learn to live on Negan’s terms for their own collective and individual good. Living on Negan’s terms meant offering a hefty part of their produce to the Saviours (who come rolling by each week (?) to collect their unearned goodies), just like the Hilltop and the Kingdom have been forced to do. Misery all round. During one such visit by the Saviours, they doubled down and took away all of Alexandria’s weapons, leaving our usually gun-and-other-weapons wielding group feeling even more vulnerable than usual.
Daryl, who was captured by the Saviours, kept in captivity and tortured by Negan and Dwight, had it pretty shitty too. He continues to harbour understandable guilt for Glenn’s death, and although he did manage to escape (with a little help from Dwight’s wife Sherry), there wasn’t anywhere near enough crossbow action from Daryl in season 7. He did, however, threaten to kill Richard (a Kingdom-er), whose grand plan it was to kill Carol in order to convince King Ezekiel to join Alexandria in their fight against the Saviours. Twisted, yes, but crazy Richard met his end at the hands of Morgan for a separate infraction (and Morgan only kills when he absolutely has to, so you know Richard deserved it!).
The midseason finale featured a pivotal season between Michonne and Rick, in which Michonne pretty much sums up their own badassery and convinces Rick to fight against the Saviours.
And fight he will! Rick and Michonne are all in! With them is Maggie, who spent much of last season recuperating at the Hilltop, saving it from invading zombies, and thereby inspiring the folks at the Hilltop to fight against the Saviours. Daryl went back and forth between the Hilltop and the Kingdom to evade the Saviours, and he’s been thirsting for Negan’s blood before he’d even set eyes on him. Daryl’s reunion with Carol at the Hilltop was super sweet, even though he lied to her about Glenn and Abraham’s deaths. Thankfully, Morgan, when he finds out, tells her the truth, and now both him and Carol want to fight the Saviours. Amen to that! Carol hasn’t gone full-on assassin mode since what feels like ever, and I can’t for her to turn it on. While I love the self-introspection and morality reflections of our beloved group, something about a sombre Carol, a crossbow-less Daryl, and a katana-less Michonne just doesn’t feel right!
Then there’s Carl, who already tried to make a trip to the Sanctuary (where Negan lives) to kill him; instead, he ended up amusing Negan, who showed him around the Sanctuary, brought him back to Alexandria, told him stories and cooked with him! Either way, Carl’s young blood wants Negan dead.
Sasha and Rosita (whose anger against Negan led him to kill Spencer) tried to kill Negan together, and even made it to the Sanctuary. But in a last ditch effort, Sasha asked Rosita to return to Alexandria, while she got captured by Negan, who convinces her to join him and the Saviours’ against her own people. Like hell she will! She was held captive in a box (?); her plan was to commit suicide and then attack and kill Negan once she turns in her box (which looks suspiciously like a casket). At the Sanctuary, she meets Eugene (who’s taken by Negan from Alexandria, and seems to be willingly following Negan) and convinces him to kill her. He hands her a poison pill he’d made earlier — quick background, he made the pill when two of Negan’s “wives” flirted with him and convinced him to make it (with the purpose of poisoning Negan, a plan which Eugene aborts).
In the finale, in a standoff with the Saviours (who brought Sasha in her casket, not knowing she’d killed herself and turned) and the double-crossing Scavengers (who’d been dealing with Negan all along, ugh!), the outnumbered and out-weaponed Alexandrians were rescued by a combined Hilltop and Kingdom army. FYI, Sasha’s efforts weren’t completely futile; she did emerge as a zombie and attacked Negan, and although she failed to kill him, girlfriend did manage to scare the sh*t out of him!). A very confusing fight sequence later (which included Shiva the tiger tearing apart some feckless Saviours), all of our surviving heroes from Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom managed to drive out the Saviours. They’re all aligned together now — with the common goal of fighting Negan and the Saviours. Season 8, bring it on!
Stray thoughts, observations, and comments about season 8:
- Rosita, when she flees the Sanctuary, runs into Dwight, who reveals his intentions of helping Rick and Co. take down Negan. Should he be trusted?
- The titles of the first three episodes of season 8 are out — Mercy, The Damned, and Monsters. Pretty much sums up the show I think!
- The season 8 premiere is also The Walking Dead’s 100th episode, for which the show will include bonus VR footage that’ll put fans face-to-face with Negan. Yikes!
- There’s talk of Carol and Daryl finally being a thing together in this season. That “thing” being something besides a kickass fighting duo. That “thing” being something of a romantic couple. Or, as is inevitable post-Brangelina, that “thing” being “Caryl.” Don’t hate me, I’m just conveying the thoughts of Caryl fans! And it just rolls off your tongue, so maybe it’s meant to be.
- Most fans agree that the bit about Rick waking up as an old man in a hospital, is most certainly a dream sequence or a red herring. Which is why I think it’ll be really funny if the show does take that route.